EVENING THOUGHTS, or
DAILY WALKING WITH GOD
Octavius Winslow, 1858
“Let my prayer be set forth before you as
incense; and the lifting up of my hands
as the evening sacrifice.” Psalm 141:2
“You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts.” James 4:3
A believer may urge a request that is in itself wrong. The mother of Zebedee’s children did so, when she asked the Lord that her two sons might sit, the one on His right hand, and the other on the left, in His kingdom. Who does not mark the self that appears in this petition? Although it was a mother’s love that prompted it, and, as such, presents a picture of inimitable beauty, and one exquisitely touching to the feelings, yet it teaches us that a parent, betrayed by his love for his child, may ask that of God which is really wrong in itself. He may ask worldly distinction, honor, influence, wealth for his child, which a godly parent should never do; and this may be a wrong request, which God, in His infinite wisdom and love, withholds. This was the petition of the mother, which our Lord saw fit to deny. Her views of the kingdom of Christ were those of earthly glory. To see her children sharing in that glory was her high ambition; which Jesus promptly but gently rebuked. Let a Christian mother ask for spiritual blessings for her children, and whatever else is needful the Lord will grant. Let converting, sanctifying, restraining grace be one and the constant petition presented at the footstool of mercy, and then she cannot ask too much, or press her suit too frequently or too fervently.
To allude to another illustration of our remark it was wrong in Job to ask the Lord that he might die. “Oh that I might have my request ” (are his words), “and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! Even that it would please God to destroy me; that He would let loose His hand, and cut me off!” It was an unwise and sinful petition, which the Lord in great mercy and wisdom denied him. Truly “we know not what we should pray for as we ought.” What a mercy that there is One who knows!
A child of God may ask for a wise and good thing in a wrong way. There may be no faith in asking, and no sense of God’s freeness in bestowing. No filial approach—going as a child—as one pardoned—”accepted in the Beloved,”—as one dear to the heart of God. There may be no honoring of the Father in Himself—no honoring of Him in the Son—no honoring of the Blessed Spirit. There may be no resting upon the cross—no pleading of the atoning blood—no washing in the fountain—no humble, grateful recognition of the “new and living way” of access. There may be a want of lowliness in the mind—brokenness in the spirit—sincerity in the heart—reverence in the manner—sobriety in the words. There may be no confession of sin—no acknowledgment of past mercies—no faith in the promised blessing. How much there may be in the prayer of a dear child of God that operates as a blight upon his request, that seems to close the ear and the heart of God! But oh, to go to Him with filial confidence—sweet faith—love flowing from a broken heart—to go to Him as the people of His choice—dear to Him as the apple of His eye—viewed each moment in His Son—and who would, for the love He bears us, undeify Himself, if that would be for our real good, and His own glory. Did He not once empty Himself of His glory—did He not become poor—did He not humble Himself—did He not take upon Him human nature, all for the love He bore His people? That was approaching so near, in appearance, the cessation of Deity, that, as we gaze upon the spectacle, we wonder what another step might have produced! We seem to think He could not have gone further without ceasing to be God. Behold the broad basis, then, on which a child of God may approach Him in prayer. His love, oh how immense! it is past finding out!