We often hear the adage, “Be careful what you ask for.” Sometimes our desires are fulfilled in ways that are surprising and sometimes – especially if it is from God that we are asking – we can’t possibly see how the answer fits the question because we are not privy to all the workings of the universe. In those times, we need to trust.
Today’s readings give two examples of God’s promises being fulfilled. Earlier in the Book of Genesis God had promised that Abraham would have descendants as numerous as the sands of the seashore. As he and Sarah got older it seemed impossible that this would happen since she had not been able to bear children. In order to take matters into their own hands, Sarah told Abraham to have sexual relations with her servant in order to have an heir. When she did and had a son, Sarah wasn’t so happy about it. Today (GEN 18:1-15) we hear the prediction of God’s messengers that Sarah and Abraham would have a son within the year. Abraham was 99 years old at the time and Sarah long past childbearing age. So her response to this news was a burst of incredulous laughter but a year later, she had the promised son. A miracle indeed, if late in coming. We can only wonder how that fulfillment affected her faith in God.
In the gospel today (MT 8:5-17) Jesus encountered the centurion whose servant was deathly ill; he asked Jesus to heal the man. Jesus was ready to follow him to his house when the centurion said he did not need to do so. He was aware that the power of Jesus was so great that he would simply need to speak a word and the healing would take place. Jesus was quite impressed with the man’s faith and the request was granted immediately.
When I pray these days I try to leave the decision-making to God regarding the result of the prayer, saying things like, “God, please be kind to this person” or “God, please take care of this situation.” I don’t think it’s effective to muzzle God into a specific outcome because, as I’ve already said, I don’t see the “big picture” and can only speak from my own perspective. I think my job in prayer is to let God know of my concern for what is going on, to speak my desire for God’s presence in the situation and then let God take care of the rest. When it seems to me that God isn’t acting, (or really that God isn’t acting as I would if I were God) I try to think about Sarah and remember that God’s time is not my time and God’s eternal love is incomprehensible.