The most frequent kind of prayer prayed is the ‘quick fix’ prayer: the prayer we pray in desperation (‘Lord, save me!’) The psalms are full of these prayers (Ps 6:4, Ps 22:41, Ps 31:16, Ps 40:13) and there’s clearly nothing wrong with such prayers. Nonetheless, it is interesting that at a critical point in Jesus’ life, this was not the prayer he prayed.
Jesus said, ‘“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”’ (John 12:27-28) Wayne Jacobsen describes this as the prayer God always answers and it’s true that our experience of unanswered prayer (which demoralises us) is sometimes rooted in the fact we are more interested in being rescued from a situation which to us seems baffling and unpleasant than in being transformed through that situation. It would have been entirely understandable if Jesus had asked His Father to rescue Him from the horrors of the cross, but He knew that the cross was God’s purpose for Him and the only way the world could be saved. He put God’s glory and wishes before His desire for a life free from pain and suffering.
It can be just as hard for us to trust God’s goodness and kindness in situations which are painful, unpleasant and seem so utterly random and pointless to us. Yet God has greater purposes for us than our short-term happiness and is working in all situations for our good, redeeming and refining often through the tough times. May we all learn to pray ‘Father, glorify your name’ more than ‘Father, save me.’