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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody

LXIII THE ANSWER TO PRAYER

Luke xxii.39-48.

(PASSION WEEK -- THURSDAY)

On Thursday morning of his last week Jesus sends two of his friends before him into Jerusalem to prepare the Passover meal, while he does not himself enter the city until the afternoon. There he meets his friends, and after the supper he takes the bread and wine and with entire naturalness asks them, as they eat and drink, to remember him. Then he talks with them and prays with them, and they go out again on the road toward Bethany; and coming to a little garden at the foot of the hill called the Mount of Olives he bids his companions wait while he goes, as his custom was, to pray.

We hear much discussion about prayer and its possibilities, -- what we can pray for and what God can do in return, and what is the true answer to prayer. But what a silence comes over all such questionings when one notices that this prayer of Jesus uttered thus {157} in this most solemn hour was not, in the sense of these discussions, answered by his God. It was the moment of the supreme agony of Christ. The falseness of friends, the blindness of his people, the malice of their leaders, -- all these things seem more than he can bear. |Let this cup pass from me,| he prays, and, behold, his prayer is not accepted, and what he asks is denied, and the cup is to be drunk. And yet in a far deeper sense his, prayer is answered. |Thy will be done,| he prays, -- not in spite of me, or over me, but through me. Make me, my Father, the instrument of thy will; and so praying he rises with absolute composure and kingly authority, and goes out with his prayer answered to do that will.

What should we pray for? Why, we should pray for what we most deeply want. There is no sincerity in praying for things which are fictitious or abstract or mere theological blessings. Open to God the realities of your heart and seek the blessings which you sincerely desire. But in all prayers desire most to know the will of God toward you, and to do it. Prayer is not offered to deflect God's will to yours, but to adjust your will to His. When a ship's captain is setting out on a {158} voyage he first of all adjusts his compasses, corrects their divergence, and counteracts the influences which draw the needle from the pole. Well, that is prayer. It is the adjustment of the compass of the soul, it is its restoration from deflection, it is the pointing of it to the will of God. And the soul which thus sails forth into the sea of life finds itself -- not indeed freed from all storms of the spirit, but at least sure of its direction through them all.

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