Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Prayer, 2nd Sunday After Shunoyo
Volume 8 No. 496 August 24, 2018
II. Lectionary Reflections

Knock and The Door Will be Opened to You

by Julian of Norwich (1342-after 1416), recluse

Gospel: Luke 11:1-13

Our Lord revealed to me about prayer, in which revelation I saw two conditions in our Lord's intention. One is rightful prayer; the other is confident trust. But still our trust is often not complete, because we are not sure that God hears us, as we think, because of our unworthiness and because we are feeling nothing at all; for often we are as barren and dry after our prayers as we were before. And thus when we feel so, it is our folly which is the cause of our weakness, for I have experienced this in myself. And our Lord brought all this suddenly to my mind, and revealed these words and said: "I am the ground of your beseeching. First, it is my will that you should have it, and then I make you to wish it, and then I make you to beseech it. If you beseech it, how could it be that you would not have what you beseech?"

And so... our Lord reveals a great strengthening... Where he says: "if you beseech," he shows his great delight, and the everlasting reward that he will give us for our beseeching. And in the second reason, where he says; "How could it be that you would not have what you beseech?", this was said as an impossibility; for it is the most impossible thing that may be that we should seek mercy and grace and not have it. For everything which our good Lord makes us beseech he himself has ordained for us from all eternity. So here we may see that our beseeching is not the cause of goodness and grace which he gives us...: "I am its foundation"...

Beseeching is a true and gracious, enduring will of the soul, united and joined to our Lord's will by the sweet, secret operation of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord himself is the first receiver of our prayer, as I see it, and he accepts it most thankfully, and greatly rejoicing he sends it up above, and puts it in a treasure-house where it will never perish. It is there before God with all his holy saints, continually received, always furthering our needs. And when we shall receive our bliss, it will be given to us as a measure of joy, with endless, honorable thanks from God.

Source: Revelations of divine love, ch. 41 (trans. copyright Classics of Western spirituality) 

Stronger than the Strong Man
Gospel: Luke 11: 14-26

Jesus' miracles were acts of compassion for those in need, sick, afflicted, cast out from society. Often we are told it is because he “has compassion on them” that he reaches out to heal. But these miracles are also his calling cards, if you will, bright flashing neon signs “The Messiah is Here!”

Some saw the signs and believed – at least to some extent. Others “kept seeking signs”, that is, they refused to believe even when they saw one or more for themselves. So the miraculous sign doesn't guarantee belief. In fact, sometimes Jesus wouldn't or couldn't do a miracle – whether it was for King Herod or the unbelievers in his own home town.

Nonetheless, here in Luke 11, our Gospel for today, Jesus has to defend his miracles of exorcism from unbelieving witnesses. Oh they believed in demons. They even believed that Jesus had cast them out. But they claimed Jesus was working for the Devil – casting out demons by the prince of demons.

Jesus defends his miracles – not with more miracles – but with his words. And his words are really the main thing, anyway. He has a point to make, and it's a simple one – similar to what he's said elsewhere. It's something like this: In spiritual terms – you are either with Jesus or you are against him. There's no middle ground.

If you are against Jesus, then you are under the power of the Devil – whether you are literally possessed by a demon or not – the Devil has hold of you. You are a captive of the “strong man” locked away in his palace, under heavy guard. And this is the condition we were all in. This is the place we were born – into sin. Slaves by birth to a terrible master. Possessed by the forces of darkness for all eternity.

Not that we are terribly opposed to that. Each time we sin, our old nature is gasping and grasping for its old master. There's a part of us that is quite comfortable with evil – to the point that we're numb to it. We can even cast our sins as virtues. You can paint the prison walls pretty, but it's still a prison. And you can pretend that the devil is irrelevant or a figment, and he's just fine with that as long as his hold on you is still strong.

But Jesus is the stronger man who comes to beat up the bully. He not only casts out demons from villagers and peasants – he destroys the prince of demons himself. He shatters the kingdom of the Devil with a cross – his own cross, descending to Hell to announce his victory. He's even stronger than death – rising from the grave to live forever.

All this to bring us to himself. All this to free us from our old master. To break the bonds of sin and death and hell. To create in us a new spirit. And to make us blessed.

When Jesus had finished explaining this to the doubters and the haters, a woman in the crowd shouts out a kind of a complement – blessing even the mother that gave him birth!

Not that Jesus denies it, but he redirects the woman's attention to where true blessing is found. “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it”. Yes, it's nice to be around Jesus, to see his miracles, to wonder at the wonders. It's great to see him kicking out demons and taking names, bullying the bully for our sake. But it's even better that we hear the word of God and keep it.

Of course, he speaks that word. It's a word of law – a rebuke of sin. Rules to keep that we don't. But his word is also a word of promise – a good word that cleanses and heals. And this word we keep when we treasure the promises and put our faith in them, and in him.

