For three weeks in a row, the Lectionary of the Armenian Church invites us to read and reflect on the sixth chapter from the gospel of St. John. We examined and talked about the core eucharistic emphasis of the chapter. And we also discussed how this chapter serves as a warning against misuse and abuse of faith. Today, we will view this wonderful Gospel chapter from a different perspective and see what it reveals and teaches about our prayer life.
Aaron Burr was a successful New York lawyer, politician, and the United States’ third vice-president. He took part in the 1800 race for the presidency, which resulted in an unexpected tie between him and Thomas Jefferson. It was up to the House of Representatives to decide the presidential election outcome. Aaron Burr anxiously awaited and expected Congress to declare him the winner. However, he lost. He was devastated. He felt betrayed and blamed Alexander Hamilton for not supporting him. Unable to accept such a turn of events, he killed Hamilton in a gun duel. Outraged by this act of violence, the public turned his back on him, and Burr died a dour old man.
Sometimes we assume we know what we exactly need in life and when we need it. Sometimes we invest all our energy and effort to get what we need and desire. And often, we raise our prayers to God with very specific requests hoping that he will hear and grant our requests. And while God does hear and answer every prayer, what we ask from him might actually not be the best thing for us, it might not be the right time or it simply might not be according to His divine will and loving providence.
In today’s Scripture reading, we see that the crowd who witnessed the multiplication of the bread and the feeding of the five thousand, followed Jesus everywhere he went. They probably did so with the hope that Jesus would multiple and distribute food again. We also see that our Lord rebuked them for following him simply with materialistic expectations and exhorts them to seek the heavenly bread.
Asking God for very specific things and persisting in our supplications and requests is actually quite a dangerous and risky business. There is a chance that even though God in his infinite wisdom knows that it is not good for us, to teach us a lesson, He might actually grant our wishes and then we will be really miserable and sorry.
The Gospel tells us that our heavenly “Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). And if what we ask is really good and beneficial for us, He surely will answer our prayers and grant our wishes at the right time, place, and point in life. The fact is that He and only He knows what is truly good for us and what we need. Therefore, it is so important to ask for His loving and divine will to be revealed in our lives and not ours. For this reason, in the Lord’s Prayer, we ask for his will to be done on earth and in our lives before we ask for our daily bread. Because as essential as physical food is for our survival and well-being, it is far more crucial for us to seek and ask for his divine will to be revealed in our lives. With the Lord leading and guiding us, we know that we will never stumble and lose our way toward the bright and blessed life that he prepared for us.