instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Needs and/are wants

A few weeks ago, the blogger at A Journey in Faith wrote about "Praying the right way":
For a long time I only prayed that God would take away all my pain, that he would simply make my crosses disappear because I didn't want them...

But I have come to the realization that GOD gave me those crosses, as strange as it sounds, because he does love me. And even though I have spent my entire life running away from my pain and in turn running away from GOD, I finally realized my crosses are a source of strength... a strength to turn towards GOD and it took me a very long time to come to that.

But most of all I learned to pray the right way... I learned to ask God not for the things I want but for the things I need.
I wanted to comment on this last idea, of praying for needs not wants, but I wasn't sure whether I agreed or disagreed with it.

But hey, I'm Catholic! I can do both/and!

In fact, the Breviary does both/and in Wednesday Morning Prayer for Week I. The reading is from Tobit:
At all times bless the Lord God, and ask him to make all your paths straight and to grant success to all your endeavors and plans.
That's praying for wants. The reading is followed immediately (or, perhaps more properly, after a moment's silence), with the responsory:
Incline my heart according to your will, O God.
That's praying for needs. (More or less.)

If you want the Gospel versions, you can go with, "Ask and you shall receive," and, "Give us this day our daily bread."

To pray for needs not wants is to turn needs into wants. Strictly speaking, you want whatever you pray for, and good Christians don't want what they don't pray for. So a program of praying for what you need rather than what you want produces the result of praying for what you want, which happens to be precisely what you need.

At the same time, though, God wants to give us ridiculous quantities of really good things. Some of these really good things are common or garden natural goods, the sorts of things we might want as individual human persons. As long as we ask with the conditio Jacobaea -- "if the Lord wills it" -- it is right and natural to ask our Father for them.

On the subject of natural goods it is right and natural to ask our Father for, since she wrote the post I linked to above, A Journey in Faith's blogger has been diagnosed with and begun treatment for Hodgkin's disease. Prayers, please, for someone who has already suffered a great deal.