Thursday of the 1st week of Lent
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.“
At first glance, this verse is very comforting. It makes it seem like our prayers will be answered, as long as we make the request. However, the verse immediately after today’s gospel passage goes “enter ye in at the narrow gate.” Oh…well there is the fine print right there. We have to enter by the narrow gate, not any gate we choose. We have to do what is asked of us, not do anything we please. We have to do what God wills for our prayers to be answered.
Funny story about seeking. I was looking up the passages for today’s readings and realised that the first citation did not point to Esther chapter 12. In fact, some Catholic bibles do not even have an Esther chapter 12! It says Esther C and that is what it is. This is due to the book of Esther being put together from both Hebrew and Greek texts, which I suppose then led to the overlaps and mismatches in citation. In the Douay-Rheims Challoner bible at least, this first reading passage corresponds to Esther chapter 14, although Esther chapter 14 is much longer. It is a fervent prayer from Queen Esther.
Back to my initial point about receiving, finding, and being given what you need when you are doing God’s will. I would not be so bold as to claim that writing this reflection is God’s will; at best, it isn’t against His will. I had almost given up trying to solve the Mystery of the Inaccurate Citation when I found several threads on a Catholic forum discussing this. Someone mentioned Esther chapter 14 of the Navarre bible, and long story short, after having plowed through the first 10 chapters in vain, I found Esther C. I didn’t need to locate these verses as I already had the passage from the first reading, but God knows that I needed to know what that odd citation was about, otherwise my mind would have been too distracted for a reflection.
We have all experienced praying very fervently for one thing or another. Sometimes we get the answer we seek and sometimes we do not. There are 3 things here that strike me about answered and unanswered prayers. First, when a prayer is answered, it has to be that God has already willed it to happen. And sometimes, the ‘Yes’ from God may take a while longer to arrive than expected. But we can be quite certain that that had been in His plan all along, and the ‘delay’ was meant to equip us with more graces as we patiently waited.
Second, prayers can be answered with a ‘No’. God has another plan for you, and He wants you to take that path instead. If we find ourselves facing obstacle after obstacle, perhaps we were just not meant to pursue that particular path. I’m not sure how this can be differentiated from the ‘Yes’ that takes a long time to arrive, but if we are getting more frustrated and less grace-filled, it could very likely be due to us forcing our way down the wrong path.
This brings me to the third thing. We sometimes choose the wrong path anyway, even as we get a resounding ‘No’ for an answer. We do things according to our will, despite the difficulties and the warnings. However, very importantly, God still does not abandon us when we choose foolishly. Instead, through the resultant heartache and disappointments, God provides us with chances for healing and conversion. And once we are on our way to becoming whole (and this may take a while), we will once again be presented with the initial plan God has for us. Hopefully, we make better choices this time around.
God will provide, if we do what we are allowed to, what we are called to. But doing this is never easy. In these times, a sincere prayer is all that is needed. Like Queen Esther’s anguished plea for help, a prayer voiced aloud shows our faith in God, and shows His love for us that He would answer. Aloud does not mean audible or visible here, although that is probably fine too as long as it is not done like a Pharisee. Aloud here simply means that your prayer be a real expression of how you feel, no matter how ugly your desperation looks to you. It means total submission to the power of God, and to His will. It means following His Word and trusting that He will take care of you.
Prayer is important. Knowing what to pray for is just as important. And it is also through prayer and discernment that we would come to know what to pray for. So let us start praying with a sincere heart for the graces to live according to God’s will.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Felicia Zou)
Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to listen to your voice. Grant us the wisdom to choose your path. Give us the strength we need to fulfil your will.
Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, we thank You for Your unending love and patience for us, even when we fall so many times.
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