The Lord said, "How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know." So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord.
Then Abraham came near and said, "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" And the Lord said, "If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake."
Abraham answered, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?" And he said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there." Again he spoke to him, "Suppose forty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it." Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there." He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there."
He said, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it." Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angy if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it."
I thank you, Lord, with all my heart,
you have heard the words of my mouth.
Before the angels I will bless you.
I will adore before your holy temple. (R./)
I thank you for your faithfulness and love
which excel all we ever knew of you.
On the day I called, you answered;
you increased the strength of my soul. (R./)
The Lord is high yet he looks on the lowly
and the haughty he knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of affliction
you give me life and frustrate my foes. (R./)
You stretch out your hand and save me,
your hand will do all things for me.
Your love, O Lord, is eternal,
discard not the work of your hands. (R./)
When you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.
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 followers." 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!"
Methods of prayer are plentiful and many gurus offer to teach people how to meditate. We can readily identify with the disciple who asked, after watching Jesus at prayer, "Lord, teach us to pray." They wanted to know how Jesus set about prayer, in his own heart. St Luke's Gospel is notable for its prayerful focus. More than the other Evangelists he draws attention to Jesus praying - whether alone, on the hills or in the garden of olives.
Like that unnamed disciple, we can sincerely ask, "Lord, teach us to pray." But first we need to sit in silence, just aware of him. Then gradually, like the apprentice learning from the master, or rather, like good soil becoming fertile from the falling dew, his prayer takes root and germinates in our hearts. Slowly we too begin to repeat that central prayer which links our whole being to the one that Jesus calls, "Abba, Father."
We are unused to Luke's wording of the Lord's Prayer. The official version adopted by the Church is Matthew's, which is longer and more liturgical, with its seven petitions. Luke's is shorter, containing only five petitions, but is more directly personal. Instead of "Our Father who art in heaven," as in Matthew, Luke's version begins with the simple cry "Father!" It is a form of address that would not have been on the lips of anyone but Jesus. It originated in, and revealed, his profound bond with the Father. Jesus was Son of God in the depth of his being.
The early Christians, especially those schooled by St Paul, cherished the moment of Baptism when they became children of God. In the depths of their hearts they could hear the Spirit of Jesus urging them to make their own the word, "Abba, Father" (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). This title of familiarity expressed perfectly the sweet intimacy and total confidence of their new status. Even as it revealed the core identity of Jesus, it makes us aware of the dignity of our adoption as children of the Father. Who better to introduce us to prayer than Jesus himself and, of course, the Holy Spirit he shares with us?
The Old Testament uses "Father" of God as the guardian of the people or of groups within the nation (see Deut 32:6; Ps 68:5; Is 63:16; 64:8; Jer 3:4, Mal l:6,2:10). There is a more personal touch in Sirach 23:1,4. But neither in the Old Testament nor in the writings of Qumran is there such an intimate tone as in Luke 11:2. The repeating of the word "Abba" in Romans 8:15, Gal 4:6 and Mark 14:36 shows how the early Christians were aware of Jesus' intimacy with the Father.
The simplicity of Luke's prayer contrasts with the fulsome formulations used in Jewish and Greco-Roman prayers, not to mention some modern equivalents! Although "abba" can be translated "daddy," one should not think of Jesus' Father as a weakly indulgent "papa," spoiling his children by granting their every whim and never correcting them. On the contrary, Jesus taught much about our duties to love our enemies and to trust, love and reverence the heavenly Father, who is the Lord God Almighty.
There is value both in praying alone and in praying with others. As well as praying in the garden and in quiet places, Jesus also prayed in the synagogue and in the temple. He would have said the Shema, the daily prayer of a faithful Jew, about loving God with all our heart and soul. And in the temple he blamed the priests for failing to make it a house of prayer for all nations. Do we ourselves pray daily? Do we pray that God's will be done? And do we give thanks in all circumstances?