Knocking and Persistence – Ignatian Spirituality

On a Saturday morning while our sons were playing peacefully indoors, my husband and I went out into the front yard to discuss what we were going to do at the house next. While we were outside, one of our four-year-old twins locked us out. The moment we heard the click, we turned to see the outline of a happy child through the door. Immediately I ran to the door and tried to turn the lock. “Honey, did you lock mom and dad out?” I asked calmly.

“Yes sir!” he replied confidently.

“Unlock this door. Now! “I screamed.

Unfortunately, it was so easy for his little hands to close the door, it was so much harder to open it. My husband and I made movements through the door to turn the lock, but he just stared at us in confusion. His twin brother came and tried in vain to help. “Get your big brother,” we called. “He will know how to open the lock!”

It felt like forever before they could finally yank their brother from his seat by the TV and get him to open the door. When we finally entered the cool living room, we sighed in relief.

“Knock and the door will be opened for you.” Every time I read this line in Luke’s Gospel, I am amazed at the simplicity of the rules Jesus makes for prayer. “Please, and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. “(11: 9) Prayer has never been so easy for me.

Getting someone to open a door can actually be a complicated process. Before we got the idea that the twins would get their older brother to open the door, we tried a number of different options. We knocked. We tried to break open the door. We tried to see if we could go around the back (also locked). We may have screamed a little. The whole process was incredibly complex. When the door actually opened we were hot and tired and frustrated. But we were also rewarded by the cool, inviting air that flowed from inside.

This whole test is something like how prayer feels to me at times. I sit down in a quiet place and start a conversation. I knock gently on God’s door. There is no immediate answer. My impatience makes the best of me. I knock louder and harder and think God doesn’t have to have heard me. I try to break open the door and wonder if I can open it with my human strength alone. I yell at God through the door as my impatience grows. I am trying to rationalize with God why this door needs to be opened right now. I knocked.

Is that the wrong approach?

Maybe not. As I go beyond these three simple prayer instructions in Luke chapter 11, I notice that something very important is taught about prayer: perseverance. Jesus not only tells us to just knock; he tells us to be persistent. He tells us to knock and knock and try to break the door open. He tells us to keep coming back, to the front door and back, and asking new and different questions over and over again. Perhaps the prayer that Jesus describes in the Gospel of Luke is not easy after all. I can’t knock or ask just once, because prayer is not a one-time gift. It’s a relationship built on permanence.

Nowadays I want things to come a little easier. I’m a little tired of persistence. But I think in many ways that when things come too easy for me, when they come after just a gentle and timid knock, I don’t have the passion and desire to see them through. I need passion, desire, and perseverance to respond to the things that I receive. I am an imperfect person surrounded by other imperfect people. When I get what I asked for, I will run into obstacles. I will fall I might even fail. I must have built up the desire to push through all of this.

Sometimes it can feel like we don’t want to knock anymore. We don’t want to keep working to break open the door. We just want to give up and go away. But God is preparing us for something, and our persistence is an important part of the answer.

Photo by Lisaleo via Morguefile.

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