Sometimes in passages there are little side lessons. They’re not the main point, so in sermons I usually don’t get the chance to mention them. Sometimes I even write them out, but in the end they don’t really fit, so they usually get cut. In the gospels, they often have to do with prayer. We can sometimes learn something about prayer from the way people approach Jesus and how he responds to them.
In the feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6:30-44), which we considered recently, the disciples came to Jesus with an ordinary request: “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat” (6:35-36). This was a prayer, and there’s a little lesson here.
The disciples observed a problem, and they thought they knew the solution, so they presented the problem to Jesus, along with their preferred solution. But Jesus had a much better idea: he fed them all.
We often do the same thing. We present a problem to God in prayer, and we tell him what we think he should do about it. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this. If we think we know what is good, we can ask for it. But we should also recognize that our judgment of what is good is not perfect. In fact, it might not even be good at all. We should pray that God will answer with what he knows to be good. That’s what, “Thy will be done,” means.
Prayer is not about bending God’s will to ours. Sometimes that’s how we pray. We try to convince God to do what we want. It’s really more about conforming our will to his. Reading the Bible helps us pray rightly, because we learn the will of God in the Holy Scriptures. We learn what good things we should ask for. Then we see God’s gracious hand as he gives us the things he knows to be good. And we rejoice that we have a gracious Father “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).
May the peace of Christ be with you,