If we don't hear and don't treasure and don't keep that word – it won't matter what else he does for us. He could even cast out demons and the person who doesn't remain in his word will be taken in again, and be worse off than before.

But Jesus does clean house – when it comes to the temple of our body – the temple of the Holy Spirit. He creates in us a new spirit. He washes us clean with the holy waters of baptism. He continues to cleanse us with his holy body and blood. Christ dwells within us, his Spirit dwells within us – and so there simply is no room for an evil spirit. Christ is our master, how could we serve our old master, Satan? Christ is our strong champion – why should we ever worry about what the old serpent can do to us? For his head has been stomped on by the heel of the Savior. He is crushed.

Blessed are you, who hear his word, in this place. Blessed are you, even though each of us struggles with our own demons – literal or not. Blessed are you because the victory is yours in Christ, his word declares, “it is finished”.

Blessed are you who have been sealed in the water of promise – baptized into his name and kingdom. That gift and those words, are also to be kept – not forgotten – not kept on a shelf – but lived and used and remembered each day.

Blessed are you who keep his words of promise that this bread and wine is his body and blood – who remember these words and do what they say. Who receive these gifts in true faith.

Yes, we are weak but he is strong. Enemies surround us, but he protects us. The devil would have us, but we belong to Christ. 

What Jesus Teaches Us About Prayer

By Fr. Marcus Pollard

Gospel: LK 11:1-13

In this week's Gospel reading, St. Luke describes Jesus' teaching to the apostles about how to pray:

"Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished … ." One of the aspects of the life and teaching of Jesus that is found in St. Luke's Gospel is the reality of prayer. Prayer is explicitly mentioned 25 times. This includes moments and teachings from Jesus' life and ministry. It also includes the importance of prayer in the lives of Zechariah and the Blessed Mother. Zechariah, the priest, was in the midst of the liturgy prayer and rites of the daily incense offering in the temple when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him with the annunciation of gift of a son to Zechariah and his elderly wife Elizabeth, their son St. John the Baptist. The unforgettable statement made by St. Luke about Mary's prayer life as the events of Jesus' annunciation, birth and childhood proceeded is: "And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." Our Lord is described on five different occasions praying before major events and announcements. This Gospel also records Our Lords command concerning persecution and eventually His second coming: "But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man."

So for us, before we even address how to pray, this Gospel clearly reminds us of the essential role of frequent, serious and varying kinds of prayer as part of the Christian life. All by itself that can pose a real challenge. Day-to-day life is busy; it is full of all sorts of important activities. Yet in last week's Gospel commentary here in the Catholic Herald, Father Jerry Pokorsky clearly pointed out the importance and superiority of the contemplative dimension of the Christian life over the active dimension. As important as it is to feed, clothe and care for people's bodily needs, it is even more so for the needs of the soul.

"One of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.'" What a great question. If all of us when we struggle to pray would only be so simple, humble and honest with Our Lord, our prayer lives would vastly improve. Most of the rest of this week's Gospel addresses and expands on the value of going to the Lord in prayer and doing so perseveringly. As to the context of it, we see in this question an aspect of St. John's ministry that is witnessed by the apostles, but not explicitly described in the Gospels; he taught his disciples, St. Andrew being one of them, how to pray. Going back even further, formation in prayer and worship was one of the most important aspects of Jewish life. If spirituality is the dimension of religious life that is about the experience of a personal and intimate relationship with God, then spirituality was the font from which all true religion flows. From the Lord with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, to Noah before the flood, to Abram in the desert, to Jacob wrestling with the angel, to Moses on Mount Sinai, to the lives of the prophets, the whole life of faith presented in the Old Testament always begins with the personal encounter of the soul with the Lord. The Lord initiates and the first response is prayer: receiving, listening and responding to the Lord's call. Even in children today, the first truly and fully human moment of their faith life is the interior awareness of the reality of the Lord in faith and their personal response in prayer.

"He said to them, 'When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.'" One of the most beautiful and useful modern commentaries on the Lord's Prayer is found in retired Pope Benedict XVI's work: the first volume of Jesus of Nazareth. He has followed in a long line of saints and theologians who have done so (among older commentaries, my favorite is the one by St. Teresa of Jesus in The Way of Perfection). In all that I have read about the Lord's Prayer, the idea that keeps coming up as central is that what the Lord shared with His disciples was the fruit of His own interior spiritual life. Further, central to that is the address: "Father." In the life of the divine persons of the Blessed Trinity, the Father is the source of the Trinity. In and through His sacred humanity, Jesus manifested His continual attention and devotion to His Father. If we were to go through the Gospels and count, we would find that Jesus explicitly refers to His Father about 200 times.

