by Ben Helmer, Vicar, St. James’, Eureka Springs
While reading a novel a few years ago, I noticed the author would often have the main character pray “the prayer that never fails.” It was not clearly stated what the prayer was. This was puzzling. Finally, deep into the book, it was revealed. The prayer that never fails is: “Thy will be done.” That is indeed a great way to pray!
Of course there is nothing wrong with specific prayers. The Bible tells us not to “be anxious about anything, but in everything let our requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). We are invited to “cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for us” (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus himself prayed to God for a specific thing on more than one occasion. For example, in the garden he prayed, “Father if it is possible, let this cup [death on the cross] pass away from me” (Matt. 26:39a). However, the Son of God added to his sinless prayer the perfect request, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39b). We should follow his example and pray this way ourselves. Why should we add, “Thy will be done” to our prayers.
First, when we make our specific prayer we do so from our finite human perspective, but God’s mind is infinite and he sees things we cannot. Second, God’s will is for the good of all who love him (Rom. 8:28). He is not mean. His will is always best for us even when we do not understand. Third, when we pray this way we are reminded that God always answers our prayers. He just does not always answer the way we think he should! Finally, it reminds us not to pray without considering the plans and wishes of the Lord.
So pray for every detail, but don’t forget that your Father in heaven always knows best. Whether you say the words or not, be sure your attitude is such that you seek His purpose in yours prayers, then, in your darkest moments, you can pray a perfect prayer that never fails.