Tuesday, March 10, 2009

when God says no

Some time ago I wrote about prayer. Convinced that God is most definitely not Santa Claus, and that He is more interested in making me a saint than He is in making my wishes come true, I may have come across as more of a cynic than a saint.

My husband and son called me a "negatron", incapable of a positive attitude. I prefer the "realist" tag, and I wear it proudly, right next to my smiley face button.

Anyway, since it's Lent and all, I've been pondering prayer once again. I've been considering the kind of prayer that I'm most familiar with: the type in which I talk to God, ask for something, get an immediate answer - a simple, unqualified no.

OK, that's not entirely true. Sometimes He takes days and days to answer. Sometimes months. I wait patiently then, and keep asking, pleading even, and I always get an answer eventually.

And it's no.

I learned about this type of communication at my mother's knee, literally. By her telling, she has had a lifelong history of requesting things - a date for the prom, money to purchase her childhood home, a cure for cancer - that have not been delivered to her (at least not to date.)

My husband attributes my negative attidude to Mom's example, but I can't really blame her. I've had enough first hand experience. That job I really coveted? Didn't land it. A date with the most popular boy on campus? Uh-uh. An expansive home with a modern kitchen, whirlpool tub and fireplace? Not so much.

Many, if not most, of my requests have been selfish. But I have certainly prayed for some things that seemed only to be good - for others as well as myself. At least that's what I thought, what I earnestly believed. Why can't my friend, a good Catholic man, find a job so he can support his large family? Why can't my single brother find a nice girl to marry?

Why did my daughter have to die?

Before we all go off the deep end of despair here, let's return to reality. Reality is about a Father who says no to His children - even when they can't possibly understand why.

I started reading a book today. The story, a true one, tells of a woman who is known world-wide for the horrors she has endured and for her great faith.

So far, I don't like it. It's really ticking me off, in fact.

I admit I started reading with a prejudice, a bad attitude so to speak. I can't really explain why, but as soon as I learned this woman's story, I was annoyed. She relied so fully on God that she didn't seem real. Her explanations about how she dealt with the extreme challenges in her life - by simply asking God for what she needed - irritated me to no end.

And you thought I was such a nice person!

The friend who gave me the book pointed out a passage at the end, in which our heroine felt called to marriage. She simply sat her good self down, sketched a portrait of her prince charming, wrote out an extensive list of all her future mate's qualities, and presented it to God.

Three months later she met her dream guy. They got married and had two perfect children.


So I've come to the conclusion that 1. I am so lacking in faith that God doesn't even hear my prayers, let alone consider answering them; 2. I am so out of touch with the will of God that I habitually ask for that which lies outside of it; and/or 3. I'm a spoiled brat.

I was discussing this with friends today, and one quoted St. Catherine of Siena as she spoke to the Lord: "If this is how you treat your friends, it's no wonder you have so few of them!"

That rings true to me.

God doesn't answer our prayers because we are His "favorites" or because we know the magic formula.

Scripture does tell us, repeatedly, that if we ask, we shall receive. Does that mean if I don't receive, I haven't asked properly?

Or maybe that I've asked the wrong question?

I wish I could end this post with a pithy commentary on perfection in prayer. I can't. I can only ask questions, and wonder.

And trust.

God is God, and I'm not. He will answer prayer as He wishes, not as I command him to.

I'm going to read the book, and really attempt to open my heart to its message. I can't judge her life through the filters of my experience. God gave her what she needed; He gives me what I need.

And for now, that's enough.

At least it should be, right?


elena maria vidal said...

What an extraordinary expression of mature faith!

Bia said...

I think that, like children, we don't take "no" for an answer.

But why do we think "yes" is more of an answer than "no"?

Because, like children, we all want our way.

This was a wonderful post . . . honest, insightful, thought-provoking, and yes, funny because you very accurately portrayed human nature at its best/worst.

Cassie said...

Wait, so what's the book you're reading?

Christine said...

Oh I love this topic because it gets on my nerves also when I read angel books and the whole time I am reading the story of the angel that rescued somebody I think about the person that didn't have an angel save them.

Or the story of the baby that was healed and your baby died. Or the story of the cancer healed and all the moms and dads that leave their children so soon.

Not fair. I do not understand. Why do I have a good husband and food and shelter and there is a woman across this planet that is going through horrible things.

I have submitted my will to God. I also pray I do His will and accept it. I also Trust in Him...a ton.

I read the book Amazing Grace for those who suffer by Jeff Cavins. There was a story in there about a little girl murdered on her bike route and her parents were faithful Catholics and super-duper prayers were being said and she still died.....
I pray because I do expect God to protect my children...I really believe the angels are there...then why does that happen??????

ugh...where is my coffee!;)

carmelitemom said...

I linked to your blog from Tea at Trianon. What a wonderful providential post! I just finished the book you are reading and I am in awe of her utter complete trust in God...I have a holy envy of her! If you get a chance, visit me at http://carmelitemom.blogspot.com/ to see my post today. Did God say "no" or is He saying "yes" to something better?...Theresa

Anonymous said...

I believe there is an answer to all prayers, and sometimes that answer is no. I've gotten so frustrated with people who can't accept He doesn't always give you what you want for your prayer, but not because He doesn't care - because sometimes NOT giving you what you want has a PURPOSE. A lesson.

Its not easy, but that's why its called FAITH and not GIMME. You have to have FAITH that if you ask HE knows if He can or can't give it to you. Maybe His purpose in saying no won't make sense, maybe His taking something from you will hurt, but it is all part of His plan.

Great post!

~Kathy~ said...

Thanks for such a great post! I came over here from Tea of Trianon.

I assume the book you are now reading is the one over on your sidebar. I may need to look into reading that one.


Margaret said...

Your words are raw, honest....real. I have no answers for you because I am asking all of the same questions. God Bless You!

TitansFan said...

It's really hard to understand our wishes and wants from things we need and utilize. I myself remember wanting things I didn't need. I couldn't understand why those things seemed unattainable. I just thought of them as selfish wants.

2 years later I'm at work and a large steel pipe falls off of a shelf that was bumped on the other side with a fork lift. This pipe knocked me to the floor breaking my back. Oh yeah, the fork lift operator was on his first day on the job. Grr.

I found out from my Dr. that I will need a lot of therapy and I will need something for hydrotherapy. Now guess what happens next?

I was given money from the recommendation of my Dr. to get a/my Whirlpool Tub. That was the last way I thought I would get such a thing.

Sometimes I wish I hadn't prayed and wished for things I didn't need. I am however very happy with the final outcome.

I grew as a person and I know that if I want something, I go get it rather than it come get me.