Last month, I received a strange call from a woman who was angry with God for not answering her prayers. Apparently she had come across an old column I had written on prayer and wanted some information.
The conversation went something like this: “Since you know so much about prayer, tell me how you can get God to help me win the lottery.”
I thought, “Are you kidding me?”
I felt as if this person would have snored through the Sermon on the Mount. But I felt sympathy for her. She obviously was emotionally upset and needed to talk.
I learned that her family debt was due to unjust legal fees she incurred while trying to defend her son in court. She didn’t tell me anything about the nature of the case, only about her exasperation with the legal system.
She and her husband tried to borrow money, but their credit line was depleted. So they began playing the lottery and praying that God would bring them good luck. That was a year ago. They had become increasingly aggravated by God’s failure to cooperate.
I took a deep breath and tried to explain that religion is not about getting God to do what we want. It is about surrendering ourselves to God’s will. Then I recited the Our Father, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
She blurted out, “What about his words, ‘Ask and you shall receive?'”
I had to smile, realizing that most people have had that feeling at one time or another in their lives, myself included.
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you,” I persisted. “You have to remember that Jesus also instructed us to say, not my will, but thine be done.”
Unimpressed, she went on to explain how unfair others had been to her. I listened for a while but had to interrupt. I had little hope of getting through to her, but I tried one more time.
“Religion is not me-ligion,” I said.
Religion means to bind oneself back to God. “Me-ligion” is more about pushing God away if he doesn’t give us what we want. To connect with God, we all have to surrender to his will, freely, sincerely and lovingly. I could feel that my words were going over like a lead balloon.
“Life is a test,” I continued. “We are preparing our souls for the next life. The only people who are truly ready to enter the kingdom of God are those who accept his will and obey his teachings.”Christians spend a lifetime practicing the discipline of loving surrender. To love is to give oneself to God and to others. The emphasis is on the word: free. We give ourselves freely.
“I know this has nothing to do with the lottery,” I said. “But it is part of the overall scheme of things.”
She was silent. Not knowing exactly what that silence meant, I added my final point.
“One thing is certain, if you ask for God’s forgiveness, and are willing to make amends, he will forgive you. That’s where ‘ask and you surely will receive’ comes in,” I said.
She thanked me and hung up. I’m not sure if I helped or made the situation worse.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: Stop to listen for angels softly singing in glass
NEXT: Children are still legitimate after annulment; questioning nail marks of crucifixion
Hello Rev. Catoir, Your phrase “snored through the Sermon on the Mount” is taken from the play/movie called “A Man for All Seasons”. Did you know that? J Kenny