The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The following excerpt is from the sermon "Grace all sufficient," pages 216-17, Forgotten prayer meeting addresses, Day One Publications.
From the interesting narrative which the apostle Paul gives of the remarkable revelation which was made to him, of his special trial afterwards, and of his thrice-repeated prayer, we learn, among other lessons, that God does not always hear his people’s prayers as they would desire them to be heard.
Here was an apostle as the suppliant; God did not therefore refuse the petition on account of any unworthiness in the person presenting it. Here was a prayer most suitable; that the Lord would withdraw from him ‘a thorn in the flesh.’ Here was a prayer doubtless offered in faith; and, certainly, it was a prayer pleaded with importunity: ‘For this thing I besought the Lord thrice.’
After the example of the Saviour, who thrice, and only thrice, said, ‘O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt;’ the apostle may have prayed thrice in almost identical terms, and said, ‘O my Father, if it be possible, let this thorn depart from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.’
It was not the Father’s will that the prayer of the apostle should be answered according to the letter of it, though he answered it in a far better way in spirit.
Brethren, it is well for us that it is not an unconditional doctrine of Scripture that God will always answer our prayers in the form in which we present them. That God will hear his people’s supplications, and when they are rightly offered, that he will answer them, is most certainly true.
But it is not certain that God will always answer our prayers as we offer them, and as we expect him to answer them; if it were, we should rather depend upon our own wisdom in prayer than on God’s wisdom in providence; we should be tempted to take the throne ourselves, to think of the Lord almost as our subject, and to consider our own will supreme above the will of our Father in Heaven.
Our folly would ask for that which would destroy us were it granted; our pride would often request that which would be to God’s dishonour were it bestowed: and our petulance and impatience would often crave to have that removed which is essentially necessary to our growth in grace, and to the confirmation of our faith.
We thank thee, O Lord, for the mercy-seat, but we also thank thee that thou hast not left us to ask and to have just what we will; thou hast not made the gift of thy mercies a dangerous weapon in the hand of our infirmity!