Day 34: "Answers to prayers unprayed."

“. . . Seeing my children celebrate the resurrection with such abandon, I think I caught a glimpse of at least some of the delight, a little of the joy, the awe, the wonder that filled Jesus’ earliest friends and followers when they saw him alive again.” 

—From Ch. 34 ("Good Morning!"), Jesus Journey

As my grandfather liked to say, my last name, Pasquariello, can be translated “little Easter."  The Sheppard children, on the morning they learned of Christ’s resurrection, were “little Easters” too: children of Easter. And in being children of Easter, they are children of Christianity, children of Jesus—which is a very good thing to be. 

Jesus said, “unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom” (Matt 18:2-5, MSG). But how do we become like children—when we are adults with the layers of experience, and opinion, and judgment we have grown over the years?

Before any human knew of the resurrection, Mary, Mary, and Salome prepared and set out in the dark, arriving at “the tomb, just at sunrise.”  Both literally and figuratively, the women experienced the darkness before the dawn—and they experienced it without any expectation—without even an ability to imagine they would find anything other than a stone they wouldn’t know how to move.

There have been times when I couldn’t even imagine what to pray, times when I didn’t know I needed to pray, times when my visibility was far too limited to imagine what Jesus could have in store. I didn’t know I needed to pray when I set out to travel around Europe in college and I couldn’t imagine I couldn’t make it on my $10/day planned budget—but thankfully God answered the prayer I never prayed—and my father quietly gave me some extra money that made the trip possible. My visibility was far too limited when my birth mother struggled with mental illness and I was in foster care and kinship care; I could never have imagined that I would be in a loving, wonderful adoptive family; that there would be much better treatment for her illness; and that we would continue to have a strong relationship. I couldn’t even imagine to pray for all of those things to happen—and I doubt many in my families could either—yet God answered our unprayed prayers. 

When the women in the resurrection accounts set out before dawn, I think they also couldn’t imagine to pray for something better, something different. Perhaps all they could offer were the words Jesus had taught them in the Lord’s prayer: “thy will be done.” In those moments when we cannot understand, when we cannot imagine a way out, when we don’t even know what to pray for, what more can we pray? In our hours of darkness, what more can we do than pray into the darkness and let it be?

When we pray “thy will be done,” when we really “let it be,”—even, and perhaps particularly, when our vision is so limited that our prayer is only a resigned lack of action, and not even a conscious prayer—God’s response to the prayer can be far more wonderful than we could ever imagine.

“Then when they looked up, they saw that (the stone) had been rolled away.” (Mark 16:4)

In those moments, when God rolls away the stone, when Jesus stands before us resurrected and says “Good morning,” how can we help but return to our innocence—to a state without expectation or prejudice?  How can we feel anything but awe?

And in such moments, God might answer another prayer that just maybe we also didn’t think to pray—he can make us all "children of Easter" once again. 

Today's guest post is by J. Justin Pasquariello (aka "J. Justin" in the acknowledgements): Justin is often in awe of his wife Vanessa Fazio-Pasquariello and their joyful son who just celebrated his second birthday (and at whose birth, they were blessed to have Bronwyn Sheppard as their birth doula). They are all members of Sacred Heart Catholic Parish in East Boston, and are also part of the Ekklesia house church. Justin and Vanessa are passionate "Eastie" residents—and Justin was thrilled to recently become the Executive Director of the East Boston Social Centers: a 99-year old settlement house organization serving people from age 2 months through old age across the diversity of his local community. Justin founded and serves on the board of Silver Lining Mentoring, and is seeking to prove the world can be a more joyful place—beginning in Eastie.

Photo credits: "dancing girl"—Chelsea Hudson / "garden path" & "sunrise"—Maria Khoroshilova 

A graduation weekend sale from the publisher of  Jesus Journey — $1.99 for the ebook May 20-22!

A graduation weekend sale from the publisher of Jesus Journey$1.99 for the ebook May 20-22!