“Ask and it will be given; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened.” Can we believe that when so often it doesn’t appear to hold true? We beg and plead with God and seemingly get no answer. Indeed, sometimes someone else’s prayers seem to be answered while ours go unheeded. We can heap guilt upon ourselves, assuming it’s our fault. Perhaps we’re asking in the “wrong” way, or perhaps our faith is deficient. Or we get angry because we assume the fault is God’s. How can we please this capricious God who doles out favors so sparingly?
One distinction to note: What is it that Jesus promises? He says, “…how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him?” Ah, that changes things. We are not promised that if we ask for a new job, we will receive a new job, or if we ask for physical healing, we will receive physical healing. Instead, Jesus promises that if we ask for anything, we will receive “good things”. In other words, we will receive what we need, not necessarily what we want. What we request may or may not be good for us, and God knows the difference.
When my dad was dying, despite our multitude of prayers (from 10 kids!) we did not receive physical healing. Instead, we received reconciliation of divisions within our family that Dad was able to witness before he died. We received the blessing of having most of the family gathered with him, praying and singing as he went to God. We received such a strong witness to spirituality and faith that even non-practicing family members were touched. Dad’s death was truly sacred. God doesn’t often give physical healing, but God always heals. God doesn’t always answer in the ways we want, but God always answers prayers.
Jesus tells us God wants us to be honest and ask for what we desire. Of course, God knows what’s in my heart even before I speak. Formulating and verbalizing my needs is a valuable exercise for my own sake, not for God’s. Then I must trust the Source of all love to winnow out the chaff and pour out what I truly need underneath it all.
Jesus’ challenge, then, is to continually be in relationship with God – asking for what I need, laying bare the depths of my heart and sharing my life. Then comes the hard part – simultaneously opening myself and learning to listen to God’s answers, so I can be an ever more receptive vessel to what God knows I need to receive. My life will not be free from sadness, tragedy, and loss. I need constantly to ask, seek, and knock. God will answer by filling me with everything I need to handle it with grace, courage, and peace. What greater answer could anyone receive?
Amy Florian is a teacher and consultant working in Chicago. For many years she has partnered with the Passionists. Visit Amy’s website: http://www.corgenius.com/.