2019 was one of the hardest years of my entire life. I was crushed by post partum depression, a slew of medical symptoms that we could not get diagnosed, stuck at home in a basement alone 99% of the day every day, parenting 2 under 2, struggling with money, and struggling in what relationships I had left. I was in a really dark place. It was hard for me to pray at all, let alone ask for any kind of help or healing. However, in the last months of 2018, I had gone to a Bible study about the journey of the Hebrews and how God led them to the Promised Land. Over and over I had felt Him telling me that we were going somewhere, but it didn’t look like what I thought it would. I thought He was leading us to one Promised Land, and it turned out, at least for now, He was leading us to another. Throughout that time though, I learned a LOT of things. One that has been on my mind lately.
In the last several days, two of my friends on Facebook posted about how prayer does not work on earthly things-it change our hearts so we will be ready for Heaven. It’s not really a new thing. There are two poles of Christian philosophy on prayer-those who seem to turn to it for everything with rainbow goggles on that make it sound like God fixes every problem, and those who talk about how it doesn’t work-it just help us hurt less while we suffer, or helps us suffer better.
I would like to propose a compromise between the two. I believe sincerely and completely that prayer works, and not only does it work for earthly things as well as eternal, but I believe God specifically asks us to pray for the daily things in our lives, not just the eternal. However, I also believe that God does not always answer our prayers the way we want Him too, and sometimes it feels as if the entire world is caving around us as we cry out to him in the deepest, darkest night, and He does nothing.
In Scripture, Jesus teaches us to pray using the Our Father. It specifically asks for “our daily bread,” and while some people talk about that as a metaphor for what we need, and all we really need is God’s love, Jesus quite literally provided the people with bread during His ministry. It seems obvious to me that He means literal bread. If that was not enough, then take time to look at how many times He speaks of gifts from God to us. “Ask and you shall receive,” “What father whose son asks for bread will give him a snake?” Mary, His beloved Mother, asks Him to make more wine, at a wedding where the attendees had already had plenty. King David turned to God for every little detail of everything. There more than 100 psalms about David turning to God for help in big and small matters.
It tends to be a more Protestant trait to ascribe to this belief that God wants to attend to our daily needs. Many Catholics seem to pride themselves on their willingness to suffer for Christ. Stories of the Saints are flooded with all the horrors they endured for Him. On one hand, I understand that. There is something powerful about being unafraid. However, I was terrified of loving God for a very long time, because I was afraid of what He would do to me if I loved Him. I still sometimes struggle with that fear, this idea that He desires us to suffer on this earth and only wills our good in heaven.
Learning about Moses and the Hebrews and how God met their needs even when they struggled, and studying the way that God draws us to pray for even the silly things in our lives, I started to believe that God does not only not want us to suffer. He also wants us to see prosperity and abundance in this life. There is a quote where Jesus was talking in a vision to a modern saint Blessed Conchita, and He told her that we suffer so much, and He doesn’t want us to waste it. His words were full of such compassion at the fact that we must suffer at all, and His desire was for us to use the suffering we are given, not to look for more, and always covering us with compassion in them.
This small phrase meant everything to me. What if God doesn’t want us to suffer more? What if there are some sufferings He cannot take away, and so instead He transforms them, but He can’t do that without our surrender? What if He never wants us to suffer? What if it is as agonizing to Him when we struggle as it is for us?
I can’t tell you why God doesn’t always answer. I can’t tell you why your grandfather died, and mine didn’t yet. All I can tell you is that sometimes He answers prayers with miracles beyond your wildest dreams, and sometimes He doesn’t. But He is always there even if you can’t see Him and one day, He will make something new from your agony, for “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Just as He sobbed in His agony to God “Let this cup pass from me,” we can pray that prayer, and we can finish it as He did, “not my will but yours be done.”