Prayers are often said for family and friends to recover from an illness, to have a safe journey or find happiness. We may pray for our own well-being when facing challenges, as well. But what if we really, really want God to help us to win a job promotion or the Lottery, or to intercede so our team wins the championships? This week's clergy discuss whether such prayers cross the line to selfishness and greed.
Msgr. James C. Vlaun, chief executive and president, Telecare Television:
'If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you." (John 15:7) For the past 18 years, on Saturday nights, before home games, I celebrate a simple but beautiful Mass for the New York Jets. My quandary for years: do we pray to win, to beat the other team? In fact, from the window of the room where I celebrate the Mass, the hotel of the opposing team is visible. I often wonder, are they praying to beat us at the same time? I hope not. I don't pray to win; at least publicly. We pray weekly to use our God-given gifts to the best of our abilities and that the Gospel become a deeper part of our lives. It seems that is where our success, our treasure lies. No matter what our vocation or profession, praying to use our gifts well seems appropriate. That is true success. To do that effectively we must forgive those who have hurt us, we must seek forgiveness, and pray for what we truly need. These notions are summed up well in the best prayer for success and wealth Jesus ever taught us: the Lord's Prayer. It's about remaining in him, and counting our blessings, discovering real success and wealth. So pray for success? Sure, let's do it. Please forgive our trespasses. May thy kingdom come. May thy will be done, and maybe, just maybe, could we be in the Super Bowl this year?
Sultan Abdulhameed, Muslim Reform Movement Organization on the Brookville Multifaith Campus:
The answer is yes, if we seek these objectives through lawful and moral means. In the Muslim tradition we consider Prophet Muhammad as our role model. In the book of Bukhari (which is one of the collections of his sayings) he is reported to have said: "To ask God for what you want is the essence of worship." This is because when we ask God, we express our faith in him, and in his power to help us. A large number of Prophet Muhammad's supplications are found in books of Hadith, which are documentary records of his life. While he did not seek wealth, he prayed for the success of his mission, which was to teach people about God. He prayed to be protected from poverty and from debt. He also prayed for good health. These examples show that we should also to ask God to help us in what we seek. God hears all of our prayers, so we should think deeply about what we seek from Him, and not take it lightly. A person of faith thinks about the purpose of his or her life and aligns with values that are consistent with accountability before God. Those who believe in God seek to serve him by helping his creation in everything they do. They center their lives on love, compassion, generosity and service. They work to steer their lives away from self-aggrandizement, greed and dishonesty.
The Rev. Garret Johnson, St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Greenport:
In the gospel of Luke the 11th chapter, as Jesus ends a personal prayer session, one of the disciples approaches him and asks him, "Lord, teach us to pray." Jesus responds, giving to us what we know as the Lord's Prayer. Jesus continues and encourages the disciples to pray, (verse 9) "ask and it shall be given you." Simple enough, "ask and it shall be given you." Wealth, success, why not? What is there that we shouldn't pray for? What is wealth? What is success? Could this be a case where we should be careful what we ask for? Thinking of wealth, in the gospel of Luke (12:27) Jesus invites us to "Consider the lilies, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these." Thinking of success, the goal being to inherit eternal life, in the gospel of Mark (10:21) Jesus advises the rich man to "go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." Not exactly our idea of wealth or success. While discussing this question with a local sage, we discovered that perhaps the answer to this question is hidden within the question itself. Perhaps it is through the gift of praying that we realize our wealth. Perhaps it is in the willingness of God to listen that we discover success. Be careful what you pray for.