A disciple came to a teacher and complained that though he spent hours in devotion and prayer, there was never any response. ‘When my daughter was ill I prayed the whole night that she would recover well, and, as a matter of fact, she did recover. How do I know that she would not have recovered anyway?’
This disciple was a minor official in the local administration and had a good knowledge of all the by-laws and regulations. The teacher made no reply to his question but said: ‘I want your advice on some things here, to do with this little temple. The fact is that there is supposed to be a right of way, across one corner of the temple garden here, and of course I have no objection to people using it. But when whole parties of them come, drunk and singing bawdy songs in the middle of the night, I think it is and unreasonable use of the right of way. But I am not sure if I can legally put up a gate which can be closed at night’.
The disciple opened his mouth to make a reply, but before he could say anything, the teacher went on: ‘And then, there’s another thing. I’m thinking of repairing one of the little sheds in the garden, but I also have an idea that it would be a good thing to enlarge it. If I spend the money repairing it now, but then have to pull down part of it to enlarge it, that will be a waste of money. On the other hand, it is leaking. What would you advise?’
Again the disciple tried to speak, but the teacher swept on: ‘And furthermore, I think something ought to be said about the rubbish which is never properly tidied up round here. Is there any formal obligation on the householders to keep the road clear of rubbish’. The disciple again tried to intervene but was over-ruled by the teacher: ‘Furthermore, I think you ought to know…….’
Here the disciple broke in and said strongly: ‘Master, you must let me answer instead of just putting this stream of questions one after another. You must give me a chance to reply.’
The teacher instantly stopped his flow of words, and there was a silence. Then he said: ‘You are praying and praying for what you want, but you never give any opening for a response. God will speak to you when you stop shouting at him.’
© 1999 Trevor Leggett