Within God's sovereign plan (and never contrary to it), he interacts with his people in a way that includes our human choices and responsibility. So, for example, knowing full well from eternity past that he had planned to allow Israel to have a long line of bad kings so that we would all see the need for a perfect one, a dialog took place between God and the people in 1 Samuel 8:4-21. When they demanded a human king, he warned them about the consequences, but then let them have one when they foolishly insisted. He did so because of the greater good of exalting his Son, as I mentioned above, and teaching his people important spiritual lessons.
That's the kind of interaction Charles Spurgeon is talking about in the following prayer, which blessed me so much this morning in my time with the Lord. It's rather lengthy, but well worth a few minutes of your time. And at the end of it I will share a brief insight of my own that I think is one of the best I've ever received from the Lord.
But first, here's the Spurgeon prayer...
GOD of Israel, God of Jesus Christ, our God for ever and ever! Help us now by the sacred Spirit to approach Thee aright with deepest reverence, but not with servile fear; with holiest boldness, but not with presumption. Teach us as children to speak to the Father, and yet as creatures to bow before our Maker.
Our Father, we would first ask Thee whether Thou hast ought against us as Thy children? Have we been asking somewhat of Thee amiss, and hast Thou given us that which we have sought? We are not conscious of it, but it may be so, and now we are brought as an answer to our presumptuous prayers into a more difficult position than the one we occupied before. Now it may be that some creature comfort is nearer to us than our God; we had better have been without it and have dwelt in our God and have found our joy in Him. But now Lord, in these perilous circumstances give us grace that we may not turn away from Thee.
If our position now be not such as Thou wouldst have allotted to us had we been wiser, yet nevertheless grant that we may be taught to behave ourselves aright even now lest the mercies Thou hast given should become a cause of stumbling, and the obtaining of our hearts' desire should become a temptation to us. Rather do we feel inclined to bless Thee for the many occasions in which Thou hast not answered our prayer, for Thou hast said that we did ask amiss and therefore we could not have, and we desire to register this prayer with Thee that whensoever we do ask amiss, Thou wouldst in great wisdom and love be pleased to refuse us.
O, Lord, if we at any time press our suit without a sufficiency of resignation do not regard us, we pray Thee, and though we, cry unto Thee day and night concerning anything, yet if Thou seest that herein we err regard not the voice of our cry, we pray Thee. It is our hearts' desire now, in our coolest moments, that this prayer of ours might stand on record as long as we live, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.
But, O Lord, in looking back we are obliged to remember with the greatest gratitude the many occasions in which Thou hast heard our cry. We have been brought into deep distress, and our heart has sunk within us, and then have we cried to Thee and Thou hast never refused to hear us. The prayers of our lusts Thou hast rejected, but the prayers of our necessities Thou hast granted Not one good thing hath failed of all that Thou hast promised.
Thou hast given to us exceeding abundantly above what we asked or even thought, for there was a day when our present condition would have been regarded as much too high for us ever to reach, and in looking back we are surprised that those who did he among the pots of Egypt should now sit every man under his vine and fig-tree, that those who wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way should now find a city to dwell in, that we who were prodigals in rags should now be children in the Father's bosom; that we who were companions of swine should now be made heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Oh! what encouragement we have to pray to such a prayer-hearing God who far exceeds the request of His children.
Blessed be the name of the Lord for ever, our inmost heart is saying. Amen, blessed be His name. If it were only for answered prayer or even for some unanswered prayers we would continue to praise and bless Thee as long as we have any being.
The related insight God has given me is that his heart is like that of a loving earthly father who deeply desires to give to his children whatever they want and ask for, unless he knows it will be bad for them in the end. So when we share our desires and dreams with the Lord, he always will say yes if he knows in his infinite wisdom that it will be good for us, and he only will say no when he knows it wiil not be.
This helps us to understand some otherwise enigmatic passages about prayer, as well as repeated phrases like asking "in Jesus' name" and "according to his will." So never hesitate to ask God for whatever you want, but always be willing to accept his answer and trust in his fatherly love for you. Always say, like Jesus did, "Not my will but yours be done."