“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
—Matthew 7, 7-8
I was reading a very insightful reflection on prayer recently and was struck by something mentioned. It stood out because the author advised a practice I normally don’t adhere to.
“Pray boldly!” it stated in very clear black and white.
Hmmm… this shocked me to be quite honest. The writer’s directive for having a successful prayer life was essentially ‘to go big or go home.’ Huh.
What does praying BOLDLY even look like?
Do I humbly approach the Creator of the universe with all of my outlandish, insignificant and selfish desires? For heaven’s sake, He’s trying to provide each and every one of us with salvation. No small feat if you’ve read the news lately. And now I’m gonna let Him know I’d really love a new house equipped with a large pantry and a mudroom—and oh yeah, a successful book deal and speaking career while He’s at it? Hey, thanks, Big Guy! Obviously, the hamster wheel of my brain has been getting a serious work out on this one.
Maybe praying boldly is not very surprising to the majority of you holy rollers out there, but it sort of shook my foundation. Why? This simple suggestion to brazenly ask the Lord for my deepest desires, not just needs mind you, is foreign to me. To be frank, my prayers are much more staid, restricted and safe. I usually pray so as not to offend God by my overly presumptuous or burdensome demands. Praying boldly would make me feel like the spoiled brat who’s barely finished a huge hot fudge sundae and is already bargaining for a sugary dessert when they get home. Ungrateful! Or the space cadet kiddo who overlooks the fact that his family has a postage-stamp-size yard, yet begs for a pony. Out-of-touch!
But there was clearly something in it that got me to reexamine my meek, more practical—okay I’m gonna say it—boring prayers.
I began reflecting on an incident that happened a year ago. A friend had reached out to ask for our family’s prayers. Her elderly brother was dying of cancer and she asked specifically that we pray for a peaceful death for him. During family prayer, as is our custom, we offer up our personal intentions, one at a time. For my turn, I prayed for our friend’s brother, asking God to provide him peace in his final moments. When it was my oldest son’s turn, his words surprised me. Rather than following my example, he audaciously broke form and asked Jesus for a miracle for the dying man. I was a little indignant. “That’s not what she asked us to pray,” I admonished. “She specifically asked for us to pray for a peaceful death.”
“I know,” my son confidently responded. “But I’m holding out for a miracle.” It didn’t seem right to force him to change his prayer, so I just sighed and we moved on. I passed it off as youthful folly. Aaah to be ten years old again…
Several days later, I was before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration. I have a set pattern to my Holy Hour. The first 10 minutes or so I offer up my intentions and those of my friends and family. Petitions done, I had just started my rosary when I realized I had forgotten about my friend’s brother. I was frustrated for having let this urgent prayer request slip my mind. But I took a quick prayer detour and spent the next couple minutes pleading with God to help this man in his last days on Earth. I made special note of the time (12 minutes after the hour) since I was now slightly off my regular schedule. (Can you say O.C.D?!)
When I arrived home later, I saw an email pop up that announced the death of my friend’s brother. He had expired at twelve minutes past six that very morning—the precise time I had been praying for him. I promptly responded letting the family know I had remembered him in my intentions before the Eucharist. I remarked how I had made note of the time in adoration and that it corresponded with the time of his death mentioned in the email. I also shared that we had been praying for him all week, even the kids, although our oldest was insistent that he was waiting for a miracle. I included that to point out his childish innocence and faith. I knew she’d find it endearing.
An email response came quickly thereafter. My friend concluded, “Let your son know he got his miracle!” At that moment it dawned on me that his daring prayer had been answered, not in the way he intended, but God had provided a miracle of sorts. My son prayed boldly and God heard him.
At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
—Matthew 18, 1-3
I’m seeing prayer through a new set of eyes. Being in a truly loving relationship means we don’t tell someone what we think they want to hear. That’s a sham. We tell them all—our most outrageous dreams, hopes, and whimsies. We divulge our deepest yearnings and our seemingly unreachable goals. We share them and bond over them. My husband and I have always shared the faraway dream of packing up and moving to rural France where we will raise chickens and eat lots of amazing cheese. It’s certainly not a safe, practical dream. In fact, it’s rather unlikely, given our current financial situation. We have three kids we have to put through college for goodness sake. But that doesn’t stop us from talking about it or musing about what our life would be like. It’s something we share, just the two of us, even if it never actually happens.
I think God desires that same intimacy with me. So I’ve begun to pray in a new way. It hasn’t been the most natural transition, but I’m doing my best to set aside the awkwardness of feeling selfish about my desires. I’m beginning to pray boldly. To my mind, I have become the kid who compiles his Christmas list with gleeful delight with no regard for feasibility. I’m praying with reckless abandon. For the first time in a long time, at least since I was ten years old, I’m holding out for a miracle. It feels pretty great.
*If you’re interested in the article on prayer it can be found in chapter 4 of a book by Lisa Brenninkmeyer titled, “Opening Your Heart.” Go to walkingwithpurpose.com to learn more.