By the Reverend Noel E. Bordador
Your kingdom come, your will be done… (Matthew 6: 9, 10)
‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ (Luke 11:9-13)
Frequently enough, many people are curious about my name, Noel. Since Noel in French means Christmas, many ask if I was born on Christmas Day?” Actually I was born in September. So, then why the name, Noel? Well, my mother told me that I was conceived in December, and nine months after, I was born. Leave it up to my mother to be figure that one out. Actually, I am grateful to her for giving me that name. I love Christmas. I always have. But I must confess that when I was a child, I loved Christmas for the wrong reason. I looked forward to Christmas primarily because of… SANTA CLAUS! I just loved Santa…Well…sort of. Actually, I was ambivalent about Santa. Ambivalent, because Santa could not seem to get it together. Until I was thirteen years of age, every Christmas Eve, I would write to Santa to ask him for a toy. And indeed, come Christmas morning, I would find a gift from him…except every year, he failed to deliver what I wanted. I would get a gift I did not ask for, and attached to it would be a letter that resembled my mother’s handwriting. “Dear Noel, I am sorry, I ran out of the toys you asked for, but here’s one you would like.” Another year: “Dear Noel, this year, I did not make the toys you want.” And another year: “Dear Noel, I ran out of your toy, because I gave it to a child poorer than you.” And, yet another: “Dear Noel, I got your letter late…”
I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a
child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things,” so says
Saint Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (13:11). When I reached
my teens, I started to put away many childish things, Santa being one of the
casualties. Yet, my childish way of relating to God remained. When I was a
child, I used to think of God as some sort of a Santa Claus, except…
bigger, better, more powerful than Santa, and I carried into my adulthood
this way of relating to God, believing that if I ask him anything I want,
he will surely give it to me. That was how I often interpreted the words of
Jesus: “Ask, and it will be given you…”
Perhaps, there are many among us who expect God to be sort of a Santa, and we become profoundly disappointed or disillusioned when God does not give us exactly what we asked for in our prayers.
I am the kind of person who, if it were up to me, would like to live in a perfect world. I like things to be neat, organized and orderly. I do not like change, and certainly, not chaos. I used to be- and perhaps still am- convinced that I absolutely know what is good for me and how my life should be. So, I used to pray to God telling him what I want from him, telling him what I want him to do for me. In effect, my prayer life consisted in asking God to do my will, to do what I want, rather than seeking what God wants for me (“Your Kingdom come. Your will be done.”). Perhaps there are many among us whose prayer life is about asking God to conform to their will, rather than seeking the will of God. We order God to acquiesce to our desires and wants, and in effect, we commit idolatry by setting ourselves up as the god of our lives, and we make God our servant who must do our bidding.
Jesus challenges us to believe that God is our loving Father who alone knows ultimately what is best for us and for the world. And Jesus challenges us to believe that our God seeks only to do what is ultimately good for us. He is not out to get us or short change us with his love (He does not give us “snake” and “scorpion.”). So, when we pray, we ought to pray not so much for what we want, but that his will be done in us and in all things believing that what he wills is only what is best for us.
But if God only wants what is good and best for us, then how come life is not any easier?
Yes, wouldn’t it be nice if life were a bit easier? I wish life were, indeed, easier.
his life, our Lord Jesus sought to do the will of his Father. “ Reading
the Gospels, we know that Jesus did not exactly have an easy life. Seeking
the will of God would not automatically mean an easy life for us. Yet, there
is a promise in the Gospel we must not forget. God did goodness for the world
in that difficult life of Jesus; and Jesus emerged ultimately victorious from
his suffering life. So, when we pray that God’s will be done in our
lives but things do not seem to turn out the way we want them to be, Jesus
nevertheless challenges us to believe that God’s grace is still at work.
When we pray for God’s will but things don’t get any easier, Jesus
challenges us to believe- difficult that might be- to believe that God continues
to love us and is working good things in our lives though it might not seem
so. Jesus challenges us to believe that God is doing good things in our lives,
not necessarily how we want it done or how we want things to turn out, but
according to his mysterious ways, that are often incomprehensible to us.
Let me conclude with a favorite prayer called, “The Prayer of Abandonment,” written at the turn of the last century by Charles de Foucauld, a French priest and hermit who lived and died in Morocco. I like it because the prayer expresses a radical trust and confidence in God’s goodness, a confidence that allows us to surrender ourselves to God. Let us pray.
Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you. I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me and in all your creatures- I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul. I offer it to you with all the love of my heart for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father. Amen.
© 2007 Noel E. Bordador
The Reverend Noel E. Bordador is a queer Filipino Episcopal worker-priest in the Diocese of New York.
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