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How Jesus encourages a can-do approach to prayer

Thought for the weekend

By Canon Walter Lewis

Published 23/07/2016

Jesus affirms that prayer should be an important dimension of human life. But, in the technological age in which we live, spiritual things can get squeezed out of daily consciousness.

However, this is challenged when tragedy suddenly strikes - as in Nice recently - and large numbers of people come together in churches and public spaces to support each other and to pray.

People who are sceptical of religion and prayer may ask: "Does prayer work? Does prayer change things for the better? Can prayer bring about a better society?"

The answers to these questions are two-fold. Firstly, Jesus taught his disciples to pray. They had observed the importance Jesus himself attached to prayer: frequently, Jesus withdrew from the crowds to a quiet place to pray to the Father. Following the example of Jesus, the disciples wanted to include prayer in the way they lived their lives.

Secondly, Jesus taught his disciples that prayer was not easy. It required resolve and persistence. At first sight, prayer might not appear to produce results, but if they refused to give up, their requests would be granted.

"Think of going to a friend late at night," he said. "You urgently need bread. You rap the door. Your friend refuses to be disturbed. You continue rapping his door. He gets up and gives you what you need because you will not be deterred." Jesus goes on to say: "You must be like that in approaching God! Persist in prayer!"

Jesus gave his disciples what has come to be known as The Lord's Prayer. The key elements were: "Speak to your Father in heaven and listen to Him, keep his name holy, work for his coming kingdom and his will in your lives." Also, ask God for food sufficient for each day: and for forgiveness of your sins. Pray for strength to meet future trials. This prayer covers all they ought to pray for.

Jesus encourages a can-do approach to prayer: "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you."

Jesus is confident that the Father will hear and respond with abundant generosity and infinite love. He underlines the assurance of this message by comparing the deep human love of a parent for their child with the infinite love of the Father for the one who asks in prayer: "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him."

Jesus prompts us to pray without ceasing.

Belfast Telegraph

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