In the Old Testament reading today (the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time), Abraham keeps quizzing, keeps petitioning God about sparing the innocent people of Sodom instead of destroying all of the people (good and bad) together. He was persistent in his questioning, and God listened to his plea. We know that story’s outcome, but at least there was a possibility of saving any innocent people who might have been living in Sodom—thanks to Abraham’s persistence.
In the Gospel Jesus tells the parable about the persistence of a friend who needs something and Jesus says: “I tell you, if he (the home owner) does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.” This is the repetition or pressing of an utterance past the usual, normal time.
All of us who have had children know how they can wear us down with their persistence—“Mom. Mom. Mom…” Or we know about the energy of the young and why it is necessary to have someone to “hand off to” when dealing with children, in order to take a turn at rest from them. Their persistence in trying to get what they want is amazing and exhausting!
When I think of persistence, I think of practice. Trying to work out a difficult musical passage takes persistence—you have to keep at it, working the bits into a whole in order to be able to play/sing some difficult musical phrase. You have to stick with it, not give up, to carry on, to persevere in order to achieve the wanted result.
The other part of today’s Gospel story about prayer refers to our personal relationship with God, the Father: He is our divine parent! Our relationship to God has an intimacy demonstrated by Jesus in His prayer today (the Lord’s Prayer), in calling our Creator “Father.” We are the children of a loving and bountiful God, who provides daily bread, forgiveness of sins, and eternal salvation.
Our dependence on God never ends, and our prayer must be as persistent and constant as is our dependence on Him. We understand that the “daily bread” is for the Eucharist and the eternal banquet in heaven, and that (God’s) forgiveness is needed to enter in⎯and may be in response to the forgiveness we extend to others. We are all in the midst of the “time of trial,” and we are given what is needed to persevere by the Holy Spirit to persist, to keep and carry on.
“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” We know the Father is eager for us to receive all good gifts, and so confidently we ask, persistently we seek, and with blessed assurance we knock. We may find as we persist in our prayers that they change from petition to praise; from appeal to thanksgiving, “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are Yours, now and forever.”
Just a Note: Here are two versions of the Lord’s Prayer being sung and prayed.