Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

God is Big Enough for Small Prayers

God is Big Enough for
Small Prayers

Last week, as I was praying, I asked God to kill a tree.  I know, it sounds ridiculous, but it led me into an interesting reflection.  Let me explain.
I’m having a dispute with my homeowners’ association board.  We own a small townhouse in a nice little neighborhood.  Between the houses is a walking path and there is one flat patch of grass which held a “tot lot” play area when we moved in.  A couple of years ago the tot lot was torn down and grass was planted.  It’s the only place in our entire neighborhood, outside of the street, where kids can run around, kick a soccer ball, play catch, etc. 
Well, a couple of months ago a tree was planted right in the middle of it.  I attended the next association board meeting, thinking the members probably hadn’t thought of the fact that the tree, once it is full grown, will take away the one spot the kids have to play.  To my surprise, they did realize that; in fact, that is part of the purpose.  They would rather parents drive their kids to a park than have them playing in the neighborhood.
I was furious.  I got their official response to my concern in the form of an email when I was at work.  This turned out to be a good thing because, working at a Catholic school, I could visit the tabernacle at lunch and ask Jesus to calm my anger and the uncharitable thoughts that were multiplying in my head.
Well, I resolved that I wasn’t going to drop the issue with a simple email response, especially since one of my sons has special needs and requires a place to run around, if only for a few minutes, throughout the day.  Not to mention that baseball is his favorite sport, and that grassy patch is the one place in our neighborhood where I can roll him grounders and play catch without dodging cars.
As I was praying, I asked God to grant me patience and charity even as I fought the board on this issue.  Then I thought, you know, it would be great if the stupid thing just died and I didn’t have to get into a conflict with them in the first place.  So, I prayed for God to kill the tree.
I remembered the fig tree in the Gospel that Jesus withered.  Now I know that was used to make an important spiritual point and my request was rather trivial, but I figured, well, at least it’s not like it would be the first time.  I felt very uncomfortable making such a request with so much suffering in the world.  People are dying, sinners are in need of repentance, Christians are being persecuted…and this tree is ruining our play space.
But as I reflected, it occurred to me that God is not too small for small prayers.  He is intimately involved in every aspect of our lives.  There are far more important issues in my own life, let alone the entire world, but this conflict over the tree is one small event in my life.  Is it silly to include God?  Of course not.
Of course it’s important to keep perspective when it comes to “small requests.”  I don’t consider this issue of any importance compared to the real needs of my family or the human family.  My prayer for patience and charity was by far the more important request.  And I recognize that I may be wrong, and there may be a greater good to having the tree where it is.  And perhaps I may benefit from doing the work of getting the tree removed, and having to deal patiently and kindly with people that are frustrating me.  If the tree is still alive when next month’s board meeting rolls around, I won’t blame God for not answering my prayer.  He knows what He’s doing.  But, if He sees fit that the problem is solved “naturally” before then, great.  Why wouldn’t I ask?  This may be a small thing, but if it’s big enough to dedicate some time and effort to, why would I do it without God?
 My point is, God is big enough to care about world events, life-and-death struggles, and also the minute details of our lives.  He wants to be present in every aspect of our lives.  Yes, we must keep our “small” problems in perspective, but we should invite Him into them.  There is no aspect of our lives, no matter how small it may seem, in which God does not belong.