Another essential element in prayer is Submission. All true prayer must be offered in full submission to God. After we have made our requests known to Him, our language should be, "Thy will be done." I would a thousand times rather that God's will should be done than my own. I cannot see into the future as God can; therefore, it is a good deal better to let Him choose for me than to choose for myself. I know His mind about spiritual things. His will is that I should be sanctified; so I can with confidence pray to God for that, and expect an answer to my prayers. But when it comes to temporal matters, it is different; what I ask for may not be God's purpose concerning me.
As one has well put it: "Depend upon it, prayer does not mean that I am to bring God down to my thoughts and my purposes, and bend His government according to my foolish, silly, and sometimes sinful notions. Prayer means that I am to be raised up into feeling, into union and design with Him; that I am to enter into His counsel, and carry out His purpose fully. I am afraid sometimes we think of prayer as altogether of an opposite character, as if thereby we persuaded or influenced our Father in heaven to dowhatever comes into our own minds, and whatever would accomplish our foolish, weak-sighted purposes. I am quite convinced of this, that God knows better what is best for me and for the world than I can possibly know; and even though it were in my power to say, 'My will be done,' I would rather say to Him, 'Thy will be done.'
It is reported of a woman, who, being sick, was asked whether she was willing to live or die, that she answered, "Which God pleases." "But," said one, "if God should refer it to you, which would you choose?" "Truly," replied she, "I would refer it to Him again." Thus that man obtains his will of God, whose will is subjected to God. >
Mr. Spurgeon remarks on this subject, "The believing man resorts to God at all times, that he may keep up his fellowship with the Divine mind. Prayer is not a soliloquy, but a dialogue; not an introspection, but a looking toward the hills, whence cometh our help. There is a relief in unburdening the mind to a sympathetic friend, and faith feels this abundantly; but there is more than this in prayer. When an obedient activity has gone to the full length of its line, and yet the needful thing is not reached, then the hand of God is trusted in to go beyond us, just as before it was relied upon to go with us. Faith has no desire to have its own will, when that will is not in accordance with the mind of God; for such a desire would at bottom be the impulse of an unbelief which did not rely upon God's judgment as our best guide. Faith knows that God's will is the highest good, and that anything which is beneficial to us will be granted to our petitions."
History informs us that the Tusculani, a people of Italy, having offended the Romans, whose power was infinitely superior to theirs, Camillus, at the head of a considerable army, was on his march to subdue them. Conscious of their inability to cope with such an enemy, they took the following method to appease him: They declined all thoughts of resistance, set open their gates, and every man applied himself to his proper business, resolving to submit where they knew it was in vain to contend. Camillus, entering their city, was struck with the wisdom and candor of their conduct, and addressed himself to them in these words: "You only, of all people, have found out the true method of abating the Boman fury; and your submission has proved your best defense. Upon these terms, we can rio more find in our heart to injure you than upon other terms you could have found power to oppose us." The chief magistrate replied: "We have so sincerely repented of our former folly, that in confidence of that satisfaction to a generous enemy, we are not afraid to acknowledge our fault."
In view of the difficulty of bringing our hearts to this complete submission to the Divine will, we may well adopt Fenelon's prayer: "O God, take my heart, for I cannot give it; and when Thou hast it, keep it; for I cannot keep it for Thee; and save me in spite of myself."
Some of the best men the world has ever seen have made great mistakes on this point. Moses could pray for Israel, and could prevail with God; but God did not answer his petition for himself. He asked that God would take him over Jordan, that he might see Lebanon; and after the forty years' wandering in the wilderness, he desired to go into the Promised Land; but the Lord did not grant his desire. Was that a sign that God did not love him? By no means. He was a man greatly beloved of God, like Daniel; and yet God did not answer this prayer of his. Your child says, "I want this or that," but you do not grant the request, because you know that it will be the ruin of the child to give him everything he wants. Moses wished to enter the Promised Land; but the Lord had something else in store for him. As some one has said, God kissed away his soul, and took him home to Himself. "God buried him"-the greatest honor ever paid to mortal man.
Fifteen hundred years afterward God answered the prayer of Moses; He allowed him to go into the Promised Land, and to get a glimpse of the coming glory. On the Mount of Transfiguration, with Elijah, the great prophet, and with Peter, James, and John, he heard the voice come from the throne of God, "This is My beloved Son; hear ye Him." That was better than to have gone over Jordan, as Joshua did, and to sojourn for thirty years in the land of Canaan. So when our prayers for earthly things are not answered, let us submit to the will of God and know that it is all right.
When one inquired of a deaf and dumb boy why he thought he was born deaf and dumb, taking the chalk he wrote upon the board, "Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight."
John Brown, of Haddington, once said. "No doubt I have met with trials like others; but yet so kind has God been to me, that I think if He were to give me as many years as I have lived in the world, I would not desire one single circumstance in my lot changed, except that I wish there had been less sin. It might be written on my coffin, 'Here lies one of the cares of Providence, who early lost both father and mother, and yet never wanted for the care of either.'"