When we pray, we naturally call to mind the image or idea of the Lord that is most familiar. What Our Lord had in mind for the apostles was that part of His fulfillment of the old covenant was that all the Old Testament images and modes by which the Lord was known to the Jews be subsumed into this revelation of: "Father." Only the Son can reveal the Father; only the Father can reveal the Son; and only in the Holy Spirit who was sent can we call Him "Lord." To be open to the Holy Spirit and to be on intimate terms with Jesus all means that we can know our Father and His love for us.

"And he said to them, 'Suppose one of you has a friend … he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.' And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will 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."

For the apostles who heard this, they would probably have struggled during the course of Jesus' public life and ministry because of all the opposition they ran into and in their fixation on the idea that the Lord was going to be the new Moses ushering in a new earthly form of the kingdom of God. The culmination of this frustration would have been their experience of Jesus arrest, passion and death. All their prayers would have seemed fruitless at that point. Fortunately they had the presence of Our Lady to encourage them and even challenge them. By late at night on Easter Sunday they would have begun to enter into a newly found respect for the Lord's admonition to continue in prayer and know that those prayers would be answered according to His will, His plan and His timing. The next experience they would have had of seeing the fruits of asking, seeking and knocking, again with Our Lady's help, would have been in the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost after the first novena, begun after the Lord's ascension.

Probably my favorite part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the section on the theology and practice of prayer, found before the commentary on the Lord's Prayer. If there is any section especially valuable as spiritual reading, that is it. One practical piece of advice that may be beneficial is that praying is essentially a matter of making the offering of our time and attention to the Lord and His word. We bring all of ourselves to our prayer and need to be more and more open to the Lord's gift and sharing of Himself to us, not necessarily as we want, but always as we need. Our asking, seeking and knocking guarantees that we will receive the good things the Father has in mind for when we do so with the conviction: "Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done."

Fr. Pollard is parochial vicar of St. Mary Church in Alexandria.

Source: Arlington Catholic Herald

Ask, Seek, Knock!

by Pastor Linton Smith

We serve a risen Saviour. He has opened the way for us to enjoy a personal relationship with God – and that includes the privilege of prayer!

With that in mind, today we look at Luke 11:5-13.

Jesus teaches His disciples the Lord's Prayer and goes on to encourage them to pray with confidence.

Right in the middle of what He says He urges them to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Luke 11:9,10

Either side of these words we find an illustration to encourage us to do just this.. to ask, seek, knock.

By means of these illustrations Jesus assures us that:


Jesus says.. Luke 11:5-8:

Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' Then the one inside answers, ‘Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.'

I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

Kenneth Bailey has thrown new light on this illustration. He spent many years in the Middle East researching the culture of people similar to the people who were there in Jesus' time.

He translates the first part of this illustration like this.

Can any one of you imagine having a friend and going to him at midnight and saying to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey and I have nothing to set before him.' And he will answer from within, 'Don't bother me. The door is closed and my children are in bed with me. I cannot get up and give you anything'?

Can you imagine that? A listener at that time would have said, No!

Bailey tells us why. The villages were small and each village was expected to welcome travelers and give them lodgings and food. The man's friend arrived at midnight. The man welcomed him and then discovered he had no bread.

Bread was essential. Each person at the table would be given a loaf of bread and would tear a piece from it and use it to pick up food from the shared dish on the table, using a fresh piece each time he took food from the dish.

This man needed three loaves – one for his guest, one for himself and one possibly for his wife. And he had none. He knew.. along with all the people in the village.. who had baked bread that day.. and so at midnight he went to this man and asked for bread. Jesus asks, Can you imagine the man sending him away empty handed? No.

Bailey tells us why.

He translates the next part of the illustration like this..

I tell you though he will not give him anything having arisen because of being his friend but because of his avoidance of shame he will get up and give him whatever he wants. [Kenneth E. Bailey / Poet and Peasant p120]

He understands the word translated ‘boldness' in the NIV to apply not to the man asking, but to the man in the house, and translates it as ‘avoidance of shame.'

The man will get up and give him bread because if he does not.. it will be known throughout the entire village the next day.. that he has let the entire village down. He will hang his head in shame. It is unthinkable he would say, No.

The New Living Translation seems to combine the ideas of the boldness of the man seeking bread at midnight and the avoidance of shame by the other man.. and translates it like this.. Though he won't do it as a friend, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you what you want so his reputation won't be damaged.

This man will give the other what he needs.. for the sake of his own reputation.. his own honour. The man seeking help knows that – and will ask confidently whatever the hour!

When we pray.. we often say something like this, For Your Name's sake.. or For the sake of Your name. When we say that we are asking God to answer our prayer so that He will be honoured. And this is a Biblical way to pray.

In Isaiah 48 the LORD speaks of His dealings with His people.. and says in Isaiah 48:11:

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.

With that in mind, Jeremiah prayed like this..

