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If we receive from life what we’re asking for, which is always the case, maybe it isn’t so much that we’re unable to ask for the right and rescuing realities as it may be that we don’t know how to request what we really need. Most of us think that prayer is primarily asking for something: “Oh please do this for me,” or “Would you just do that?” or “Why won’t you intervene?” We think prayer is somehow connected to all these wishes centered, one way or another, around ourselves. But, what we’re attempting to reveal is the spirit itself inside of us that is first necessary in order to receive the request that we’ve asked for.
The New Testament parable of the Prodigal Son tells of a new order of request. This powerful parable is about a young man who, as the story unfolds, originally lived in a pretty good place. All that he needed was provided. But, like many of us, he saw greener pastures outside of his given life and so he leaves it and eventually squanders everything his father had given to him.
Then, one fateful morning, he awakens to find himself having slept in a pig sty and having only corn husks to eat. So he looks at himself and his surroundings and he says, “I’m an idiot. Why did I leave home?” And at that moment he turns around and he goes back home.
The story continues that his father sees him heading back home from this great distance and calls to his eldest son that his younger brother returns and that he’s to go and kill the fatted calf. With this, the older brother becomes enraged, saying: “I’ve been with you all these years. I’ve given you everything I have, and now this good-for-nothing comes home after squandering everything you gave him, and you’re giving him the feast! Why?!”
Now, the answer recorded in the New Testament that his father gives him is, in essence: “Because my son was dead, and now he has come back to life. He was lost and now he’s found.” But let me reveal to you the secret answer within this answer.
What the father of the prodigal son has really said is: “I’m doing this (preparing a welcoming feast) for him because he asked for it. By his actions your brother has requested my renewed love and loyalty. You’ve been with me all along, so there was never any question of your fidelity. But your brother, he was gone. He was a lost to me, and his wish — along with his action of turning around to come home — is a special request to be once again a part of this, my kingdom.”
The “lost” son asked for his New Life by seeing that he was wrong and then deciding to return to his home. Incidentally, he did not know what was going to happen to him. And I’ll tell you that it didn’t matter to him because here’s what was going through his mind as headed back home: “I’ve been a fool! All I possess is my own mistaken self.” And he knew it. Which brings us to the key point: the understanding of his true condition — and the subsequent action he took based on this knowledge — was a form of Higher Request.
Until you understand how to ask for what you really want, you will continue to ask in the ways that you think are appropriate. And you will continue to ask from a nature that doesn’t know the difference between what’s genuinely good for you and what’s not. This is a huge question for all of us, because presently, the way we’re constituted, our lives are nothing but a series of requests, whether they’re done in a “spiritual-religious” sense or whether it’s just out-and-out greed or ambition. We are always asking, and then not understanding, why it is for all the things we’ve asked for, our lives still seem to be this proverbial leaf in the wind.
As this (at first humiliating) new self-understanding grows in you, what happens is you naturally start asking life for something New. As slow as it may have been in coming, you’re beginning to get the picture. You’re now able to see, albeit “through a glass darkly,” what it really is that’s missing from your life. And your new request reflects this realization.