I had an interesting conversation with my friend Mark the other day. Mark, a third order Carmelite who takes his faith very seriously, complained that St. Therese never answers his prayers. He’s asked her many times for favors and…nothing! He has all sorts of friends who have people suddenly hand them roses with a message: “This is for you from St. Therese.” He’s frustrated.
I can understand it. I had the same experience at first. I marveled at how many people claimed miracles from her but for me…nada! Zip! Zilch! That changed though for me. I now count on her all the time. I don’t remember when or how it changed. It may have been that I started asking the right way…or I stopped expecting the wrong things.
Mark’s approach was amusing. He started saying things like, “I told her (St. Therese), if you don’t come through I’m not going to even bother with you anymore.” Or, “I’m going to leave a dead carnation at your statue, maybe then you’ll get the message.” I laughed but I realized that I’ve said similar silly things to saints over the years…and even to Jesus. All my friends knew how long I waited for God to send Mr. Right. I did every novena, prayed every prayer and invoked every saint I knew about. Finally I said half jokingly, “You know Lord…everyone knows how long I’ve been praying….if you don’t answer it’s going to look really bad for You…” He finally did answer my prayer – and outdid Himself in generosity. Looking back though, it wasn’t until after I detached and decided to be happy with my life, exactly as it was.
Have you gotten to that point?
If instead of asking humbly you start snarking at the saints or making silly threats to try to get them to move for you, here’s some advice:
- Focus less on what you want. I know, this seems counter-intuitive. You’re praying for answers after all. Why would you want to do that? Well, I’ll tell you why. Sometimes when we focus too much on what we’re praying for, we become attached to it and aren’t open to answers that may come in unexpected ways. Sometimes God has to till the ground of our hearts and souls before He can bestow His blessings. At other times He redirects us if what we’re praying for isn’t for our good in the long run. Praying for God’s will is always in our best interests…after all, God made us and knows what is best for us. If we stubbornly focus on what we think will make us happy, we may miss the boat for long term joy.
- Focus more on getting to know the saints and meditate on their lives and virtues. Too often we treat them like slot machines – prayers in, answers out…and lose sight of the actual person to whom we are addressing our petitions. They are our brothers and sisters that, yes, intercede for us, but with whom we’re destined to spend eternity. Good things come from relationship. The Church raises saints primarily as examples of holiness for us to emulate. Answered prayers are bonuses and not our rights to be demanded.
- Ask the saints to help you see what you need to do or change to be ready for the answers you request. If you’re praying for a spouse, for instance, ask them to show you where you need to work on yourself to be able to be the best spouse you can be. Once properly honed and prepared, it will be easier for God to send you the right husband or wife. Sending Mr. Right to Miss Wrong, or vice versa, would be a disaster. Ask the saints to help you be worthy of the answers to your prayers first and then sit back and expect some miracles.
The great news is we’re not alone in this earthly journey. The saints want to help us, but not just with the favors we implore but in helping us to become saints as well. After all, once you’ve established a friendship, don’t you want it to last for eternity?
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