How often do we “storm heaven” with prayers for special intentions of one kind or another? How often does it seem that God does not hear us, even when we pray in the most fervent of ways? It’s a common complaint among those who choose not to believe in God or His goodness. “My father was dying and I prayed for him but God let him die anyway.” “Where was God when those plains were hijacked on 911?” “It seems that God didn’t care about me when I prayed to Him for my needs.”
The Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer, contains four simple words that are easily glossed over if one is not paying attention: Thy will be done. Jesus gave us this prayer and He prayed these words Himself in the garden of Gethsemane before His trials. On the human side, He wanted to be spared of the horrible passion and death He was about to suffer but His divine nature knew better and His human will acquiesced to God’s Will.
We teach that God is perfect goodness, that all He creates and does is good and that there is no evil that is willed by Him. Sometimes, though, it seems that He doesn’t hear us or that our prayers are not properly framed to appeal to Him. Other times it seems He is just not interested or does not answer. All of these thoughts beg the question, Why do we pray?
St. Augustine has much to say about prayer in his letter to Proba (cf. Office of Readings Oct 20-25). Not only does he tell how to pray but also the proper disposition and the meaning, line by line, of the Lord’s Prayer. He recognizes that God knows what we need before we ask for it, so why ask? “Our Lord and God does not want to know what we want (for he cannot fail to know it) but wants us rather to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what He is preparing to give us. His gift is very great indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it.” When I consider these words I’m left to consider a sobering thought. Maybe I’m the one who is deaf.