Prayer. Sometimes it’s hard. There are times when I don’t know exactly what to say. For those occasions, I’m grateful for the prayers we learn as children from our catechism teachers and our own parents: The Hail Mary, the Glory Be and the prayer to our guardian angel. And then, of course, there’s the Our Father, words given to us from Jesus himself. You can’t go wrong with that one. Tried and true, those prayers help us to connect with our Lord, even when we are without words.
But when I have a more specific need I feel compelled to outline my request in my own words. I just talk. And ask. And sometimes ask why. And more often, I ask why not. (My mother tells my I should have been a lawyer. I think, after listening to me all these years, God might agree.)
The other day my oldest son and I were talking about St. Anthony. I reiterated to him what my mother had told me since I was a little girl. You pray to him to “find something,” whether that is finding something that is lost, or finding the answer to a decision you must make, or simply finding what might be missing from your life. My mother often recounts that when she was looking for someone with whom to share her life, she prayed to St. Anthony. Soon after, she met my father. They were married for 60 years before he passed away. She has never stopped thanking the patron saint of lost things.
I told my son that St. Anthony has a proven track record in our family and so he is the saint to whom we should pray, always asking him to intercede to our Lord so that our prayers will be answered.
My son added, “But, always ending with: ‘If it is your will.’”
Hmmm. I sometimes forget that important addendum to my own prayers.
So here’s my question. If we are told by St. Paul in Thessalonians 5:17 to pray without ceasing and our prayer is not answered, when do we accept that it’s not our Father’s will? Unlike a courtroom in which every plea is answered with the smack of the gavel and a judgment, sometimes it seems I’ve prayed forever, and still no answer.
Maybe that’s the whole idea. Maybe we’re not supposed to stop asking. Maybe that’s God’s strategy to keep us coming back to him – to keep the conversation alive. To keep us close.
I plan to adhere to St. Paul’s directive to “pray without ceasing,” but from now on I will end my prayers with the message my son, whose name is Anthony, reminded me of: “Thy will, not mine, be done.”