A BREATH-TAKING QUESTION
“‘What wouldst thou have me do for thee?’ This is the question which Jesus put to the blind man who besought mercy of our Lord as He passed by on His way to Jerusalem. It was a breath-taking question. It was a blank check on the infinite power of God. ‘Anything you want you may have,’ Jesus is saying. ‘What is your choice?’
The blind man had his answer ready. He was obsessed by a single consuming desire – to be able to gaze upon the world about him. ‘Lord, that I may see!’ he begged. Instantly his prayer was granted. ‘Receive thy sight,’ Jesus replied, ‘thy faith has saved thee.’
‘THY FAITH HAS SAVED THEE’
If Jesus suddenly were to appear before us with a similar question, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ what would our answer be? Better health? Success on the job? Money to pay off the bills? Solution of a personal or family problem?
It is to be hoped that we would have the discernment to pass over all such lesser needs and to ask for the gift which surpasses all others in importance: the grace of final perseverance, the grace of a happy death. ‘Lord, that I may love You, and love You to the end!’ This surely would be our answer if we had but one opportunity to draw upon God’s bounty.
Fortunately we are not limited to one opportunity. Jesus does not appear visibly before us, but His ears are permanently attuned to us. His invitation is never withdrawn, His benevolence is never exhausted. ‘What wouldst thou have me do for thee?’
JESUS’ INVITATION IS NEVER WITHDRAWN
God knows our wants, of course, even better than we know them ourselves. It would seem that in temporal matters the more perfect prayer of petition would be simply, ‘Give me whatever You know to be best for me, Lord; whatever is most in accord with Your will.’
Still, it pleases God to have us turn to Him in our particular needs. In every prayer of petition there is an implied act of adoration. By our requests we acknowledge God’s infinite goodness and power. We would not be turning to Him if we did not believe He cares for us and that He can help us.
GOD’S INFINITE WISDOM
If our entreaty is to be effective, however, it must also include an acknowledgement of God’s infinite wisdom. We must concede that, in the end, only God knows what is best for us and for those whose lives are intertwined with ours. His must be the final decision as to whether another grace must be substituted instead.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF PRAYER: THE HIERARCHY OF IMPORTANCE
As we well know, petitions are the least essential of our prayers. In the hierarchy of importance, prayers of adoration are at the top of the list. These are the prayers in which we salute God’s infinite greatness and holiness. We concede our own nothingness apart from Him. We assure Him of our faith in Him, our trust in Him and, above all, of our love for Him.
Next come prayers of thanksgiving for the love and the care which God has lavished upon us. Adoration and gratitude then naturally lead to prayers of contrition, as we grieve for our pettiness and our disobedience to a God so holy and good.
It is only after these three steps that we are prepared for prayer of petition. This does not mean that every time we give ourselves to prayer we must mechanically tick off praise, thanksgiving and contrition before daring to ask God for anything. It means only that we must maintain a sense of proportion in our prayers and not think that when we have asked for our daily bread, we can let the rest of the Lord’s prayer go by the board.
PRAYERS PLEASING TO GOD
In our petitions, too, there is a gradation of importance. Unselfish prayers, prayers offered for the needs of other persons, are especially pleasing to God. In praying for ourselves, it is our spiritual petitions which God most welcomes. When we plead, ‘Please, God, help me to keep from sin.’ ‘Please, God, help me to do Your will always,’ or ‘Please, God, help me to grow in love for You,’ there is no need to add the condition, ‘If it be Thy will’. In such petitions, we KNOW that our will is at one with God’s. Offered with sincerity and perseverance, these requests infallibly will be granted.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966