Last weekend, my husband and I went out the front door to discuss what work we wanted to do to the house. While we were out in the yard, one of the twins locked the front door behind us. I could see the outline of a nervous little child through the door as I tried to manipulate the doorknob. “Honey, did you lock mommy and daddy out?” I asked calmly. “Yes!” he replied with a bit of glee. “Unlock this door. NOW!” As easy as it was for his little hands to lock the door, however, it was terribly hard for him to subsequently unlock it. We tried to make motions through the door as to which way to turn the lock, but he was just getting more and more confused. His twin brother came and tried to help to no avail (just so you know – it takes more than 2 four-year-olds to turn a doorknob; I can’t imagine how many it takes for a lightbulb). “Get your big brother!” we shouted. “He will know how to open the lock!” This whole back and forth went on for what felt like an eternity before they were finally able to rouse their brother from his perch by the TV and get him to come open the door. Finally entering the cool living room, we sighed with relief.
“Knock, and the door will be opened to you.” Luke’s Gospel this Sunday has some seemingly simple directions on prayer particularly if we focus on just this line. Every time I read these three lines of the Gospel, in fact, I am amazed by the simplicity of it. “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened unto you.” (Lk 13:9) Prayer for me, after all, has never been that simple.
Getting someone to open a door, in fact, can be a complicated process. Take this past weekend. Before we came up with the ingenious idea for the twins to get their older brother with bigger hands to come open the door, we tried a bunch of different ways. We knocked. We tried to pry the door open. We tried to see if we could go around the back (also locked). We may have yelled a little. The whole process was just not simple. By the time the door actually opened, we were hot and tired and frustrated. But we were also rewarded by the cool welcoming air flowing from inside.
And so it can be with prayer. I sit down in a quiet place, and start a conversation. I give God’s door a gentle knock. And no immediate answer comes. So, my impatience gets the best of me. I knock louder and harder thinking God must not have heard me. I try to pry open the door wondering if I can get it open with my human strength alone. I yell at God through the door as my impatience mounts. I try to rationalize with God about why I need this door opened right NOW! I did knock after all. Is this the wrong way to proceed?
Maybe not. If I go beyond these three simple lines of the Gospel, I notice something else very important mentioned here about prayer – it mentions persistence. Jesus is not just telling us just to knock… He is telling us to be persistent. He is telling us to knock and knock, and try and pry the door open. He is telling us to return again and again, to the front door and the back, continuing to ask in new and different ways. Prayer is not simple. I can’t just knock once or ask once because prayer is not a one time offering – it is a relationship built on persistence.
May we have the grace to go back again and again to prayer seeking the tools necessary to open our hearts to God.