We Need to Be Careful What We Pray for Because We Might Just Get It
There is something very satisfying about the process and results of deep cleaning my home. For weeks, and sometimes months afterwards, the visible fruits of my efforts are enjoyed by my whole family. When the deep cleaning urge strikes, the satisfaction of tackling one area often leads to focusing on other parts of the house that require the same attention.
Cleaning often leads to purging unneeded items and the car gets loaded with boxes of things that are destined for the thrift store. Heading to the thrift store one afternoon with a car load, it occurred to me that I was the one who purchased most of the things in those boxes. Although I did not realize it at the time of purchase, I was the one who made the decision to clutter my life and home with burdensome things. Likewise, it dawned on me that this same dilemma had also crept into my personal and family life. Over the years, I had filled my schedule with so many “to do’s” that I had cluttered my own life. That thought made me aware that I needed to make some changes.
Married life began when I was very young and full of energy. God blessed us with children right away and we embraced all the needs and activities that came along with the kids. I was a busy wife and mother. My cup was not only full…it overflowed. However, as full as my cup seemed, an increasing emptiness developed within me.
Life felt unsettled, but I did not have the time to uncover what made my spirit restless. God had placed a growing desire in my heart to develop a closer relationship with Him. I knew many fragmented details about God, but I didn’t understand His story or my place in that story. There was very little time, let alone quality time, for God in my day.
Fifteen years and 4 children later, I recall a morning when I felt overly tired, a feeling had been building for quite some time. It was far more than fatigue. The momentum of life, built, hastened and grew year by year, hastened which eventually led my mind, body and spirit to become depleted. I finally reached out to God in desperation. I shouted at Him, “LORD….SLOW ME DOWN! I cannot do everything and I certainly cannot do it at this pace. Where are you? I know you are out there. I need you!”
I have heard it said to be careful what you pray for because you might just get it. Well, God had been patiently and mercifully waiting a long time for me to call on Him. Within a few (still busy) months of my desperate prayer, I was bitten by a poisonous spider which thrust me into a downward spiral of various health problems. All activities didn’t just slow down, they stopped. I became extremely weak and painfully bedridden. Physician after physician, test after test, day after day…. I slowly slipped away. The frail woman that looked back at me from the mirror was a stranger; a shell of myself. “Lord help me,” I cried.
Little energy to do things made the days feel very long and lonely. One afternoon, the dusty Bible on my bed stand caught my attention. In hopes of finding inspirational words to comfort me, I opened its gilded pages. Day by day, that book became a welcome and treasured friend. However, I found more questions than answers in my head as I tried to understand, Who is this God? Why did He do the things He did? How do the stories relate? How do I, laying in this bed, fit into His story? Where is He now? Does He hear me? Even before I asked my questions God had been at work putting the right people in my life. Help was on the way.
Months prior to becoming ill, I had hired a sweet little older lady, named Priscilla, to teach my kids and me how to play the piano. She came to our home for weekly lessons. Although she still came to teach my children, eventually I had to cancel my lessons because of weakness and fatigue. When Priscilla learned how ill I’d become, she shared her faith with me and offered to pray with me for healing. That moment opened up a friendship between us that I treasure to this day.
The following week, Priscilla inquired about my health. I had not noticed any physical improvements, but I shared that I had started reading the Bible and it brought me comfort. I confessed, however, that I did not understand quite a few passages which frustrated me. Little did I know that our piano teacher was well versed in Scripture. Her eyes lit up as she explained her love for God and His Word. She offered to return the following week and share Bible time with me instead of our piano time. God had brought Priscilla (which means delight of the Lord) into my life and for over two years she delightfully answered my questions about Scripture. She prayed with me and helped me develop a meaningful prayer life. Prayer time led to a beautiful personal relationship with God. That empty restless feeling began to fade.
Although still very sick, it occurred to me that I should begin to take the focus off myself and try to do something for Him. God had given me numerous talents, but in my condition I had little to give. “Lord,” I prayed, “I think I can still crochet.” I wondered how He could possibly use crocheting, but I offered it anyway.
The following Sunday, too weak to attend Mass, I clicked on the TV hoping to find a Mass on the local Catholic channel. Instead, at that very moment, a broadcast from a church down the street from me was aired. Some friends and neighbors attended that church, so I wondered if any of them were there. As the service ended, a woman stood up to announce they were starting a new ministry called “The Prayer Shawl Ministry” and crocheters and knitters were needed. I nearly fell out of my bed! God had heard my prayer and was calling me into service. I stumbled downstairs as fast as my weak legs could take me and called one of my friends who attended that church. “Who was that lady…and how can I get involved with that ministry?” I urgently asked.
I offered what little I had and God called me to use it. When they held that ministry meeting, by His grace, He gave me the strength to make it to that little white church and I signed up to make Prayer Shawls for others. The shawls were to be given to the sick, lonely, dying and those needing comfort to remind them that others were thinking and praying for them. I crocheted many shawls and prayed for anyone who needed prayers. Their problems became my problems, and I made their needs more important than my own. Interestingly, that began the road to physical healing.
