Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him. (2 Samuel 10:12)
Prayer is often an exercise in asking God to do what seems good to us. Nobody likes pain, suffering, setbacks, adversity, and thus we pray to be relieved, spared, and protected. These prayers are not wrong. But do we have categories to ever say in prayer, “May the Lord do what seems good to him”?
That seems simple enough, right? Our Lord taught us to pray something similar: “Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:9). But what if his will is for us to suffer, to go through the valley, to wander in a desert land, to fight a formidable foe — or, like Joab, to face a life-and-death situation? “Your will be done” can feel like more of a risk.
What Seems Good to Him
Armies pressed in from the front and from the rear. The Syrians and Ammonites threatened from each side. Joab, splitting up his forces, appointed his brother to lead the charge against the Ammonites while he and his men took on the Syrians. As they turned to fight their respective battles, Joab told his brother,
If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you. Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him. (2 Samuel 10:11–12)
He pledges to help his brother if they become overrun, and he asks for the same. And he tells his brother — about to risk life and limb before a deadly army — “Be courageous for our people and for the cities of God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him.” Death. Gore. Pain. Suffering. Defeat. All possible outcomes under “what seems good to the Lord.” Joab bids them to fight with all their might while they trust the Lord to do what he wills. They will go forth as pawns in the Lord’s hand. They will believe and trust him, whether in life or in death, whether delivered through a miracle or not.
Stuck in Our Throat
What fears do you face? Have you ever lifted up your voice to God, “Lord, do what seems good to you”? This is never a wrong prayer. It can be a scary prayer, but never a bad prayer.
And our God may answer in a way we wouldn’t naturally desire. He may not deliver us, after all, from earthly suffering, death, loss. He may grant the miracle, and he may not. He may deem it needful that we face grief, as with Peter’s hearers.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6–7)
Sometimes, for his glory (and for our glory in him), he will not spare us grief.
Your Will Be Done
Does not the dangerous prayer of “your will be done” remind you of that sacred prayer Jesus prayed in the anguish of Gethsemane? “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
With the volcano of eternal wrath before him, Jesus, our Savior, resigned himself to his Father’s will. No comparison exists with regard to the suffering he would endure. Jesus knew what lay before him, knew what his Father’s will was, and with a bloody brow, bowed his knees and prayed for it to be done. He doesn’t teach us to pray what he hasn’t.
So let us, with God’s help, pray for God’s perfect will to come. Whether we come out victorious, or whether the miracles never come, the safest place for us to be eternally is at the center of his will.