Find your happiness in God and he will give you the askings of your heart.
This is the exact rendering of the fourth verse of Psalm 37, 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.
When we go into our bank and present a check for one thousand dollars, we have a right to demand that sum from the teller.
But God's promises to his children are not unconditional; and we have no such spiritual assets standing to our credit that we may presume to dictate to the God of wisdom and of love.
The hackneyed illustration of "drawing on the bank of faith" may be very misleading.
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, "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 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; they find their happiness in the chime of their own desires with the will of God.
A capital illustration of the difference between right and wrong desires, is furnished in the biographies of James and John.
These two fishermen-disciples come to our Lord and say to him, "Master, we want that you should do for us, whatever we shall desire."
Then bolts out the amazing request, that Jesus would place one of them on his right hand and the other on his left, when he set up his imperial government.
Disguise it as they might, they were selfish office-seekers.
Their dream was of twelve thrones, with their own in the center!
Christ's foresight saw instead of this a cross of agony and shame!
It was not a crown but a cup of suffering, which was in preparation, and he tenderly inquires if they were ready for that.
As long as those two ambitious disciples found their happiness in self-seeking, Jesus would not and could not give them the askings of their hearts.
Now, look ahead a few years farther, and you will find those two identical men uttering the strongest declarations in behalf of God's willingness to hear and answer prayer.
Their own hearts have been so renewed by the Holy Spirit, they have become so consecrated to their Master's service, and they are in such complete chime with him, that they are not afraid to come to him and say, "Do for us what we desire."
Having purified and unselfish desires, they rejoice to discover how fully and delightfully they are satisfied...even more abundantly than they asked.
So one of them (James) declares that if any of us lacks wisdom we must ask of God, who gives liberally.
And then...as if he remembered what a disgracefully selfish prayer he had once been guilty of--he says, "You ask and you receive not because you ask amiss that you may consume it upon your own pleasures."
The other disciple (beloved John) exclaims, "Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight."
It is not self any longer, which is to be pampered but God, who is honored.
Just as soon as those two Christians found their supreme happiness in Christ and his cause, they received the askings of their hearts.
Christ and they were in perfect unity.
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 through Jesus, the Intercessor.
The only "prayer-gauge" I believe in is that which gauges the character of our prayers and the spirit in which we offer them.
The very first essential to all right prayer, is unconditional submissiveness to God's will.
Nevertheless, Father, not as I will...but as you will.
The richest blessing that prayer can bring is to bring us into closer communion and agreement with the all-holy and the all-loving One.
Dr. Bushnell's illustration of the "bow-line" represents this most happily.
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; and the moment they get the upper hand we must expect to be dismissed as John and James were when SELF got the upper hand in them.
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, or reduce us to a spiritual emasculation.
It encourages at the same time that 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, the filling of the Holy Spirit, and kindred blessings, are in harmony with God's promises.
These are the very things which God has told us to covet!
For them we are to "open our mouths wide" and our hearts; and when we do this we are filled unto all the fullness of God.
Our Heavenly Father does not hand over to us the reins 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, which is life.
If we find our supreme happiness in these oh, how our souls are purified from base, selfish, wayward, and wicked desires!
And with what banqueting on His love, and with what foretastes of heaven are our best askings are answered!