There is a story about a young man who wished to become a monk in the deserts of Egypt. He went to a monk’s home in the desert and knocked on the door. The monk inside ignored the young man, so the young man knocked again. After a long time the monk finally came to the door and asked what the young man desired. He replied “I wish to become a monk and learn to pray without ceasing as St. Paul commands.” The monk looked at the young man up and down and said “No” and he shut the door in the boy’s face.
The young man did not leave. He slept at the door the whole night and in the morning he knocked again. Again, the monk ignored him until late in the day. When the monk finally opened the door, he asked the young man again “What do you want?” and the young man replied the same way as before. The monk looked the boy up and down and said “No” and shut the door again.
Undeterred, the young man spent the night waiting. This repeated itself for three days, and after three days of persistence and unwavering focus, the monk finally received the young man as an apprentice.
The moral of the story is easy to discern. Persistence reveals true intention and authentic desire.
Usually, stories like this get a telling nod from those who can remember events in their own lives when their persistence paid off. But it seems more and more the modern world is forgetting the power of persistence and the value of a desire that overcomes the hardships of achieving a dream. It seems the convenience of many things we use to really have to work for and plan for has softened our ability to stick with a dream until it is fulfilled. It seems we are all too quickly discouraged when we don’t achieve what we want right away. Whatever happened to “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”?
In our Gospel Lesson today, our Lord responds to His disciples’ request to teach them to pray. He responds with the prayer we now call “The Lord’s Prayer” but we should probably call it “The Disciples’ Prayer.” The “Our Father” is a basic staple of any prayer rule and we should always find it easy and quick to repeat this powerful centering prayer as often as we can. I know one family that stops whatever they are doing at the 1st, 3rd, 6th, and 9th hours to pray the Lord’s Prayer at those moments. What a wonderful habit! Your prayer rule should have you praying this prayer at least in your morning and evening prayers.
But the Lord goes on to share something else with the disciples that teach us a powerful lesson today as well. He says: “And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10.
The Power of Persistence flows from a serious insight into establishing in your own heart what is most valuable, most important, and most worth the effort of serious work. But that requires you to discover the answer to an all important question: “What do you want?”
I tell everyone who comes to me for counselling that discovering your deepest desire reveals your real self. If you tell me what you really want, I’ll tell you who you really are. It is in discovering your deepest desires that you also discover the strength to keep on going to fulfill those desires.
But I’ve also learned another valuable lesson. If my desire is self-centered or shallow, it won’t usually be strong enough to really create persistence in me. But if my desire, let’s use the example of a more consistent prayer life, is worthy and significant, I find it both more difficult to achieve and more motivating to keep on trying. It’s when I don’t really appreciate how important something is that I am most likely to give up before I reach that goal.
Today, what do you want? I mean in the deepest part of you, what is your greatest desire? Is it security, contentment, love? Examine your deepest desire. Take the time to really ask significant questions of your own life, your behaviors, your priorities, and ask God to help you look deep enough into your life to see that central desire of your life. When you discover what that is, offer it to God and ask Him if this is a big enough desire to create persistence and a “never give up” attitude in your life.
Today, keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. Your deepest desire is for God. Don’t stop until you have Him, or better until He has all of you!