We ask all kinds of questions daily. Questions form the basis of conversations and the building of relationships. So, do we ever ask questions in prayer?
Asking the Right Questions
To get the information we need, we must ask the right questions. Typically, we start with a general question and then go deeper with more specific ones as we come to understand. In today’s Gospel, that is what the rich young man does. He asks Jesus, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” Matthew 19:16.
His question tells us something about him. Clearly, he is an educated young man. The young man understands that eternal life is an important goal, a desire deep within his heart. He understands that to attain it, he must live a good life. He must have heard Jesus preach or witnessed one of his miracles. It is evident that he believes Jesus is wise as he addresses Him as Teacher. He has an important question, and he approaches the One he believes has the answer.
Answering a Question with a Question
Jesus, being the Greatest Teacher of all time, often used skillful questioning when conversing with people. In this instance, he answers the young man’s question with a question: “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” Mt 19: 17. He asks the rich young man to reflect. Why approach Jesus with this question? To ask about the good, means to know the source of goodness. The young man is asking about the semantics of attaining eternity, but Jesus points him to relationship…relationship with God the Father. He affirms what perhaps the young man knew all along; obedience to the commandments is part of the non-negotiable criteria for living a good life.
I imagine the rich young man’s heart stirred a little at this response. He may have thought to himself: “I think I am following the commandments, but how can I be sure?” So, he inquires which commandments he should be following. After hearing Jesus sum them up, I imagine a great sense of relief floods him. Now he may even be feeling somewhat elated as he lets Jesus know that he has followed all of those! Dare he go even deeper?
“All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” (Mt 19: 20). The rich young man is sincere, and due to his personal encounter with Christ, his heart is moved. He transitions from asking general questions to a deeper reflection. His question is a brave one. In fact, it is quite admirable. He must have sensed that though he is on the path, there is something missing.
Discovering what is lacking or missing in our spiritual lives is an ongoing quest because with each passing day, Jesus invites us to go deeper. To go deeper with Christ requires us to be both brave and vulnerable. Do we ever ask Jesus what we are missing or lacking? Are we ever afraid that he will ask us for something we are not prepared to do or give?
Resolve today to ask some of these courageous questions in prayer. Then pause and just listen. What might he respond? Pray for the grace to keep your spiritual eyes always open. The answer may not come immediately during prayer time but rather in the concrete experiences throughout the day. Listen to Christ in your heart as you examine your day in a few minutes of prayer each night. The answers to those courageous questions will surely be revealed to you, and they will always deepen your relationship with the Greatest Teacher and Lover of your soul!