It seems a little late to wish you a Happy New Year, but I hope you had a good Christmas. Thank you for all the cards and kind messages to me and Jamie.
It was good to catch up with my sister and her family on Boxing Day, especially my niece who is about to have her second baby. She has been careful to prepare her toddler son for the new arrival. A while ago, showing him her bump, she told him he was going to have a little brother.
‘No’, he replied, ‘sister’. She tried again: it was a boy, so it would be a brother.
After a few goes, she realised his insistence wasn’t a confusion with the words; he was putting in a request. His little cousin had a baby sister and he wanted one too.
He might one day compare notes with my brother. His preparation for my birth was minimal. Sent for a few days at his grandma’s, and told there would be a surprise when he got back, he got his hopes up for a puppy. For him, being presented with a baby sister was a massive disappointment. I think he’s over it now. Though he never did teach me to fetch a stick.
It is hard for parents when a child sets their heart on something that is not possible or practical. No amount of rational explanation will take away that longing. Somehow, the parent has to let the child know they have been heard and understood, even if the desire can’t be met.
I can’t help thinking it must be like this for God, hearing our prayers. We rightly pray for peace, justice and care for creation, but don’t always get the outcomes we hope for. Sometimes we set our heart on prayers that are not to be granted: the outcome of an interview or exam; a longing for a partner; an earnest desire for a friend to recover from illness. Surely God could grant these things if God wanted? Surely, for my great-nephew, a parent who can go to the trouble of producing a baby boy could just as easily produce a girl?
Children learn that they can’t always have what they want, no matter how much they persist. As we grow in faith, we learn that God won’t always answer our prayers in the way we would like. But we also know that God hears our every prayer, that God understands and knows and values our heart’s desires.
We are approaching Easter. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus poured out his heart to God, asking for the cup of suffering to be taken from him. God heard that prayer and shared the agony, but didn’t take the suffering away. God had a deeper purpose, leading to the unimaginable joys of resurrection and the redeeming of the world.
As we walk through Lent, and prepare for Easter, may we trust in God to hear all our prayers, and answer them in wisdom and love.