Right and wrong
(Theodore Cuyler, "Wayside Springs
from the Fountain of Life" 1883)
The richest blessing that prayer can bring--is to bring us into closer communion and agreement with the all-holy and the all-loving God. The very first essential to all right prayer--is unconditional submissiveness to God's will.
"Find your happiness in God--and He will give you the askings of your heart." This is the exact rendering of Psalm 37:4, and it throws a flood of light upon the important question of--what is right prayer--and what is wrong prayer. A great deal of prayer is born of selfishness, and takes on the airs of dictating to our Heavenly Father. It is not humble supplication, born of a devout, submissive spirit; but it amounts to a demand. God's promises to His children are not unconditional; and we may not presume to dictate to the God of wisdom and of love.
What is laid down distinctly, as the indispensable quality of right asking in the above quoted verse? It is a right feeling towards God. When a soul comes into such an entire submissiveness towards God that it can honestly say, "Nevertheless, not as I will--but as You will;" when that soul delights in seeing God reign, and in seeing His glory advanced--then its desires will be so purified from the dregs of selfishness, that they may be fearlessly poured out before God. In this frame of unselfish submissiveness, the soul may indeed come boldly to the throne of grace, and ask for grace suited to its every need. The desires of God--and the desires of a sincere Christly soul, will then agree. God loves to give to those--who love to be submissive to Him. They are as willing to accept His "no" as His "yes," for they are seeking not their own desires and glory--but His! As a kind father loves to grant the reasonable requests of a dutiful son, so does our Heavenly Father love to grant righteous and reasonable requests of His children!
A man stands in a row-boat out on a lake, and pulls upon a line attached to the shore. His pull does not move the solid ground one hair's breadth--but it does move his boat towards the land. In like manner, when I attach the line of my desire, fast to the everlasting throne, my faith does not expect to move the throne--but to draw me closer to it. When I get more and more into harmony with God--I receive all that my heart most desires. Finding my happiness in Christ--I am satisfied. Money, health, promotion, ease, and all kindred worldly cravings, are only lawful--when they are subordinated to God's higher desires for me.
The question now arises, What are right desires? As far as my ignorance has been enlightened by the Word, I would reply that every desire is a right one--which aims only to please God--and not SELF. Grace does not forbid desires--but it purifies and directs our desires.
Nay, the Bible exhorts us to "eagerly desire the greater gifts." 1 Corinthians 12:28. Wisdom from above, strength for the hour of need, faith, grace, love and kindred blessings, are in harmony with God's promises. These are the very things which God has told us to covet!
Our Heavenly Father does not hand the reins over to us--when our selfishness grasps after them. Nor does He allow our ignorance to be the judge of what is best for us. He often surprises us by sending something better than what we petitioned for. But infinitely the best thing which He can give us--is His favor and grace. If we find our supreme happiness in these--oh, how our souls are purified from all base, selfish, wayward, and wicked desires! And with what banqueting on His love, and with what foretastes of heaven--are our best askings answered!