This yielding to the will of God, being a will so different from our own, is a great difficulty. We yield today, and tomorrow it seems as hard as ever. We gather together all the reasons there are for yielding, and at length we are able sincerely to pray “Thy will be done;” we are very peaceful and very glad, and do not doubt that this is a final decision; but an hour undeceives us, and shows us that the decision has to be made again, and in still more trying circumstances. If any petition needs to be daily repeated it is this.
May the idea of God, which He would have us to possess, be held as the choice possession of our spirits, the treasure on which our hearts rest, and to which they ever return; may it be held separate from all contamination of our own thoughts about God; and may it never be obscured by any cloud of adversity tempting us to think that God has changed; never lost sight of by any careless devotion of our thoughts to other objects and names; never presumed upon nor polluted as countenancing folly or sin, but cherished still and guarded as “the holy and reverend name of the Lord.” For this is what we all need, the abiding assurance of the reality of God in the excellences of His nature and the grace of His connection with us.
Commenting on “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” in the Lord’s Prayer:
Wrapt up in its encouragement there is a check to conscience. We are not to be allowed to present the petition at all, unless it be from the deepest sense of our need, and of the greatness of the gift we seek; a sense which is in reality equivalent to true repentance, and which brings with it, as its uniform and necessary fruit, love to our neighbor. And every one who knows how apt we are to become either hypocrites or careless formalists in prayer, will recognize the suitableness of such a check, and will appreciate the propriety of its being appended to this petition rather than any other. For this, more than any other, has been a lip-deep petition, and has been shamefully abused by self-satisfied or careless petitioners, by ourselves when we ask forgiveness, as we often ask it, without any considerate remembrance of the cost of it, thinking it the easiest thing for God to give, and forgetting that this has been prepared for us at a far greater expense, at a more personal expense, than anything else we can implore. It has been the endeavor of many teachers to persuade us, and yet we need to be reminded, that a word could create and beautify a world, and “an act of will bestow it upon us,” but it has cost God the humiliation and suffering of His well-beloved Son to grant the boon which now we ask. And therefore we are here suddenly startled out of all dreamy and indifferent prayer, and are aroused by being brought face to face with our own real desires and our own real life; we are reminded that our prayer had far better be unsaid, if it is not of a piece with our state of heart; that we cannot pray as one person and live as another; that we do not look as earnestly as we ought for the remission of our debts, (and therefore need not expect it,) unless we be doing what we can to avoid contracting new ones; that, in short, we have no encouragement whatever to present this petition, unless conscience assures us that the love of God, on which we hope, has entered our souls and changed them, and has become the principle and law of our lives.
Emphasis mine: Marcus Dods, The Prayer That Teaches to Pray