Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8b)
In this Gospel passage Jesus speaks to us of the Father’s omniscience, His “all knowing” quality. So, if God knows everything, including our needs and what we would pray for, why do we need to ask? As usual, the answer is that we ask because the asking itself is a gift and a grace God wants us to have. In the asking I unite my heart and soul to the One who can supply. But very often, perhaps more often than not, the asking clarifies what I am yearning for, revealing that it is not the right thing. Perhaps I am yearning for someone to change. Perhaps I am yearning for some material goods to remove all of my anxiety. Perhaps I am yearning to be strong where God has intentionally made me weak and dependent on Him. The asking reveals to me, and releases me from, what I think I need. The asking allows God to remind me what I really need: deep union with Him and His Holy and Perfect Will for my life.
Whenever we imagine that we are in control of life – our own or someone else’s – we have fallen prey to the ancient whisper in the Garden: “You shall be like gods.” (Morning Prayer, Magnificat Magazine, June 20, 2019)
It isn’t for me to determine what others will or won’t do, or even what I do or don’t need in my life. Mine is to pray simply, “Your will be done, Lord,” and then to let go and give the problem to Him. I do not have control and I need to stop trying to get it. Mine is to let my day unfold, tending to the duties which proceed from my state in life, then to consult with God when something comes up which disrupts this natural flow. Nine times out of ten His answer will be, “Give it to me and go on with your day. The solution to this problem is on the way.” Trying to solve problems that are not mine to solve is a huge source of anxiety and frustration. What is needed is relinquishing control, which I never had in the first place, to God who has all the power, is my Savior and is my friend.
This is very liberating, but it is not easy, and our minds are like that old garden hose that’s been left out in the yard all winter. Even if we manage to return it to a nice, well-ordered coil, it has a tendency to return to its tangled mess. Our job is not to try to water the world with our tangled mess, but, through times of prayer and union with God, to return our garden hose mind to a well-ordered coil, and water only what God asks us to water.
Not a Temporary Measure
This battle of letting go is not a one-and-done action. It requires me to constantly take my eyes off those flaming problems over yonder that I can’t control, rewind my hose, and water my little plot over here, where God has me stationed. Even in this little work there is a danger in believing I have attained some new perfection. If I do manage, one day, to mind my own business and leave the rest to God, I feel victorious and strong. Before I know it, I am taking on tasks that aren’t mine again because of the peace of this new-found “strength,” which is really just living within the proper confines of my God-given weaknesses.
Being “victorious” in little battles is a reason for praising God, not for taking back control over something I’ve worked so hard to let go of. This little prayerful exchange with God is not a system I work out and execute rigidly in order to survive a problem or crisis. It is a lifestyle of freedom of following His will in the moment to both survive and recover from the struggles of life. Increased strength does not mean increased responsibility. God is still in charge. Increased strength is simply the grace of stamina to ride and enjoy the emotional roller coaster of life, the life He gives, not the one I feel responsible to live.
God is not going to turn all the responsibility for all of the problems back over to me once I “get it right.” It’s God and me, together, all the way. As I relax into this more and more, I am free to deeply pray for that flaming problem over yonder that I can’t and won’t solve myself. In my cooperation with His will, and relinquishing control of what isn’t mine to mess with, I have the presence of mind to receive and enjoy the pleasant moments He provides each day. This is the desire of God’s heart: for me to enjoy the life He has given me to enjoy, to trust Him enough to handle everything that I see and receive the gifts He gives, and to keep watering my little plot, knowing He has a plan for what is beyond my control.
Turning It Over: The “How To”
The best part of letting go of everything beyond our control is that it is simple to do. Note: I did not say easy, I said simple. Big difference. But simple is good for our complicated and complicating minds. So the answer of “how to” turn things over to God, “how to” let go of what’s not yours to handle is prayer. For me that comes in many forms including a daily rosary, the Mass, Morning and Evening prayer, always simply tucking in the request so succinctly written by Servant of God Dolindo Ruotolo, “Oh Jesus I abandon myself to You. You take care of it.” After praying this, the constant work of training my mind away from the problem, onto what God has given me to do today begins. But, with training, it gets easier. Some days are better than others. Practicing an Examen of Consciousness at the end of the day allows God to show me how I am doing with this little work. Through the Examen I see what works and what doesn’t, and always, God encourages me to continue trying.
Letting go is a personal prayer process that will be different for every person who practices it, but will work best when it is naturally folded into your existing prayer life. It’s a slight shift of perspective that changes everything. Who’s in charge? God is. So, pray like it.
Thank You, Blessed Mother
Sometimes even this simple practice is too hard for me. Sometimes I cannot stop my mind from becoming a tangled hose again. It’s engorged with water and I haven’t the strength to budge it. So, I sit down and grab my lifeline, the rosary, and ask, “Mary, help.” The Blessed Mother comes and shuts the water off, releases the pressure, and slowly, gently sets my hose into a nice, tidy coil again. She holds my hand and shows me just where the water needs to go, and reminds me where my spray just can’t reach. She assures me that God, in His own perfect timing, will see to all of it.
Our Lady Undoer of Knots, even those in garden hoses, you desire that your children would trust God entirely in everything, and that we would receive, with joy and humility, the simple and abundant life He gives. Please help us to be relentless in one thing only, remaining in God’s presence, that we might water our little plots and let Him mind all the rest.