The Problem with Prayer

Thursday of the First Week in Lent

March 5, 2020

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Today, in Mercy, our readings could be so reassuring about the power of our prayer, except …..

How often have you prayed
for something that you didn’t get?


Queen Esther – By Jean-François Portaels

In our reading from the Book of Esther, Esther certainly puts everything she has into her prayer for deliverance:

She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids,
from morning until evening, and said:
“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you.
Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand.

The passage, in isolation from the rest of the Book, might lead us to conclude that Esther’s prayer is simply about her asking for, and receiving, what she wants from God. It’s about much more.

Esther, like Christ, is in a position to save her people. She must risk her life to do so. She is praying for the courage to do God’s will, to look past her own comfort and become an agent of grace in her circumstances.

Now that’s some kind of prayer!

Prayer can be like looking in a mirror. All we see reflected back is our own need and desire. We don’t pray honestly and openly enough to let God open a door in the mirror – a door into God’s own will and hope for us.

Mt7_7 doorJPG

That’s the door Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel.

What we ASK is not just for something we want, but rather to know God’s heart.

What we SEEK is not our own satisfaction, but the grace to embrace God’s mysterious energy in our lives no matter how it comes to us.

What we KNOCK for and desire to be opened to us is deeper love and fuller relationship with our loving God.

Sometimes, the problem with prayer is that we think it’s like asking our rich uncle for a permanent loan. It’s only when we comprehend that prayer is a relationship that the RECEIVE, FIND, and OPENED parts become real for us.

Music: Prayer Is the Key to Heaven – Alan Brewster

( Uncharacteristically, I went old-time revival with this one — but I think the song has something to say. I hope you enjoy it, dear Friends. And for something more classically beautiful, see Handel’s piece below.)

Sinfonia from”Esther”  – George Frideric Handel

Ask, Knock, Seek

Thursday, October 11, 2018


Today, in Mercy, our Gospel gives us three comforting invitations and assurances:

Ask, knock, seek.
If you do, you shall
receive, be welcomed, find.

That’s nice, isn’t it? But does it really work? I’ve asked for a lot of things I haven’t received. I’ve knocked and sought answers that never came to me. What about you?

Lk11_9 Ask

Perhaps we’ve been reading the passage with a closed heart.  This Gospel may be more remarkable for what it does NOT say than for what it says.

It says ask, not ask FOR something.
It says knock, not BURST IN.
It says seek, not seek AFTER something.

The reading is not about getting our particular requests presented before, heard and answered by God. It is not about how to visit a “Santa Claus” God with our wish list and get everything we asked for.

  • It is, instead, about recognizing our emptiness, and asking God to fill it – in whatever way God wishes.
  • It is about recognizing that the Spirit lives in a deeper place in our lives – a place that is opened to us only by prayer and trust.
  • It is about seeking God and God’s desire for us, far beyond any tangible gift.

When we’ve done this kind of asking, knocking and seeking, we have no “answered prayers” to show for it. Instead, we are changed in the way rivers are changed by the rush of melting mountain snows. We are fed, the way trees are fed by the rain disappearing at their roots. We are at peace, the way the deep ocean lies in peace despite any surface storm.

Music: A delightful song from the 60s that will charm you and stick in your head all day. 🤗

And the Love Come Trickling Down ~ The Womenfolk