Unfortunately, when prayers seem to go unanswered, we back off—a little or a lot—either by deciding not to ask for so much, or by deciding not to ask at all. But when we stop praying, we lose touch with who we are. The most important time to pray is when our prayers seem meaningless.
Human persistence is important, but in the end it is only faith that enables us to persevere in prayer, to trust prayer, regardless of what seems to come of our urgent pleas. What kind of faith? Not a pious outlook or some sort of magical thinking that helps us cope, but the faith that believes Him who has promised, “Do not fear; I will help you.” As the Carmelite Ruth Burrows puts it: “Everything depends on our believing that God is Love, utterly faithful, good and generous. Everything depends, too, on our handing ourselves over to His loving designs, asking for no tangible certainties. Such trust is the only way we can allow God to be completely good to us, according to his own nature.”
This kind of faith alone gives life. This is because faith, prayer, “is nothing other than being present to God so that God can give to us – his one desire and purpose is to give himself to us. The only thing that matters is that we believe this and stay there with him, regardless of how we feel or don’t feel.”
Christ invites us to live confidently without any assurances from within ourselves but to cast our whole weight onto infinite Love, for which our hearts are shaped. This kind of faith actually removes the burden of anxiety we feel at our helplessness and incompetence. It simply roots us in Christ’s love, in Him personally, as we let go of everything else (including ourselves). Prayer really works, not because we ultimately get what we ask for, but because the faith at its core keeps our hearts chasing after God’s heart. It is how we “bother” God, and it’s how God “bothers” us back. There is nothing that works any better than that!
Photograph of Lac Marie by Charles O'Connor. Reflections by Father Dominic.