17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Ages 6-9): Persistent Prayer
(Adults, you could begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child. Alternatively, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
Prayer is a mystery. We know that prayer is conversation with God. We listen. We speak. God listens. God speaks. It is a mystery, though, because we do not hear God's words in our ears. In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus leads us into the mystery of prayer.
Jesus was praying in a certain place and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray
The disciples must wonder what goes on when Jesus prays. What does he say? What does he do? What does he hear? They are curious. They want to know more.
Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
These words seem both familiar and strange. It sounds like the Our Father, the prayer we pray so often in church. It also sounds a little different. We wonder if God cares which exact words we use when we pray. Perhaps the exact words do not matter.
The disciples must wonder, too, because Jesus explains more about prayer by telling them a parable.
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’
This is a little confusing. How many people are in this parable?
The person in the middle has two friends. Let's call him Mr. B. Mr. B has a friend who arrives at midnight. We'll call him Mr. C.
What do we know about this person arriving at midnight?
We remember that Jesus tells this at a time when there are no streetlights or electricity. Travelling at midnight means travelling in the darkness.
Can this be an ordinary situation? Is Mr. C travelling just for fun?
Someone arriving at midnight means there is an urgent situation. We know he has a need.
Certainly, Mr. C is hungry after all that travel, but it seems that Mr. B does not have anything to give him. Fortunately, Mr. B has another friend (let's call him Mr. A). Mr. B knows Mr. A has food.
It is Mr. A who now has a knock at his door at midnight. Mr. A knows there is an urgent situation. What will Mr. A do?
And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’
Mr. A does not want to get out of bed.
I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
What does Jesus mean?
Now Mr. C has what he needs!
What can Jesus be telling us?
Mr. B is the most active person in this parable. Let's think about him.
We know that Mr. B is a good friend to Mr. C. He wants to help him. Even though he does not have what Mr. C needs, he knows where to get help.
We also know that Mr. B does not give up when help does not come right away. How many times did he knock on Mr. A's door???
Why does Mr. B knock so many times? He does not seem to worry about annoying Mr. A. He knows that Mr. A has bread and lots of it. He asks for 3 loaves!
Mr. B is persistent. He does not give up. He keeps on knocking.
Mr. B knows that Mr. A can help.
Mr. B knows that Mr. A will help.
They must be good friends.
We wonder if Mr. C knows Mr. A. Did he need to know him to get what he needed? We wonder what Mr. C thinks of Mr. A now?
Jesus' parable talks about friends and travellers but we know that Jesus was answering a question about prayer. How can this be like prayer?
Prayer is the mystery of our conversation with God. What do we learn about that conversation?
When Mr. B needed help for his friend, he turned to the one he knew could help.
When Mr. B needed help for his friend, he turned to the one he knew would help.
He was persistent. He kept knocking.
Can prayer be like knocking? We can think about that this week. Each time we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," we can think about knocking and Jesus leading us deeper into the mystery of prayer.