Est C:12,14-16,23-25; Ps 138:1-8; Mt 7:7-12
During Lent we learn how to pray. Not that we don’t know how to pray, but we can always become better at prayer. Prayer is the exercise of our faith, and without exercise faith will atrophy. The four traditional forms of prayer in the Judeo-Christian tradition are: petition, thanksgiving, repentance, and adoration. The Psalmist first gives thanks, wholehearted thanks, because the LORD has heard the cry for help. Such gratitude evokes adoration in the presence of the angels we want to sing God’s praise. We desire to worship at his holy temple and give thanks to his name. Because the LORD is faithful to his promises and because the LORD has built up strength within us, we trust that he will complete what he has begun in our lives. Indeed, the right hand of the LORD saves us; his kindness endures forever. The LORD never forsakes the work of his hands. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, rescued Queen Esther. He saved the Israelites from the hands of all enemies. Her mourning has become gladness, and her sorrow has been transformed into wholeness. Such is the power of petition as the Lord Jesus teaches us in today’s gospel by asking a simple question, “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him?”
Queen Esther is alone and frightened. She has no one but the LORD. Her fear diminishes because her handmaids join with her as she prostrates in prayer. She knows how to pray out of the fear that grips her heart. First, she gives thanks to the LORD for his faithfulness, and remembers his help from her childhood. Indeed, she knows that the LORD always frees those who are pleasing to him. Because of such a confident and communal memory she dares to ask for persuasive words in the presence of the king, her husband; who is the lion. She is afraid of the king’s absolute power to recognize her or not, to allow her to live and speak her petition or to die silent. This fear of the king is nothing in comparison with her fear of the people’s enemy, Haman. All this fear and anguish fuels and shapes Queen Ester’s prayer. Her honesty is a lesson for all who attempt to grow in prayer. Her confidence in the LORD is even more startling. Although she is taking her life in her hand, Queen Ester accepts her duty to intercede for her people who are slated for destruction. This nation may not be so slated, but unless we accept our duty to intercede for all in need, we may hasten and contribute to the downfall of many brothers and sisters. One of our responsibilities as members of the Body of Christ is that we pray for one another, especially for our so-called enemies that they may have a change of heart and come to know the true King of the Universe, the Lion of the tribe of Judea. We also pray that the real enemies of every human being, the sins and vices that keep us helpless and powerless, will be wiped out and eternally destroyed.
The Lord Jesus is so direct in this teaching on prayer in today’s gospel. Indeed, this is Christian prayer that we ask, seek, and knock. We do this in complete confidence, and we trust that our Heavenly Father will give us good things, very good things. Saint John of the Cross takes off on this teaching when he instructs us to ask in prayer, seek in meditation, and knock in contemplation. Only when this pattern of prayer flows through our life will we live and move and have our being in Christ. A fundamental presupposition here is that we are disciples. Notice, the Lord Jesus is teaching his disciples, those who follow him. Our every prayer, as a disciple, is about the coming of the Kingdom, and we yearn to hasten the coming of the Reign of God. We are not interested in doing our own wills. We are not concerned about the trivialities of living. We can live with the worst and best of things. We are detached from everyone and everything. We are attached only to God, now and always and ever and forever.