When I was young and I wanted something I would always try and talk my parents into it. I never asked a direct question but always came at it in a round-about way. My mother used say I was like a crab the way I would come at things. Most children just seem to keep asking the direct question until the parents are worn out, as I’m sure many of you are familiar with. Please can we go to the beach? Please can we go to the beach? Please can we go to the beach? It’s interesting that in this Gospel Jesus more or less tells us not to be afraid to pester him in this way when we are praying for something. Keep asking and don’t be afraid to ask.
A common difficulty for most of us is that we continually wonder if God is answering our prayers. So often I’ve heard people say that they have prayed for such and such a thing but God hasn’t listened, or answered. Is this true? Not if what Jesus says to us is true; and of course we believe that He only speaks the truth. ‘Ask and you will receive’; not might receive, but will receive. I suppose the problem lies in the fact that we often don’t recognise the way that God answers us. God always answers us but we may not even be aware of what God has done or is doing.
During my teenage years I lost interest in the practice of my faith just like many of my peers, although I still believed in God. When I was nineteen I remember thinking at one stage that I wanted to find out whether this was real or not. I didn’t just want to drift aimlessly. A few days before I turned nineteen a close friend of mine was killed in a car accident. This was a terrible shock to me because it was the first real encounter I had with death and it made me ask a lot of questions. At the end of the summer of that same year I came across a book called Power for Living. This was a series of testimonies of other people who had come back to God and whose faith meant a lot to them. Each one described how they had come to have a very real relationship with God which was now at the centre of their lives. At the end of the book it said: ‘If you want to discover God in your life, then ask him now wherever you are to come into your life and make himself known to you.’ I remember sitting at the end of my bed and saying, ‘Ok Lord, if you are there help me to find you.’ And then I put the book away and forgot all about it. I could never have imagined what was to follow.
A few weeks later I met a friend of mine called Aidan, who told me about a mutual friend of ours called Louise who had been to Medjugorje and had rediscovered her faith, or as Aidan put it: ‘She has become all religious and holy.’ I was intrigued, because Louise was my own age and from a similar background. So I called around to her and asked her about it. I remember she talked for about an hour and a half about what had happened. At the end of the conversation she invited me to come to a prayer meeting. Now I wasn’t that keen to go to a prayer meeting. I thought I was much too cool for such things. But Louise was smart enough to know that and she asked another girl whom I fancied, to ask me. Naturally I went! Both of those girls are now married and I’m a priest!
So I went along to this prayer meeting and I was very surprised to find 50 or 60 young people there praying the rosary, singing hymns and reading the Bible. This was totally new to me. I remember thinking that these people had something that I wanted. It was obvious that their faith was real; none of them had to be there and so I started coming back each week.
Several weeks after I began attending this prayer group they had what is called a ‘Life in the Spirit’ seminar, where they give talks about the reality of the Holy Spirit and the difference it can make in your life. On the fifth night they pray with each person to have an experience of God’s Spirit, just as the Apostles did. I was really looking forward to this and wondering what would happen. My family were also looking on nervously and hoping this wouldn’t be a disaster. After the people prayed with me I was disappointed because nothing extraordinary seemed to happen. But in the days and weeks that followed many things began to happen. It was as if someone plugged in my faith and switched on the power. Suddenly I had a tremendous desire to pray and read the Bible. The words of the Bible began to come alive for me in a way I had never experienced before and also the mass came alive for me. It was as if I was hearing it for the first time. Three years later I began studying to be a priest.
I could never have imagined how God was going to reach out to me and change my life that time I prayed to him sitting on the end of my bed. God does answer us, but often not in the way we expect.
Ask and it will be given to you.
Seek and you will find.
Knock and the door will be opened to you.