Ignorant Prayers
Matthew 20:22
But Jesus answered and said, You know not what you ask. Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of…

Ye know not what ye ask. If some one were to say to us, as we rose from our knees or after public worship, "What is it that you now expect to receive? Of all the blessings men have been known to receive at the hand of God, which have you been asking for?" should we not frequently be forced to own, "I know not what I asked"? We seem to expect little more than that somehow our tone may be elevated and the temper of our spirits improved by our worship. But communion with God can never supersede simple prayer; so long as we are encompassed with infirmities we must ask God's help, and when we do so we should know what it is we ask. There are four ways in which the text pointedly rebukes us.

I. WHEN WE UTTER THE LANGUAGE OF PRAYER WITHOUT ATTACHING. ANY MEANING TO IT. We do not dream of waiting for an answer, because we have no desire to receive one. Aim at such definiteness that if, when you say, "Forgive me my sins," God were to say," What sin?" you would be able without hesitation to name those transgressions that are written on your conscience. Be as sure what you have to complain of as when you go to consult your physician.

II. WHEN WE PRAY FOR SOME DEFINITE BLESSING WHICH WE DESIRE, NOT SO MUCH FROM A PERSONAL APPRECIATION OF ITS WORTH, AS FROM THE KNOWLEDGE THAT IT IS ONE OF THE THINGS GOD IS MOST READY TO GIVE. These sons of Zebedee named the precise boon on which their hearts were set, and yet what could they have told you of the real purport of their request - of the requirements of the position they aspired to? No one who prays can acquit himself of this very charge. Take so common a request as that for the Holy Spirit: have you thought that you were inviting a Person, and that Person absolutely holy and almighty, to dwell within you? We are to covet earnestly God's best gifts, but we are to limit ourselves by his promises, and to learn the meaning of these promises as far as we can. By asking such things as we know our need of, even though they be less valuable than some other gifts, we may be led on to richer blessings than we looked for.

III. WHEN WE PRAY FOR WHAT IS IN ITSELF GOOD, BUT TO US WOULD BE EVIL. If God, who sees the effect these things would have upon you, were to translate your prayer, it might be, "I beseech thee grant me complete delight in this world, and forgetfulness of thee; I pray thee humble me no more, but grant me of thy mercy vanity and pride of life; I pray thee increase to me the cares of this life, so that I may not be disposed to worship thee nor to remember my own need of thee. Send me no more chastening and discipline, remove from me all restraints and crosses, and graciously suffer me so to fall away from thee, that I may be in danger of everlasting woe." Yet this is not a reason for restraining prayer, but for laying each of our petitions before God with an accompanying resignation of our will to his.

IV. WHEN WE PRAY FOR SOME GOOD THING WITHOUT TAKING ACCOUNT OF WHAT WE MUST DO AND SUFFER IN ORDER TO OBTAIN IT. Many of the gifts we ask at God's hand are such qualities of soul as can only be produced by long and painful processes. You ask for humility: do you know that herein you ask for failure, disappointed hopes, mortified vanity, the reproach of men, and the feeling that you are worthy of deeper accusations than any they can bring against you? You ask to be like Christ: but can you drink of his cup, and be baptized with his baptism? These words of your Lord are not spoken to dishearten you, to discourage you from high aims; but he would have you pray with deliberation, with a mind made up, with a devoted and solemn apprehension of the difficulties before you. Two remedies may be suggested for this evil of vagueness and ignorance in prayer, the first connected with the form, the second with the matter, of prayer.

1. It seems to have been the practice of the devout in all ages to use the voice in their private devotions. Where it is possible, speech is a great help to an orderly method of thinking. Besides, so long as we merely think, we fall into the idea that it is only a frame of our own spirits we have to do with; and speech, the ordinary mode of realizing another's presence, enables us at once to realize the presence of God.

2. The great remedy against ignorance in prayer is to be found in meditation. And no man will ever make much of meditation who does not make much of the Word of God. Realize that this is not just a book to read, but a voice speaking to you, that it has a Person behind it addressing you. This, without any mystic influence, but on the most natural principles, works a change in our devotions. This gives us a real communion with God. - D.

Parallel Verses
KJV: But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.

WEB: But Jesus answered, "You don't know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They said to him, "We are able."

Blind Bartimeus
Top of Page
Top of Page