With each day, my physical and spiritual life became stronger. After a few years my family moved from that rural New England town to a town in Northern California. Within a few months, God opened the door to start the Prayer Shawl Ministry in our new parish where He reminded me there was still work to be done for Him.
I love the story of Martha and Mary in Luke’s Gospel (38-42) where Jesus helps Martha understand she needs to reorganize her priorities: “You are worried and upset about many things,” He tells her, “but few things are needed—or indeed only one.” Her sister Mary, on the other hand, simply “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” and Jesus says that “she has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” I felt God was transforming me from Martha into Mary.
It has been a long hard road to recovery. I still have tough days but God brought me from spiritual and physical depletion to a healthier life. I had to let go of many things I once thought were important. I had to deep clean my life, empty my cup and allow God to be the one who filled it. In Psalm 46:10 God tells us “Be still and know that I am God.” So now, I lead a stiller life with time to ask the Holy Spirit for the discernment to choose only what God wants me involved in. My time, talents and treasure belong to Him, and I strive to remember to make room in my life to be with God, to feel His presence and hear His voice. Those are the “things that are needed.”
When we clean our homes and experience good results, we are inspired to improve other areas. This concept can work in our spiritual lives in the same manner. My experience taught me that, the more time I spend with God and invite Him into my life, the more positive things happen. For “We know that all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28)
So today, I encourage you to choose an area within your life that might be an obstacle to a closer relationship with Him. Offer that area to Him and invite Him to deepen your faith and relationship with Him. For as Saint Augustine so accurately and profoundly stated,
“You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
Teresa Ann Weider serves the Church remarkably through her active involvement in various ministries over the years. She lives with her family in Folsom, California, USA.
I was driving home when I noticed two street signs that seemed incongruous. The train station and shop signs were pointing in the wrong directions; the exact opposite ones, to be precise. If I were a tourist, a traveler who is not familiar with the suburb, I would have followed the sign and got lost. I guess somebody had moved the street signs as a prank or even as an intentional deception. In our walk with the Lord too, we need to know who is navigating us—God, ourselves, others, or the evil one. If we are not aware of our surroundings, we can easily get lost or misled. This Lent, whose voice will we listen to? Judas…the crowd…Pilate…or Jesus…?
To be good at anything, we have to put time, effort, and practice into it. The same applies to our preparation for eternity. How well are we going to do at the end of year exams if we have put little or no time towards studying during the year? Similarly, how well will we stand up on judgment day when we are held accountable for our lives? In our preparation period on earth for eternity, how much of our life was spent in prayer, good works, and sacrifice? Our Lord paid the ultimate price for our salvation, but we have to play our part. As He has graciously allowed us to be part of that sacrifice, let us not waste this valuable opportunity. He, through Calvary, has given us a chance to be part of His redemption, to be part of His sanctity, consequently allowing mere humans to be called into sainthood. What a privilege! As my mother would always remind us, children, this life of ours on earth, short or long, is but a preparation period, the springboard to eternity. How we fare in the structure of eternal life will be determined not only by Jesus’ death and resurrection, but by every thought, word, and deed we perpetrated during the time we spent on earth.
If your sacrifices are dragging you down and causing you to dread Lent—take heart. Our Lady at Fatima gave the children a prayer which offers compelling reasons to sacrifice. Her words may help dispel your Lenten dreads. The prayer begins: “O Jesus, it (this sacrifice I am making) is for love of You.” Why not borrow those words and make them your own? Telling Jesus you are doing this hard Lenten thing for love of Him may remind you why you are denying yourself in the first place: you are making room in your heart, so that you may love Him more. Further, the prayer helped the children offer their sacrifices for “the conversion of sinners.” You can do the same. When you make a Lenten sacrifice, offer it for a specific loved one who is living far from God. “O Jesus, this is for love of You, for the conversion of......” Praying in Our Lady’s words will not lessen the difficulty of your sacrifices; but, because it sweetens them with love for Jesus and for lost souls, her words may truly help to dispel your Lenten dreads.
I am not one of those holy souls who look forward to Lent. However, I do have a few friends and family members who do. So, I try to take note of why that is the case. Just last week, my mom mentioned she was looking forward to Lent so she could invite her band, who are all senior citizens, to her parish fish fry. She said she’s really looking forward to it, since most of them aren’t Catholic but have mentioned that they like attending fish fries. After enjoying their traditional fish and chips, my mom is planning on reserving a room in the parish hall so the band can make music together after dinner. They call themselves the Silver Foxes and often visit nursing homes together to spread a little joy. My mom is a joyful evangelist, even at age 80! And she has unlocked the secret that Lent is for more than making penitential acts, but it is a time for growing the Kingdom of God by growing the Body of Christ.
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