‘When we live with hope we do not get tangled with concerns for how our wishes will be fulfilled. So, too, our prayers are not directed toward the gift, but toward the one who gives it. Our prayers might still contain just as many desires, but ultimately it is not a question of having a wish come true but of expressing an unlimited faith in the giver of all good things. You wish that…. but you hope in ….
In the prayer of hope, there are no guarantees asked, no conditions posed, and no proofs demanded. You expect everything from the other without binding the other in any way. Hope is based on the premise that the other gives only what is good. Hope includes an openness by which you wait for the promise to come through, even though you never know when, where, or how this might happen” (With Open Hands, by Henri J.M. Nouwen, p73).
This time of the year, children in the thousands are sitting on Santa Clauses’ lap in houses, schools and malls telling him what they want for Christmas. It is a wonderful and humbling sight. Children with their eyes a glow with expectation and wonder. There is an unspoken poverty of spirit at work. A child knows that they are somewhat helpless to get what they want unless they ask for it.
On the other hand, the childlike behavior of only liking the other so long as we get what we want, lingers on into adulthood. We live in a very “get it your way” kind of culture. Technology and corporate investments make it possible year after year to get more, bigger, better, faster and most convenient. Can many of these be answers to prayer? Yes they can. However, we can also innocently nurture in our subconscious a relationship with God that is based primarily on getting what we want through prayer. In the quote I used above, Nouwen wrote of praying with hope in God the Gift-Giver, so that we are liberated to let go of our own will as if it is our only true end. If we have our hope in God with purity of heart, we are contented with allowing God to be enough. We accept with thanksgiving the answer God gives to our prayers; whether or not we get what we want.
If we need an example of God giving us the best of God’s Self so that we can have hope in God; look no further than the mystery we will celebrate on Thursday, December 25th. I think that is a very good reason to have faith and hope that God will always do what is best for us.
Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB