When Jesus prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane he concluded each of his prayers with a declaration that not His will, but God’s will be done. Last night in our bible study of James, this inclusion in our prayers was discussed. James tells us to ask God without doubt or that prayer will be useless. There was the question, then, when we pray, “not my will, but yours” are we simply not asking in true faith, but giving an “out” in case the prayer isn’t answered as we prayed. I believe this a question that we all may have at one time or another. I also believe that we can (and should) pray believing, while remembering that we are not always aware of the ramifications of our prayer. God knows what is best for us and for those we are praying for. That means, that we have to leave room for God’s response to be different than what we may pray.
This is a difficult subject. The parable of the persistent widow encourages us to pray, not once, but persistently. Yet, at the same time, we see Paul who prays three times for his thorn in the flesh to be removed before he is told, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I am sure that Paul truly wanted to have his thorn removed and believed that God would honor that request. What actually happened is that Paul was able to understand that God had a purpose in Paul’s thorn. When we pray, we must (like Jesus and Paul) be willing to accept that our will and God’s will are not always the same.
So, if we pray, “not my will, but yours,” do we doubt? I would say that in some cases, yes. That is not to say we shouldn’t pray this way, it is simply a statement of fact. Too many times we pray without truly believing that our prayer will be answered by God in the way we pray. The answer is not to pray without allowing for God’s will to be done in our prayers, but to truly believe both that God will answer our prayers offered in faith while leaving room for God to be God and to accept that what we ask for is not always in our best interest or the best interest of those we pray for and that God’s perfect will is what we really want to see in our lives and the lives of those we pray for.