The opening Collect for the Mass of the 27th Sunday through the Year is startling. The prayer is really breath-taking. Did you notice the same line I did when it was prayed by the priest today? Here is what the Church gave the priest to pray:
Almighty ever-living God,
who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits
and the desires of those who entreat you,
pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads
and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.
Everything seems “normal” in the prayer:
- the address of God: “Almighty and ever-living”
- the “ut clause”: “who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you”
- the petition: “pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask”
What??? “give what prayer does not dare to ask” … what is it that we dare not to ask?
Two keys to remember is what is quoted from the Book of Esther for the Entrance Antiphon: “Within your will, O Lord, all things are established, and there is none that can resist your will. For you have made all things, the heaven and the earth, and all is held within the circle of heaven; you are the Lord of all.” AND, from Book of Lamentations for the Communion Antiphon: “The Lord is good to those who hope in him, to the soul that seeks him.”
As Christians we believe that A) we are not self-made, that is, God is the creator of all things; B) God gives everything to us, nothing is a waste; all things are given to awaken our person. Therefore, when you consider these points, what we dare not to ask in prayer is likely impossible for us to recognize as a response to our desires and longings.
Speaking for myself, I think we approach God at times in prayer with the feeling that “thus and such” is too good for me and therefore we don’t ask God for this and that grace. Contrary to our person feelings we are told by Scripture –and I hope by experience– that we are dependent upon God for all things, even the seemingly too simple and for the great. Sometimes we undercut our desires, that is, we reduce the desires of our heart to an ideology and we become the measure of existence rather than God. Being small-minded in prayer is not the Christian measure of the spiritual life; being stingy with God’s graces is not way the Lord has told us to live: that in prayer, we are to ask God for what we need. His being Love will not refuse. Review what the antiphons told us: the foundation of life is in God Himself, that His will can’t be put off and the Lord blesses those who hope (trust) in Him.