5 Jul 2011

Of asking and receiving

Those of us Catholics who go to Church, and maybe read a little Scripture are familiar with these words: ask and you shall receive. (If you're old school, you may prefer this one: ask and ye shall receive. It means the exact same thing, it just sounds more days-of-yore)

Back in my youth group/young adult group days, when I spent a great deal of time in prayer, and thinking about prayer, and talking about prayer, and asking questions about prayer, I was told again and again that it is good to just talk to God... lay it all out there, to not be afraid to ask for what is needed, even wanted - to even 'lay a fleece before the Lord' and challenge Him to come through in some specific way.

Did you just gasp? I'm pretty sure I heard a gasp. I'm not disputing the merit of honesty in your relationship with God - on the contrary, anything less than utter honesty with God is like Number Five Nephew hiding his face behind his hands and thinking I can't see him. God already knows your need, want, anger, fear, sorrow, joy, fatigue, worry, hope.... He knows the bills you've got waiting to be paid, the fight you just had with your husband, how hard it is to resist the chocolate chips in the cupboard. Because we're prideful creatures, and because God likes us to make use of the gift of free will; He wants us to ask. Like any parent, He likes to give - He doesn't withhold out of any miserly tendency we may sometimes imagine from Him.

So we've established that it is good to ask, and that God knows what we need. Two challenges remain. One, is to accept what is given, and the other is to let go. I'm a bit (just a bit, mind) of a control hound, so when I ask God for something, I tend to get very specific. For example, if I were to ask Him for a job (as I have done, recently) I would tell Him: "Dear Lord," (it's good to be polite when asking for a favour) "I really really need a job. If it be Your will, please provide something that is satisfying, doesn't take away from my writing, and doesn't contradict Your teaching. Amen." I'd probably throw in some riders, like how I would like it to be flexible to allow me to travel, don't want it to be in some nasty office building with ugly cubicles, and so on.

Do I think that God isn't aware of my heart, my desires, my needs? Do I think that I could design the perfect scenario for myself? Am I likely to consider my spiritual health, the state of my soul - not to mention everyone else - while being concerned about my own convenience and comfort? God sees the whole big tapestry, while I see only the tangled threads of my ever-changing ideas and plans.

I'm learning that abandonment to Divine Providence isn't only about accepting what God provides, it's about trusting God to know what to provide. God knows exactly where I am at right now. He knows what I need in order to grow as a Godly woman. He knows the present state of my family and our particular needs at this time. He knows what opportunities and challenges will present themselves in the future, and what I will need in order to meet them. He knows - better than I - what I am capable of doing right in this moment because of what I have endured to get here. How I restrict His generosity and creativity by putting my expectations and demands into a little box!

Time to let go.


  1. Thank you, Tess, for this honest-to-goodness post. I infer from it that you have read Abandonment to Divine Providence by Fr Jean-Pierre de Caussade SJ, a wonderful book.

    God less you.

  2. That should be 'God bless you'. I don't think He wants you to let go to the extent the missing 'b' might suggest!

  3. Thank you, Father. I don't mind being less, but I do appreciate the blessing!
    Yes, I have read Abandonment to Divine Providence. That book has become one of the stepping-stones of my spiritual growth.


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