The episode that we hear in the Gospel appears in all three of the synoptic Gospels. However, there is one detail in Luke’s Gospel that does not appear in the other two. Luke tells us that Jesus asked this question while he was at prayer. Actually, St. Luke portrays Jesus at prayer at least eight times and particularly at important moments in his life. For instance, he is heard to be praying as he approached John to be baptized. He spent the night at prayer before he chose the Twelve. He was also at prayer when the disciples asked him to teach them to pray.
This notion is not the only thing that distinguishes St. Luke’s Gospel from the others. However, it does present us with an opportunity to ask ourselves about our own prayer life. I am not asking you to give yourself a grade on your prayer life. That simply wouldn’t be productive. We can ask, however, about the fruit of our prayer. For that is what it seems that Luke is doing in his Gospel. He is showing us what happens in the life of Jesus when he is at prayer. His prayer actually leads us to prayer. Perhaps that might prompt us to do the same thing.
Like so many of the spiritual gifts, prayer is not meant to be a possession. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, of which prayer is one, are meant to be shared with others. We might be tempted at times to reserve our prayer time as a time just for Jesus and me. If Jesus’ prayer life is any indication, his times of prayer usually lead to some important event or teaching of which the apostles are witnesses.
Today’s Gospel is a good example. Obviously, the question Jesus asks was prompted by his prayer. However, when he shared the question with the Twelve, it brought forth Peter’s act of faith. Another time when he was a prayer, it prompted the disciples to ask him to teach them to pray.
It has been said many times that the Eucharist is the best prayer. Notice that the Eucharist is never celebrated alone. It is always shared. That’s why we call it communion – “cum unitas” – with unity. Even when we pray in solitude, it should lead us to others.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator