About Me

My photo
Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

So Far to Come

Sister, I just had a conversation with my teenage sons about intercessory prayer. Basically, they are saying, "Why bother? God's will is going to be done for them anyway. You can pray for His will to be done, but then again it will be done, anyway." I say that Jesus wanted us to pray, so we should do it. They point out that Jesus never said we should pray for Sam's Uncle Frank to find a new job. I think they're being kind of heartless and should have more empathy, but they don't see it that way. Anyway, it helps to know people are praying for you. Recently, my daughter was hospitalized, and we got a "spiritual bouquet" from a son's classmates listing all the prayers and Masses everyone prayed. I was very grateful. Of, course, was this just an empty gesture, seeing as God was going to heal her anyway? I just can't believe that, but don't know how to explain it.

I applaud your children in one way. At least they have realized that God is not a vending machine, where a prayer goes in and they get an iced cold Nehi or a pony.

Short of that, the poor things have missed the point of prayer entirely. I would like to say, "Don't be too hard on them, they are young." I will say that, while I box their ears.

I will have a talk with them.

Dear Bob and Jason (names changed because I have no idea what your real names might be but since your mother is a good Catholic woman maybe they are)

Dear Alphonsus and Matthew,
God is sad because you guys are not on speaking terms.

He is always there for you. He wants you to do His Will. He will do anything in the world for you as long as it doesn't hurt you and it is in keeping with His Will. How are you ever going to fathom what that could possibly be if you never talk with Him? Talking to God takes practice. Not because God is difficult to speak with, but because we have such difficulty hearing Him.

As Stevie Wonder says: "Where is my God? That's what my friends ask me. And I say it's taken Him so long, 'cause we've got so far to come." (-from "Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away").

Stevie Wonder gets it. You can get it on I-Tunes for 99 cents.

Prayer is not about God coming over to you, Alphonsus and Matthew. It's about you coming over to God. It's about you talking with God about Uncle Frank's need for a job and your compassion for Uncle Frank's situation and your understanding of God's Will and what you're willing to learn from God and hear from God about that situation. He can't give you blessings and grace and strength if you won't even talk with Him.

Jesus prayed constantly. He prayed for guidance and direction. He prayed in thanksgiving, He prayed for his disciples and sinners. He prayed for the poor (like Uncle Frank is about to be).

And listen to this and listen good: He prayed when He healed the sick. Now try to bend your mind around this: Jesus, who was God, prayed to God when He healed the sick.

So, you think you know better than Jesus?

That attitude always reminds me of terrible movie versions of Classic literature. I saw a version of "Huck Finn" where Huck Finn just floated around on a raft with Jim while they had escapades. What fun! No mention of Huck Finn's moral dilemma. You might recall that in the book, Huck thinks himself very evil because he is breaking the law by not turning in Jim, who is a run away slave. He decides that if he is going to Hell for his sin, than so be it. He makes a courageous choice to do what he knows in his heart is right, when everyone else in his world tells him he is wrong. But these people who made this film knew better than Mark Twain, one of America's greatest authors, one of the world's greatest writers. I think it was a musical.

Don't make your life into a bad movie version of what it could be.

Sister Mary Martha

I hope this is helpful. In the old days we would have had them kneel on dried peas.


Anonymous said...

Well I'm glad you wrote this because I had always thought along the same lines as the children. I assumed God already knew about people's situation and felt love and mercy for them. I felt asking him to do something for someone was insulting because he was no doubt already doing the best for them. Funnily enough, though my prayers look like your description of how they ought to be. So that's a relief! But my underlying thinking needs to change. Logic never quite seems to work when one tries to apply it to Love.

Anonymous said...

"Talking to God takes practise. Not because God is difficult to speak with, but because we have such difficulty hearing him." That's a wonderful explanation! I'm going to write this one down where I can look at it often (and maybe my kids will spot it, too!)

Anonymous said...

I've heard it suggested that there is sometimes a difference between what God permits and between what He would will if only we would bother to pray about it.

That said, regardless of whatever influence we may or may not have over the Divine Will, both scripture and tradition exhort us to pray for ourselves and one another. That seems good enough reason to be doing so to me!

Jenny - kneeling on the dried peas in Leicestershire, UK

Janelle said...

I think you are right that it is important to have audacity in intercessory prayer. I've been considering the woman's fear and trembling in Mark 5. She has just grabbed Jesus' clothes and been healed. As the Irish priest around here recently said, it's better to seek forgiveness than permission... at least in prayer.

Unknown said...

As an ICU nurse for some 30 years now I have seen many, many things, some of which would have been considered miracles back in the day. Every single extraordinary event that I have been witness to has been preceded by a whole of praying. My collegues and I--nurses and doctors--who believe and undersatnd what we know of science, also believe in the wonder of the human body and the human spirit. In my small section of the world, prayer is needed not so that God's will can be done, but so that God's will can be done through the intervention and hands of humans. So that Uncle Frank has the stuff which allows him to go out every day and keep knocking on doors to look for work and so that a stranger will see something in Uncle Frank that says, "This is the one. This man's gonna work just fine for you."
Prayers are what give us the strength to allow the divine into our work areas.

Elle said...

One last question about novenas. I am currently doing two, at 11:30 a.m.
I have been looking online, and I cannot find this anywhere: Do I have to say the novenas at the same time every day? I have a business presentation to give on Friday that might run long, and now I am wondering after Friday am I on day 5 or back at day 1?

Also - here's how your readers can search your archives: http://tinyurl.com/SuchNunFun
It's a link to Google's search option that is specific to your site, just replace "novena" with "patron saint of stupid questions" or whatever it is you are looking for in your archives, and it will come right up. That tiny-url link never expires, so that's yours forever as well.

Thank you,

Anonymous said...

This is a brilliant explanation!! Thank you!!! Where were you when I was back in CCD in grade school?!

Matthew said...

Dear Sister,

In approaching the end of the school year, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything that I must do. I really need to be able to get things done quickly and not waste time. Is there a patron saint I can pray to for better time management?

Melanie said...


This post has taught me more about prayer than decades of church and Sunday school. Thank you so much! It's changed my entire attitude toward how I approach prayer.

RJ said...


I don't have a patron saint for you, but I do have a prayer to share. (My 9 year old niece gave this to me for my birthday -- she must have been guided by God to know what I needed to hear.)

"Lord, I have too much to do, but it's all important.

"Help me to set priorities so that I don't feel lost in the pace and the pressure.

"Give me the wisdom and energy to accomplish what's necessary without wasting time or effort.

"And help me make the best use of my day, remembering that time is a precious gift from You."

Gina said...

The last line of your letter to the boys is priceless...invaluable...brilliant.

Denise said...

Hello, Sister!

The best example of intercessory prayer I know of is the pleading of Abraham that God not kill the righteous with the sinners of Sodom. He bargained Him from sparing the whole city if 50 just men lived there down to only 10 just men if that's all there were. Apparently, there were fewer than 10. God got Lot out of the city anyway. And then destroyed it.

Your version is much more fun to read, though.

Martha said...

Thank you for your response, Sister. I will spend some time pondering it and sharing it. I have to admit, I need to balance my petitionary prayers with prayers of adoration and thanksgiving. Right after Communion, I tend to hit God immediately with my long list of requests (which are usually for others, but still).

Too bad the the moviemakers lacked the courage to Mark Twain, and made such a bland movie.

Anonymous said...

Great post, glad I found your blog! Especially the illustration of the book vs. the bad movie. Huck Finn was a great story of morality. I can't imagine that story without that element.

Elizabeth said...

I think I'll try the dried peas...
Thanks for the wondeful explanation.