This was the homily I gave at my first full time parish assignment back in 1992.
In this world, nothing is free. If you want something, you have to pay for it. If you want to get ahead, you have to work hard for it. Everything comes with a price tag and with strings attached.
But with God, it is totally different. Whatever He gives us is free with no strings attached. Everything we have comes from Him: our lives, our families, the ground we walk on and the air we breathe are all His free gift. And when we need anything, all we have to do is ask him and He will give it to us. We do not have to earn it or prove to Him that we deserve it. We only have to ask because He is a loving Father who wants to give us whatever we need. Through the power of prayer, we can speak directly to God for ourselves, for our family, for our loved ones and for the whole world.
When Jesus teaches His disciples about prayer, He wants them to understand the tremendous power that prayer unlocks for them and, more importantly, He wants them to learn how to use that power wisely. In today’s gospel, Jesus teaches us two things about prayer: first, what to pray for and, second, how to pray for it.
First of all, what should we ask for?
Of all the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, I want to focus on just one: “Give us this day our daily bread.” In Jesus’ time, bread was the food most commonly eaten. It was the major ingredient of every meal. So when Jesus taught His disciples t pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” he was teaching them to ask God for the nourishment they needed to get through the day. This nourishment can be understood literally as food for the day or symbolically as money to pay bills, patience with the people around us, or strength to get through a difficult time.
Before I get up in the morning or while I’m taking a shower, I like to think about all the things I will need for the day whether it will be volunteers for CCD or money to make my next car payment. Offering to God my needs for the day helps remind me that nothing will happen to me that He and I cannot handle together. I will never need anything that God cannot provide for me.
Besides teaching us what we should pray for, Jesus teaches us how we should pray for it. We have to be persistent. Like the man in the parable, we have to keep on knocking on heaven’s door until we get an answer from God. If we don’t get what we ask for on the first try we have to keep on going back believing that God will answer. Being persistent like this strengthens our faith. It makes us realize how much we depend on God everyday to give us what we need. If God always answered us right away we might start to think that it’s because we somehow earned it instead of realizing that God gives us good things not because we deserve them but because He loves us. Also, if God gave us everything we wanted when we wanted it, we might begin to love God’s gifts more than we love God Himself. God gives us the power and the privelege to ask for what we need and He promises to hear our prayer, but is is up to Him to decide when, where and how He will answer us.
How wonderful it is that the God who created the whole universe and all its wonders cares about each one of us. How wonderful it is that He has given each one of us who believes in Jesus the power to ask Him for what we need. We can go straight to the boss with our problems and know that He cares about our deepest needs and will provide for us. To those who are hungry, He will give food. To those who are struggling to pay their bills, He will somehow provide the money. And to those who are lonely, He will provide strength and love. With God, everything is free. All we have to do is ask and ask and ask.