Tonight’s Bible study discussion was on Luke 11:1-13.
Somebody made a good point tonight that this parable of Jesus casts the listener in the ‘receiving’ role instead of the ‘doing’ role. This text is all about how we receive from God. More specifically, it’s about God the giver.
I used to read this parable as a lesson in persistent prayer. If we pray hard enough and long enough, we get what we want. However, walking away from tonight’s discussion, I think this parable is a statement about God as the generous and liberal giver.
When we come to God in prayer, we don’t always get what we ask for. Someone else in the group pointed out that a person might ask God for more money when God would rather make that person more content with what he or she has. More importantly, I would add, when we come to God in prayer, we receive that which we need most: God’s own self.
Like the friend in the story who asked for bread, we come in search of Christ, the Bread of Life. One newcomer pointed out a possible Trinitarian allusion in the friend’s request for “three loaves”. More than the reluctant friend in the story, God is eager to get involved out of love for the world. This gift of self is what God liberally pours out in the person of Christ. Likewise, Christ promises in this passage, not that God will grant our every request, but that God will “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.”
Whatever my situation, I find that I am best able to deal with it when I am most attuned to God’s presence with me in that moment (contemplative exercises such as centering prayer help me most in this regard). Sometimes, the act of prayer leads to a change in my circumstances. Other times, the act of prayer leads to a change in me.
As Bishop Gene Robinson put it, “Sometimes God calms the storm and sometimes God calms the child.”
For those who are interested, here is a brief introduction to centering prayer from my wife’s Davidson College classmate, Fr. Matthew Moretz: