"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." Luke 11: 10-11
Today at Mass I prayed for the first time a Mass found in the back of the Sacramentary (Roman Missal) titled "Mass for the Election of a Pope or Bishop." It was really quite beautiful, and I made the decision before looking at the Gospel, part of which is found above.
In the Gospel, Jesus first recounts how, just a man trying to sleep will get up if a visitor keeps knocking, so persistence in prayer pays off. What are we to make of the fact that Jesus says, essentially, "ask for things in prayer a lot and you are more likely to get them." A similar paradox would seem to be present in the fact that the Church would even have a Mass so that we could pray for the process of discovering our new Archbishop. Doesn't the Holy Spirit guide the Church? Will the process not work if we don't pray? It is similar to the fact that the Church says our first petition at Mass ought always to be for the Church or the Pope. I always pray something like "for Pope Benedict..." but then I'm stuck - what to say that wouldn't imply that God doesn't know what Pope Benedict needs? Sometimes I say something like "For Pope Benedict, that God may sustain him in his ministry." But then I think does that mean that God doesn't know that Pope Benedict needs sustained? Maybe the prayer should just be "For Pope Benedict...let us pray to the Lord."
The point, I think, and this was what I shared in my homily today - the point is that God asks us to be persistent in our prayer NOT because persistent prayer changes God but because persistent prayer changes US! May God be persistent in His changing us!