“We need to remember,” writes Tom S. Sampson (Cultivating the Presence: A Spiritual Guide for a Journey Toward the Presence of God), “that we are part of a larger fabric of life. Instead of praying for relief from an affliction, it may be more important to pray for strength to accept and overcome the trouble.”
But this is a hard lesson to learn. Like so many of us, St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), the Italian Catholic friar and preacher, struggled with the self-centeredness of his prayers and with the notion that God did not answer his petitions. Eventually, learning to pray as Jesus prayed, he grew in faith and insight and wrote this memorable poem.
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey;
I asked for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things;
I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise;
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of man,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God;
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy things;
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered,
I am among all men, most richly blessed.