10 March, Thursday — Focusing on the Important

Thursday of the 1st Week of Lent

Est 4:17
Mt 7:7-12

“Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you”

This verse is perhaps one of the most well-known and recognisable in the Bible, and is often quoted in the context of one desiring a specific outcome. Whenever I read this passage, I see in my mind’s eye, a little child tugging at the leg of a parent, asking for a toy or a piece of candy. I also see the child being handed the object of desire.

However, the first reading from Esther really shows the depth of today’s Gospel. Queen Esther did not turn to God casually, as though she was drawing some cash from an automated teller machine (ATM). As I reflected on this reading, I see someone pushed to the wall, down in her depths, depressed and afraid. I see someone who is unsure of what she needed to do. She turns to the Lord, desperate for an answer. The passage also reveals someone who has full trust in God!

I have experienced such fear and desperation only a couple of times in my own life. Once, was when both my wife and myself were self-employed. Our daughter, E,  had asked to go overseas for her university education and had just been offered a place. While the original plan was for her to defer her entry, she asked us if she could go earlier.

We wanted to give E the best we could, but felt helpless with having to come up with a lump sum quickly within a short period of time; my wife and I felt stressed and helpless. I remember sleepless nights as I struggled to figure out how to come up with the funds quickly. 

One night, I was lying in bed, again unable to sleep. In the darkness, I quietly asked if my wife was awake. She was. Both of us sat up and shared our fears with each other. We then did what Queen Esther did — we prayed. This prayer we prayed, however, was not like other prayer we had previously prayed. Instead of asking for the money, or dictating to God to help me sell properties (I was a property agent for a short stint then) or to help us sell our one investment property, our prayer was, ‘Esther-esque’. We lifted our lives to our God, and expressed confidence that whatever the outcome, He would make it alright. We had no idea how or what this deliverance would look like. Both my wife and I slept like babies that night.

Ultimately, we did receive answers to our prayer. Within two weeks, both of us received job offers, even though we had not put ourselves on the job market. We ended up being able to send E to university, and also had the funds and time to spend a couple of weeks with her overseas.

Having gone through this experience, and having the opportunity to read the first reading with fresh eyes, I believe our focus should not be on the things that we want to ask for. If anything, it should be on our relationship with our God. We should not seek things. Instead, we must trust that our God would take care of us, regardless of the outcome. Otherwise, if we were praying for, say, a car and do not receive it, perhaps it is because we are bad drivers and owning a car could endanger us? 

I probably do not, as yet, fully understand today’s Gospel, but reading both of today’s passages together gives me a deeper sense of what it is about. Let us keep our eyes on the Giver, and not on items or events we so desperately seek.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father God, help us to know what is important and to focus on You. Let us not be blinded by our greed and desire for the unimportant.

Thanksgiving: Thank You Father, for helping us better Queen Esther’s desire for You. Thank you for helping us grow in closeness and desire for You.

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