Although our sins testify against us, O LORD, do something for the sake of your name.
Jeremiah 14:7

And Daniel prayed like this..

Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.
Daniel 9:17-19

When we pray.. let's pray like that!

Before we leave this illustration let's note two things.

Notice first that the man gives the other what he needs. Can you imagine the man having a good meal.. going to bed.. and getting up at midnight for a snack.. and going to his friend for bread? No way. But it is totally different when he goes with a genuine need. God will meet our needs. Not our wants.

And notice that the one man goes to the other on behalf of his friend. He wants to meet his friend's need. It seems to me that Jesus is here encouraging us not only to pray.. but to pray for our friends! He is encouraging us to go to God with confidence on behalf of our friends and call on Him to help.. for the sake of His Name! Let's do it. He will hear.. and He will respond.

Then Jesus assures us that..


The second illustration is found in Luke 11:11,12.

Jesus asks, Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

Matthew adds.. Which of you, if his sons asks for bread, will give him a stone?

Can anyone imagine a father doing this – a stone for bread, a snake for a fish, a scorpion for an egg? No.

At least one commentator describes these examples as bizarre.

Not so, says Bailey. He quotes a Middle Eastern writer [Poet and Peasant p136] who points out that round stones are like round loaves of bread, snakes resemble sea snakes [a kind of fish] and a scorpion all folded up looks like an egg.

These objects are carefully chosen. A human father will take care what he gives his child. He will be careful to give his child good things.

Matthew's record of what Jesus said reads like this..

Matthew 7:9-11.. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

God will give us what is good. We can be assured of that.. He loves us.. and cares for us.. so let's respond to Him as Peter tells us to do..

1 Peter 5:6,7.. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Then Jesus assures us that..


In Matthew's gospel Jesus says the Father will give us good gifts.

In Luke 11:13 Jesus says.. If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Jesus is saying God will give Himself to us!

How can we say that? We can say it because the Holy Spirit is God Himself.

Jesus also said to His disciples..

John 14:15-18.. If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

Another Counselor.. another of the same kind as I.. and then He says.. I will come to you. The Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus. Jesus!

Paul writes about the Spirit God has given us like this..

1 Corinthians 2:10-12.. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.

Who is the Spirit of God? My spirit is me.. your spirit is you.. and God's Spirit is God! God gives His Spirit to us.. gives Himself to us.. and the Spirit opens our spiritual eyes! We understand things we never understood before.. we understand the Bible as we have never understood it.. it comes alive.. and speaks to us!

In fact.. it was the Spirit of God who worked in our hearts to wake us up to our need of God. Jesus also said to His disciples..

John 16:7,8.. It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment..

Yes.. the Spirit of God convicted us of our guilt.. that we were sinners.. unrighteous.. and headed for judgment.. and then we came to Jesus.. and were forgiven.. and found peace..

And what the Spirit of God did for us.. He will do for our friends. The very best thing we can pray for our friends is that they will come to faith in Christ.

And God will give His Holy Spirit to bring this about. His Spirit will convict our friends of their need. Pray.. plead.. with God to do this.

Will it always result in our friends coming to faith? No. Because God will convict.. but He will not force.. each person must decide.

Will God answer our prayer? Yes. He will do all He can to convict and convince. Straight way? May be. We may need to be patient.

This week there was a very encouraging devotion in Our Daily Bread.

A certain lady had been praying for a friend for 30 years. One day the friend left her a message that she had some great news. Sue was convinced that her friend had received Jesus as Savior. After all, she had been praying for her for 30 years.

A few days later, her friend revealed her "great news": She had a new boyfriend and was moving in with him. When the one who had been praying for so long heard that she cried out in desperation, "Lord, what makes me think that You would answer me after 30 years of praying?" …

A month later her friend called and left another message: "I have wonderful news! I trusted Jesus as my Savior! I don't know why I didn't do it long ago."
[Radio Bible Class / Our Daily Bread 12-4-07]

In the words of Jesus.. Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Pray with confidence!

Malankara World Journal Issues Themed, 'Prayer'

Volume 7 No 424 July 7, 2017
Themes: Prayer, High Priestly Prayer of Jesus

Volume 7 No 418 May 26, 2017
Themes: High Priestly Prayer of Jesus

Volume 6 No 369 Sep 5 2016
Theme: Prayer

Volume 6 No 364 Aug 26 2016
Theme: Prayer

Volume 6 No 331 February 12 2016
These: Prayer, Love

Volume 5 No 301: August 21 2015
Theme: Prayer

Volume 2 No 106: Nov 1 2012
Theme: Prayer

Volume 2 No 99: Sep 20 2012
Theme: Unanswered Prayers

Volume 2 No 82: June 21 2012
Focus: Prayer

Volume 2 No 47: January 12 2012
Special on Prayer

Volume 1 No 20: August 26 2011 -

Please also see the Malankara World Library Section on Prayer:


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