Effective stewardship in a parish is the result of many factors. There are many people who think they’ll have success if they can just find the right combination of tools and techniques, and so they’re always searching for the latest novelty in stewardship methods.
But real stewardship – faithfulness in the right use of the gifts God has entrusted to us – is not the result of quick-fix solutions. It comes from the long-term practice of sound spiritual principles. Among these is prayer, so basic that it has been identified as one of the pillars of parish stewardship. Prayer is the major topic of these readings from Genesis and Luke.
After accepting the hospitality offered by Abraham, God reveals to him the plan to annihilate Sodom because of the sin of its residents. Abraham responds by pleading with God to spare the city if enough righteous men can be found in it. God agrees, and Abraham proceeds to progressively reduce the number of the righteous needed for God to withhold his destruction, from fifty down to ten. Despite the impression that a quick reading of the narrative may give, it is not a matter of “nagging” God. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2571) puts it, “Abraham’s heart is attuned to his Lord’s compassion for men and he dares to intercede for them with bold confidence.”
Likewise in the parable of the importunate friend in the reading from Luke, Jesus tells us that urgency and persistence are two of the hallmarks of strong prayer. Prayer must be urgent, like the request of the man who has a guest who needs something to eat now. And his persistence in asking is reflected in Jesus’ teaching, “To the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
But our prayers are not always answered in the way we’d like. God sometimes does say “Yes.” But sometimes he says “No,” or “Wait awhile,” or even “I’ll give you something better.”
As stewards we’re called to use some of the time God has given to us by consciously seeking his presence in prayer. When you love someone, you make time to be with that person. In the same way, we are called to spend time with God in worship and in prayer – urgent, persistent prayer.
But as we grow in our prayer life, we come to a deeper understanding of prayer. When we do, we discover that the real answer to prayer is not making God conform to our will. Healthy prayer changes our will to conform to God’s will. “Transformation of the praying heart is the first response to our petition” (Catechism, 2739).