Tuesday, 24 August 2010


Sometimes I wish God cared as much as I do! I know this sounds blasphemous, but I must say it. God knows how many prayers I've offered for peace in troubled areas of the world, and for those who have had their lives washed away by exceptional floods. So frequently have I prayed the Litany of the Saints that the Lord would save His people in the Caribbean from lightening and tempest, from the scourge of earthquakes. I am also thinking of the many very sick people I have prayed for, with the longing that they would be restored to health.

I care! I pray! What has happened to my prayers? They don't seem to be producing results. Jesus said that the one who prayed with faith no greater than a tiny mustard seed would be able to move mountains, and by implication, anything else. Shifting mountains has no appeal to me.

No results, so I question my prayer-life and my own spiritual life. Does the answering of my prayers really depend on their frequency and intensity? If this were so it would be a terrible burden for me that the well-being of those I care about were to be impeded by my undoubted spiritual deficiency.

How can it be that I am unable to bring God round to my point of view? I must ask this seemingly absurd question, "Is the problem with me or with God?" Neither. My problem lies in my accepting that God is a mystery to us. God Himself recognizes this,
"'My thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not my ways,' declares Yahweh. 'For the heavens are as high above the earth as my ways are above yours, my thoughts above your thoughts,'"
(Isaiah 55. 9).

This means that the most difficult of prayers to say with sincerity is, "Thy will be done Lord. I want what you want -and only that. But how I wish you wanted what I want!" Isn't this very like the Gethsemane prayer,
"And going a little further He fell on His face and prayed, 'My Father,' He said, 'if it be possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.'"
Here is Jesus, in the rawness of His humanity entering into the mystery of the divine will of His Heavenly Father.

The agenda of God is inscrutable to me -beyond my understanding. I must not, then, try to pressurise God. I must not strive to manipulate God into responding to my will. I'm convinced that God is sensitive, caring, loving to an infinite degree -far, far more than any of us could ever be. This, my greatest certainty about God, must never be eroded because my urgent prayers are not answered according to my longings. Accusing and blaming God will never be appropriate. God is certainly not to be blamed because His response does not meet my expectations of Him. And I'm certain God will never blame any of us for asking too much of Him. Nothing is too much for God, but many things of our choosing are not of the best for us.

I'm engulfed by mystery -the mystery that is God Himself...the mystery about how significant are our prayers. Jesus made it abundantly clear that He wants us to continue to pray with all the love and compassion at our command; also with total, unconditional trust in our heavenly Father.

As I see it, gradually our prayers change us -rather than change God. As we pass from bewilderment and even protest to acceptance we make His will our will. So when we obey the divine command to pray for our enemies they cease to be people whom we want to harm and become people we want God to bless. Through prayer they cease to be enemies. Through prayer our wills become aligned with God's, and so we draw closer to Him.

Such prayer helps us to mature spiritually. I would like to think these explorations into the value of our prayers have enriched our understanding of the mystery of God. Now we are called to make an act of faith in God Himself -that He responds to our petitions according to His wisdom and His love. In ways that are not obvious to us our prayers do benefit those we care intensely about, bringing to them blessings that we would never have suspected. So much will always remain unknown to us.

I'm convinced God never says, "No, I'm not interested in your prayers!" It's rather the case that God is profoundly interested, but not in the way we had anticipated.

Our prayers are helpful, in ways that we cannot discern, to a degree that we cannot measure. Our prayers will never be a waste of time and effort. Through them God reaches out to us. Through them God reaches out to those for whom we pray.

Peter O.P.

'Are you a battery hen or a free range chick?' wonders Isidore next week.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure you're right, fr Peter : God always answers our prayers . . . just not always in the ways we expect, or even hope for : which often means that our prayers change us, not those we pray to change.