Not What I Will
“And He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will’” (Mark 14:36).
WHEN WE PRAY FOR GOD’S WILL TO BE DONE RATHER THAN OUR OWN, WE SHOULD DO THAT WITH A POSITIVE ATTITUDE TOWARD HIS WISDOM AND LOVE. “God is perfect love and perfect wisdom,” wrote William Temple. “We do not pray in order to change his will, but to bring our own wills into harmony with his.” Because the benevolence of God is perfect, subordinating our will to His is more a privilege than a duty. Rather than come to God with a demanding spirit, we should pray with a buoyant trust, grateful that we can simply put ourselves in His hands. It can be a delight to let Him decide what is best.
Too often we see prayer as the unpleasant, and usually unsuccessful, begging of God to do some specific thing that we want done. But as Richard Trench once wrote, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of his highest willingness.” We are taught to come to God confidently with our requests, and prayer that doesn’t do that is not really honest prayer. But when we pray, it is helpful to pray with what might be called a “listening” attitude. As we make our supplications to God, we are to be open to the possibility that He may have a better plan, a higher purpose. If we pray as we ought, seeking to lay hold of God’s “highest willingness,” we will come away refreshed, confident that we’ve spoken honestly with Him about our requests, but confident also that if He knows a better path for us to follow, then we’ve made some progress in discerning what that path might be.
Praying for God’s will to be done can be an agonizing experience, without question. It was so for our Lord in Gethsemane. And yet an “agonizing” experience is not necessarily a “negative” one. To let God choose which path we are to follow is, at least for us, to GROW in our spirits. It is to be made more wise. “To pray is to expose the shores of the mind to the incoming tide of God” (Ralph Washington Sockman). Thus when we pray, we must seek more than some particular blessing from God; we must seek HIM and whatever His WILL may be. True prayer is not simply about what we want; it’s about learning to want what we SHOULD want.