September 4, 2015

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Keep an open mind in prayer, knowing God’s blessings await

Patti LambI just went to the kitchen for a cheese stick and noticed a neon piece of construction paper on the refrigerator door. The fluorescent page had been placed over a permission slip and some other important notes from school. The paper was titled, “Margaret’s Birthday Wish List.”

My daughter Margaret turns 8 years old next month, and she’s already composed a wish list to commemorate the occasion. This was her priority, despite the fact that her birthday is more than 30 days away, and she still hadn’t finished her math homework.

She listed many items, some within reason and some—well, not so much.

At the top of the list:

“A playdate with Andrew Luck,” followed by “P.S.—with pizza and breadsticks, please!”

“Monkey bars in my bedroom.”

“Camouflage socks.”

As I was reading, Margaret entered the kitchen. She indicated that she had to add one more very important item to her list.

I instructed her to finish her math and then add it to the list, which could take its rightful place underneath the permission slip and school forms.

Later that night, after night prayers and tuck-ins, I returned to the kitchen and saw Margaret’s freshly revised list.

I thought about how I position my requests to God in prayer. A lot of times, I’m like my (almost) 8-year-old, petitioning for what I want most at that particular moment. Routinely in my prayers, I go down my own list of desired outcomes.

“Please let me find the right new job.”

“Please let the truck run a little longer.”

“Please let [my friend’s] bloodwork results come back all right.”

I know that God is eager for us to come to him in prayer. What I need to better demonstrate to my kids, though, is how to best conclude a prayer. To this end, I’m making an effort to finish our night prayers with something like this:

“Thanks for listening to what we most hope for, God. In your divine wisdom and love, you know infinitely more than we do. You see the bigger picture. You never want there to be pain—you know pain all too well—but this is not your kingdom. If earthly outcomes are different than our requests, please let us find your peace. Help us to remember that, in the end, love always wins and your goodness always triumphs.”

Come October, Margaret will not be getting monkey bars installed in her bedroom for her birthday. And a playdate with Andrew Luck is out of the question. (I’m pretty sure this is his busy season.)

But her dad and I do have some special little surprises to make her birthday a happy one. None of the little treasures we have planned are on her wish list, although I’m working on the camouflage socks. I hope she will keep an open mind, and not be disappointed when her wish list isn’t fulfilled. As a parent, I only want her happiness.

Margaret’s list reminded me that I must keep an open mind in prayer, knowing that God, our Father and divine parent, has greater blessings in store than we might even think to ask for ourselves. Few of those, however, will be revealed in this human life. The way things unravel in our lives sometimes seem very contrary to our petitions.

But we must remain confident that God hears us, and he will give us the grace to get by until we enter his kingdom, when he can grant us full and eternal happiness.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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