Readings: Gn 18:20-32 • Col 2:12-14 • Lk 11:1-13
Stephen Covey, in his book Everyday Greatness: Inspiration for a Meaningful Life , tells of a small boy trying to lift a heavy rock. His father patiently watched his son but finally asked, “Are you sure you’re using all your strength?” The frustrated son cried, in irritation and frustration, “Yes, I am!” His father responded, “No, you’re not. You haven’t asked me to help you.”
We value being “connected.” In criminal enterprises, to “be connected” often means that a person is in league with someone who can and would seek revenge if the “connected” person were to be harmed. In the rest of society, to “be connected” means that you know people who can do favors for you or make things happen.
But today, to “be connected” is mainly about electronic communication. We value “being connected.” We have cell phones that act like mini-computers. We can “be connected” wirelessly. Coffee shops and eateries advertise that they are “hotspots,” meaning their customers can drink a beverage or eat a meal while spending time surfing the Internet.
We connect with each other constantly by texting, Twittering, or being on My Space or Facebook. People boast about how many “friends” they have on Facebook, that is, how many “connections” they have made. We measure ourselves by our connections. A student on Facebook left a message for his pastor, a Facebook friend, that his father was far more popular than the minister. His father had over 2,000 friends on his Facebook page while the minister barely had over a thousand! “Being connected” has become less about “who you know” than about “how many you know.”
A bishop at a confirmation asked the confirmands how many of them had cell phones. Only two out of 28 did not. The bishop asked how much time the students spent talking or texting on their phones. The winner spent over 40 hours a week on her cell phone! No one said they spent less than 10 hours per week on the phone. The average daily use in the unscientific poll was about three hours per day. The bishop then asked how much time the eighth graders spent praying. The longest amount of time was about 15 minutes. The average was about eight minutes.
Eight minutes with God per day. Three hours with friends on the phone. This begs the question, is God a friend or merely an acquaintance?
The story of Abraham bargaining with God is amazing. It sounds as if Abraham is haggling with God, a common custom in open markets all through the Middle East. However, we find that the discussion is between two very good friends. Abraham knows exactly who God is. He knows God as only best friends can know one another. Just like good friends, God and Abraham both know “what buttons to push” to get what they need from each other.
Abraham knew that God is a God of justice. God is not vengeful or vindictive, even though in the Old Testament He was occasionally pictured as vengeful and likely to cause death and destruction for enemies of His chosen ones. Trusting in God’s justice, Abraham was able to get Him to agree not to destroy two whole cities for the sake of only 10 people!
We also discover the profound respect that Abraham had for God. There was no fear in this relationship. Every request begins with words of honor and praise, recognitions of how great and holy God really is. Jesus teaches us to start our prayer in exactly the same way, with recognition of what our relationship with God really is — or should be — and with respect for His holiness.
Prayer in Jesus’ day was said aloud. There was no concept of “private” prayer or “silent” prayer. For a word to truly exist it had to be spoken, so for a prayer to be real, it had to be said aloud. We see this throughout the Gospels when we read, “Jesus was heard to be praying.” Jesus’ disciples wanted to pray like Him, so they asked to be taught.
It remains unclear to this day whether the “Our Father” was meant to be a specific prayer or was meant to serve as a pattern of prayer. For us, it is both. The start of the prayer tells us about the relationship we have with God. Calling God “Father” was a new concept given to us by Jesus. God is intimate and He is relational. We pray that His name will be made holy, that we will give fitting reverence. We acknowledge that God is our strength by asking for what we need to sustain us — our daily bread. We love God so much that we want to conform our will to His: Thy will be done.
Ultimately, if we want to “be connected,” we have to treat God as our best friend and our strength. We need to find our “hotspot” where we can connect with Him. TP