Thursday, February 21, 2013

“What people have the capacity to choose, they have the ability to change.”

Men are possessed of free will, and endowed with the faculty of making a choice. It is not true, therefore, that some are by nature good, and others bad. - St. Irenaeus

(Gospel Text: MT 7:7-12)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the law and the prophets.”

When I was a kid, often I would pray to God as if he were Santa Claus, and if I were a good little boy he would bring me whatever I asked for, which mostly didn’t happen.  Now that I am older, I still petition God for things, but my understanding of him has changed, and I no longer expect that I will necessarily get what I ask for.  But in this passage, Jesus completely challenges that notion.  He says that all we have to do is ask, and we will receive, and Jesus doesn’t lie right?

So why is it that we go to prayer asking, and sometimes even begging, for something—whether it be for healing of wounds, forgiveness, reconciliation with somebody, faith, patience, courage, deliverance from a serious sin we may struggle with, the list goes on and on—and yet sometimes “it seems” God does not provide.  After reading Jesus’s words in the Gospel, it doesn’t seem to make much sense at all.

I recently read a prayer entitled “A soldiers prayer” and it helped me to put this gospel reading in context:

“I asked God for strength that I might achieve. I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey. I asked for health that I might do greater things. I was given infirmity that I might do better things. I asked for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty that I might be wise. I asked for power that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God. I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. I was given life that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all men, most richly blessed.”

This prayer sums it up.  Asking God for strength, health, wealth, etc. are not, by any means, evil things to pray for.  But through answering prayers in this way, we can recognize that God gives us exactly what we truly desire. 

God doesn’t always give us strength, but the opportunities to be strong, God doesn’t always give us health, but the opportunities to live and do great things through our sickness, God doesn’t always give us wealth, but opportunities to appreciate what he has given us. 

Through answering our prayers this way, God is trying to show us our own profound dependence on him in all aspects of our lives.  Ask for strength, and you may not receive strength, but you will receive Christ who is stronger than we could ever imagine.

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