Sunday, June 26, 2011

Prayers God Likes

Sometimes everything seems like a struggle. Caregiving becomes crisis management. Negotiated agreements result in you keeping in your word and the party of the second part ...  not so much. And in the midst comes a challenge, clearly from God, to sincerely pray the words found in Habakkuk 3: 17-18.

"Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation."

Boy that was a fun night!  In a hotel room in Woodside, Queens, devastated by a situation I had just discovered, I spent a night wrestling with God, waking up over and over, knowing that the Spirit wanted me to pray this prayer. Finally I did. But I sure wasn't happy about it.

I felt that I was letting God down that this was so hard to do. Until I read something in "Introduction to the Devout Life" by Francis de Sales ... a wonderful, dense book that I have been struggling through since Ash Wednesday as a Lenten reading project (and yes, I know that's it's late June now). Francis wrote this in 1608, so the language seems dated:

"Among many persons, especially women, the great mistake is made of believing that the services we perform for God without relish, tenderness of heart or sensible satisfaction, are less agreeable to His Divine Majesty. ... Works performed with tenderness of heart are more pleasant to us who are only concerned with our own satisfaction. When performed in times of aridity, they are sweeter and become more precious in God's sight.

"It is no great merit to serve one's King in the piping days of peace and amid the delights of court life. To serve him during the hardships of war and amid troubles and persecutions is a true mark of constancy and fidelity.

"Blessed Angela of Foligno says the prayer most acceptable to God is that which we force and constrain ourselves to say. Such is the prayer we turn to not for the pleasure found in it, but purely to please God."

That put my concerns about struggling in prayers to rest. I hope it helps you, too.

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