DAILY CATHOLIC WEDNESDAY May 6, 1998 vol. 9, no. 88
KEY TO LIVING GOD'S WILL
Column by Father John H. Hampsch, C.M.F.
To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE & SECTION TWO
"Faith: Key to the Heart of God"
Thirty-Eighth Installment: Vertical Growth:Our Cooperation part six
I wasted many years trying to develop my feelings of assurance that I was going to get an answer to prayer, rather than cultivating a personal faith in Christ. It finally dawned on me that I was using the wrong approach. My faith had been faith-oriented, not Jesus-oriented. We grow in faith not merely by looking within ourselves, but by looking to Christ, depending on Him, His power, His goodness, His love, His promises with a reckless abandon. Psalm 119:14 "Your promises are my hope." The "golden key" is to have faith in Jesus, not faith in your prayer, or faith in your faith.
One of the greatest challenges in prayer is to ask for things with real expectancy, not mere urgency in begging the Lord. "Do not have anxiety about anything, but present your needs to the Lord in supplication and thanksgiving. Then you will have the peace that passes all understanding" (Philippians 4:7).
I often give people this test of faith: Suppose you receive a call asking you to come to the emergency room at the hospital because your child has just been hit by a car. He's dying, his skull is crushed. Do you play the radio and sing a song on the way to the hospital? Of course not; your entire attention is on prayer. What are you saying while praying on the way? "God, don't let that child die!" You're begging, pleading for Him to save that child's life. There's anxiety there, and that is what Paul tells us to avoid. Rather, you should be saying, "Lord, you know what I want-I want to save that child's life, but Lord, if you want to take that child to heaven, go ahead. Not my will, but thine be done. And thank you for your decision in this matter." You've presented your need without begging, but with real supplication and thanksgiving. There is no anxiety in that prayer. A truly critical situation like this will provide an acid test for your faith and trust in God and His goodness-no matter how the situation turns out.
What would our prayer have been had we been in St. Stephen's sandals when he was stoned to death? Undoubtedly most of us would have felt justified in asking to be delivered from the murderous mob. Ours might even have been the prayer of panic, "Oh God, help me! Save me from death!"
But what was Stephen's prayer? "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59)-expressing calm assurance of the Lord's welcoming embrace like Jesus on Calvary ("Father, into thy hands…"). And then he had the faith-filled love to pray for his executioners! "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge"-the mighty prayer of faith that acknowledged the belief that God was in control; Stephen truly believed he was about to be ushered through the gates of Glory. It was not a panic-prayer, but an anxiety-free faith-prayer that Paul-0one of his executioners-would later describe, after his conversion, in Philippians 4:7.
Expansive confidence is another characteristic of deep faith. Paul says in Ephesians 1:19, "How incredibly great His power is to help those who believe in him." Two chapters later (Ephesians 3:20) he says, "This mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of-infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts or hopes!" But we don't usually tap into that power because we don't pray with faith-spawned confidence. We're going to this spiritual billionaire and we're saying, "God, can you spare a dime?" God has limitless riches and power and wants to give us so much and we, in effect, embarrass Him by asking for so little. It is not only a kind of insult to God, but an implicit acknowledgment of just how weak our faith really is. We don't develop our faith by being reluctant to lean on Him. Prayer itself should manifest an act of faith, not a lack of faith.
NEXT INSTALLMENT: Vertical Growth:Our Cooperation part seven.
KEYS TO LIVING GOD'S WILL