This verse has always given me a mental image of prayer that looks like this: I am standing in front of a giant door, the door to Jesus' house, waiting for Jesus to open it and let me in; the assumption of course is that Jesus is just on the other side, waiting for me to knock; just watching. He knows I'm out here. Why doesn't he simply let me in? Is this really how God operates?
This oft quoted line comes from a section in Matthew's Gospel titled "The Answer to Prayers." It is a line that has given reassurance and peace to many. For me however, it has always struck a chord mostly because it has never seemed all that simple. How many times have I asked and not received what I asked for? The Catechism tells us that:
This line refers to Jesus' meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4: 4-42). The woman came seeking water. Jesus is already there; before she can speak, he asks her for a drink. By the end of the story, the Samaritan woman leaves the well without having drawn the water she originally sought. Her thirst has been satisfied.
After Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn. It was believed that the presence of God resided behind the temple veil, and only one person was allowed behind the veil one time each year. For the ancient Jews, it was scary business entering the presence of God because they did not know if they would survive the experience. Even Moses was warned that he could not look upon the face of God and live! In one final act, the gift of His life, Jesus crushed death and fear, rending the veil from top to bottom, ensuring us that nothing could separate us from His love. If this is true, then my image of prayer above is flawed. If there is a door that is closed between myself and God, it is because I have closed it.
I am drawn into prayer because it is He who first seeks. He knocks on the door of my heart. All that is left is for me to do is grasp the handle and turn, and when I do, our thirst is satisfied.
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