23rd Sunday after Pentecost 12.11.17 Persistence in prayer
In childhood we hear stories which have happy endings. Then, as we grow older we learn that happiness does not come so easily.
This is part of the painful process of growing up, when we discover the jagged edges of reality, and experience various disappointments in our lives.
We learn that we cannot have everything we want.
We can, however, overdo this ‘growing up’, to the point of becoming cynical about life, rejecting happiness in all its forms, as even being possible.
Thus we lower our expectations, of how happy we can expect to be. We are glad for any improvement, but not daring to hope for much.
This can have an adverse effect on our faith, and our prayer. If we have only a limited expectation of how good things can be, we will not ask for much when we pray.
The Bible is full of exhortations for us to pray: Pray constantly…If there is anything you need ask for it in prayer… Ask and it shall be given to you … But we can be too much weighed down by ‘reality’ to pray. We have lost the childlike wonder that enables us to believe in miracles.
Things may not be perfect, but we are still allowed to want them to be perfect; in fact we are supposed to want it.
When we ask for things to be as they should be, we are doing no more than asking that God's kingdom come among us… and that is something He taught us to pray.
God wants things to run as they should, even more than we want it.
He wants us to be happy in this life as well as the next; to experience the happiness that comes from living in union with Him; from cooperating with Him in establishing His kingdom in the world.
Happiness, or God's order – it comes to the same thing.
The Kingdom of God: where every sickness is healed, every injustice is set right, peace reigns everywhere.
Never say it is no use praying for these things. Prayer is precisely the way to bring them about.
This leads to another point of disillusionment – that we are tempted to blame God for what goes wrong in the world; or at least for not doing more to fix things.
People who are angry with God for some misfortune are not likely to pray to Him, or at least not with much conviction.
We have to re-assert at such a point: God never changes, or loses any perfection. He is always the same; always available to help us. No misfortune can in any way subtract from His goodness and glory.
So we train ourselves to focus on God as He is; not on our misfortunes, but His perfections.
If we would trust Him more we would behave better, commit less sin, and a sense of order would return to our world, meaning less things going wrong, less suffering.
If our faith were strong and straightforward enough we would simply ask and receive (Mt 7,9-11). Bread not stone, fish not serpent, egg not scorpion.
We should be asking Him for blessings all day long (Pray without ceasing, 1 Th 5,17).
It is the discouragement that allows the problems to continue. Lack of vision, lack of hope, lack of prayer. So we languish.
We can still believe in miracles. The more we want, the more we pray, the more likely to see miracles happening.
Our Lord responded simply and directly to requests for miracles. He invites from us the same simplicity and directness. So we can be like the woman who reasoned that any contact with Our Lord would be enough (Mt 9,21).
All we can do is pray, as the saying goes. And that is doing a lot!