It’s Sunday. I’m just back from church and I’m inspired to write this.
For the last eight years, I’ve been a regular church goer. I attend mass on Sundays come hell or high-water. Before that…not so much. Well, I wasn’t an atheist but let’s say that I didn’t really fully “believe”. I would visit at Christmas, Good Friday and Easter. But the rest of the days, I guess I was just an ‘as you like it’ Catholic. Mass was just something to get through. Something I was forced into doing by my parents and other elders in the family.
I didn’t really get it. I had no complaints about my life. Life was ticking along smoothly. There were ups and downs. But I attributed this to the natural course of life. And I had the rest of my life to make mistakes, correct those mistakes and make some more.
I believed that I was a good person. Well, after all I wasn’t an axe murderer or a thief. I had no reason to believe that I was ‘bad’ and needed God’s forgiveness and graces. Even though I didn’t dare say it out aloud, I subconsciously thought that only the unfortunate, the criminals and the desperately broken needed God.
I prided myself on my talents and was convinced that I would make it in life with hard work and intelligence.
Enter Crisis Number One and my whole life went spinning out of control. A situation which was not of my own making, left me with staggering debts and I couldn’t find a way out. I was in such a bad place that I couldn’t bring myself to even confide in my family and friends. It was simply horrible!!
What was even worse was that I was not directly responsible for the situation I was in. I was baffled, disappointed and in utter pain. It’s like my whole world came crashing down. My finances were in a mess. And so was my career.
Eventually, I came back home because there was nothing else that I could do. And I’m ashamed to admit this…but because I could see no option, I turned to God. I began praying fervently. I would see my devout neighbours, family and friends attending retreats, visiting church and making offerings. This inspired me to do the same.
So, I would pray, pray, pray. I would pray all day. Read the Bible. Visit spiritual websites. Ask people online to pray for me. Well, in short, I tried everything.
What I didn’t realise was, that I was praying in desperation. In retrospect, I came to understand that I wasn’t praying from a position of strength but one of weakness. I was praying selfishly. Just so that I could get whatever I wanted from God at that time. I was in a hole and I wanted Him to bail me out.
And what did God do? He rescued me!!!
He really did. He’s wonderful that way. He gave me a life much better than I could have ever dreamed or imagined. He restored my finances, set my career on the right track and gave me a great relationship as well. I was living the life of my dreams, doing the work that I was proud of. Everything was running smoothly.
Up and until the next crisis. This one really left me devastated. I couldn’t wrap my head around what happened. I was doing everything right. I was working harder than ever. Going to church regularly. Not doing anything majorly wrong. Why did I have to face this then? The biggest trial of my life until now.
There wasn’t anyone to blame either. So, I did the ugliest thing that one could ever do. I blamed God. And I haven’t said this out aloud, until now. I didn’t even know I was doing it at that time. But I know now. It’s not like I stopped praying or anything. I did whatever I was doing before. Yet, it wasn’t the same. Something had changed and I didn’t know what it was.
I only recently realised what had actually happened. While I prayed and prayed and then some, I have never really tried to cultivate a relationship with God. I was only praying to meet my urgent needs. It was only..”God, I need this to work in my favour..so please bless me.” ” God, I have an interview today, please give me a positive outcome.” “God, be with me at this meeting”.
It was always about me!!!
And I have to hand it to God. He did answer many of those prayers. And not because I deserved them.
So I asked for more and more and more. Until He put a very timely stop to this. And tested me.
I’m right now going through one of the biggest trials of my life. It’s tested my faith, my endurance and my perseverance. Yet, this has also been one of the most peaceful times of my life. Because I think I’ve finally understood what God really wants from me.
I am praying through all the pain but it’s different this time. I’m praying with faith, with a certain trueness and quietness that wasn’t there before. I’m not desperate anymore or asking for what I think is the solution to this problem. I’ve only asked God to show me the way, if it is his will for me. I’ve not received a clear answer yet, but I know that He is with me in the little and big things that He does everyday.
I sense his presence when a hymn that means a lot to me is prayed in Church, when a stranger is kind to me for no special reason, when I get that special parking spot when I’m running late. And a thousand other moments, that are too many to mention in this space. And I thank Him for this. Because, He is giving me not everything that I want, but everything that I need in that moment.
So, why pray, if everything is God’s plan anyway?
I can’t claim to know the exact answer to this question. But if I were to hazard a guess, it would be because sometimes He really wants to give us everything that we want. But He also wants us to know the true value of what we take for granted and bring us closer to Him!
What about you? Do you pray? How does God answer you?