IN LUKE, JESUS tells a strange story. At midnight an unexpected guest arrives. He is hungry, but you have nothing to feed him . So you go to the house of a friend to borrow some food. "Don't bother me," the friend says. "The door's locked. The children are all asleep. I can't give you anything now. Go home." But you keep on pestering him. You are so persistent that he finally gets up and gives you what you want. Then Jesus adds, "For every one who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened." And his point seems to be that the secret of prayer is persistence. Keep at it, keep speaking into the darkness, and even if nothing comes, speak again and then again. And finally the answer is given.
It may not be the kind of answer that we want—the kind of stopgap peace, the kind of easy security, the kind of end to loneliness that we are apt to pray for. Christ never promises peace in the sense of no more struggle and suffering. Instead, he helps us to struggle and suffer as he did, in love, for one another. Christ does not give us security in the sense of something in this world, some cause, some principle, some value, which is forever. Instead, he tells us that there is nothing in this world that is forever, all flesh is grass. He does not promise us unlonely lives. His own life speaks loud of how, in a world where there is little love, love is always lonely. Instead of all these, the answer that he gives, I think, is himself. If we go to him for anything else, he may send us away empty or he may not. But if we go to him for himself, I believe that we go away always with this deepest of all our hungers filled.
-Originally published in The Magnificent Defeat