23 Jul Tuesday
“He was praying in a certain place . . .” when the disciples asked him, “Teach us to pray.” Three teachings on prayer follow, and this is our Sunday reading for the Gospel. Most of Jesus’ activity on the way to Jerusalem is teaching.
Here we receive Luke’s shortened version of the Our Father; we have traditionally used the version from the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew. It is not a ptroblem to imagine that there were several versions in circulation, first of all because the essential components of praise, intercession, and acknowledge of God’s reign and providence are present. Luke’s version leaves out the will of God, uses the word “sin” for trespasses, and compacts the idea of temptation avoidance with the final test, without mentioning the Evil One. Then follows two teachings on prayer: first regarding prayer as hospitality, and second, prayer as generosity.
“Daily bread” is unfolded in the example of the man late at night begs bread from a neighbor for an unexpected guest. The teaching is about this hospitality of bread that leads to a teaching on persistence in prayer, especially when it seems as if one’s petitions are unanswered.
The second teaching flows from the midnight knock not the door. Ask, seek, and knock. God will answer prayers. Perhaps a bigger question is what exactly did first century Jewish prayer look like. The Siddur was already in development by the rabbis, and so there were elaborate formal prayers, often memorized. There was also a tradition of contemplative practices.
Prayer is an attentiveness, a watching for the divine activity and watching out for the evil one. Prayer is a holding of oneself in a certain state, including posture.