‘DO YOU ANSWER EVERY PRAYER?’ (Mt 7:7-12): 14 February 2008 (Valentine’s Day, Thursday)
In Lars von Trier’s 1996 film “Breaking the Waves,” Bess (played by Oscar-nominated Emily Watson) is a naive, simple-minded woman who has a strange way of praying. On her knees, she speaks to God, and responds to her own prayers as God in another, lower voice. For example, she asks God a question timidly, then she changes her voice–and facial expression–to answer the question.
It’s a funny and endearing portrait of a woman trying to relate to her God. When her husband Jan leaves town to return to his work on the rig, Bess gets really lonely and prays that God return him to her. Her prayer is answered, but not in the way she expects: Jan gets into a freak accident and returns home paralyzed from the neck down!
Indeed, careful the things we pray for!
The film is very much worth watching: The rest of it is about how Bess demonstrates her great love for Jan in the most bizarre, scandalous, heart-breaking way, and all the many unexpected things this leads to. But be warned: It may not exactly be Valentine’s Day fare, so don’t watch it today!
I mention the film, especially the way Bess prays, because in the gospel reading, the Lord promises us that every prayer will be answered:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.”
That’s nice, but is it really true? “Of course!” we’re quick to answer. But let’s think about it for a while: Does God really answer all our prayers? How many prayers have we recited repeatedly, bruising our lips, our knees, and even the beads of our rosaries, and still to this day we have received no answer? How many of those petitions have we already actually forgotten because it’s been such a long time ago? Is it not the case that many of us have waited very long before our prayers were finally answered, and sometimes the answers were not even what we had hoped for?
If this is the case, then how can we say that of course God will answer our prayers, and that of course He will not delay in granting us what we pray for? Let’s be honest in examining our lives, especially the history of our unanswered prayers, before we answer the question.
I think in dealing with this question, God invites us to, in a sense, become like Bess: to answer our own question about prayer. We have to make our own decision on what our answer is going to be.
So here’s the Quick Question for the day: “Does God answer every prayer? If so, what about all those things we prayed for but didn’t get?” Think about it, and share a thought, a feeling, or a question.
(image: from “Breaking the Waves”)