My mother in law always asks us for a Christmas wish list, usually due no later than Thanksgiving weekend. Her Christmas shopping begins in earnest after she’s received our wishes and determined which gifts will bring the most joy (within a given price range). Sometimes the wish list is a starting point and she chooses different gifts from a similar thread yet which as officially un-wished-for come as a complete surprise to the recipient.
If you’ve ever gone to great lengths to prepare a wish list or registry for some gift-getting occasion (a birthday, Christmas, wedding, etc.) you may remember silently suffering when the gift opening ended without the appearance of the particularly wished-for item. This same pain in not receiving a desired object can also plague our spiritual life when we have spent hours, days, or perhaps years in prayer begging God for some particular grace, conversion, gift or healing without it being made manifest.
But God loves to listen to our wish lists! We must remember that these prayer requests are not ‘get lists’ the same way our wish lists for Christmas don’t guarantee the items will appear under the tree. In a certain way, our longing or wishing prayers to God become our constant prayer, ever on our lips (burning in our hearts). St. Augustine wrote “…if you wish to pray without ceasing, do not cease to desire” (Office of Readings, p. 303). The deepest desires of our heart (known already by our Almighty God) if given a voice in prayer, allow us to truly pray without ceasing as St. Paul encouraged.
The constancy of you desire will itself be the ceaseless voice of your prayer. And that voice of your prayer will be silent only when your love ceases. For who are silent? Those of whom it is said: Because evil has abounded, the love of many will grow cold. ~St. Augustine (p.303)
Yes, it can be very difficult to keep desiring something when it seems that God is answering with a great big NO. But according to St. Augustine, a giving up of our desire or the silencing of our prayer would mean that evil has crept in and our hearts are consequently suffering from frostbite. Brrr! That doesn’t sound too appealing, does it?
So keep your deepest wish list handy in your prayer life. Give voice to the longings and desires of your heart. Trust in God and know that your prayers will always be answered; appreciate the mystery of HOW and WHEN. Expect the unexpected, and never stop expecting.
As this Christmas Season draws to a close and we begin to pack up our Christmas treasures, let us not abandon our wishes. For our deepest longings never go away, not like the desires for material things either forgotten once received, or simply upgraded for newer wishes and wants. No, our real wish list, the greatest desires of our hearts continue to burn within us day and night. These desires must not be stifled or set aside and abandoned. Give them a voice.
The Liturgy of the Hours: According to the Roman Rite. New York: Catholic Book Pub. Co, 1975. Print.