Scripture readings for March 13
It’s April 2013. My 18-month-old son has a high fever and is no longer walking. He is being examined in the pediatric ER of a local hospital. My husband is 2000 miles away in Boston on business. It is nearing midnight. The pediatrician is asking me to make some testing and treatment decisions based on some concerning blood panels. The hospital is re-opening the MRI to scan his legs. The doctor admits that in one scenario Owen may need emergency surgery that night. “Lord, please help me know what decisions to make. Lord, please let my boy be okay.”
There are memorable times in our lives where we cry out to the Lord in prayer. Then, there are the ordinary prayers that fill our days: “Father, please bless my children at school today.” “Lord, please let my husband catch the earlier flight home.” “Dear Jesus, bless my friend on her birthday today.”
Today’s readings have a common theme of petitionary prayer. Different from intercessory prayer in which you pray for others on their behalf, petitionary prayer is asking the Lord for something that your heart desires or you physically need. This prayer is important because it builds relationship with God. Some might wonder if the almighty God cares about the small matters in life (ex: that I have a final exam today). Indeed, even the smallest matters are important to bring to God. In his book entitled Prayer, Richard J Foster writes, “Petition, then, is not a lower form of prayer. It is our staple diet. In a childlike expression of faith we bring our daily needs and desires to our heavenly Father.”
Our petitions, made in faith, lay bare God’s authority in our life and build relationship with our Heavenly Father.
In today’s Old Testament reading Queen Esther cries out to the Lord with a heartfelt, desperate request to save her people. Queen Esther was an orphan who found favor with the King as a beautiful young woman. She was named Queen of Persia all the while hiding a secret… she was Jewish. In this scripture’s background, her King has decreed that all Jews be slaughtered and their property destroyed on a set date. Esther’s Uncle Mordecai implores her to present herself to the King without being summoned, breaking the law and risking her life to revel herself as a Jew and intercede on her people’s behalf. The tone of her prayer bears the weight of not only her own life but also many Jewish lives. This story is dramatized in the movie One Night with the King (2006) and for children, the Veggie tales version – Esther, the girl who became queen (2000).
Today’s gospel is from Matthew Chapter 7. “Jesus said to his disciples: “Ask and it will be given to you.” At first glance, this encouragement seems so simple. If I just ask then I will receive. We all have prayers that we have spoken to our Lord that seem to have gone unanswered. Yet in faith we know that when our prayers go unanswered surely the Lord of the universe is withholding the answer to our prayer out of his great omniscience and mercy. In Soul of Prayer, P.T. Forsyth observes, “We shall come one day to a heaven where we shall gratefully know that God’s great refusals were sometimes the true answers to our truest prayer.”
Jesus continues, “Seek and Ye shall find.” Our human restlessness causes us to seek God. St. Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” Sometimes our seeking hearts grab hold of the distractions of life. God desires to reveal his perfect order and objective truth to us. Yet in his mercy, He granted us free will. St Thomas Aquinas exhorts us to use the will and intellect He granted us to seek truth. For surely if we seek, we will discover truth and peace in God’s perfect plan.
Then Jesus tells his disciples, “Knock and the door shall be open to you.” This great gift of free will allows us the freedom to act (or not) in accord with God’s objective truth. Here is a call to action. Step up to the door (Christ himself) and knock. Take action. Go to Jesus. He will open the gates of heaven for you.
Owen spent two days in the hospital. Long lists of possible diagnoses were eliminated one by one until it appeared that he had a nasty virus. As a person of faith I knew that I must seek God’s will for my son. As a mother, I raged against the possibility of some of the possible prognoses. My prayer was answered. My boy is a healthy 2 1/2 year old. But even if the answer was not the one I was seeking, my heart knew that my heavenly Father would not deprive my family of the benefits of adversity. Courage, fortitude, loyalty and even a deeper faith are all born of adversity. Yet we must step back for this eternal view and recommit to trust that the Lord to whom we lay bare our very hearts would not “hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish?” Surely, He is ready and waiting to give us good things.
–Having lived in four states since 1996, Carrie (McKeown) Schmitt and her husband are now raising their four children in Denver, CO. Carrie is a pediatric occupational therapist by training but devotes herself full-time to raising her children. She is the facilitator of an ENDOW group. She and her husband also lead a Families of Character small group.