Thursday, September 13, 2012

Answers to Prayer

That prayers are not answered is a common  complaint and can bring the obvious question: Is there a God to answer our prayers? Our ancestors were faced with the same questions."Even when I cry out for help, he stops my prayer. He has blocked my ways with fitted stones, and turned my paths aside" (Lamentations 3:8-9).  "Oh my God, I cry out by day, and you answer not; by night and there is no relief for me" (Psalm 22:3).

In his article in Bible & Life, a priest reminds us that our ancestors in the faith, being unconcerned whether an answer was received or not, continued in prayer and examined themselves, finding a response by redoubling their efforts in following the will of God.

It was prayer that helped them uncover God's will.  The response to the prayer was not as important as the relationship, the intimate conversation, the daily understanding--all of it came as a gift of love, the essence of prayer.

If we are to discover God's will--unconcerned with our own--patient waiting is necessary. The answer to prayer may take a lifetime. God's way is not our way, scripture tells us. Consequently, when praying we need to pray from the heart and give words to our prayer that is pleasing to God.

And yet, many have spent hours in fervent prayer with important requests...but the loved one died, a son never returned from the war, a business failed, and the divorce did happen. Not surprisingly, many of them gave up prayer as useless. 

Scripture tells us to ask and it will be given to us, but this is not what most of us experience. The priest wants us to know that in prayerful asking we are asking for the Holy Spirit, and that everything comes with this gift. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can be unconcerned about whatever comes our way, welcoming both the inevitable sorrows and the joys of life. The more empty we are of ourselves, he points out, the freer the Spirit is to work within us.

When a favorable breeze blows we do not need the oars. When the Spirit within us is allowed the freedom to move us, prayer becomes easy and a joy.