Saturday, September 17, 2011

Elementary Questions from an Elementary Teacher

I've mentioned before that I am a very slow reader.  So, I try my hardest to choose books judiciously- especially spiritual books.  My latest subject has been suffering.  I read Lewis' A Problem of Pain and Kreeft's  Making Sense Out of Suffering.  Not that I get suffering, but I understand it as well as I'm going to at this point in my journey. 

My next big question is concerning prayer and how it works.  I know nothing except that there are different types of prayer: intercessory, contemplative and meditative.  I have what I think is a good prayer life.  I can speak about how prayer has changed me.  It has changed my desires so they are more in line with God's.  It's helped me accept His will.  It has brought me closer to God, into a more personal relationship with Jesus and it has helped me identify and respond to the workings of the Holy Spirit.  The prayer that gave me these graces is probably meditative and contemplative.  When I do ask for something, it's always with the caveat, "If it is your will"  and "give me the strength to bear this cross if it is not your will." 

But, how does intercessory prayer work?  If I'm asking for something like a baby or healing, how does God decide who to give a baby to and who to heal?  And how is that related to His will?  Does he somehow change His will to answer our prayers?  Or does he answer our prayers based on what is His will all along?

Instinctually, I'm thinking that I can ask and if it's good for me, He will answer the prayer in the affirmative.  If it's not good for me, He will help me bear the cross of Him saying No.  He also may use the cross to bring others to Him.  For example, by not having another child, I've been able to give more to my students, friends and extended family members when they need help. 

Am I totally off base? 

What else do you have to add? 

Do you have any book recommendations to help me along this part of my journey? 

You ladies are so wise and wonderful, I'd love suggestions. 

These questions have been brewing for a long time, but in light of our little blogosphere's answered prayers (Matching Moonheads, Perfect Power in Weakness, Hebrews, A Martha Trying to be a Mary) during prayer buddies, I thought I'd ask for your take on all this.

Praise God for His answered prayers and for the new life he has given to the world!


  1. I think we ask. Sometimes I even think we beg. And I think that we should do just that. There are several stories in the Bible about people who got their prayers answered because they kept asking. We don't keep asking for His sake, but for ours. You wouldn't keep asking someone who couldn't or wouldn't answer. We ask the One who can answer and loves us enough to answer. And we trust His love enough to accept the answer, whatever it may be.

  2. Ohhhh, your deep questions sound like a true Carmelite! You better check to see if you've got a vocation to the lay order hidden in there! :-)

    I think intercessory prayer works with deep humility. It's NOT magic. You don't say say the right words and poof, God grants your request. (I got SO mad when Catholic friends suggested that my little newborn was still in the NICU because I hadn't petitioned the right Catholic saint yet).

    When I was praying for Baby Tess, when she was on her death bed- I knew her life was entirely in her hands. God had the power to take her up to heaven and hand us the grace to survive her death because I'd already survived a second trimester miscarriage. At the same time, I took great comfort that my petition for her healing- was pleasing to him. While she was in surgery, I kept recalling all the times that parents petitioned Jesus for the healing of their sick children.

    So I try to put prayer and detachment together. I ask away. At the same time, I grant God total sovereignty. He has the right to say "yes, no, or not right now" to my prayer request. Then I try to relax and trust that whatever the outcome is, it's for the ultimate good. Prayer is never wasted.

    It's also good to spend time in silent contemplation each day--time when we are quiet and not asking God for anything. That is the time that He gets to change my soul.

  3. I think some of your questions will only be answered in the after life. God says pray. And whatever yoa ask for, in His name, will be granted. But you must pray hard and without ceasing. God loves a clinger :)

  4. What beautiful contemplative questions :)

    I can't say I have any good answers, though I will certainly be bringing this to my therapist for his take next session! I have often wondered, what's the 'point' of praying that God's will be done in my life... isn't that a given?!! But then I think, well, no, it's not a given because we have FREE WILL. And perhaps, by praying for intercessory prayer, we are helping God's will (perhaps in sending us a blessing of a child in His time) to come to fruition without the sin of the world getting in the way, and our free will allowing us to veer off the track He had intended for us...??


    Also, I LOVE the Kreeft suffering book. He makes things so black and white and easy to understand.

  5. and OMGosh, Abigail, I cannot believe people suggested that to you!! Wow :(

  6. I just knew you guys would come through!!

    Abigail! aahh- detachment. I never thought about being detached with prayer. Wow. Very powerful idea. I'll be chewing on this one for awhile! And, yes, there might be a vocation there...not yet, but maybe someday. I've haven't looked into Carmelites, but have looked a bit into Ignatius Associates. Thanks for your wonderful insight and sharing experiences.

    Be Not Afraid- Love the clinger line. I've got 2nd graders that are clingers and I try gently to teach them independence. The next time a child puts their arms around me, I will try to remember that God wants me to cling to him just like children cling to adults.

    TCIE- Holy cr--. Never thought about how intercessory prayer could wage war against sin in the world from getting in the way of God's will. Of course. I would love to hear what your therapist says!

  7. CM- Trust is the key isn't it? It's something I'm working on all the time...

  8. Hope you don't mind a new follower. :) I found you through All in His Perfect Timing.
    I've been struggling a bit with prayer and staying true to God's Will. I've read both Making Sense out of Suffering and The Problem of Pain. I recently started reading Abandonment to Divine Providence, and it's been eye-opening for me. Just a suggestion, if you are looking for something else to read!

  9. Oh yes, I second the book Abandonment to Divine Providence. And that book will only come to you at the right time. I have wanted to read it for years, and I'm not exaggerating, and it was only at the brink of a very big life change did it finally make it's way into my hands, and gave me the peace and calm I needed to navigate through a very busy and stressful, yet productively blessed time!