Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus praises the faith of the Canaanite woman who persisted in her prayer for her daughter.
St. Augustine offers a perspective on petitionary prayer. God wants us to ask persistently—not in order that he might be changed but that we might be changed. Through the initial refusal to give us what we want, God compels our hearts to expand in order to receive adequately what he wants to give.
In the very process of hungering and thirsting for certain goods, we make ourselves worthy vessels. It is not as though, in petitioning God, we are approaching a stubborn pasha or big city boss who we hope might be persuaded by our persistence. Rather, it is God who works a sort of spiritual alchemy in us by forcing us to wait.
In his treatment of the Lord’s Prayer, Thomas Aquinas tells us, very much in the spirit of Augustine, that the initial petition of the Our Father, “hallowed be thy name,” is not asking for something to change in God, for God’s name is always holy; rather, it is asking that God might work a change in us so that we hallow God above all things.