“‘Supposing the Pope looked up and saw a cloud and said ‘It’s going to rain’, would that be bound to happen?’
‘Oh, yes, Father.’
‘But supposing it didn’t?’
He thought a moment and said, “I suppose it would be sort of raining spiritually, only we were too sinful to see it.’”1
How many times have you prayed and actually expected an answer?
“For peace among all the nations, we pray to the Lord. –Lord, hear our prayer.” Yeah, right, we in the pews are thinking, and I’d like a pony, too. Stop our wars! Cure our cancer! Get my brother-in-law a job! But please, don’t bother if it’s too much trouble.
Prayer is supposed to be a conversation with another Person, and we pretend that it is, but more often it’s really a kind of wishful monologue, an airing of vague desires. We should be saying, Please won’t you do this? But more often we’re really saying: Wouldn’t it be nice if that were possible.
That’s not prayer, it’s wishful thinking. I call it wishful thinking, not because it’s unrealistic to expect God to answer our prayers, but because we don’t expect anything of the kind. We manage our expectations, like a cancer patient waiting for the results of his latest test. Because we secretly suspect that God either doesn’t exist, or just doesn’t care. Or maybe, we tell ourselves, he’ll answer our prayers “in a spiritual sense” — which is to say, not at all.
It’s like a man who won’t try to walk after spinal surgery: Maybe my legs will work and maybe they won’t, but if I stay in this wheelchair then I can’t be disappointed.
Last Sunday I went to Adoration angry. I didn’t know why I was angry, didn’t even notice the storm building until it was already a typhoon. I went to give God half an hour, but five minutes in I realized it wouldn’t be enough, and told him so: No, you’re not getting off that easy. You tell me what this is about. I’ve got all evening, and I’m not leaving until you say something.
He said something, all right. He showed me a memory,2 an old unhealed wound from 15 years ago. Okay, I said, so why did you let it happen? Why did you let me get hurt that way? Where were you? I was almost surprised when he answered that question, too, and answered it to my satisfaction.
Sorry, readers, you don’t get to know the answer. I don’t think it would mean anything to you even if I told you; you’ll have to ask Jesus for your own answers. But what he said to me made me sob and shake like a toddler in his father’s arms.
Which is exactly where I was, and where I remain.