Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ask Dad: He Knows

Our real Dad isn't found at the old Bailey Bros. Building & Loan.
He's upstairs.
And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask him? -Luke 11:9-13

As a father myself, I always want what is best for my children. Sometimes, what is best for them is a good, healthy meal. Sometimes, it's stern discipline that teaches them, clearly, that a certain behavior is bad for them. Other times, the best thing for them is good ol' fashioned hard work.

God works the same way.

I think that some people think of God like a slot machine. If we just keep sending up enough prayers, then sooner or later He's gotta answer them.

When Things #1-3 repeatedly ask me for something that's ultimately bad for them, I grow weary of saying "No." But I don't change my mind.

And neither does God.

God is a kind Father, rich in mercy and wanting what is best for His children.
And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone?

Do I know what rhetorical means? I love God's sense of humor, especially when He needs to drive a point home. It's patently absurd, of course, to think of receiving a rock for lunch from your dad. But this is the point - when we ask for what is good for us here on earth (lunch), our father on earth provides it. When we ask for what is good for us in heaven (grace, mercy, virtue, etc.), our Heavenly Father is only too willing to oblige.

The problem is when we ask for that which is bad for us.

If my kids ask me only for cookies and soda for dinner, then to stay up all night watching R-rated movies, the ONLY answer is "No way, Jose!" Due to the ridiculousness of their request, I might well just ignore them completely until they figure out that what they're asking for is a very bad thing for their health.

"Ya wanna rethink that question, son?"
But we ask of God that which is bad for us all too often. "Please, God, let me afford a nice new car." "Dear God, if I just had XYZ, then I would pray every day..." And so on.

And God, in His kindness and wisdom, does not indulge us. He does not grant us "gifts" that ultimately harm us. he only gives that which draws us closer to Him.

And sometimes, like a kind Father, He holds out an answer indefinitely, giving us a chance to change our requests.

"Oh, sorry God, what I really meant was please fill me with joy and thankfulness that my piece of &*$%# car at least still runs. Praise be to God! By the way, could you please fill me up with humility and thankfulness, and my car with gasoline so I can get to Mass on time? Thanks, Abba.  :) "

The challenge we have as children of God is to ask the right questions. It takes a certain amount of discipline and meditation to know what to ask for in our spiritual lives. It can be easy to think of the purely physical aspects of our reality when approaching God with requests, but to do so is to miss out on so much of what He has to offer us.

A good starting point is to just pray for increased holiness. That's what I try to do. It covers most of your bases without being too specific (like praying for patience - bad idea). It's like a kid asking for a healthy dinner. As the parent, I know what they need to eat at certain times of the day based on what they've already had. So in praying for holiness, God know what spiritual nourishment we need to resolve our deficiencies.

I also pray that my will conforms to His will. This is similar in that it helps me to realize what I need to be doing to grow in holiness, to grow closer to God. After all, like a kindly Father, He wants what is best for us (i.e., Heaven). Growing in holiness and making His will our own as two sure ways to achieve that. And asked in sincerity and humility, God, a kind, loving Father, will surely grant us that which are best for us. Just as I would certainly feed my own children nutritious, healthy meals.

So, ask Dad. He knows.

Just ask for the right things.

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