Frustrated parents sometimes complain that shouting is the only way to get their kids attention. Sometimes people approach prayer this way too. They think God will hear them only if they pray long enough and hard enough. They’re like the people Jesus referred to in today’s gospel, who hope that they’ll be heard because of their many words.
Prayer isn’t about getting God’s attention, however. We already have God’s attention! In fact, it’s God who inspires our prayer in the first place. Prayer also isn’t about telling God things he doesn’t know. Jesus said that God knows what we need even before we ask him.
But we might ask: If God knows our needs, and is attentive to us all the time, why do we need to pray? Or to put it another way: If our Father in heaven wants to give us our daily bread, why does Jesus teach us to ask him for it?
The reason is that God isn’t going to impose something on us we don’t want, even if it’s something he knows we really need. In his love for us, God wants us to want what we wants to give us; he wants us to ask for what we need to receive, not because he needs to hear it, but because we need to know that it is God alone who can supply our needs. In other words, prayer never informs God; but prayer can, and does, form us.
Readings for today’s Mass: http://www.usccb.org/nab/061611.shtml