Elijah was mighty in prayer; he brought fire down from heaven on his sacrifice, and his petitions brought rain on the thirsty land. He stood fearlessly before King Ahab in the power of prayer. Yet we find him sitting under a juniper-tree like a coward, asking God that He would let him die. The Lord loved him too well for that; He was going to take him up to heaven in a chariot of fire. So we must not allow the devil to take advantage of us, and make us believe that God does not love us because He does not grant all our petitions in the time and way we would have Him do.
As Moses takes up more room in the Old Testament than any other character, so it is with Paul in the New Testament, except, perhaps, the Lord Himself. Yet Paul did not know how to pray for himself. He besought the Lord to take away "the thorn in the flesh." His request was not granted; but the Lord bestowed upon him a greater blessing. He gave him more grace. It may be we have some trial—some thorn in the flesh. If it is not God's will to take it away, let us ask Him to give us more grace, in order to bear it. We find that Paul gloried in his reverses and his infirmities, because all the more the power of God rested upon him. It may be there are some of us who feel as if everything is against us. May God give us grace to take Paul's platform and say: "All things work together for good to them that love God." So when we pray to God we must be submissive, and say, "Thy will be done."
In the Gospel of John we read: "If ye" (that "if" is a mountain to begin with), "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." The latter part is often quoted, but not the first. Why, there is very little abiding in Christ now-a-days! You go and visit Him once in a while; but that is all. If Christ is in my heart, of course I will not ask anything that is against His will. And how many of us have God's Word abiding in us? We must have a warrant for our prayers. If we have some great desire, we must search the Scriptures to find if it be right to ask it. There ar6 many things we want that are not good for us; and many other things we desire to avoid are really our best blessings. A friend of mine was shaving one morning, and his little boy, not four years old, asked him for his razor, and said he wanted to whittle with it . When he found he could not get it, he began to cry as if his heart would break. I am afraid that there are a great many of us who are praying for razors. John Bunyan blessed God for that Bedford jail more than for anything else that happened to him in this life. We never pray for affliction; and yet it is often the best thing we could ask.
Dyer says: "Afflictions are blessings to us when we can bless God for afflictions. Suffering has kept many from sinning. God had one Son without sin; but He never had any without sorrow. Fiery trials make golden Christians; sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotions."
Eutherford beautifully writes, in reference to the value of sanctified trial, and the wisdom of submitting in it to God's will: "Oh, what owe I to the file, to the hammer, to the furnace of my Lord Jesus, who hath now let me see how good the wheat of Christ is that goeth through His mill and His oven, to be made bread for His own table! Grace tried is better than grace; and it is more than grace; it is glory in its infancy. I now see that Godliness is more than the outside, and this world's passments and their bushings. Who knoweth the truth of grace without a trial? Oh, how little getteth Christ of us, but that which He winneth (to speak so) with much toil and pains! And how soon would faith freeze without a cross! How many dumb crosses have been laid upon my back, that had never a tongue to speak the sweetness of Christ, as this hath! When Christ blesseth His own crosses with a tongue, they breathe out Christ's love, wisdom, kindness, and care for us. Why should I start at the plough of my Lord, that maketh deep furrows on my soul? I know that He is no idle husbandman; He purposeth a crop. Oh that this white, withered lea-ground were made fertile to bear a crop for Him, by whom it is so painfully drest, and that this fallow ground were broken up! Why was I (a fool!) grieved that He put His garland and His rose upon my head—the glory and honor of His faithful witnesses? I desire now to make no more pleas with Christ . Verily He hath not put me to a loss by what I suffer; He oweth me nothing; for in my bonds how sweet and comfortable have the thoughts of Him been to me, wherein I find a sufficient recompense of reward! How blind are my adversaries who sent me to a banqueting house, to a house of wine, to the lovely feasts of my lovely Lord Jesus, and not to a prison, or place of exile!"
We may close our remarks on this subject by a reference to the words of the Prophet Jeremiah, in Lamentations, where he says: "The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence; because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope. He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him; he is filled full with reproach. For the Lord will not cast off forever; but though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He doth not afflict willingly, nor
grieve the children of men Who is he that
saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good? Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens."
"Hear me, my God, and if my lip hath dared
To murmur 'neath Thy Hand, oh, teach me now To feel each inmost thought before Thee bared,
And this rebellious will in faith to bow. Though I wept wildly o'er the ruined shrine,
Where earthly idols held Thy place alone, Now purify and make this temple Thine,
And teach me, Lord, to say,'Thy will be done!"
"What can I bring to offer that is mine?
A youth of sorrow, and a life of sin. What can I lay upon Thy hallowed shrine,
One hope of pardon for the past to win?
While thus a suppliant at Thy feet I bow,
Still dare I lift to Thee my tearful eyes,
I plead the promise of Thy word, that Thou
A broken, contrite heart will not despise.
"What shall I bring? A bruised spirit, Lord,
Worn with the contest, pining now for rest, And yearning for Thy peace, as some poor bird,
'Mid the wild tempest, seeks its mother's breast, My sacrifice, the Lamb who died for me;
I plead the merits of Thy sinless Son; I bring Thy promises; I trust in Thee;
In love Thou smitest; Lord,' Thy will be done!'"