In Es tC 12: 14-16, 23-25 Esther is in mortal anguish. She pleads for deliverance from the powers and principalities with expectant prayer. She is an orphan and God looks kindly upon orphans because they have no one to save them. God will turn her mourning and our mourning into joy. Our help is always in the name of God who created the heavens and the earth. God holds us in the palm of her hands and will deliver us when we call. God always shows up.
In Mt 7:7-12 Jesus teaches us more about prayer and trust in Abba God. When someone scoffed and told a monk that he was wasting his life, the monk replied, “I am here to pray. That is my life.” In a technocratic age, we often forget the power of prayer. We may mumble some words but we really do not think they will help much. Thus, we need to prayer with expectation.
Expectant prayer is based on trust in God, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Why pray with this attitude? Abba God will not give stones when we ask for bread. Abba God will not give us a snake when we ask for fish. Abba God is merciful and compassionate. Abba God wants us to have eternal life now and wants us to have everything we need to live a faith-filled life in service to others.
Richard Rohr in his excellent new book on the Lenten readings, Wondrous Encounters: Scriptures for Lent, reminds us that God is already at work within us when we begin to pray. God has initiated the purpose and direction of our prayer from deep within our hearts.
Jesus recasts the Golden Rule. Usually stated in negative terms—do not treat others—the Golden Rule now reads, “Do unto others…” I think Jesus is stressing our power to do good unto others. Merton went into the monastery to get away from the “world.” The deeper he entered into solitude, the more he realized that he was called to love God and to love his brothers and sisters in the world. You have to go deep into prayer and solitude in order to go out in service to others. Solitude enabled Merton to peel the onion and come to the essence of prayer life—love of God and love of people. We are called to the service to others. Jesus showed servant leadership when he took up the towel and bowl at the Last Supper and washed the feet of his disciples. God will help us give others what they need.
I sense a certain mean spirit among some in our country at the present time. I was recently told by a retired physician that we do not need health care reform to provide care for the 47 million who do not have it. They already have access. Yes, they can go to the emergency room when in dire straits and Medicaid will cover it; however, if they had access to preventive care, they would not be in dire straits.
We have lost a sense of the common good and our solidarity with one another. Our resources are not ours, not ours to be hoarded. All we have is pure gift from God. God has given us bread and fish so that we might share our bread and fish with our brothers and sisters in need. If we have the heart of God, how much more will we give good things to those who ask us.
If a child with a hunger-swollen belly asks you for bread, will you give her a stone? If a child with hunger-sunken eyes asks you for a fish, will you give him a serpent?