Don’t be afraid to ‘bother’ God with your prayers
A Reflection for the Thursday of the First Week of Lent
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7).
Lent is a time for getting back to essentials. Two essentials—“Ask and you shall receive,” and “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you”—appear in today’s Gospel, and they almost seem so simple that they need no further reflection. Yet when I look at how I live these out, I am struck by how often I fall short, even on the easier one: “Ask and you shall receive.”
I often find myself holding back from asking God for the things I desire. If someone else asks me to pray for them or someone is struggling, I find it easy to pray for them. I’ll do it as soon as they ask. But when it comes to asking God for the things I want, I’m flooded with insecurities: What if what I want isn’t what God wants? Why should I bother God with my wants when there are other people struggling so much more than I am?
When it comes to asking God for the things I want, I’m flooded with insecurities: What if what I want isn’t what God wants?
These insecurities cloud the simple vision of God that Jesus offers in today’s Gospel, that of a loving parent who will give their child the good things they ask for. “Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him?”
My insecurities in asking God for what I desire fail to take into account that God is at work forming my desires. Not all of my desires are good or come from God, but if I pay attention, I will know which ones are. If I’m being true to the person God created me to be, then the things I most desire will be the things God desires for me. If I get it wrong and ask for the wrong thing, it’s okay: God won’t hand me a snake if I ask for a snake.
Likewise, I don’t need to worry about bothering God with my intentions when other people are struggling more than I am. God is infinite and infinitely able to deal with everyone’s needs. If I’m worried about people who are struggling, it’s simply a sign of something I desire more deeply, which I can ask God for: God, help them, and help me help them.
Get to know Colleen Dulle, Associate Editor
What are you giving up for Lent?
This year, I’m spending 30 minutes in prayer a day. I’ve been so busy lately that this really feels like “giving up” 30 minutes as much as it does adding 30 minutes of prayer.
Do you cheat on Sundays?
Usually I do; I like the idea that Sundays are for celebrating the Resurrection even in little ways, like breaking your Lenten fast. But this year I’ll still be praying on Sundays!
Favorite non-meat recipe
I still make Alison Roman’s spiced chickpea stew with coconut and turmeric that went viral in 2019.
Favorite Lent art
William Congdon’s “Crocefisso 2” (1960)
Favorite Easter photo, from childhood or more recent
The last two years, my friends and I organized elaborate Easter vigil liturgies on Zoom. There was no communion, obviously, but we started the liturgy in candlelight, sang the Exsultet and did all seven readings and responses. Here we are after the 2020 liturgy having a well-deserved celebratory drink!