This week, I continued to read Matthew 7. I think I shall be spending a lot of time on this particular chapter; it is so rich. The next set of verses are ones about which I have always have some question, so I will share my opinion and would love to hear the opinion of readers. Here are the verses; I am sure they are equally familiar to you, too:
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?
10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?
11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!Reading: Matthew7:7-11
Meditation: I have seen people take these verses to mean that God will give you anything that you ask for. In practice, though, it seems that many people do not get what they ask for even if they ask for it repeatedly. The parallel to a parent responding to a child's request is helpful here. Clearly, if your child asks for something that is not good for him or her, you would not accede to the request. So, it makes sense that neither would God accede to a request that is not in our best interest. The most obvious example that comes to mind is when the kids in my catechism class say that God did not answer their prayer because they prayed for an A on a test but got a D. When I ask if they studied, they say no, they prayed instead. That one is pretty much a no-brainer, but what about the requests for health or for the stricken mother of a family of young children to live. When the latter kind of prayer appears unanswered, it causes confusion as to why we are told ask and we shall receive. (Of course, there are times that prayers are answered but we do not see the answer because we were expecting one thing, but God gave something better.)
In short, I have only partial answers for my religious education students -- and for myself although I am wont to assume that I am not smart enough to ask for what I should be asking and therefore God, being smarter than I, is likely to deflect and defer where appropriate. Actually, there is little I have personally asked for that has not been answered, often in a different and better way, nonetheless there have been times when the answer was not forthcoming or unclear, particularly when I was praying at the request of someone else for someone else; of course, I usually do not know all the details in these cases, so maybe I am unaware of what God has done, is doing, or did differently.
In any event, I would love to hear others' take on this.
Contemplation: That is far as I can go with you this Monday morning. I now retire to private prayer to praise God for knowing what we need even without our asking. I will, of course, also ask God to help me see where my prayers may have been answered differently than I expected, and I will repent for each time I have failed to ask because we are told to ask. As always, I will thank God for all the petitions I have been granted; they have been many.
I will leave you now to your prayer and contemplation. First, though, I would like to bring to your attention a Monday morning prayer post that you might enjoy:
Fr. Austin Fleming, priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and pastor in Concord, Massachusetts, posts a prayer each Monday morning that he calls "Monday Morning Offering." I enjoy his prayers very much. I think you also will find them inspirational. He has graciously given me permission to include a link to his blog on my Monday Morning Meditation posts. (During the week, he also posts great homilies and other thoughtful discussions. I enjoy reading those, too, as do readers of this blog who have taken the stroll over to his blog.)
For additional inspiration throughout the week, I would point out two sets of blogs: (1) the list of devotional blogs on my sidebar and (2) my blogroll, where I am following a number of inspirational priests and writers about spiritual matters. I learn so very much from all these people. I highly recommend them to you.