A few months ago, friends of ours lost their cat, Frankie. After a few days, their children became rather concerned about their pet, so my 10-year-old and my 4-year-old daughters decided to pray a rosary for the return of Frankie. After they finished, the 4-year-old sprang up cheerfully, saying, “Well, Frankie’s found now!”
When my 10-year old told me what her younger sister said, I felt awe at the implicit faith of my child.
As the matter turned out, her statement was only a little premature – four days later, Frankie returned.
But the question remains: how can we, as adults, regain that simple, unquestioning, faith of children?
Sometimes our faith is weakened by oft-repeated prayers that went unanswered, seemingly prayed in vain. “What good does it do to pray,” we may wonder, “when God always answers ‘no’?”
Recently, I was reading St. Claude de la Colombiére’s Trustful Surrender to the Divine Providence and found an intriguing response to this age-old query. This holy priest wrote that our prayers are not answered because we do not ask for things in the proper order. We are allowed to ask for temporal goods, for Christ promised to give “All things whatsoever you shall ask.” However, we must ask for them in the proper proportion. If we truly believe that spiritual graces are inconceivably more valuable and more important than temporal goods, then our prayers will reflect this conviction, and we will direct most of our prayers of petition for spiritual grace. By contrast, if our heart strings are entwined too tightly in the lure of worldly goods, then our prayers will focus on worldly goods, and God will need to wean us from these disproportionate attachments.
Christ promised, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Bl. Claude tells us that this promise means that if we truly set our minds and hearts in the pursuit of spiritual progress, then we won’t even need to ask for temporal gifts – for God will supply our needs and even many of our wants. When God offered to grant anything that King Solomon desired, and King Solomon asked for wisdom so he could rule Israel well, God was pleased and granted him not only wisdom but also peace and prosperity, the gifts Solomon could have asked for but didn’t. Similarly, if we direct our hearts and our prayers towards growth in holiness and love of God, He will bless our efforts, and give us not only the spiritual goods we have prayed for, but also temporal blessings that we have not prayed for.
This may sound like we should never pray for worldly goods. On the contrary, we should speak to God about everything that concerns us, from finding a parking space at a busy mall to finding a job in a troubled economy. Big or little, if we give it a thought, we can and should mention it in prayer. That way, every incident in our lives becomes sanctified; God becomes an intimate, familiar part of our daily lives, and we slowly learn to view everyday occurrences from His perspective.
However, if growing in holiness is truly our primary concern in this life and our ultimate goal, then our struggles to become holy will naturally form the major part of our petitions. Moreover, our prayers will not begin and end with petitions, but will include acts of praise, adoration, love, contrition, and thanksgiving, as well as times of spiritual reading and quiet meditation. Gradually, our prayers, our reading, and our meditation will help us to see the ups and downs of our daily lives from God’s perspective, with one eye fixed on eternity, and we will come to see the wisdom and beauty of God’s plan for our lives.
Then, slowly, we can regain that simple, unquestioning, trust of our children.