July 28, 2019 onboard the MS Amsterdam
Genesis 18, 20-32 + Psalm 138 + Colossians 2, 12-14 + Luke 11, 1-13
There are three possible answers to prayer. Take my word for it. I’ve been at it a long time. I want to tell you about this because, every now and then I have met someone who is upset and disappointed. Sometimes they are actually angry with God, which I don’t think is, in itself, a problem. It’s hard to ignore someone you are angry with. It’s just that they don’t understand that besides “yes” and “no” there is a third answer, and I learned it from my mother. That third answer is not however, “because”, which was the answer I would sometimes get when I asked “why”? She had red hair and green eyes, and I learned early on that when the answer was “because” there would be no further discussion. That’s not how it is with God however,
What I have discovered is that with God when we pray and bring our needs and the needs of others, there is, of course, the “yes” and the “no” answer now and then, but there is another one that I think is for more frequent. “Wait” is the third answer. Sometimes that answer is harder to accept than “yes” or “no.” That’s always when I’m tempted to say, “Why”? At which point I see that red headed lady with hands on hips!
When we hear these prayer-words from Luke, it doesn’t sound quite right or quite the same as the words in Matthew’s Gospel, and that’s important to realize, because if the Gospel writers thought that the words were important, I am sure they would have made them the same. So, using the right words or the exact words are not very important. I have a niece who would pray aloud, and she would say: “Our Father Who art in heaven, how did you get that name?” I have a strong suspicion that those words from a five-year-old made more impression on God than the prayer of a Pope perfectly articulated. It isn’t about words, it is about the relationship what we bring and expect from it.
In the end, prayer is not some effort to impose our will or expectations upon God, but to ask God to make us open to God’s will. In other words, we pray not to change God’s mind, but for God to change our minds, and in doing so it might mean we have to wait.