Cat and Mouse With God?
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved
If you need something, anything,
really badly, just ask for it,
and don’t be afraid of the answer.
Don’t play tricks, don’t test the water,
don’t whine, or play the co-dependent game
of getting God to need to help you,
or the passive aggressive game of tricking God into giving it up,
like dropping tricky, sneaky, hints.
No, Jesus says just ask for it.
Stand up and be responsible for your desires.
Be accountable for what you desire,
do not play games with your need,
and do not play games with God.
Jesus says: Here’s what I’m saying: Ask and you’ll get;
Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open.
Does it get any more clear than that?
AND, how many of us have actually
played cat and mouse with God?
Oh God, just get me out of this scrape (whatever it might be)
and I’ll— start going to church, quit smoking,
quit drinking, yelling at my kids —whatever,
but you do know what I’m writing about.
Like Francis and his bishop,
just stand naked before God and ask.
No games, no tricks from you,
no games, no tricks from God.
That isn’t to say that God will actually just hand it over to you,
or that you now have a better chance at winning Power Ball,
it just means that you’re a step closer
toward being honest with God and yourself.
And that is where true prayer begins.
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Many of us humans have the idea that we need to bribe God in order to get what we want. It is a primitive idea, after all. Grain offerings, sacrifice of animals, sacrifice of each other, money, time: all these are used as ways of attempting to bribe God. We say that it is just about a show of our gratefulness to God for all God has done, we say that, but is it really? And is Jesus saying in this text that we no longer need to give offerings to bribe God?
I think he is saying in this passage that we are just to ask of God for what we need without any strings attached and give to God with no strings attached. I believe Jesus is speaking very plainly—we have no bargaining power with God. Recall that he is discussing the act of prayer. All we can expect from God is an out-pouring of Grace, and I believe that it is asking for this Grace that is at the heart of the prayer Jesus is teaching us.
For me at the heart of this prayer taught to us by Jesus, is the recognition of a need for Grace on the part of the one praying. I have been writing about Mystical prayer, and this prayer, I think, is at the heart of what Christian Mysticism, and Mysticism in general, is about—Grace. For it truly appears that this prayer prayed in a nutshell would be something like this: Holy and Divine Being, help me and fill my life and those around me with your Grace. Amen! Not a bad prayer all in all.
This Lord’s Prayer/Our Father/Prayer-that-Jesus-taught-us is a request for a Grace-filled life. It is not a wheedling or manipulating of God into giving us what we want, but a request from our heart of hearts to the Heart of all hearts for the basic human need for what we need most—food, forgiveness, peace, the Holy Spirit, Grace.
No tricky prayers here. In this prayer we learn the art of true prayer. If we pay attention to the instructions that go with this prayer, we can see reflected Jesus’ understanding of the human tendency to play games with ourselves, each other, and with God. Regardless of what translation you choose to read, Jesus is setting out good, healthy rules of communication—whether with other humans or with God. The path to mysticism leads not only to the heart of the Divine, but to a healthy awareness of self.
Now, with all this said, I propose a way to begin the deep prayer of Mysticism. Ask God to open you to God. Give God permission to work in you. It is not actually necessary to ask God, except that we are able to hear ourselves asking. We need to hear the prayers that God hears. We need to, because by our hearing we give ourselves permission to open up to God. Praying is really about us anyway.
We need to do the changing and opening and focusing and turning, moving, healing and becoming. It is we who changes into the holy creature remade into God’s sacred image. It is we who open our hearts to the Heart of all hearts. It is we who must focus on our goal of right relationship with One whom we seek. It is we who must turn our human love of self into our heart’s desire for deep communion with the ultimate lover of our soul. It is we who will move into the depths of God’s being. It is we who are seeking healing of soul and spirit. It is not god who does this work. And it is we who become the wholeness of the wonder that is this Divine Being. This is true prayer, it is not a cat and mouse game, and when it is realized it is pure grace
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Luke 11:1-13 — The Message
One day he was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said, “Master, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” So Jesus said, “When you pray, say, Father, Reveal who you are. Set the world right. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” Then he said, “Imagine what would happen if you went to a friend in the middle of the night and said, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread. An old friend traveling through just showed up, and I don’t have a thing on hand.’ “The friend answers from his bed, ‘Don’t bother me. The door’s locked; my children are all down for the night; I can’t get up to give you anything.’ “But let me tell you, even if he won’t get up because he’s a friend, if you stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors, he’ll finally get up and get you whatever you need. “Here’s what I’m saying: Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open. Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?”