God is listening carefully
Does God have selective hearing? When I was a kid, I had some persistent requests to God in my prayer.
One was for "cartoon hair," you know, the kind that is shiny, doesn't get mussed up very easily, and is thick and voluptuous.
I was born with the exact opposite.
Another request was for better eyesight. In my high school and college years, I endured a long "coke bottle glasses" phase, where two-inch-thick lenses made my eyes look like little beady nubblets.
Amazingly, these sort of requests don't stop at youth. In my middle age, I've prayed that all of my varicose veins and stretch marks would be miraculously healed.
Okay, this is probably too much information, but it's true. Giving birth to six children has given my legs a blue hue that I would rather have undone.
So what's up with "ask and you shall receive," "seek and you shall find," or "knock and the door will be opened?"
Admittedly, I've started this reflection with seemingly "trivial" prayer requests. But what about more meaningful prayers, like for healing of family relationships, the heart to forgive someone, or for physical or mental wholeness?
These are situations that truly challenge our souls and may potentially spiral us into a state of despair. We might think God is actually hearing-impaired.
Over the past five weeks, I was privileged to have been a spiritual director during the Retreat on the Run to two amazing freshman women. One described to me how for Lent she had given up thinking negative things about herself. The words of Psalm 139: "I praise you, Lord, for I am fearfully, wonderfully made" became a life-giving mantra of accepting and loving herself.
The other began keeping a "Gratitude Journal." Each night she would recollect what she was grateful for during that day. She mandated herself to write down at least 10 things. The first four were easy, but after that, she had to stop and reflect in a deeper way about the events and interactions of her day that would inspire thankfulness.
And that's just it. Giving thanks. To echo the words of St. Paul: "In all things, give thanks."
I've come to realize that with every prayer request of our needs and wants, we have something to be grateful for as well.
In fact, thankfulness actually shifts the focus of prayer outward: away from ourselves, counteracting our natural self-centered tendencies. By practicing gratitude, we can see more clearly how the love of God is made known to us through others.
So what kind of prayer does God hear? Pope John Paul II encouraged the faithful to "Open wide the doors of your heart" and make room for God to make a home. The more that God is allowed in the "interior," the more God is reflected in the "exterior."
Prayer is the primary practice that deepens our relationship with God. So when it comes to prayer, keep talking! Lift up your needs, and the needs of others, to God. Give away your anxieties to God. Hand over your fears. Pass along your insecurities. Offer up your burdens.
Be secure in the knowledge that God does have perfect hearing.
Then, to balance and round out your prayer experience, pepper it with praise, and garnish it with gratitude. Lastly, just listen.
Savor some moments of quiet, to "rest" in the presence of God, as encouraged by Psalm 46: "Be still, and know that I am God."
So will I ever have "cartoon hair?" No. Better vision? No. Blue legs? Yep.
As Archbishop Vlanzy mentioned at the Sunday night Mass, "none of us is a "mistake." We are part of God's perfect plan just as we are."
Keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!!
Maureen Briare is the Campus Ministry Associate Director for Music. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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