As the vocation director for the Bismarck diocese, it would seem that Fr. Tom knows about answered prayers. Bismarck is in the top twenty per capita for vocations in the country. But Fr. Tom would say it’s not a matter of God answering his prayers as it is for him to be answering God's will in his life. They key to prayer, according to him, is to get out of the way.
Fr. Tom identified the important elements for Christian prayer. “First, you can only pray to the degree you have faith,” he said. “In order to grow in prayer, you have to grow in faith. No matter how many prayer techniques you use, if it’s not in faith, you’re not praying.”
“Second, the heart and soul of faith is this: God is your father and everything that you could possibly desire, he already wishes to give you. God is your father and he can only desire what is best for you. Prayer becomes a grace activity where I allow God to act, where I allow God to do the good for me that he wishes to do. “
Fr. Tom stated that since God wants what is good for us, prayer is about allowing God to remove the obstacles so that he can do all the good he wants in our lives. Too often, people fall into the trap of praying to get God to consent to what they want. “That is not Christian prayer,” he said.
Give God his Way
“God has all kinds of good things he wants to do and Christian prayer is God getting us to consent to him. Do you see the difference?” He asked.
Fr. Tom pointed out that coming up with a plan and then asking God to help us with it, is a very limited way to pray. “No one in the history of mankind ever asked God to become a man and come and save us,” he pointed out. “We never would have thought of it. That was all God’s activity.”
According to Fr. Tom, the key is how you look at what God is doing in your life. “What God desires every minute of every day is to make you like Christ,” he said. Quoting St. John of the Cross, he added, “God acts for one purpose—to make our souls great.”
For parents, Fr. Tom advised for us to desire for God to get his way with our family. He instructed us to pray, “ God, I give you permission to do whatever you want with me, even if it makes me suffer. May your kingdom come, may your will be done.” Fr. Tom explained that such a prayer describes the Blessed Mother’s prayer: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to your word.’”
Fr. Tom stressed that the husband needs to fall in love with the desire to be like Christ. “The wife cannot be under his mission until that happens. Otherwise, she’s submitting to someone other than Christ,” he said. “And then, she’s not in a Christian marriage.”
He said that praying like Jesus will ignite enthusiasm because your thoughts will be, “I cannot wait to see what the Father is going to give to me today!”
For some people, such a prayer can be scary or not seem like enough, so Fr. Tom suggested asking God to remove obstacles that prevent you from desiring God’s will. In addition to total surrender, he brought up that there is the question of intercessory prayer and asking God for your intentions. He explained that people came to Jesus for healing and God wants us to ask him for help. The key, according to Fr. Tom, is that in all your petitions, your greatest desire should be for God’s will—for you to desire to be like Christ.
The Treasured Place
Often, your own self will can interfere with your desire to do God’s will. Fr. Tom explained that the place in which God can work most powerfully is “the treasured place”—the place where you need God the most. It could be an insecurity, or a need, or some other area where you recognize your need for God. At such moments, he said, “God pulls you to places where there is an unfilled desire and you have to rely on him acting in your life.”
In the end, he said that since God does only what is good for us, we can trust that God will bring good out of all things for those who want him to get his way.
For more inspiration, check out Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families. Your children will laugh while learning big spiritual lessons with Dear God, I Don't Get It! and Dear God, You Can't Be Serious.