“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:21–24).
IT TAKES REVERENCE, AS WELL AS TRUST, TO YIELD TO THE GREATER GOOD OF GOD’S WILL. Not only does His wisdom know what is best, but His love desires what is best. We can take it as a given that God will always do what is best in any set of circumstances. Unfortunately, the circumstances often involve decisions and requests on our part such that doing what is best requires God to chasten our demanding spirit, rather than give us blessings that He would otherwise be delighted to give.
There are two extremes in prayer. At one extreme, there is the person who sees God as an ill-tempered tyrant who begrudges every request. This person needs to be encouraged to think of God as a Father who is benevolently inclined toward His creatures (Matthew 7:11). But at the other extreme is the person who sees God as an indulgent deity who exists simply to grant our every wish. This person should be reminded to show reverence to God.
Traditionally, the prayer in Matthew 6:9–13 is referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer,” and it is certainly a prayer that reflects the Lord’s deepest desire with respect to His Father: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” There is, however, no prayer more characteristic of the Lord’s own heart than His anguished cry in Gethsemane: “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39,42). As God’s Son, He “learned obedience” (Hebrews 5:8).
Unlike the Lord, we not only fail to yield submissively to God’s will, but we often are so presumptuous as to ask for things that are in outright conflict with that will. We do not know how to pray as we ought. We need help even in knowing what to ask for. Here, then, is an opportunity for us to learn humility. We can defer to the Lord and pray for help in our praying. We can pray for Him to do whatever, in His wisdom, He sees best.
Not what we wish, but what we need,
Oh! let your grace supply,
The good unasked, in mercy grant;
The ill, though asked, deny.