Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 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 indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”
And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.' And he answers from within, `Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
"So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
Reflection If even Jesus is subject to the “time of trial,” (think forty days tempted in the wilderness immediately following his glorious baptismal moment (Luke 4.2)) it might serve us well to acknowledge our own vulnerability to temptation and take Jesus’ prayer to heart, “Do not bring us to the time of trial,” or in Matthew’s version, “but rescue us from the evil one.”
What if we decided to admit, “I am subject to temptation. I am susceptible to trials?” What if in the company of the Apostle Paul we humbly confessed, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate?” (Rom 7:15) A long time ago when married my husband and I had an argument. I was sitting at the far end of the great room. He was on the other side of the room, his back toward me. Sitting there I rehearsed in my mind reasoned words of reconciliation. “This is not who we are. This is not how I want to be with you. Can we remember why we are together? Can we hit reset and do better?”
Feeling composed with my conciliating words I walked across the room, stood in front of him and out of my mouth blast indictment and condemnation while my inner narrator commented, “I do not want to say this. I am doing what I do not want.” And like Paul I concluded, “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Ro 7.17, 19)
Have you ever experienced a disconnect between your mind and your mouth? Have you ever experienced a rupture between your deepest desires and your actions? Welcome to the human condition. This is not because we are bad it is because we are vulnerable. We are assailable to trials, liable to temptation. This is intrinsic to our human condition, the very same condition to which Jesus was subject.
What are we to do when we realize we are not in control? Beat ourself up? Take a drink, a pill or eat to numb the effects? Redouble our efforts to be in control? Or, might we consent to the reality that we are vulnerable and follow Jesus’ counsel, “Pray, saying Father…” Even Jesus did not rely on himself to control his situation. In all things Jesus turned to his relationship with God.
There is no shame in being subject to the time trial. The inability to be in control is not cause for self recrimination. Apparently Jesus knew this as did the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous when in the late 1930s they identified the first of three of twelve steps toward a transformed life; admitting we are not in control, believing there is a power greater than ourselves that can restore us and and deciding to turn our will toward that power… the power we call God, the God to whom we pray saying, “Our Father…”
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