Thursday, October 20, 2005

We do not know what is right to pray for

Ten years ago today I received the following email. It came at a time when I had hit rock bottom; it moved me immensely, and as a result, I sought out a Catholic priest for the first time in my life.

On this day I share it again to give thanks to God who gave us his son, who gave us so many through the ages who have worked so tirelessly that those in darkness would see a great light.

May God's blessings be upon you.

Subject: We do not know what is right to pray for

Today while praying the Office of Readings, the second taught me a thing or two about the nature of prayer and answered some questions that, I think, all of us have from time to time: Why does it seem that many times our prayers go unanswered? Doesn't God hear us? I thought that the answer supplied by Saint Augustine was inspired and I wanted to share it with all of you.

>From the Office of the Reading for Thursday in the 29th week in
Ordinary Time:

From a letter to Proba by Saint Augustine, bishop

(We do not know what is right to pray for)

You may still want to ask why the Apostle said: We do not know what is right to pray for, because, surely, we can not believe that he or those to whom he wrote did not know the Lords Prayer.

He showed that he himself shared this uncertainty. Did he know what it was right to pray for when he was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to bruise him, so that he might not be puffed up by the greatness of what was revealed to him? Three times he asked the Lord to take it away from him, which showed that he did not know what he should ask for in prayer. At last, he heard the Lord's answer, explaining why the prayer of so great a man was not granted, and why it was not expedient for it to be granted: My grace is sufficient for you, for power shines forth more perfectly in weakness.

In the kind of affliction, then, which can bring either good or ill, we do not know what it is right to pray for; yet, because it is difficult, troublesome and against the grain for us, weak as we are, we do what every human would do, we pray that it might be taken away from us. We owe, however, at least this much in our duty to God: if he does not take it away, we must not imagine that we are being forgotten by him but, because of our loving endurance of evil, must await greater blessings in its place. In this way, power shines forth more perfectly in weakness. These words are written to prevent us from having too great an opinion of ourselves if our prayer is granted, when we are impatient in asking for something that it would be better not to receive; and to prevent us from being dejected, and distrustfull of God's mercy towards us, if our prayer is not granted, when we ask for somthing that would bring us greater affliction, or completely ruin us through the corrupting influence of prosperity. In these cases we do not know what it is right to ask for in prayer.

Therefore, if somthing happens that we did not pray for, we must have no doubt that all that what God wants is more expedient than what we wanted ourselves. Our great Mediator gave us an example of this. After he said: Father, if it is possible, let this cup be taken away from me, he immediately added, Yet not what I will, but what you will, Father, so transforming the human will that was his through his taking of human nature. As a consequence, and rightly so, through the obedience of one man the many are made righteous.

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