Jesus Teaches us to Petition

May 12, 1996
Brother John Raymond

	For Jesus, to do the Father's will was the focus of all His
 energy. He had a "loving adherence of His human heart to the mystery
 of the will of the Father." (Catechism #2603) Jesus' will and the
 Father's will were one. Even though this was so, Jesus constantly
 offered up prayers of petition. We learn this from the miracle of
 the raising of Lazarus from the dead. (Cf. Jn. 11:41-42) Before
 actually raising Lazarus Jesus thanks His Father for having heard
 His prayer. This tells us that Jesus must have already petitioned
 His Father in prayer for this miracle. The fact that Jesus thanks
 His Father before the event "implies that the Father always hears
 His petitions." (#2604) Not only does His Father hear Him, Jesus
 next says that His Father "always" hears Him. The catechism tells us
 that implies "always" here that Jesus did, in fact, petition His
 Father constantly. (#2604)
	Jesus petitioning His Father might come as a surprise to us. But
 we should keep in mind that "Jesus, the Word Who has become flesh,
 shares by His human prayer in all that 'His brethren' experience."
	We may question that the Father always heard Jesus' petition when
 it seems He did not in the Garden of Olives. His petition there was,
 "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from me." (Lk. 22, 42)
 We normally presume Jesus was referring to His Passion when He spoke
 of "this cup." If He was, how can we say His petition was heard? St.
 Thomas Aquinas, the great Angelic Doctor of the Church, attempts to
 answer this. He begins with the fact that we know the human and
 divine wills in Jesus could never disagree. Further, His human will
 could never even waver in its agreement with the divine will. He
 tells us this is because such a hesitation would have compromised
 Jesus' perfect obedience that brought about our redemption. Having
 established this, St. Thomas then makes a distinction in that we can
 will something on three different levels. The will's desire
 according to the senses naturally tends against suffering and death.
 The will's desire according to the intellect necessarily seeks its
 own good and is inclined against suffering and death also. So Jesus,
 on these two levels of His will, could rightly say, "remove this
 cup." But on the level of His will choosing a means to a goal, where
 morality enters in, Jesus always chose His Father's will. Therefore,
 we have the second part of Jesus' petition, "Nevertheless not my
 will, but Yours be done."
	Jesus' prayer of petition has something to tell us when we
 petition. First, we should offer our petition with thanksgiving. Our
 Father always hears us. This does not mean that He always grants our
 petition. Unlike Jesus, our petition is not always in line with
 God's will or the way we perceive His will in a certain
 circumstance. But God will do something in response to a sincere
 petition. There is no such thing as a wasted prayer. We can be
 absolutely certain that God will do what is best. What God actually
 does with our petition we may know only in heaven. Still, in faith,
 we can always be thankful that our Father has listened and acted on
 our petition.
	Second, in offering thanks to His Father Jesus shows us that the
 "Giver is more precious than the gift" when we petition for
 something. (#2604) We can easily get caught up in what we have
 received and forget about the One Who has granted our petition. When
 Jesus cured the ten lepers only one came back to thank Him. (Lk. 17:
 11-19) We should be like that one. The other nine were caught up in
 the gift.
	Finally, in petitioning the Father it would be good to conclude
 with "Not my will but Yours be done." We should be willing, like
 Jesus, always to do the Father's will.