In securing an answer to our prayers, we must take care that we cooperate with the Lord. Some people ask God to do for them what they could and should be doing for themselves. One time, for example, a young boy heard his father offer a fervent prayer for the poor and needy at their dinner table. When the prayers were over and all began to eat, the young boy asked, "Wouldn't it be simpler, dad, if we all just shared with those who have less?" Of course it would! But it is much easier to pray for someone than it is to sacrifice and to help him ourselves. We are not content to offer up to God what we cannot do ourselves, but often ask that he assume our responsibilities as well.
Most parents, for instance, pray that their children will mature into responsible and mature adulthood. Very few, however, take care to provide homes that reflect that maturity and responsibility. Somehow, they feel that that it will just happen without their effort and constant vigilance. People who are lonely often behave in the same way; it never occurs to them to stop wanting friends and instead become a friend to others. To the complaint "no one ever calls me," I always answer, "then why don't you call instead?"
We must try to answer our own prayers, and then leave what we cannot do to God. To do otherwise is to use prayer as a subtle method of avoiding our own responsibilities. We cannot pretend to care about something through prayer without first having tried ourselves to do what needs to be done. St. Paul made this point when he wrote, "Do not deceive your selves; no one makes a fool of God. A person will reap exactly what he plants." (Gal. 6:7).