After 38 years of ministry as a priest many things have changed, but many are still quite the same. One of those is the fact that people are always asking us priests to pray for someone, often a request that they will be spared from some illness or tragedy. I always graciously accept such requests and am presently involved with several such requests for prayer. I see it as an important part of my ministry, but I find that a word of caution is necessary as well.
One cautionary note is the thought that many carry that priests, religious and clergy in general have more of an inside track to God in prayer. While we are called to lead I can assure you that everyone's prayers matter to God. I hope that no one discounts the power of their own prayer.
More importantly we need to ask why we pray. We live in a results oriented society and look to get "prayer that works, that gets me what I want." The problem is that this is not why we pray. We pray to deepen our relationship with God, to allow ourselves to be drawn ever closer to our God.
Certainly there is no problem with presenting the Lord with our desires. The next step though is to surrender to God, to say in effect, "OK Lord, this is what I want, but I now leave it in Your hands and trust that You will be with me no matter what."
This is a real challenge for us. It is only natural that we want ourselves and our loved ones to be delivered from pain and sorrow. No where in the Scriptures does God promise to take away our problems in we but ask. God's promise is to never abandon us, to assure us that he is with us through thick and thin.
Many like to quote Luke 11, 9-10, the passage that says ask, and you will receive, etc. Most of us forget to read though to verse 13 we find that the result of prayer is that we always receive the Holy Spirit when we turn to God in prayer. With the Spirit of God in our lives we can indeed deal with whatever challenges come our way.
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