Queen Esther, seized with deadly anxiety, fled to the Lord. She prayed to the Lord God of Israel, and said: "O my Lord, you only are our king; help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, for my danger is in my hand. Ever since I was born I have heard in the tribe of my family that you, O Lord, took Israel out of all the nations, and our ancestors from among all their forebears, for an everlasting inheritance, and that you did for them all that you promised.
Remember, O Lord; make yourself known in this time of our affliction, and give me courage, O King of the gods and Master of all dominion! Put eloquent speech in my mouth before the lion, and turn his heart to hate the man who is fighting against us, so that there may be an end of him and those who agree with him. But save us by your hand, and help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, O Lord, who have knowledge of all things."
Jesus said to his disciples, "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 bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
"In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets."
Esther's story perfectly illustrates what Jesus promised: "Ask and you shall receive." God heard her prayer and acted to save his chosen people at a time of critical stress. In her people's time of mortal danger, Esther had to risk going to the Persian king on their behalf, which she knew could cost her her life, yet to do nothing but hide in her priveleged ivory tower while her people were destroyed, would leave her haunted with guilt all her days. But how many of us simply turn a blind eye when a risky action is called for?
Esther prayed: "My Lord, our king, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you." Times such as these lead to experiences of heightened prayer. Fantasies of ambition, selfish motivations, reliance upon wit and diplomacy and half-truths-all such contaminating elements are swept from our memory. Every crutch is taken away, and if we are to stand, it will be through God's strength alone.
Prayer at such times is bound to be heard, because we are in touch with the best and deepest part of ourselves, with the loving Creator whose plan called us into life and who alone knows the secret of our future. We must place no conditions on what God can accomplish in us. "Which of you would hand their child a stone if the child asks for bread?" We must trust him and hand our lives over into his care.
The opening words of Jesus in this gospel encourage us to be seekers, 'ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.' What are we to seek? What should we ask for? The simple answer is to seek the Lord and his will for our lives. Many such seekers are mentioned in the gospels. Zacchaeus comes to mind among many others. His story reminds us that the Lord whom we seek is always seeking us. At table with Zacchaeus, Jesus spoke of himself as the Son of Man who came to seek out and to save the lost.
Because we can never fully find the Lord this side of eternity, we will always be in the role of seekers after him. We are always on a journey towards the Lord, without ever fully arriving at our destination. Like Abraham we are always setting on a journey in response to the Lord's call. In the words of Saint Paul in his letter to the Philippians, we strain 'forward to what lies ahead'; 'we press on towards the goal', or in the words of the letter to the Hebrews, 'we run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus.' Jesus assures us in the gospel that if we remain faithful to that search of the Lord and the journey it gives rise to, we will be given 'good things' by God. In our seeking the Lord, we open ourselves to his many gifts and graces.