"Knock and the door will be opened" (Luke 11:10).
Why should we pray? Does it really influence the outcome of any situation we are concerned about? Does it change anything in the unfolding series of causes and effects that underlie physical reality?
Jesus encourages us to pray with many parables and images that affirm God's presence in our lives. An intimate and trusting relationship with God ought to reassure us that however things work out, God's loving purposes are always at work, always cooperating with our efforts to bring about good.
Today's gospel compares human persistence and logic to God's readiness to bless anyone who asks for help. A man wakes his neighbor in the middle of the night to get bread for a surprise guest at his house. The reluctant, irritated householder gives him what he asks because of his persistence. The point Jesus makes is how much more will God hear us if we ask, seek and knock. If parents know enough not to give scorpions and snakes to their children asking for eggs and bread, will not our loving Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask?
To pray is to participate in God's desire for good in our lives. If prayer does not change God, it often changes us. If prayer is not simply presenting a list of our wants and wishes to God to be automatically, even miraculously, fulfilled, it actually engages us in doing our part to meet human needs. When we pray, we are inspired and motivated to act. Grace joins our effort and our perseverance to find the outcome that is best for us and others.
Do we trust our Father enough to take all our needs to him in prayer? If we do, not only will our relationship with God deepen, but we will also learn to be instruments of divine purpose, the hands, feet, hearts and faces that reveal God to others in need. This is the joy of the Gospel.