March 27, 2020
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
Today’s Lenten reflection is on a practice called the prayer of indifference. It was given that name by St. Ignatius of Loyola but has been modeled many times in scripture. The most well known example is Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, where he prays, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” You see, the prayer of indifference isn’t a generalized apathy or disinterest. Instead, it’s a prayer to become indifferent to everything except the will of God. Such is the model of Jesus’s prayer. He starts from a place of preference, as we all do. Yet immediately he pivots away from his preference, and instead asks for the father’s will to be done.
We can see the same thing in these verses from Lamentations. Twice the author says that it is good to wait for the Lord. In the first example, he says that the Lord is his portion. In other words, he is looking for provision or looking for what he is due. There’s no doubt that he has a felt need. Yet, he pivots from his desire or plan and instead chooses to wait for God’s response. In the second example, he is looking for rescue—a way to climb out of his desperation and despair. The foundation of that rescue is waiting quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
I won’t pretend that this is easy. When faced with a choice, opportunity, or need, our initial impulse is either to go with our gut, or to analyze and make a rational decision. But the concept of indifference describes a third way—or perhaps more accurately, a foundation upon which either our instinct or ration can build. You see, a prayer of indifference assumes that God is already present and already working. He is planning to provide. He is planning to rescue. We aren’t simply trying to numb out or disengage. We are trying to decrease ourselves (like last week’s reflection) so that God, who is already present, can make his way and will known. Once that way is known, we can bring all of our resources to bear in pursuing that path.
When were you last faced with a complex decision? Did you stop and try to see God’s will in the midst of all the variables? Did you make a snap decision on instinct? Did you create a complex flowchart and list of pro’s and con’s? Today, when given an important choice or faced with a pressing need, try stopping to pray, “Not my will, but yours be done.” And then listen. Listen to silence your own desires, and listen to hear God’s desires grow louder.