Every day I’ve been praying my Christmas novena, repeating the words the fifteen times I’m supposed to. I pray it in the kitchen or in church or in bed, on my fingers or my rosary or my bracelet’s beads, praying about the “hour and moment at which the Son of God was born,” and that my prayers would be heard as I remember those graced moments.
In years past I’ve prayed for really big things with this novena, the big-time things like straight-up lifetime conversion for individuals; the individual hearts and experiences of everyone crazy-trekking with me over pilgrimages; etc.
This time, though, I’m just praying a stupid, selfish prayer that one of my friends will be able to visit over the holidays. And it’s mostly just childish, I know, but I’ve been praying anyway.
I find myself halting in prayer, though. It’s because I know there are bigger, more important things to pray for: like the hungry, the lonely, the aged, the homeless man who I met yesterday, the people who call my workplace all, “Hello, I’m going to be needing some help this Christmas…” I know this is something that won’t make-or-break my holiday experience (and I’m excited to see all of my other friends– truly, deeply, I am), I know that he’s very, very occupied with important, valuable, sacred things and he probably can’t (shouldn’t?) leave them just so we can talk/ yell at/ laugh with each other over a meal or two.
So the question is: should I even be praying for this, then? Should I just drop it and let other things happen?
And, more deeply:
- If something doesn’t seem possible/ plausible, should you pray for it anyway?
- What happens if it doesn’t happen–if my prayers aren’t answered the way I’d like to see them answered?
but, always countered with:
- But can’t I just believe in a Christmas miracle?
Once I heard a crazy-good talk about the three men from the Old Testament, and their words have been mulling in my brain these past few days.
In the story, a king made a giant statue of himself and ordered everyone to worship the statue. Being followers of the God of Israel, these men refused the king, and, therefore, were to undergo the penalty: being thrown into a fiery furnace. (Please, note, to the side, how the Bible stories are very much dangerous stories. Read them understanding that).
So, the king was like, “This is your choice, dewds (obvi, this is paraphrased), worship the statue or be thrown into a white-hot fiery furnace.”
Their reply is recorded thus (and I think it should be read slowly and deliberately. And maybe two or three times, just so the dogged bravery starts to penetrate your soul a little):
If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, you should know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.
If our God, whom we serve, can save us…
The notes I’ve read/ talks I’ve heard, this translation doesn’t doubt the power of God (“IF he can save us…”), but, rather the words were meant to convey: “Our God has great power to save us, but we mostly just want His will to be accomplished.”
EVEN IF HE WILL NOT
These words. These are the ones I’ve been loving.
Yeah, God has a plan. And I resign myself to that. I’ll ask for what I think I need but, even if He will not, meh, He’s still my God.
Today I ripped the tiniest corner off of a sticky note, wrote my intention on it, crumpled it into a tiny ball, and put it at the feet of my church’s St. Joseph statue and I know that that’s borderline janky-Catholicism, but, I don’t pretend to be any better than that, and judge it good, but I did it anyway.
Then I exhaled, smiled and straightened.
Maybe I know what to pray for, maybe I don’t. Maybe I’m being hopeful with a child-life faith, maybe I’m just being stupid with a toddler-like selfishness.
You see, I don’t even know myself, let alone the best ways to pray.
But, even so, I will ask. I will pray. I will hope.
And, if God, in His infinite goodness and wisdom, sees it fitting to order the universe in a way contrary to the way I want (heh): well, frankly, awesome.
Pray, hope, and don’t worry, right, Padre Pio?