Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ask God to fix your prayers

My older son just started driving, so of course the car broke down during one of his first solo trips.

He's a pretty unflappable sort (a welcome generational correction for his parents' emotional ways). So he called, we arranged a tow truck to a trusted mechanic, the repairs did not take long, and I arrived to pay the bill. My son was back on the road.

Desperation seldom speeds things up. Jesus remarked on the uselessness of worry. Acceptance of reality and asking for the right kind of help are better approaches to our needs.

A wonderful old prayer asks, "Let thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and, that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." 1928 Book of Common Prayer, Collect for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity.
  • The reality is that we have needs ("petitions") and that God has "merciful ears."
  • But, our desperation sometimes corrupts our prayers. Our craving for something good, or at least relief from something bad, renders our prayers ineffective. We need God's help to "ask such things as please" him.

Our prayers need fixin' from time to time. We need to ask God to make the repairs. Jesus told Paul to stop praying for relief from a problem and start offering praise and thanks for the Lord's power. Paul, problem and all, went forward in Christ's strength to build up churches, raise up leaders, and write much of what is now our New Testament.

When I was younger, good looking and very available, I went through a lonely season. I did a lot of dating and had some "relationships", pretty much all of them unsatisfying (and in some cases destructive). I kept asking God to take away the loneliness.

During this time, I took a trip to California's central coast (that wonderful backdrop for the movie Sideways). I stopped in to pray at Mission San Buenaventura. The Calvary Shrine there is very brutal to behold. Jesus' knees are scraped from his falls on the way to the cross. Every injury is detailed. As I prayed at the foot of the cross, I continued my desperate petition for relief from the loneliness.

Then the Holy Spirit took a wrench to my spirit. Without thought or intention on my part, my prayer changed. "Jesus, you understand suffering. Use my pain to change me."

This new, Spirit-fixed prayer started a series of powerful changes in my life. God didn't remove the loneliness, but helped me confess attitudes and repent of behaviors that were creating it. Within a year, I met my wife.

We need to stay alert for God's desire (he loves us) and ability (he's all powerful) to fix our prayers. He likes to reach in when our prayers are rattling and wheezing, tweak our spirit, and fix our words to give them new power.

One more example. I was praying in the car the other day. I was complaining and begging for relief from financial and church leadership problems. All of a sudden, the prayer changed to something like:

"Daddy, I know that you have a surprise for me. I know that you have it and I'm really wanting to open it up. I know that you love me and that you won't keep it hidden too long. I'm so excited!"

I went from moaning to an obscure god to tugging gleefully on dad's pant leg. That was the fix that my prayer needed - that was the fix that the Spirit made. And it is in joyful expectation that I am approaching life this week.

Ask God to fix your prayers. "Father, give me the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit, fix my prayers so that they please the Father. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen."


Alice C. Linsley said...

Lovely correction to my tiresome pleadings and very much needed. God is in control and my prayers should reflect that reality confidently. Thanks, Fr. Timothy.

Rick Harris, O.P. said...

Lord, help me realize the depths of my spiritual poverty. I am even ignorant of how to pray as I ought. You know what I really need. You know my deepest desires. You know your plan for me. Hear the groans of the Holy Spirit within me. Grant me the faith that knows with certainty that those prayers are always answered.

Thank you for this, Fr. Tim. The right words at the right time for me.

But Jesus did not just say that worry is useless, did he? Worry betrays my lack of faith. Worry is sin. Worry is refusing to cast my burdens on the Lord, preferring to solve problems using my own devices. Worry is saying to God, "Stay out of my life. I'd rather do this myself." Worry is more than just futile effort. Jesus commands us not to do it. (6:25) The antidote to worry is to ask God to strenghen my faith.

Please know that you are in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

God bless you, Fr. Timothy for this message! I’m still working on it. I looked this post up again...had put my note to you of last year (e-mail in response to this teaching - Torre had posted the link on Albany interecessors) into a document for my files. They are an ongoing "journal" related to our grief over our son's behavior. I am again blessed by this and since you told me last August how to post here, I might be able to make it work this time.

Gerald and Huda are going to meet with an AMiA priest in their area for counseling on Monday. PLEASE pray that his heart will be moved to repentance and amendment of life. We have learned there is porn involved, so we are looking for a miracle.

Thank you, again, my brother.
Your Sister in the Lord,
Merlena Cushing
Manistee MI

TLF+ said...

Thanks, Merlena. I will be praying as you ask!