I remember two instances when I prayed very hard to God for something very specific and concrete. These two experiences happened when I was a child. The first happened in Our Lady of Victory church at my grandfather’s funeral. I loved him deeply and didn’t understand why he was in that “box” in front of the altar. I prayed Hail Mary after Hail Mary that God let him come out of that “box” so I could see him again. The second happened a few years later when my guinea pig Gertrude was dying. I so loved that pig that I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would keep her alive.
I learned through these experiences that God doesn’t answer our prayers as we wish; God us t like a magician or Genie granting us wishes or making things just happen magically. Prayers of petitions are important and necessary, but we learn as we grow in faith that prayer doesn’t work like that.
And yet Jesus teaches us to ask... to seek... to knock persistently!!! In our persistence, however, is a huge caveat, and it's huge: we need to add the words, “but whatever is your will, Oh Lord.” As adults, we know that prayers are not always answered as we would like, even those that would seem obvious, like praying that a child be healed. The reality that these beautiful and deeply vulnerable prayers are not answered is a solid reason to doubt the God of love.
I’ve learned over the years to just keep praying these petitions because it is so important. Most of us know deep down that God is mysterious in his ways and can’t be completely understood. My prayer life has become less of praying for specific things and more of just spending time in quiet and solitude not speaking at all or asking anything of God, just being in his presence.
I “seek...knock...and ask” that I fall more deeply in love with Christ. And that I experience the depth of his love for me. When people ask me to pray for a specific intention, I do so, but underneath that prayer is for the person to experience the depth of Christ’s love. When this happens, ALL prayers are answered in unexpected ways.