I just read a beautiful description of a petition to God in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat, Pray, Love. It’s so good that if I lived in a world without copyrights, I’d type the whole chapter here to make sure I can come back to it.
The author is having a discussion with a friend about something she really wants — not an object but a way for things to work out. She says to her friend, “I wish I could write a petition to God, asking for this thing to end.” (p. 32)
Her friend responds, “So why don’t you?”
Good question! When we talk to God, are we being presumptuous to make specific requests for things? I tend to ask every morning, “Please watch over my husband, my daughter, my son, my ….” I don’t picture God stopping everything to meet my needs. I picture a warm ear hearing my concern. Nor do I define what “watching over” means. I know that I see so little of the whole picture that I can’t begin to define what is and will be best for people, or, even more challenging, what will be best for people as a whole across time and space, or even more challenging, what will be best for all of earth or all of the universe. I always picture God having a much bigger mind than I do – able to keep up with infinite stories in scopes ranging from subatomic particles to galaxies — and probably beyond in both directions, things smaller and bigger than humans can even imagine.
Liz’s friend responds, “Where did you get the idea you aren’t allowed to petition the universe with prayer? You are part of the universe, Liz. You’re a constituent — you have every entitlement to participate in the actions of the universe, and to let your feelings be know. So put your opinion out there. Make your case. Believe me– it will at least be taken into consideration.”
I love the letter she writes to God. I love the way her friend suggests she invite others to sign the letter, and how she asks them aloud: her parents, her friends, Martin Luther King Jr., Saint Francis of Assisi, Gandhi, Bono, grandmothers dead and alive, her 4th grade teacher… on and on. The friend keeps assuring her, “Yeah, she just signed it.” Then a little later, “He signed it.”
What an idea! What a way to remember that our wishes and problems are part of the whole universe, not something separate and special. What a way for two people to give and receive comfort! What a way to stop holding in frustrated desire and all the worry that goes with it!