Do you ever feel like God has a different answer to your prayer than what you expected? Perhaps you prayed for a specific intention that meant a lot to you. But when you finally received clarity from God, it wasn’t quite how you imagined.
This happened to me many years ago. I was sixteen years old and planning to attend World Youth Day in Paris, France with my youth group. I remember truly believing in the power of prayer at that age. I took to heart the Scripture reading from the Gospel of Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (New American Bible).
I had a big prayer request for God to grant me on this pilgrimage. I felt certain that if I asked, God would grant me what I desired. But unbeknownst to me, the answer was not what I envisioned.
A heart-filled request
My group arrived in Paris on August 17, 1997. As a teenager, my first reaction was literally – “Paris is booming with babes!” At the airport, the security guards were all young French men in uniforms lining the terminal. A few came over to talk to our group, which made my heart flutter. If you’re thinking my prayer request had to do with finding a hot European boyfriend, I’m sorry to disappoint you.
Rather, my heart was more intent on asking God’s healing touch upon my eyes.
I was born with a hereditary condition called Nystagmus, which causes the eye muscles to move involuntarily. My eyes move up and down, which causes blurred vision. Because it is the muscle, not the eye ball, the muscles weaken and quiver more as I strain my eyes throughout the day. Such movement greatly reduces vision acuity.
In my case, I am considered legally blind without corrective lenses.
Although I had learned to adapt to my disability over the years, it was hard to endure negative reactions from others. I was often teased in school because of my eyes. And, sadly, part of me thought no one would ever want to marry me with this condition. So, I went on this pilgrimage begging for God to take this burden away from me.
Open my eyes, Lord
Our 9-day pilgrimage consisted of daily Mass, Catechetical lessons, prayer, and walking tours to churches and other locations throughout Paris. Every day before the Blessed Sacrament, I prayed the prayer “Open my eyes, Lord. Heal my eyes.” As each day came and went, my prayer seemed to go unanswered.
On day six, I began to wonder what God was waiting for. Did I ask for something I wasn’t worthy of receiving? Was I too small to bother God with such a request? Who was I to believe I deserved to be healed?
These feelings of self-pity haunted me for two days until I came to accept my condition for what it was.
I wrote in my travel journal how I was being challenged to trust in God and to look on the bright side of life. Bad things are always going to happen, but if we trust in God, everything will be okay in the end. Then came the answer to my prayer!
We were attending Mass at Sacré-Cœur Basilica. I had just received the Eucharist and was kneeling in my pew. The Communion song began to play. The cantor announced, “Please join us in singing Open My Eyes, Lord.” I closed my eyes and opened my mouth to start singing, but was struck still. A great peace rushed over me, and I felt embraced by a supernatural force. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed by the love of God.
When I finally opened my eyes, I realized they had been healed!
Seeing the truth
My vision disability remained intact. However, my spiritual eyes were opened wide. I looked all around at my brothers and sisters gathered in the church and saw for the first time in my life the beauty of our faith and the love God has for us all. It was as if my eyes were veiled from the truth that God is love and has a plan full of love for each and every one of His children. And for the first time in my life, I understood that He loves me – eye disability included – and that’s all that really matters.
St. Therese of Lisieux describes prayer as “a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (Catechism of the Catholic Church).
Even though the answer to my prayer request was different than what I expected, God, in His love for me, gave me something more than what I asked for. I recognize His Goodness to me and embrace both the trial of my vision condition and the joy of belonging to His Church.
Years later, I remember this experience as if it were yesterday. It stays with me as a message about how to pray. These days, I’m not so intent on asking a specific request of God. Rather, I find myself asking the Lover of my soul what He desires for me. The majority of my time in prayer is spent listening for His response. I’m interested in conforming my will to His because I remember the truth revealed to me years ago – His Will is full of love for me. This conversation with God helps me to see whatever trial and joy comes to me as part of His Divine Plan to expand my heart to love and be loved.
When you come before God with your specific intentions, open yourself to what God has in store for you. It may not be what you expect, but it will be full of love.
Melissa Ann Schmid is a parishioner at the Co-Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. She finds her inspiration in prayer, spending time with family and friends, traveling and hiking.