Many reflections on today’s readings tell me that all prayers are answered. Really? Of course, that is provided what we ask is for our good “for which Father would give a son a scorpion when he ask for an egg”. Add on the caveat: God will answer prayers only “in his time” and, plus, if our desires coincide with the will of the Father. For me, an ordinary guy in the pew, I have too often found “a stone, a snake and a scorpion”. I have experienced many unanswered prayers.
We have asked, seek and knocked for many intentions that were noble such as lessening suffering or to heal the sick. We have in turn, experienced raw disappointment. I myself prayed desperately on 3 occasions in my life to keep my job but on each occasion I lost them. But there was something hidden in unanswered prayers that were to later reveal itself further along my path of life.
Unanswered prayers are like closed doors; you bang hard on them but they remain shut. You stand outside them weighed down heavily by your own desire, unable to move but circumstances come along to nudge you towards another door which is open. Your walk through that and find a new path and the direction of your life changes.
My path through life has been littered with many unanswered prayers. But each new door I was forced through led me into a new pasture; some things I never thought of or planned for, but ultimately better for me as a person. Sure, they were not easy times but they led me onto a path where my faith grew. In these new pastures, I gradually experienced God in my personal life, “thy kingdom come”. Looking back at my life journey, I will not trade off any hardship I experienced to open those doors that I had wanted to open.
They had remained necessarily closed for my own good. Through the new, open doors, I eventually “in his time” found bread, fish and egg instead of the stone, snake and scorpion.
Hindsight is a wonderful tool especially when powered by the Holy Spirit. When we retrace the steps that led us to where we are today, we uncover the major crossroads of our life. By the generosity of the Holy Spirit we can return to those junctions and re-look at the ‘circumstances’ that led us to where we now are. By hindsight, we may be thankful that certain doors remained closed despite our persistent knocking. Then, at those junctions, it was God’s hand using the ‘circumstances’ to nudge us along through the doors he had opened for us.
We find his guiding presence, his then unseen involvement, in our personal life. The Father was not behind the closed door but beside us as we knocked.
This is the assurance today’s readings gives us that through prayer we uncover this relationship the Father desires to have with us. It is actually he who knocks more often and more persistently on our door. He is seeking a personal relationship with us. He is asking to be “Our Father”.
The path through life is a long one. It calls us as children towards a Father. Along the way we pick up needs and desires. Alone we cannot fulfil them. We turn to Our Father and pray, “Give us today our daily bread”. When we look back at our life particularly at prayers unanswered, we find calm and peace to know that only the Father knows what is “bread” to us. And he won’t instead be giving us a stone.
Today many of us still stand knocking on the door, desires unfulfilled, prayers unanswered but we must stand knowing that it is not prayers answered or unanswered, but it is prayer that leads us to the Answer.
(At the Pater Noster in Jerusalem where the disciples were taught the ‘Our Father’)
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time.