When I was a lot younger, often when I prayed, I received a stone when I asked for bread and a snake instead of fish. Last week I shared that we may only understand at the age of 50 something that happened to us when we were 25. Now pondering over the ‘snakes’ I was given early in life, I am truly thankful some of my prayers were not answered the way I had wanted them.
We can all look back and find many unanswered prayers. They were like doors that were bolted, despite our heavy banging and desperate pleas. Having those prayers answered then weren’t good for us in the long run. Some we already have the wisdom to understand why, some not yet, the wisdom to be found further along our journey through life.
There is one ultimate goal for this journey which is to go through that open door at the end of it into eternal life. Christ help us to manoeuvre every twist and turn in life, opening and closing doors to usher us there. The Good Shepherd has come to walk this journey with us to lead us into this promise. There isn’t another destination or purpose. For this purpose bolted doors are places not safe for the sheep. Prayers answered or still unanswered are both revelations of his presence in us.
This presence constantly reshape us as we are frequently deformed by worldly distractions and demands. With God there is a time element, with us we desire instant answers. Time is a necessity to gather life changing experiences from which wisdom sprouts. Prayers unanswered is this blessing of time through which we pass from who I was to who I am to who I am becoming.
For it is in prayers unanswered where we sometimes find answers. The more we pray the further the answer seem to get. In that distance prayer acts to transform us. Prayer is this relationship with God. When we pray we allow him the opportunity to act in our life. And when he does, prayerful desires not good for us are taken away. Somehow we will not feel the intense desire to have it. This is the transformative effect of prayer, unanswered as they were, that we become open to the grace to accept that it is better that this particular door remain bolted.
There is another element to unanswered prayers. Not all remain unanswered. Often the answer in our prayers are found in the people around us. We will never receive these answers when we remain bolted behind closed doors in our relationships with others. When we curl up in our privacy, even answers God is sending us through his messengers will not reach us, and we remain wondering. God intervenes actively in our personal life, more than we really know, and always, he uses our friends and often even strangers to deliver to us the answers to our prayers.
We all have a personal salvation history. When we trace back our life story we will find it littered with answered and unanswered prayers, all narrowing us onto a spiritual path that led us to be who we are today. Along this path God has placed many angels in the form of family, friends and strangers appearing in the nick of time (so we think) opening and closing doors to take care of us to ensure we reach the open door of eternal life..
When we are able to look back in this way we find that the snake we got is actually a fish.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be open to you”.
17th Ordinary Sunday