When I pray, do I seek to change God’s will or to change my will according to God’s desire?

October 9, 2019 – Wednesday 27th Week in Ordinary Time

A reading from the Book of Prophet Jonah (4:1-11)

Jonah was greatly displeased
and became angry that God did not carry out the evil
he threatened against Nineveh.
He prayed, “I beseech you, LORD,
is not this what I said while I was still in my own country?
This is why I fled at first to Tarshish.
I knew that you are a gracious and merciful God,
slow to anger, rich in clemency, loath to punish.
And now, LORD, please take my life from me;
for it is better for me to die than to live.”
But the LORD asked, “Have you reason to be angry?”

Jonah then left the city for a place to the east of it,
where he built himself a hut and waited under it in the shade,
to see what would happen to the city.
And when the LORD God provided a gourd plant
that grew up over Jonah’s head,
giving shade that relieved him of any discomfort,
Jonah was very happy over the plant.
But the next morning at dawn
God sent a worm that attacked the plant,
so that it withered.
And when the sun arose, God sent a burning east wind;
and the sun beat upon Jonah’s head till he became faint.
Then Jonah asked for death, saying,
“I would be better off dead than alive.”

But God said to Jonah,
“Have you reason to be angry over the plant?”
“I have reason to be angry,” Jonah answered, “angry enough to die.”
Then the LORD said,
“You are concerned over the plant which cost you no labor
and which you did not raise;
it came up in one night and in one night it perished.
And should I not be concerned over Nineveh, the great city,
in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons
who cannot distinguish their right hand from their left,
not to mention the many cattle?”

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke (11:1-4)

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name,
your Kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”

Homily

Prophet Jonah is considered as an important figure in the Old Testament. His role as a prophet is greatly revered, thus, he gained the fame as one of the great prophets during the time of King Jeroboam II of Israel. However, despite his greatness as a prophet he too struggled with his selfishness and desire to manipulate God according to his own interest.

The first reading tells us how Jonah showed his anger towards God. God showed compassion to the people of Nineveh, the people that Jonah hated so much. God withdrew his intentions to destroy the whole city and its people because of the repentance showed by them. Because of this, Jonah despised God for being good and merciful to the people whom Jonah considered as his enemies.

Jonah could not accept this. God’s action towards the people was undesirable for him. Jonah had been hoping that Nineveh will be punished, that the people will be condemned to death. He had seen no hope in them, thus, he wished that they will completely suffer and die. That was what Jonah wanted.

Even though Jonah was fully aware that God is compassionate, slow to anger and merciful, he did not want God to show mercy to these people. Jonah just wanted to preserve God’s goodness for himself and for the people whom he cared, not to the people whom he despised. This was the reason why Jonah became angry with God because he found God unfair. Well, that’s according to Jonah’s perspective.

In the heart of Jonah, he actually wanted God to follow his desire to condemn the people. Jonah had no plans to follow God’s desire to show mercy. His anger was his expression to change the heart of God according to his interest.

Now, we see how could a man wants to manipulate God by becoming angry at God. This kind of attitude of Jonah might not be far also from our own experiences today. Unconsciously, we might be acting like Jonah too. Indeed, we believe that God is good, generous and kind, loving and merciful. Nevertheless, we might tend to believe that God should not be loving and merciful to those people whom we hate, whom we abhor, to people who have hurt us, to people whom we consider as useless and hopeless. We want a monopoly of God’s mercy and love limited to our friends, to our loved ones and to us, ourselves alone.

This kind of attitude gives color in the way we pray. We tend to believe that our prayer is a way of changing the heart of God according to our own likes and desires. And so when what I prayed did not happen then I feel bad and become angry at God for not granting what I desired. We begin to distance ourselves from God. We stop going to Church because God seemed not to hear our prayers. We become bitter when we also see others whom we think are not deserving, are enjoying blessings.

However, our Gospel today has something important to teach us. The request of the disciples was one of the most selfless and gracious request they made. One of them asked, “Lord, teach us to pray…” They wanted to pray like Jesus, to pray in His name and that is according to the mind, heart and will of Jesus.

To pray like Jesus is to change our hearts and minds according to the will of God and not changing God’s heart according to our own desires. To pray like Jesus is being able to trust in God and to give our hearts to God that even though our desires are in conflict with God, then, we remain faithful and trustful in Him.

And our best example of praying like Jesus aside from the disciples is our Mother Mary. It means that it is also possible for us to pray like Jesus and not like Jonah. May our Mother of Perpetual Help inspire, then, us to pray more like Jesus. Hinaut pa.

Jom Baring, CSsR

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