Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ask, search, knock

The gospel for today - Luke 11: 1-13 - seems to me to indicate that God does affirmatively answer petitionary/intercessory prayers (or that Jesus thought he did). I hate the idea so many religious spokespeople have about prayer ...

As Rowan Williams put it in his Times interview: "The point of praying is to open yourself up to God so God can do what he wants with you. You come with empty hands, as silent as you can be and say, 'Over to you'. So you could say the function was to make you the person God wants you to be – in the full awareness that that might not be quite the person you think you want to be."

... I can't help thinking of this as "zombie prayer" ;) I like what Herbert McCabe OP is said to have thought about petitionary prayer ...

McCabe’s defense of petitionary prayer, for instance, is a model of straightforward, no-nonsense pastoral care. People often think that when they pray, they either shouldn’t pray for things—that’s grubby and selfish; you should be “communing with God” or something like that—or the things they pray for should be noble and selfless: world peace, social justice, et cetera. McCabe deflates all of that high-mindedness by noting that when people say they’re distracted during prayer, what they’re really saying is that their real wants are breaking through their high-minded palaver. He observes wryly that people in foxholes or on sinking ships aren’t troubled by distractions to their prayers. McCabe’s advice is to just go ahead and ask for what you really want—a good grade, money for the mortgage, Grandmom getting better, not drowning. You’re not fooling God by praying for things you don’t really desire but rather think you should desire. Maybe you should pray for those things—the Holy Spirit will lead you there eventually—but if you can’t even pray for the things you do want, how are you ever going to pray for the things you should want? Moreover, McCabe contends that there is no such thing as an unanswered prayer. God gives us either what we ask for or more than what we asked for, which we often experience as his saying no. Our not receiving what we want is a way for God to get us to reflect on what we really desire; it’s a way of getting us to realize what we should be praying for, which, in the end, is communion with him. - Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: An Interview with Eugene McCarraher, Part Three of Three


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