By Lisa Rosenlund,
Saint Brendan Parish Manager
Each week, we summarize a specific style, form, or approach to prayer, using the highly-acclaimed book by Robert J. Wicks, Prayer in the Catholic Tradition: A Handbook of Practical Approaches (Franciscan Media 2006). In this article, you’ll learn more about using the Gospel of Luke as a basis for prayer.
Dante described Luke as scriba mansuetudinis Christi which translates to the scribe of the gentle mercy of Christ. The Gospel of Luke instructs us to trust in God’s mercy by praying continuously and persistently.
Luke integrates much of the material that is unique to his Gospel into the long journey narrative of Jesus on the way to Jerusalem. When Jesus pauses along the way to pray and the disciples ask how they should pray, he gives them a version of the Lord’s Prayer that is considerably shorter than that of Matthew and beautiful in its simplicity:
“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 indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
The Lord’s Prayer was intended to be said every day to keep the disciples on track. We who are also his disciples can benefit from saying this abbreviated form of the Lord’s Prayer every day, in addition to the extended one on Sunday.
The Lord’s Prayer is followed by a short parable known as “The Friend at Midnight,” in which one friend goes to the house of another at midnight asking for food to feed an unexpected guest. Jesus says that even though the friendship is not a strong enough basis to induce the man to get out of bed, his friend’s persistence will ultimately win out and cause the sleeping man to give his friend “whatever he needs.” Similarly, if we knock at God’s door through continuous and persistent prayer, our requests will be heard and answered.
As noted by Wicks, among all the writings of the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke stands out for its emphasis on prayer. Indeed only Luke contains the two parables of prayer: The Friend at Midnight discussed above and the Parable of the Widow and the Callous Judge.
In the Parable of the Widow and the Callous Judge, Jesus teaches the disciples about the need to pray always and not to lose heart. The widow, a symbol of powerlessness who has been denied her economic rights, appeals to a judge who, by his own admission, has no fear of God or respect for anyone. Yet, because of the widow’s persistence, he gives in and she ultimately receives justice. The parable teaches us that continual prayer is not simply passive waiting but an active quest for what we seek.
There are many ways to integrate the Gospel of Luke into your prayer life. One of them is a new movement of looking at and praying with art called visio divina, literally “divine watching.” Illuminating Luke is a series of books written by a biblical scholar in collaboration with an art historian with examples of artwork depicting the events written about in the Gospel of Luke. Using books like this or even art found on the internet, we can use the Gospel of Luke in a new way to enrich our prayer life. In January, Fr. Evlogios who is living in the Rectory will speak on praying with icons.
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