Grace to you!
In today’s reflection, I share some thoughts on effective prayer of petition.
Someone asked me why it seems the prayers of some believers are answered more than others? “Some seem to have a way of asking something from God and receiving swift answers whereas others seem to pray and pray… nothing happens.”
This isn’t a simple question, I must admit. A few ideas jumped into my mind though. I use family or friendship relationships to attempt an answer. By the way, you may have your own answers which may be better than mine.
Imagine in your family, or imagine being a close friend to somebody. Perhaps that person is a philanthropist who is utterly generous with his or her wealth. You observe how many requests come to the person’s desk on daily basis. Some of the requests are laughable. They ask for things that are ridiculous. Whereas others go straight to the kind of things that this philanthropist likes to support.
You would notice that the philanthropist would often answer a particular kind of petition over others. You have known this philanthropist so well as to know how to ask, when to ask and the kind of things to ask.
Or your family: You’ve known your family so well as to understand how your generous dad, mom, sibling or child operates, and the kinds of requests they welcome. Because you have this wealth of knowledge, it makes you a strategic petitioner. You know the operations of the family or your friends, and therefore, know what fits and what doesn’t.
This analogy may be applied with caution to the issue of prayer of petition. In a prayer of petition, we are asking God to do something for us or for others. Petition could be for our own personal needs. It could also be for the needs of others (or the community, etc.). In this latter case, it’s also called a prayer of intercession.
One’s prayer of petition is as good as one’s familiarity with the will of God or the way God works. Just like one’s positive responses regarding a request from a family or a friend is as good as one’s familiarity with the way the family or the friend works.
Someone who knows the friend pretty well does not waste his or her time on things that they know wouldn’t be answered. They don’t ask for things that don’t fit in the way the friend operates. They don’t waste their targets. Others who aren’t in the inner circle may make such un-targeted petitions. Insiders know better.
Familiarity with God, intimacy with God, gives us access to the workings of God. We know God’s ways. We are attuned to God’s mind. Then we can petition in the way that fits that plan because we have already, by the function of grace, access to that mind of divine providence.
We see how Abraham—having been brought into the divine conversation—could know what is to happen and would intercede for others. Though not all his petitions for the salvation of the sinful Sodom and Gomorrah were answered (Gn 18:20-32), he still had answers in the saving of Lot and his family, since God thought favorably of him in this regard (cf Gn 19:29).
We also hear the Lord Jesus ask us to petition God in moments of need. He tells us: “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Lk 11:9-10).
The Lord assures us that God would give us the Holy Spirit, when we ask (Lk 11:14).
No better gift can we receive in the context of prayer than the Spirit, who enables us to pray, interceding for us (Rm 8:26). Our petitions would, therefore, be in line with the mind of God. Prayers of petition which flow from the Spirit is attuned to the mind of God. Such prayers are answered. Such prayers are those of the inner circles in the human conversation with God through prayer.
I pray that we grow deeper in the spiritual life so as to understand the will of God and how best to ask, led by the Spirit. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
(Seventeenth Sunday C. Gn 18:20-32; Col 2:12-14; Lk 11:1-14)
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.