Recently a friend of mine had a serious accident and ended up in the hospital, requiring assistance and medical support for some time afterward to recuperate.
As any Christian in time of distress does, my friend reached out to God in prayer, and in turn also reached out for prayers from friends and family to help through this difficult time.
In asking for my prayers, my friend told me that they felt their own prayers seem to be ignored, or at least not as powerful as those of others, hoping that the prayers of others would lead to a faster, and more favorable response.
In times of distress, trouble, and darkness, from whatever source, if it be of the soul, or the body; we naturally reach out to God in prayer, we call out to our Father to make it better. Our prayer’s intensity increases, and can become extremely emotionally charged. Strong prayers calling from the depths of our despair for help.
I am reminded of the late spring and summer of last year. A very difficult time for me overall, between health, work troubles, difficulties at home, and financial issues, I was under constant oppressive stress. The kind of stress that changes your personality so that your friends, family and loved ones no longer recognize you. The kind that makes you see nothing but sadness and darkness. To say that I was in a dark place in my life would be an understatement, it was possibly one of the lowest and most difficult points in my life.
In this darkness I cried out (quite literally at times) to God, begging for His help. I spent countless hours in front of the blessed sacrament, praying chaplets and rosaries, imploring Him to help me. I developed prayers of flowery and exacting nature, imploring God for the specifics of help I thought I needed.
It is exactly at these times that we are most vulnerable to the influences of darkness, and the most powerful of lies whispered to us in our darkest moments, when we are at our lowest and weakest is that God isn’t listening, or that He doesn’t care. It’s the most insidious of lies and denies the one and most overwhelming aspect of God, his unending, unrelenting love for us. If we allow ourselves to hear those lies and lose sight of God’s love, we slip deeper and deeper into the darkness.
During these times, through the lies, through the sadness, the hurt, the darkness, we must refocus and pray harder. As difficult as it may be, that is the time we must have the greatest faith in His love for us, the strongest belief that He is watching out for us, and feel the most complete peace in the knowledge that He is with us at this time.
It wasn’t until a long time time after this experience that I realized why my prayers during this time “went unanswered”, why my almost continual prayers at the time yielded no end to the darkness I was under.
I was praying for the wrong things. I wasn’t trusting in His love. I wasn’t listening to His call to where He wanted me to be, or what He wanted me to do.
“Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet[a] something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.”
It took months for me to leave that dark place, and it was with His help, directly through The Holy Spirit but also through other disciples who reached out and provided comfort and guidance to me.
The problems in my life and the darkness were dispelled through a mixture of hard work, blessings, miracles and time. But none of those resolutions were of my own doing. While I had prayed directly for resolutions to my problems, my prayers were answered in the form of strength from the Holy Spirit, the drive to keep pushing forward, past the point of exhaustion to keep working at what I could. Without His motivation I would have given up long before.
In the end, came the dawn of a new day, when the darkness was dispelled, and with the clarity of that new day, came the understanding that all of my prayers had been answered. They were not the answers I was expecting, nor were they what I had imagined were outcomes I was searching for. But God had a bigger better plan in store for me. He answered prayers that were deep in my heart, the ones I wasn’t able to vocalize in the flowery language that only spoke of my material needs. He answered the longing of my heart in the most surprising ways, and in answering them, the material problems disappeared.
In the “Our Father” we ask for God to “give us this day our daily bread”. We can interpret this in a couple of ways. Literally we can see this as petitioning what we need to sustain our bodies, bread being a staple food item for much of the world in different forms. Equally though, we petition for the Bread of Life, the Eucharist, Jesus Himself. We need Jesus, daily, to sustain ourselves in our lives. Our daily lives which can at times be difficult, sad, dark, and oppressive. Like the hunger of the body, in the darkness is when we hunger for God all the more.
When we need the Bread of Life to nourish us and make us strong against all that seeks to harm us, all we need to do is continue to pray and have faith in the immeasurable love of our God. We must reassure ourselves that trails are temporary pathways to His plans for us. Like so many of the Biblical figures and Saints which have gone before us, we too must sometimes walk the desert like Moses, before we are shown the green pastures of Midian.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.