SUNDAY, FOURTEENTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
Ez 2:2-5; Ps 123:1-4; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6
SURRENDERING YOUR PETITIONS TO GOD
Is there some special intention in your heart for which you have been praying, for a long time? Maybe you are praying for the gift of a child or a good job or the conversion of a dear one. How long must you continue praying before God hears your prayer?
In the second reading, we learn from Paul how to pray in a way that is pleasing to God. Paul was afflicted with ‘a thorn in the flesh’. What this means is still debated in theological circles. But his problem is not as relevant to us as the method that he employed in dealing with this particular crisis. We read that he ‘begged’ the Lord ‘three’ times to free him from this affliction. This symbolizes the insistent prayer of petition but only for a brief interval of time. After that, his prayer consisted of a simple surrender to the will of God. Did the Lord listen to his prayer? Surely the Lord heard the prayer of his beloved disciple but he did not yield to Paul’s petition in the way that Paul wanted him to. The Lord answered Paul’s prayer by giving him the strength and grace to cope with his problem with serenity.
This is how we too should pray for all our needs. Only ‘three’ times we should ‘beg’ the Lord to grant us what we want; i.e., initially, we should make known to God our need in the prayer of petition. If he deigns to answer us as we want, well and good, but if not, don’t fret. Like Paul, we should just let go by surrendering everything into the Lord’s hands. After that, our prayer should be one where we ask God to let his will be done in our lives because he knows what is best for us.
Even before we can ask him for anything, God knows all that is in our hearts. Just as a mother loves her infant and provides the child with its needs at the proper time, so too, God loves us and provides us with what we need at the right time. Like a little child resting happily and securely in its mother’s arms must we be before God in prayer. Then like Paul we will understand that:
- There is a reason why we have to undergo this trial.
- The grace of God is sufficient for us at all times.
- The power of Christ is strongest in us when we are weak.
- Thus, when we are weak, then we are strongest.
With this realisation we will be content and rejoice in our suffering, in our weakness, in persecution and in times of hardship and trials.
In what way should one make his petition known to God? The Spanish mystic, St John of the Cross, an authority on the art of prayer, tells us that in prayer we should not tell the Lord what we lack and desire; rather, we should only indicate our need, so that God may do whatever he desires. He cites the example of Mother Mary who, at the wedding feast at Cana, approached Jesus, and instead of directly asking him to intervene and produce wine, simply said, “They have no wine.” (Jn 2:3) Similarly, the sisters of Lazarus did not ask the Lord to come to cure their brother but simply informed him, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (Jn 11:3) There are three reasons St John gives, why we should pray in this way:
- God knows what is suitable for us better than we do.
- God is moved with compassion when he sees the need and resignation of the soul that loves him.
- The soul is safeguarded against self-love and possessiveness by indicating its lack, rather than by asking for what, in its opinion, is wanting.
Thus, instead of asking God to make your alcoholic spouse sober and holy, it is sufficient to say, “Lord, the partner whom who chose for me is ruining his health and destroying the peace in your house.” After making known to God your need, simply surrender the matter into the Lord’s hands. Your prayer following this act of surrender should be a continual assent to the will of God.
Response: Our eyes are on the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy.
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