“Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Matt 6:21).
After Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray, he offers them a lesson in perseverance. Because God sees everything and Providence works best over the long haul, the answers to our prayers may take longer than we think because they are larger than we can imagine.
If we believe that every prayer is answered, then we will patiently participate in the process of seeing it through, even if along the way the answer is “no” to our first request. God has something better in mind, a deeper solution to the problem we want solved right now. Because God keeps promises, we will wait for the “yes” that lays the foundation for many needs, not just the immediate one.
Adversity hones our prayers to their essentials. Paul boasted of his many failures and disappointments because he trusted that God was at work in both his successes and failures. His long litany of suffering – beatings, stonings, hunger and thirst, imprisonment, shipwrecks, threats from without, betrayals from within, anxiety and uncertainty – were cause for boasting, because they revealed his steadfast faith and God’s grace advancing his mission.
Jesus tells his disciples to store up treasure in heaven, despite the losses they experience in human terms. What is earthly success compared to accomplishing God’s will, which lasts forever? What material gain can compare to the joy of building the Kingdom of God on earth?
Wisdom is like the eye that sees everything clearly. A healthy eye sees things as they are, so it cannot be confused or seduced by short-sighted propaganda and the hidden agendas of false prophets and con men. Seeing things as God sees them is like having a lamp to guide us through the darkness.
We are only weak instruments, small partners in God’s larger influence over human affairs. We are earthen vessels, the humblest of containers made to hold something of far greater importance than our own small role, yet we are so beloved nothing less than the Christ is revealed within us.
It is this treasure, the Christ in us, that is the ultimate answer to our prayers. Going to God for bread, we receive Jesus himself, God made flesh, transforming us to share in the divine Life. Asking for help in some personal crisis, we find Jesus at our side, his full human journey made available to us as we face every human problem he has already endured and resolved.
In the end, in the long haul and the many twists and turns of our life stories, the love of God will be revealed at every step of the way, even when we felt abandoned and alone. Even our sins will have played a part in teaching us compassion for the weakness we share with others. A single, simple prayer will have flowered into a garden of blessings we only recognize after the fact. What we have asked will be ours in ways we never knew were being given, guiding us in hidden ways to the joy of the Gospel.