I open up my Lenten reading for 2008 with a book about prayer. Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To (2007) by Anthony DeStefano, despite it’s 10-step-program title, is really about simplifying one’s approach to prayer and understanding it as conversation with God.
Below are the ten prayers and some of my favorite passages from each chapter:
- God, Show Me That You Exist
- God, Make Me an Instrument
- God, Outdo Me in Generosity
- God, Get Me Through This Suffering
- God, Forgive Me
- God, Give Me Peace
- God, Give Me Courage
- God, Give Me Wisdom
- God, Bring Good Out of This Bad Situation
- God, Lead Me to My Destiny
When we take the initiative by asking him a question, instead of treating him as a question, we have actually entered into a dialogue already — whether we know it or not. And dialogue — back-and-forth conversation — is the heart and foundation of any relationship (p. 13-14).
Christ was making a specific theological point. He was teaching us the true meaning of love. When “two or three” people are present in a particular place and a particular time, it is possible for one of those people to give himself away in love. In other words, it is possible for that person to “love his neighbor”. And it is when you love your neighbor that God is most truly and fully present (p. 29).
You can always afford to give something away — and that something should always be more than you can afford. It’s just that you shouldn’t be so extreme in your giving that it’s impossible to fulfill your other legitimate responsibilities. You should never be reckless (p. 54).
God says yes to all who come to him for help and comfort when they are in the midst of such trials. Notice I did not say that he promises to stop the suffering, or prevent it from happening in the first place, or alleviate it in any way. This may be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to faith, but we have to face it, head-on: God allows terrible things to happen (p. 61).
Forgiveness has one meaning: wishing a person the greatest possible good — which basically means wishing them salvation and heaven (p. 85).
Suffering, turmoil, conflict, and indecision are all realities, and we have to deal with them. You can’t just pray to God and expect him to make all your problems magically disappear. That’s not the way to true peace. That’s only a way of avoiding responsibility. When bad things happen to us and other people, we have a moral obligation to get involved. We have a duty to fight evil and alleviate suffering. We have a responsibility to look adversity squarely in the face and struggle against it with every fiber of our being. It’s just that in our effort to deal with these external challenges, we can’t ever allow ourselves to focus on them to exclusion of what’s most important in life — our relationship with God (p. 107).
The reason is that when we are weak, we’re in the perfect position to receive abundant graces from God. It’s when when we are filled up — with pride in our skills and natural abilities — that we have no room for God’s gifts. But when we are “empty,” there is plenty of space for God to work in. He can come in and literally pour his spirit and his power into us (p. 128).
When you ask God for wisdom, you are essentially asking him for the gift of himself. And as we’ve seen elsewhere in this book, that’s something he’s always eager to do. Remember, the goal of authentic spirituality is to be in union with God. That’s what the whole spiritual life comes down to. When you’re in union with God, you have direct and immediate access to all of the things that God is, and that includes peace, courage, love, wisdom, and truth. God wants you to have these things; he wants to shine his light on humanity, to speak his word unceasingly. Therefore he wants to pour out wisdom on all of us. This is not profound theological thinking, it’s simple common sense (p. 134).
Every one of your tears, every one of your weaknesses, every one of your humiliations, every one of your failures — every single bad thing that ever happens to you in life — can be transformed. Out of every advertisity, God can produce some higher good. Out of every loss, God can find some marvelous gift to give you. Out of every death, God can bring forth new life — if only you ask him.
If you come away from this book with only one thing, let it be this: “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (p. 163).
There’s a reason that God doesn’t always tell us our destiny right away but prefers instead to reveal it to us little by little. It’s because he’s interested in not only what we’re going to accomplish but also what kind of person we’re going to be at the time we accomplish it. And sometimes the “journey” is what helps mold us into better human beings. Indeed, the journey is often what makes life enjoyable. All of the things we experience in life … can help prepare us for the greatness God has in store for us. Even the bad things … can help lead us to our destiny. God wastes nothing (p. 179).
This book is a good introduction to prayer for the newbie as well as good reminder of prayer as finding the way to the will of God.