I don't ever pray that I'll meet the woman of my dreams. I never ask God to someday give us two amazing children, or to help me find a job to feed and clothe them, or for a roof to put them under.
photo © 2009 Leland Francisco | more info (via: Wylio)
I don't ask for these things because I already have them.
This isn't meant as a boast, and it's not a statement against prayer by any means. It's just a simple observation: we don't ask for things we already have. It's not limited to God, really. You don't ask your boss for $10 an hour when you're already making $12. You don't ask your prof for another chance to take a test you aced. It just makes sense... you only ask for what you don't have.
So why did Jesus tell us to ask that God's will be done?
I have heard Christians say many times "Well, this terrible thing happened, but that must be God's will." And I always want to jump in and ask "How do you know?"
"Well, it must be God's will because it happened."
If whatever happened was automatically God's will, then what exactly is it we're supposed to be asking for?
I know from firsthand experience that God's will isn't always done. I know it because sometimes God's will is for me to be a better husband/father/friend/citizen, and I'm not. Forget tsunamis and cancer for a moment (but not for too long, we'll come back to that) and just think about yourself. Have you ever acted in a way that was contrary to God's will? If so, then isn't God's will not being done?
If they really sit down and think about it, what most people mean by "God's will is always done" is "No matter how bad something is, God can find a way to turn it for good." Absolutely true. God is the ultimate salvager who can take our nastiness and use it for something beautiful. But that's not because he enjoys nastiness.
The right response to the frequent utter brutality of our world isn't "Oh, this horrible thing must be God's will and design for your life, so start looking for the good in it or else get used to the fact that you really suck at being spiritual."
The right response is to acknowledge that awful things are awful, and to recognize how much the pain of our world hurts God himself. The right response is to recognize that there are things, good things, that can happen in the midst of horrendous pain. And the right response is for us to ask God to make things right, and for us to be available to be the ones he works through.
NOTE: The photo was found by putting the word "prayer" into wylio.com. You should check it out... it's a very cool website built by the best college roommate I ever had.