Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How does God want us to ask?

Jennifer at Conversion Diary wrote recently about petitionary prayers - specifically, how particular or targeted we are when we ask for things. She makes a great point: sometimes pointed requests are expressions of faith, but sometimes they are artifacts of our wanting to  be in control ourselves and dictate to the Almighty One the results we want and how we think he should do his job. As she eloquently puts it,  "I notice that, as I move from more-specific to less-specific prayers, I feel within me a change from wanting to be God, to simply wanting God."

Sometimes, though, the opposite happens to me. I examine myself praying as if from the outside, trying to tweak my approach to be the most pleasing, the most holy, the most charitable, the most self-forgetful. (Hah! Self-forgetfulness is exactly what is not happening at that time.) When I catch myself at it, I need to be reminded that my relationship to God is that of his child rather than his choreographer. I can just tell him humbly what I want flat out without embarrassment or pretense. In this spirit, it's not presumption but sweet trust.

An early and memorable example of this was back in 1975. I was a relatively new Christian and newly baptized in the Holy Spirit.  There was to be an International Conference on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Rome over Pentecost. Many of my friends were going, but I had procrastinated making the arrangements. When I inquired, I found that the charter flight was fully booked.

I was heartsick. I very much wanted to go, and go on the same plane as my friends. I was in my office after closing time and started to pray. I thought about whether it would advance the kingdom in some way for me to go and whether I deserved to go. It had been my fault, after all, that I was shut out. So I scrambled to find some rational leverage with the Lord.

But by God's grace I finally saw the folly of that. I finally fell on my knees and told God that I really, really wanted to go, and I would really appreciate it if he would work it out. The next morning, of course, I got a call. The 10 or so people on the waiting list ahead of me had backed out, and there was a seat for me if I wanted.

Well, it turns out the kingdom of God was indeed advanced, because this has stayed in my mind as a testimony of God's gratuitous care for me without my deserving or even needing it. But mainly, it reminds me that God is our Father, and he just wants us to talk to him intimately and let him know what's going on with us. He created us for companionship - it must be true that the companionship we're capable of offering him is something he really enjoys.




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"There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."

Pres. Barack Obama, Feb 5, 2009