Receiving the Gift
So that we might obtain this life of happiness, he who is true life itself taught us to pray, not in many words as though speaking longer could gain us a hearing. After all, we pray to one who, as the Lord himself tells us, knows what we need before we ask for it.
Why he should ask us to pray, when he knows what we need before we ask him, may perplex us if we do not realize that 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 give is very great indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it.
- St. Augustine, Letter to Proba
I love when I can pray this way. It's so easy to fall into giving our list of needs and wants and neglecting the time to just talk for a while. It's so easy to end our prayer quickly because we just don't have the time. We're busy, and God is there anyway, right?
That's why I love this passage from St. Augustine's letter. We aren't praying because God needs to know what we want and need. He already knows. We need to pray so we know what we're asking for and can hear God's response to it. We need to pray so we can discover what God has for us that we would never have thought to ask for.
As a spiritual director, one of my favorite times is when someone comes to me with a mess that they just can't straighten out. They can't hear or see God's hand anywhere, and just need some help to find it. After spending time discovering the blessings hidden within, sometimes deep within, we finish in prayer and focus our desires. Every time a flood of God moments follows in the hours and days that follow. They are immediate and crystal clear.
God was there the whole time. All the other stuff was getting in the way. The situation may not have changed much, but the grace within it does. The door is opened, the barriers are down. Jesus can come in.