Saturday’s first reading at Mass included the angel’s words to Abraham about Sarah becoming pregnant at the age of ninety: “Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?” This is echoed by the angel Gabriel when he tells Mary that the elderly Elizabeth will bear a son: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Relying on the truth of those statements, I’m venturing into a new project: marketing my books—more than eighty of them. One by one they are going out of print before the world has read them, or even know they exist! Nowadays marketing is done via social media, which to me is complicated and overwhelming. Hence the need for a miracle. In addition, ideas I’ve proposed have been blocked, so much so that I commented, “I keep running into a brick wall.” I was on the verge of giving up marketing. But then, last week on the first evening of my annual retreat, I began reading a book (on being happy). Not once but twice it advised that when you run into a brick wall, throw your knapsack over it! I took this as a message from God. So what is happening?
After my retreat I chanced to meet a sister who is supportive of my writing ministry. I asked her to pray for marketing success. Immediately she advised, “Pray the prayer before meals.” Huh? That prayer is: “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord.” It is a prayer of confidence that God will hear and answer our requests. Sister assured me that results will come fast. Now this kind of backward prayer is not original. In the Bible when Jonah was still in the belly of the whale (three days and three nights), he prayed a prayer thanking God for saving him! He assumed that God would come to his rescue. Look it up!
Jesus told us that whatever we ask the Father in his name, he will grant us. He taught that if we had even the tiniest faith, we could order a tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey. But wait, what if you pray and pray until you have calluses on your knees and you don’t get your miracle? Does that mean you don’t have enough faith? Or that God doesn’t like you? No, there are exceptions to receiving miracles we pray for. God, who is all-wise, might see that answering a certain prayer would harm us or others. It could be that God has a better idea that will lead to greater happiness. Maybe God, for whom a thousand years are as a single day, is asking us to be patient and wait until he has the right circumstances arranged. I like what Jimmy Carter said: God’s response to our prayer might be, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
To deepen your faith, it helps to look back over your life and review the times when God did answer your prayers in an amazing way. You might want to record them. Memories fade.
One key to answered prayers is how fervently we pray. When Peter was in prison, the church prayed “fervently” to God for him. And an angel led him out. (See Acts, chapter 12.) Sometimes as we pray, our minds go off on a tangent planning dinner, thinking of what to wear, and so forth. Such prayers garner no response. We need to pray with all our heart and to be conscious that we are addressing almighty God, the creator of the universe and the One who loves us more than anyone else does.
So, how is my marketing miracle unfolding? Monday a woman came to see me who is holding sessions on prayer in her home and would like to use my book on prayer for their discussions. Tuesday I met with a marketing expert who gave me great advice. Thursday a librarian scheduled me for an Author’s Visit at the new South Euclid library (December 1). Friday I met with a college professor whose students will take me on as a client and market my books. Then a campus minister said he would support me as much as he can. Saturday in a parking lot a friend told me a group at her parish was considering having me speak to them. As I’m typing this, an email came in from a friend saying she will alert a local magazine about me and my books.
I need to keep in mind two things. First, words often attributed to St. Ignatius: “Pray as though everything depended on God; work as though everything depended on you” and second, an old song that we used to sing as young sisters titled “Never Give Up!”
So I will leap over the wall . . . and hope I don’t break my neck!
When has God done the impossible for you in answer to your prayers?