LONG BEACH, CA (Catholic Online) At the end of today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it."Â Â
In another very well-known Gospel passage about prayer, Jesus is even more emphatic. In Matthew 7:7 he employs the imperative mood and commands us: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." There are many other places in sacred scripture where Jesus similarly obliges us to pray in this way.
Clearly, Jesus wants us to ask Him for our needs. And while asking is not the sum and summit of prayer it is indeed an indispensable aspect of prayer and one which is spiritually beneficial to the Christian.
This asking dimension of prayer can be summed up in the word supplication. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The vocabulary of supplication in the New Testament is rich in shades of meaning: ask, beseech, plead, invoke, entreat, cry out, even "struggle in prayer." (2629)
I once knew a very pious woman who told me: "Father, I pray for everyone else, but I never pray for myself." I told her, "That's wonderful that you pray for others (intercession) but don't be so high-minded that you fail to pray for yourself and your own needs as well."
Jesus commands it! So don't be afraid to ask!
I suspect that the woman mentioned above felt that there was something inherently selfish about asking the Lord for herself. But nothing could be further from the truth. This almost natural desire to plead on one's behalf before the Divine Majesty is born of two realities: (1) our absolute neediness as creatures and fallen creatures at that and (2) our filial trust in God the Father Almighty.
The Catechism tells us: "By prayer of petition we express awareness of our relationship with God. We are creatures who are not our own beginning, not the masters of adversity, not our own last end. We are sinners who as Christians know that we have turned away from our Father. Our petition is already a turning back to him." (2629)
Inevitably, someone will raise the objection: "If God knows everything, why do we need to ask Him for anything?" The simple answer to this question is that when we make prayers of petition we are not informing God of something He does not already know. The Lord Himself has told us: "Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him" (Matthew 6:8). Rather, as St. Thomas explains, we pray so that we "may be reminded of the necessity of having recourse to God's help in these matters" (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 83, a. 2).
What is more, our motive in making prayers of supplication is not to alter God's will (as if that were possible) but rather to dispose ourselves to receive that which God wishes to give us. We do not subscribe to a "Burger King" mentality when it comes to prayer: "Have it Your Way!" The goal of our prayer should not be to have it our way but to rather to have it God's way! This is what Jesus means when He tells us: "Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son."
In saying this, therefore, Jesus is not giving us carte blanche to ask whimsically for whatever we desire at any given moment: a giant screen TV, an expensive new car, or the winning ticket in a multi-million dollar lottery. Unfortunately, there is an element of Protestant evangelicalism which preaches this very thing. They are sometimes labeled the Name it and Claim it crowd. Some of these people take this distorted approach to such an extreme that they will even say: if you didn't get what you were asking for it's because you don't have enough faith. These phony Christians cause much more harm than good by enticing people to ask capriciously for things and when they don't get what they asked for they become angry at God.
God is not a giant candy machine dispensing goodies to His children. God is our all-powerful and all-loving Father who already knows our needs and will grant us those goods (not goodies) which are conducive to our salvation.
Dominican Fathers Antonio Royo and Jordan Aumann break it down this way:
"It is an error to believe that if we persevere in prayer, come what may, we shall always obtain that which we seek. Some things will be granted to us absolutely; some things will never be granted to us no matter how earnestly and how long we pray for them; still others will be granted to us only [my emphasis] if we pray, because God has decreed that they will be given only on the condition that we ask for them [my emphasis]" (The Theology of Christian Perfection, p. 501).
How much more earnestly, then, should we beg our Lord for all our needs, having always in the first place that which will redound to our eternal salvation. This, in fact, is what we ask for through the mediation of the priest in the Collect of today's Eucharistic Sacrifice:
"O God, who in the celebration of Easter graciously give to the world the healing of heavenly remedies, show benevolence to your Church, that our present observance may benefit us for eternal life."
There is so much to pray for. And not only each one's personal needs, but for our relatives and friends, for the Church and our nation. We are living in times of great uncertainty. The fabric of a society woven together with the golden thread of Christian culture is being ripped asunder. The dignity of the human person is trampled upon. The sanctity of marriage is being desecrated. Religious freedom is being eroded away.
In such times the temptation to throw up our arms in despair and to simply brace ourselves for the worst grows stronger every day. But this is a temptation which we must forcefully resist with the powerful weapon of prayer.
"So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees" (Hebrews 12:12)
The Month of Our Lady is about to begin. Let us call upon Holy Mary, Virgin Most Powerful, and ask her to intercede for us before the Throne of her Divine Son as we pray:
REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
Fr. G. Peter Irving III is a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Pastor of Holy Innocents Church, Long Beach, California. Visit our Holy Innocents facebook page.
By Fr. James Farfaglia
The consideration of Jesus' baptism, gives us an opportunity to remember our own baptism. If you do not know the date of your own baptism, it is a good idea to go through your personal files and find out when it occurred. CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic ... continue reading
By Fr Samuel Medley, SOLT
I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. HYTHE, KENT, UK (Catholic Online) - I didn't steal any cookies mommy! says a little boy whose mother asked him if he was hungry, wiping the ... continue reading
By Catholic Online
The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man's self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith Fournier
It is not accidental that the Bible, from beginning to the end, uses marriage as a metaphor and a symbol to reveal the plan of God for the whole human race. Marriage was God's plan from the beginning as we see in the first book of Genesis. Throughout the Old ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith Fournier
"A sower went out to sow. And, as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for ... continue reading
By Michael Terheyden
How we interpret the Bible is of immense importance! It directly affects what we believe about Christ, the Church, and our faith, but it is also related to many of the grave problems in our society and the world. Yet, despite the gravity of this situation, we have good ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith Fournier
We celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. It is one of many opportunities the Catholic Church year offers to each one of us to consider the creature called time, receive it as a gift, and begin to really live our lives differently. This is one of ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith Fournier
On the Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King, the Sunday which marks both the end of the Church Year and the end of the Year of Faith, inaugurated by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope Francis greeted thousands of the faithful and presided over Holy Mass and the ... continue reading
By Father Randy Sly
Becoming a House of Prayer is the best discipline we can take on. St. Ephraem of Syria states that Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy ... continue reading
By Deacon Keith Fournier
If this day you only knew what makes for peace- but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your ... continue reading