Ask and You Shall Receive

Today’s Gospel is a hard one for many people: they have trouble believing Jesus’ words. Jesus promises “ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

I’ve had people come to me and say something on the order of, “Well I asked and I didn’t get an answer.” On probing, such a statement usually means one of several things.

The first is, “I didn’t get an immediate answer.” After running hither and yon for some period of time (often quite a long period of time), someone finally gets around to asking God for an answer, and God doesn’t respond on the spot. That instant.

A second possibility is, “I didn’t get an answer in the way I expected it.” Often we try to box God in. We have a preconceived notion of how God should be communicating to us or how we expect God to make contact, with the result that we don’t hear the answer God is trying to give us.

Another possibility is that maybe we’re asking for something that is not in our interest or the interest of the common good. If two opposing football teams (as they often do) ask God to let them win their game, well, someone’s prayers are not going to be answered. Even if it is not a situation where two people/groups are praying for something mutually exclusive (such that it is an impossibility for both to be answered), should we really be praying for someone else’s failure? That is, if the granting of our prayer request requires making someone else worse off, is that really the proper subject for prayer? Just maybe, “let me get ahead at someone else’s expense” is not a worthy prayer for us to be making.

God promises, ask and you shall receive. But we need to think are whether what we are praying for is worthy of our prayer. And when we are looking for answers, we need to have some patience, recognizing that God will respond, but in God’s way and in God’s time.