On a recent Sunday evening, our son called to let us know he and
Amy are getting married. We whooped for joy! We have loved Amy from
the moment we met her. She is a wonderful young woman who loves
books, music, gardening and art, making her a perfect fit for our
family. Even before our son met her, we had been praying for
someone like Amy to come into his life.
If you have ever spent years praying for a son or daughter, or
for the right job to open up, or for good health to return, you
know how we felt. Of course, prayer isn't a vending machine
dispensing wishes like candy bars. While we prayed and waited, we
had no inkling as to whether this prayer, or any of our prayers,
would be answered in ways we hoped.
Often, prayer isn't about specific outcomes at all. Beside my
chair is a bright pink journal with the word "Faith" embossed on
the cover. As the year began, I wrote dozens of names, some new and
some I've carried over from year to year. Among these names are
friends with serious illnesses as well as several priests and
deacons who are so busy lifting up others that I doubt they have
time to pray much for themselves.
On days when I am up early, I place each person by name in God's
care. Other days, I lift the journal and all in it, asking God's
grace to bring spiritual strength, wisdom, peace of mind and heart,
and physical strength into their hearts and lives. I leave the
specifics up to God.
Sometimes, life itself becomes a form of prayer. As a parish
RCIA director for several years, I offered my ministry as prayer.
Even as I opened the door for those who came seeking faith, I often
asked God to send others to bring loved ones beyond my reach into
the light of faith.
Other times, my prayers have no words at all. This past spring
before surgery, I breathed gratitude and offered my life and soul
to God, hoping for a good outcome while breathing in anesthesia.
Even in the not knowing, I felt myself wrapped in the love and
peace of Christ. Meister Eckhart, the 17th-century mystic, said,
"If the only prayer we ever prayed was 'thank you,' that would be
This year, I added a final entry to my journal, asking for faith
and wisdom for our leaders. Last month we watched the inauguration
of Donald Trump as president. Whether we supported his candidacy
for president isn't the point. We are all on this ship together and
I am praying our leaders will be led by faith to seek God's wisdom
in their decisions.
I pray their hearts will be open to caring for our common home
and for the most vulnerable among us. In my prayer for this year, I
ask that overwhelming numbers of us will have the humility to seek
the love of God in caring for this planet and for each other.
I don't know what the outcome will be for any of my prayers.
But, like the news we received recently of a prayer answered, I
know amazing things can happen, things that cause us to leap for
joy. Perhaps the problem with prayer isn't that we expect too much,
but that we expect too little.