Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
- Matthew 7:7-8
It could be the unsettling randomness of Ida’s impact, leaving some devastated and some (like me) merely inconvenienced, that led to my random selection from Scripture for this reflection. I simply opened the New Testament pages of my Bible and this passage was before me, as if in waiting.
Now it shines its light on my idea of prayer at a time when much prayer is needed, but a time when so much remains uncertain about our community’s future . Once recovered from this storm, we will still be increasingly vulnerable to storms going forward. How, then, to prayerfully ask, to seek and to knock with faith in this Gospel promise? I can only offer random, seemingly wind-scattered, thoughts in reply:
The first is a recollection of attending one of my son’s high school wrestling matches years ago, and spying in the gym one of our dearest friends, and the saintliest of men, Father Raymond Fitzgerald, S.J. (now deceased after courageously facing a fatal illness). I said I presumed he was there to pray for a team victory; but with one of his slight and kindly smiles he replied that his prayers before matches were never addressed to any outcome except one: that, win or lose, each boy’s experience would bring him closer to God. The spiritual maturity of my friend’s idea of prayer has stayed with me ever since.
That memory in turn brought to mind the Thomas Merton prayer, the one in which this great scholar and mystic humbly begins by acknowledging to God that he comes to prayer having “no idea” where he is going or what lies ahead, much less the ability to know when he’s following God’s will instead of his own. But he then affirms his belief that the desire to please God does indeed please God, and he prays to never be apart from that desire. The Gospel promise Jesus makes to those who ask, seek and knock in prayer, may depend on how well we manage in prayer to get ourselves of the way by “letting go and letting God.”
Finally-- and with apologies to you, my brothers and sisters-- this series of random reflections ended as I was making a sandwich for lunch. Spreading “old style” grainy brown mustard on bread, I noticed just how tiny mustard seeds are, literally not larger than grains of coarse sand. In several Gospels (Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; and Luke 13:18-19), Jesus compares this humble grain of seed to faith, which, when planted and sown, grows into a mighty tree with outstretched branches to lodge the birds of the sky. Consider our ancestors, known and unknown, who were people of faith. When they prayed and acted out of that faith in times of their own duress and need, it’s as if a large “tree of faith” took root and grew. I believe it still grows, through us as we “keep the faith” ; and its branches that shelter and support us today, have endured storms of many kinds. So in this last reflection, I come to see prayer not as a solo exercise, but as joining in the ongoing prayer chorus of a vast “communion of saints.”