Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”

[Matt 20:22 NET]

It was an ignorant prayer which the two brothers had offered. They did not know what they were asking for. We know that one dark day two malefactors had the places on the Lord’s right and left hand. We all ask many a time for things which we would not dare to seek–if we knew what they would cost.

There is a heathen story which tells us that once a man asked for the gift not to die; and it was granted him by the Fates. He was to live on forever. But he had forgotten to ask that his youth and health and strength also might last forever, and so he lived on until age and its infirmities and weaknesses were weighing him down, and his life grew to be a weariness and a burden to him. Existence, for it could hardly be called life, was one long torment to him; and then he wished to die–and could not. He had asked for a thing which he was totally unfit to enjoy–but he had to take the consequences of it when it was once given.

In our prayers we seek things which we might shrink from seeking, if we knew that they must come to us through pain, tears, and loss. The better way to pray, however, is to let God choose for us, and to give what he sees best for us, and in the way that he knows to be the best.

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