Thursday of the first week of Lent: Ask, Seek, Knock
The English Dominican Victor White OP used to maintain that people generally find prayer difficult when they pray for the wrong things. By this he meant that we often spend our time praying for what we think we ought to want, rather than those things that we actually want. It can be difficult to concentrate on a prayer for world peace, for example, if what we really want is a red Ferrari. For White, then, distractions in prayer are simply our real wants and concerns breaking in on ‘bogus’ desires for worthy matters: when we are praying for what we really want we won’t be distracted. Herbert McCabe put it rather deftly like this: ‘the prayers of people on sinking ships are rarely troubled by distractions; they know exactly what they want’.
In today’s Gospel Jesus assures us that just as we know how to give our children what is good when they come to us with requests, so God will give good things to those who ask. Part of this process is a transformation of our desire so that we come to want what is truly good, what is truly best for us and for our neighbor. Prayer is not an attempt to gain God’s attention; it is a work of grace in us that expresses our share in the Trinitarian life of God. All true prayer is offered through our identification with Christ, through our sharing in his Sonship as adopted children of God. If we are praying in Christ then, no matter how trivial or distorted our desires might be, we will slowly be made like Christ and begin to love what he loved and want what he wanted.