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Do you ever pray for help?

I try to, at least every morning and evening. It usually goes something like this, “Heavenly Father, please help me to be a better husband, father, son, brother, and friend today. Oh, and please help me to grow closer to you, too.”

One morning a few weeks ago it struck me that I was starting and ending each day with prayers that sounded pretty much like the ones from the day before, and the day before that. And, in spite of those prayers, I realized I was not becoming a better husband, father, son, brother or friend. At least not noticeably. In fact, it felt as though for every step forwards I was taking a step backwards. It seemed I was getting worse in those roles and, especially when I was acutely aware of my sins, I felt like I was moving away from God.

I have been trying to stay in touch with my spirituality and it bothers me when things like this happen. There is a certain amount of frustration that goes along with wondering what I’m doing wrong. There is a measure of guilt that is due to knowing I’m not quite living as Christ would have me live. I want to get it right but I often feel I am failing miserably. Thus, I pray more earnestly for His help. And the cycle continues.

Then, over the course of a few days, I made two observations which caused me to back up and reconsider my situation and my methods. The result was one more epiphany for me in this process of understanding and practicing my faith.

The first of those two came during a bible study gathering with some of my friends even though I didn’t comprehend the full meaning of it until the second instance came along. In our opening prayer for the evening my friend, Bob, asked God, “Please give us the prudence, courage and the strength to do your will….” I remember thinking how his was a little different than my normal daily prayer but I didn’t understand the significance of it until later.

The second observance came from re-reading a short passage in the Lenten “Little Black Book” from Wednesday, 19 March, in which the topic was how difficult it is to accept the Father’s will. The author asks, “Ever try to help a bird get out of your house? You’re trying to give it freedom, and it resists as though you were trying to harm it.” This is something I can relate to because I often have birds get trapped in my chimney and, even when I open the flue and the window to let them out, they don’t always go where I want them to go.

The author continued, “Sometimes it’s the same thing with me and God. I get into some problems, God tries to lead me to freedom, and I resist.”

My “Ah-ha” moment occurred when I combined these two instances. Finally, after all this time, I came to see and accept that God is always there for me and offering His help regardless if I ask Him for it or not. He has given me all the knowledge, skills and tools I need to be a better husband, father, son, brother and friend if only I will do His will. He has given me the prudence or the common sense to know what is right, and He has given me the wherewithal for when I choose to act on those right decisions.

On the other hand, I understand that God has also given me the free will to do otherwise – to turn my back to Him and act according to my own will, not His. Recently, I have felt as though I am getting pretty good at doing just this.

So, what am I trying to do differently to right my ship? Well, when I pray I am trying to be more contemplative and specific about the things for which I need His help. I try to consider what is in a right relation to His will regardless of my own desires at the moment, and I try to follow through on those thoughts. Am I always successful? No, my stubbornness and concupiscence still get in the way. But, I think I’m on the right track. And, God has given me the gift of hope that I will continue to get better. So, for now, the best way for me to exercise this gift of hope is to follow Bob’s example and pray for that which I really need: “Please, Lord, give me the prudence, courage and strength to do your will.”

Thank you, Lord, for friends like Bob.

Isaiah 40:29-31

(29) “He gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak. (30) Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, (31) they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.”

Thank you, Lord, for my friend, Jerry, who forwarded this verse to me just when I needed it.

(The post Praying For Help was first published on Reflections of a Lay Catholic)