Ask for the Holy Spirit Above Everything Else
Today Luke takes up the matter of prayer. Luke highlights Jesus’ prayer life more than any other of the three gospels, and we see that again here. “Jesus was praying in a certain place,” we are told. The disciples notice this; they cannot help but notice this. Though he was and is the Son of God, Jesus was in constant communication with his Father, begging then the question, how much more should we be in constant prayer to the same Father? Because the disciples cannot help but notice the frequency and intensity of Jesus’ prayer life and his devotion to the Father, one asks him to “teach us to pray.” Luke’s Gospel then records a briefer version of the “Lord’s Prayer” than Matthew’s. I covered the Lord’s Prayer earlier this year in Ordinary Time; today I wish to cover what Jesus said afterwards.
In short, Jesus is encouraging his disciples to pray with wonderful promises based solely upon who the Father is – his nature and character. Jesus contrasts the stinginess of men with the benevolence of the Father, offering the analogy of a man who gives three loaves of bread to a friend in need at night, not out of generosity but to get rid of him so he can go back to sleep. And then come those famous verses, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” And again Jesus punctuates his words comparing the great love of the Father this time with the wickedness of man: No man gives his son a serpent instead of a fish, or a scorpion for an egg. And if we being evil know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more our heavenly Father! And yes, Jesus calls us evil, because of our wicked hearts.
Now lest we misunderstand him, Jesus qualifies this entire promise with his words at the end, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” All of this asking and seeking and knocking is predicated upon a desire for a greater measure of the Holy Spirit. In other words, Jesus is not talking about praying for things we want, but praying for things God wants – a greater measure of his Spirit that we may walk before him in the light – that we might know how to pray according to his will, which was Paul’s constant prayer for the churches (Ephesians 2:15-19; Colossians 1:9-14; 2:1-4). When this is how we pray, we “know that he hears us in whatever we ask,” since we ask according to His will (1 John 5:14-15). We must learn to pray not just to God, but with the heart of God.