I quoted part of this homily on Facebook when Stephanie Gunther asked for suggestions in the light of what is happening in our world to be able to continue on and do something. I always turn to Bishop Ken when I am lost. His sister gave his homilies to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and they are published at this link:
Bishop Untener's Homily
Luke probably put together in one place some teachings about prayer that Jesus spoke on different occasions. As a result, this relatively long Gospel passage about prayer is one of the most beautiful texts in all the Gospels. First of all, Jesus teaches his disciples – and us – how he prays. That would be something like having the world’s finest chef come into our kitchen and take some time with us to explain some of the things he does to produce gourmet food. Imagine. Jesus teaching us how he prays.
Then Jesus tells us that God always, always answers our prayer. He doesn’t hedge on this. He doesn’t waffle. With complete certitude he says that God always, always answers our prayer. Jesus not only states this flatly, but then backs it up with two parables.
So there’s no room for doubt about prayer. We have it straight from Jesus. And what we have is this: Prayer always – always – has an effect, and it is always a good effect.
Even though Jesus is as clear as clear can be on this, I’m not sure we fully believe it. We live in a sophisticated society, and we have learned much about "causality" – what makes things happen. Chemistry, technology, the psychosocial sciences have taught us a great deal about cause and effect. God doesn’t make it rain. Meteorologists can explain what causes rain – on the plain in Spain or anywhere in the world. Technologists can explain how we can send a message to someone halfway around the world. Psychologists can explain what it takes to change a person’s behavior.
As a result, I think we have sort of de-valued the causality of prayer. We still believe it’s a good thing to do – to pray – but it’s hit and miss. Now and then it might have an effect on the people we’re praying for, or situations we’re praying for, but most of the time it doesn’t. We pray sort of the same way we play the Lotto. We hope to hit it, even for a small pay-off, but we know that most of the time we don’t hit it.
Now face that off against the clear words of Jesus: "Ask and you will receive; seek and you fill find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." It’s as clear as clear can be. But in practice, based on our own experience, it doesn’t seem to work that way. Sometimes it works, but most of the time it doesn’t. Let’s see if we can figure this out.
When we pray for someone or something, we shine upon that person or that situation, the love of God. We direct the love of God upon that someone or something in a special way. And God’s love always has an effect, a good effect. It’s like the sun. The sun has power within it, and when the rays of the sun are directed upon someone or something, they always have an effect.
I came across a story, a true story, that isn’t sensational, but it’s striking, and it makes you think. There was a fellow sent to save a failing hotel. The situation was so bad that he decided upon desperate measures. Each night he drove to a hill overlooking the hotel. He parked, sat in the car, and prayed for twenty minutes. He looked at the lighted windows and prayed for the hotel guests who were in those rooms. He prayed for the employees and their families. He prayed for himself. Gradually, changes started to take place in the hotel. A new spirit radiated from its employees. A new warmth greeted each new guest. A new hope permeated the operation. Within a year, the hotel was back on its feet.
When we doubt the effectiveness of prayer, we don’t underestimate the power of God. We underestimate our own power. You see, we have God’s life within us. We all know that, and we have no trouble believing it. This means that God’s love is within us. What we do when we pray is direct God’s love in a special way on a particular person or a particular situation. We’re more powerful than we think we are. We have the power to bless another person with God’s love. When we do that, something happens. Something good happens. God’s love always, always has a good effect. It may not be exactly the result we want in exactly the way we want it. But it brings about a result, and always, always a good result.
So, when we pray, we know that something good happens. What father or mother would give their son or daughter a snake if they asked for a fish? Or a scorpion if they asked for an egg? Well then, if that’s how we act with our limited ability to love, imagine how God acts – God who is infinite love.
There’s one more part to this. Our prayer not only brings about a good effect in the person or situation we’re praying for. It also produces a good effect upon us. We become more aware of the presence of God within us, around us. We become more aware of God’s love within us, around us. It makes us more loving. And we draw closer to our loving God.
Prayer is a great gift. It’s there for the asking. And it always has a good effect on others, and upon us.
I pray that you and I will appreciate this gift more fully, and make use of it even more often than perhaps we have done up till now.
Originally given on July 29, 2001