Is prayer about getting what we want?


Homily for June 4, Saturday of the VI week of Easter

“Whatever you ask the Father in my name, He will give you.” These words of Jesus from today’s Gospel reading are very encouraging – yet, sometimes it seems that they don’t come true. I think all children who ever hear this passage start praying right away “in Jesus name” for a bicycle or a Microsoft X-Box, or for a trip to Disney world, or whatever expensive thing they want and their parents haven’t given them – and yet, their wishes often do not come true, at least not in the time frame they asked for. We adults can have a similar experience, although usually with more serious matters, whether it be praying for the health of a sick relative, or for being able to find a good job, or for improvements in family situations. Sometimes our prayers are clearly answered, but sometimes they seem not to be.

Perhaps one reason why the Father does not seem to give us everything we ask in Jesus’ name, is that we should also be asking not just in His name, but also in His way. We see Jesus’ way of praying throughout the Gospels. He asks the Father with trust and thanksgiving to answer our needs, as when He raises Lazarus from the dead, saying, “Father, I thank You for hearing Me. I know that You always hear Me.” When He is speaking of His Passion a week before it happens, and of the mixed emotions He feels, He prays that the Father will be glorified, saying, “…it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” In the garden of Gethsemane, He prays, “Your will, not mine, be done.” On the cross, He forgives and prays for forgiveness for His enemies: “forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do”. At the Last Supper, He prays that we be protected from the evil one and that we may be where He is.

So, praying in the Lord’s name should also mean praying as He taught us. Asking for what we want and need is only a part of that; our prayers should also include praise and thanksgiving, contrition and forgiveness, and the desire that God’s will be done above all else. This is neatly summed up in the Lord’s Prayer.

We should never be discouraged if it seems that the Father has not given us what we asked. If we pray in the name of Jesus and following the pattern of prayer that He taught us, we can be assured that our prayer is heard and taken into account, and our most important petition will always be like the Lord’s: Thy will be done.

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About Matthew Green

I am a translator, origami artist/teacher, and photographer, a blogger, former philosophy professor, and I love to sing. You can see my photos on Flickr and buy prints of some of them on Fine Art America. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter (@mehjg), and in various and sundry other social media sites on the web.
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