Prayer does not change God, it does not always change the situation, but it does change the heart of the person praying.
Many people do not trust prayer, or doubt it’s power to have an impact. After all, we’ve all had experiences of praying earnestly for something, only to be disappointed when what we sought was not granted. We desperately want to believe in prayer, but experience tells us that it simply doesn’t work…or does it?
Christian faith tells us that God is always listening. The Scriptures confirm it: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Mat 7:7). How can it be then that God so often fails to respond when we pray?
Those of us who are parents, know that not everything a child asks for is always good or even what they really want. For example, an sulking adolescent demanding new shoes may be seeking the material comfort to compensate for a lack of parental attention. What she REALLY wants is the loving engagement of her parents. Money to buy the shoesis giving her what she asked for, but is not going to fulfill her hunger or provide what she really needs. A wise parent will recognise the deeper needs of the heart beneath the child’s request.
Similarly, God knows our hearts better than we do ourselves. His plan is for us to grow spirituality so that we reach the fullness of our potential and become the people he created us to be. God will always be evaluating our requests in the context of what will help us growth spiritually.
One thing that we can be sure of is that God will never deny us any spiritual strength or virtue we seek, as these graces are always orientated towards spiritual maturity and love. In fact, God is holding out all the graces we need to live holy lives, urgent to bless us with them. God offers us this grace as a free gift, but he won’t impose it on us. We have to want it and be prepared to accept it.
Therefore, if we don’t experience a particular grace or spiritual strength, it is not because God is denying us, it is because we are resisting it in someway. Anytime we go to prayer for God’s grace we need to ask ourselves: how open am I to this grace? What is blocking me from receiving it in full measure?
For example, let’s say that the children are being difficult and I’m on the verge of losing my temper. I may pray for patience, but what I really want is transformed children. I’m not open to more patience, I just want it to be easier, I want new kids! If I want my prayer to be effective, I need to reflect on why I am resisting the grace of patience. Perhaps it’s because I’m feeling unappreciated and I fear that if I have more patience, I will become a ‘doormat’ and be taken for granted even more. Perhaps I am embarrassed that my children are so unruly and I fear the judgement of other parents. Perhaps I am bored by my children and want to be doing something else. Whatever it is, whatever ‘block’ or resistance I have, unless I acknowledge it and take that to prayer, God’s grace will allude me.
And let us reassure you: if you pray sincerely for God’s help in lifting your block, it really does work. In fact, it’s scary how well it works. Try it and find out for yourself.
Praying for Grace in your Marriage
Prayer is an invaluable tool for couples, turning our hearts toward each other as we live out our sacrament on a daily basis. We can be certain that anything that will advance our unity as a couple and draws us deeper into love is absolutely God’s will for us. That’s why praying for special grace is so important and so powerful.
Prayer for Special Graces
Prayer for Special Graces is asking the Lord for exactly what you need at a specific point in time in order to be more open to or effective at loving the other. The grace of passion is help from God that enables you to be more fully present to the person you love in all your masculinity or femininity. It creates a desire for unity, to know and be known, that is urgent, affirming, generous and grateful.
When you pray for and receive the grace of passion, it can lift you out of self-centredness into relationship with each other. When you pray for an affirming spirit, you will find it easier to see and verbalise the other’s goodness. You can pray for the grace of compassion for whatever the other is experiencing. Other graces for which you can pray include:
- Compassion, humility – when you have hurt each other
- Wisdom, insight – when you are making an important decision
- Generosity, gratitude – when you are feeling selfish or hard done by
- Ambition, enthusiasm – when you are feeling despondent or hopeless.