My friend, Bud, is currently out of town on business and last night he reported that his accommodations seem to be decorated in a Moose Motif. I would love to stay in a room with mooses on the curtains and the lamp shade and the sheets, but apparently he does not care for it – in a big way. That made me so sad. “What if they are Merry Mismosses?” I asked.
This is one of my family’s holiday sayings. It was the first thing my grandmother used to say it to us every Christmas morning, but it dates back much farther than my childhood, or even my mother’s childhood. My grandmother’s youngest brother came down the stairs on Christmas morning when he was 3 or 4 and declared to the whole family, “Merry Mismoose!” We’ve been saying it ever since, close to a hundred years I reckon. It’s one of my favorite parts of Christmas.
I still think Santa is great, and I do believe. I very much enjoy helping Santa out. And it’s fun to get gifts from Santa even now, especially if I don’t know who Santa’s helper might have been. I have no problem with Santa. He is the spirit of giving without expectation of receiving in return. The real problem comes when we treat God like Santa; when we tell God what we want or what needs to be done and expect him to grant it (and in just the manner we foresee, I might add.)
I know, I know, take it to the Lord in prayer. Yes, we are encouraged to take every desire, every hope, every need to in prayer and that is appropriate, but it’s not up to us to tell God what to do about it. That’s hard to take sometimes, especially when what we are asking for is unselfish. It’s hard to understand why God does not cure or at least relieve the suffering of every person who is sick or injured. I refuse the explanation that it has anything to do with my faith. God is well aware of how weak my faith can be and God is much more loving and just than to base whether or not he will intervene on whether or not I prayed hard enough, or long enough, or frequently enough.
So what is the point of praying? If God truly knows everything we think, feel, want, and need, why talk to him about it? God doesn’t need us to tell him about it. WE need to tell him about it. It’s for us. It’s so we can clarify for ourselves what the issues are and also to give us the opportunity to turn it right on over to God where it belongs. We are the ones who are changed by prayer.
I don’t know how prayer really works or why. I don’t understand why some prayers seem to be answered and some do not. I am well aware of remarkable things coming out of prayer. I do believe that prayer is important, and I try to spend as much time as possible praying every day – although it never feels like enough. There is so much I don’t know, and only a couple of things I believe I do know.
One of the things I believe I do know is about today’s reading from Matthew 7: 7-12 It’s a famous one. “Ask and it will be given you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.” We just talked about it at our Lenten study last night at church. The problem some people have with this verse is what “it” means. “It” doesn’t mean just any old thing that you want. This is not a license to run to God with your Santa list of things you want.
“It” means wisdom, discernment, spiritual guidance. “It” is the power, inspiration, encouragement of the Holy Spirit. That’s a little more clear in Luke’s version of this saying. Matthew just says that God will give us good things, but Luke tells us that the good thing that God gives is the Holy Spirit.
This is actually a good thing. God knows it is a good thing that he has not given me everything I have asked for. I’ve asked for a lot of things that would not have been good for me, or helpful to me, or just that there was something better for me.weren’t the right thing for me at that time. Sometimes we don’t get what we ask for because we need to learn something that we need to face what life is about to throw at us. Sometimes God doesn’t just make things happen because he wants us to make it happen.
Every day I pray for the strength and courage and wisdom and inspiration to face whatever the day brings. More and more I pray: Please don’t let me say or do anything to make it worse. I think St. Francis had the right idea. Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Keep praying. Pray without ceasing. Take everything no matter how serious or trivial it may be to the Lord in prayer, but always end your prayer the way Jesus did when he prayed by himself in the garden of Gethsemane: Not my will, God, but your will be done.