October 17, 2010
Last Sunday, the Gospel taught us about the prayer of thanksgiving. A grateful heart is pleasing to God for it is humble, obedient and full of trust in divine providence. This Sunday, we have another lesson on prayer, and this time it is about the prayer of petition. The Lord tells us that we have to “ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened unto you.”
As in any other kind of prayer, the prayer of petition is always pleasing to God. He always listens to our petitions, and He gladly grants what we ask for. This is the truth. However, many doubt this, and they ask: “Why are my prayers and petitions not granted?” There are several reasons why, for many of us, we do not receive what we ask for in our prayers.
First, we lack total confidence in God. Most often, we turn to God only as a last resort when all our options fail to work. Some of us have our plans all set, and God is considered only as a convenient back up, “just in case” – similar to a life jacket or parachute.
When we pray, we must make sure that we have full, unconditional and authentic faith in Jesus, the Son of God. This kind of faith is shown in the image of a little child: “Unless you become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” In the prayer that Jesus taught us, we say, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Have we ever wondered why Jesus said “daily bread”? Why did he not teach us to say, “Give us our bread for one month or for one year”? This is because he wants us to have confidence in him day by day, just like a little child that is totally dependent on his parents for his daily survival.
Lack of faith and confidence in God leads to lack of generosity. This is the second reason. We are afraid to let go because we are not so sure of divine providence. We trust in our own resources more than we trust in God. And so we hold back, and we cannot get ourselves to give everything to God. As a result, the flow of God’s graces is restricted.
There is the story of a man in the desert. He ran out of water, and he was in danger of dying. Fortunately, he found a small shed in the middle of the desert, and in it was a manual water pump. He ran toward it, and saw a small pail of water. He was about to drink the water, but he saw a handwritten notice, and it said: “Warning: Do not drink! The water in this pail is just enough to prime the pump and draw water from underneath the ground. You can have as much water as you need afterwards. Then do not forget to fill up the pail for the next traveler.” God can never be outdone in generosity. A pail of water that we offer can trigger an ocean of blessings from Him. We always say, “The more we give, the more we receive.”
The third reason is because we insist on our own will, and thereby disobey God’s will. Perhaps many of us will notice that, most often, our prayers of petition tend to impose or dictate on God. We want God to follow our will, and not the other way around. Have we ever wondered why the Blessed Virgin Mary is a very powerful intercessor that everything she asks from God is granted? The reason is simple: she is always obedient to God. She lived her fiat at every moment of her life: “Behold, I am the maidservant of the Lord. Be it done to me as you say.” This is true to all the saints. They are all powerful intercessors because they have always been obedient to God. This is similar with our experience in our family. A child who is always obedient to his parents has better chances of obtaining his requests from his parents than the disobedient and stubborn child. St. James the Apostle said: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (4:3). When a person is obedient to God, the favors he asks for are swiftly granted by God.
Finally, we do not get what we pray for because we lack patience. The widow in the parable was patient and persistent in her request to the corrupt judge. She just would not give up, knowing that her request is just and right. Patient waiting is a clear sign of faith and confidence in an all-knowing and all-loving God.
Nowadays people hate delays. Yet when it comes to prayer, there is wisdom behind the delay. The first reason is that God does not want us to become like spoiled children. A child who is accustomed to receiving immediately the favors he asks from his parents may think that the world owes him, and he may not even appreciate and give importance to the favors granted. And second, the favors we are asking for may be good in themselves, but in the mind of God, He knows when is the best time to grant them to us. Granting our request ahead of the appointed time may even be harmful to our soul.
Prayer is not only an activity; it is our way of life as God’s children. And as St. Padre Pio said, “prayer is the oxygen of our soul.” Hence, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini urged us: “We must pray without tiring, for the salvation of mankind does not depend on material success; nor on sciences that cloud the intellect. Neither does it depend on arms and human industries, but on Jesus alone.”
This is a very timely exhortation for us all because people nowadays tend to neglect prayers, being too busy and absorbed in their worldly and selfish pursuits. As a result, we witness massive apostasy all over – people turning away from the true faith. This is what Jesus predicted at the end of the Gospel reading today: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith in the earth?” The sure sign that the second coming of Christ is very near is the loss of faith in so many people – mass apostasy in the world! And that is happening now! Let us pray with more faith, trust and persistence, so that when the Son of Man comes – and it is not anymore remote – we will be found worthy to welcome Him and be with Him in His kingdom.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
On Marian Pilgrimage
Portugal, Spain and France
October 10-22, 2010