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.
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?