Bishop Robert Barron was discussing prayer petitions. He asked the interviewer, a father of small children, how many of the requests he received from those children were wise or good for them?
“Maybe five percent,” the young father guessed.
Just the other day a friend who also has young children told me a new story in his ongoing saga. He had heated up ravioli in the microwave for the child’s supper. Dad placed the bowl on the kitchen counter and said, “Don’t touch that yet. It’s hot. Let me stir it up first.” Dad turned to get a spoon.
The young boy didn’t see any need to wait. While Dad wasn’t looking, he reached up to grab the bowl and carry it to his seat at the table. Dad turned back, spoon in hand, and saw the child was carrying the bowl away.
“Don’t!” he said, calmly. Then, a bit more strongly, “Put it back!”
The boy kept going toward the table, but now the hot bowl was starting to make its own argument known to the boy’s tiny fingers. The next moment the sound of cries of pain mixed with the sound of the dropped bowl hitting the floor.
Dad pointed out the obvious. “I told you not to touch it yet.” He’s not certain if tears make children’s hearing clearer or more muffled. At least the floor had cooled down the hot pasta so Dad could wipe it all up safely.
After hearing Bishop Barron talk about God’s children probably only managing to ask for the right thing five percent of the time, I reflected that our Heavenly Father must think the same is also true when it comes to us listening to what He has to say to us.
Consider the opening verses of Hebrews. The children of Israel were frightened by the sight and sound of God’s voice from the burning mountain. They insisted that God only speak to them with intermediaries like Moses. So God sent prophets again and again to tell the people what was on His heart. These prophets were ignored most of the time.
So God sent His Son, to speak quietly and directly with us.
But our listening score has never improved much. If we can only manage to pay attention five percent of the time when Father speaks, is it any wonder that we can only manage to say our prayers wisely at the same low rate?
No wonder waiting through Advent seems longer every year.