“Ask and ye shall receive.” We’ve all heard those words and their promise. “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” We know God loves us as a father loves His children, and thus we can pray with confidence.

We’ve also all asked God at some point for something where the answer came back as perceived silence or “No.” Now we could delve into the reality of how God is not a genie here to grant you three wishes if you play according to God’s rules. We could discuss the temptation to try to tempt the Lord our God. However, knowing that God is more than us, and His ways are not ours, does not abate the desire of the heart to ask for things and ask why not when the answer is not what we want. However what is promised is not, ask and you get what you want, but ask and you shall receive. What will you receive? You will receive grace, that is, God’s friendship, God’s presence, God’s response to yours.

The reality of prayer is that we are called to ask. Prayer is not a demand, magic or an answer. It is a response to God’s invitation into deeper relationship with Him. It is our reaction to the ongoing seeking of us by God. Peter sees Jesus walking on the water. The other apostles feel frightened. Peter says, “Lord, if it is you, command me to walk to you.” Jesus approached first. Peter responds with an outrageous request. Jesus tells him, “Come.” and Peter begins to obey until he takes his eyes off Jesus. The moment he tries to use his own faith to power his way across the sea, he sinks. It’s a good reminder to each of us of the nature of prayers. Miracles do not happen because of our will, but sometimes even in spite of it. Jesus stretches out his hand to save Peter, the miracle still happened.

If there’s a first requirement of prayer, it is a humble heart fixed on God. Prayer is an interruption of this fallen world, a piercing of the side of God However God is whole and present before us, even before we cry out. That’s the great humbling reality of Jesus, that He is here. He is present, and shock of all shocks, He wants us to come deeper into friendship with him, through the sacraments, through prayer, through service to others, through beauty, through yes, miracles big and small.

God’s answer to each of our prayers is to reach out His hand and say, “Come.” and invite us to stand atop the ever-shifting waters of time and here and now and all our needs, and have ourselves sustained, buoyed by our relationship with Him. Pray to do His will, and then ask if He wills it, what you will. Sometimes, the answer will be, “I do will it.”