Father, Bless Me!
Often the only prayer we can pray is simply, "Bless me, my Father!" We cannot express our sense of need in any more definite words. We are conscious of some want, some lack—but do not know what blessing would supply it. In such a case all we can do is to ask God to bless us, leaving to his wisdom the particular form of the blessing. We do not live many years, without learning to distrust our own wisdom concerning our real needs and without learning that "we do not know what we should pray for as we ought." We soon find that the things which we thought would be blessings—are really only empty bubbles when we get them; or that what seemed roses to us as we longed and cried for them—are thorns when we pluck them, piercing our hands and our hearts!
Thus we learn to doubt our own wishing, as we find how little really comes from the realization of our own desires and even from the answers of our own prayers. So we grow wiser as we grow older, and prefer not to choose at all ourselves what we shall get, but to leave God to choose for us.
God knows what is really best for us. Perhaps the thing we want, would not be a blessing to us at all—it might prove a curse instead. Or the thing which we dread, which seems to us a great loss or calamity as it approaches—may be a messenger of richest blessing to us. To pray that it shall be averted, may be to plead with God to withhold from us his most precious gifts and favors. No doubt we miss heavenly blessing, many a time, because we have not faith to take them in their disguise of pain or sacrifice.
God sometime, lets us have our own way in our willfulness just to teach us that our own way is not the best. Yet more frequently he does not answer our cries, and then perhaps for a time our hearts carry the pain of the feeling that our Father has dealt unkindly with us. At length, however, we learn that in our ignorance we have judged him wrongly; and that his refusal was real blessing.
It is from such experiences as these, that at last we learn not to choose for ourselves what we will seek from God, but to refer all to his unerring wisdom. Our prayers then grow shorter, but more real and more intense. We can only say, "Bless me Father. Bless me, my Father," not daring to indicate in what form or manner the blessing shall come.
We no longer strive with unyielding wills to obtain the things of this world which our hearts crave. We do not resist with obstinate struggle, the coming into our lives of the things which bring pain and sacrifice. We learn to say, "May Your will, not mine, be done." Our eyes are opened to see that God's blessing is the realest and deepest need of our lives, and that God alone knows what true blessing is and how best to give it to us.
No doubt God "blesses" us often when he does not give us what we ask; he gives us his "blessing" instead of what we ask for, and while we think that our prayer is altogether unanswered, we really carry away something far better than we sought.
Jacob at the close of his all-night wrestling, begged the mysterious Stranger to reveal his name. This request was gently yet firmly denied but, the record adds, "He blessed him there." In place of the revelation of a mystery, Jacob received a blessing—and no doubt this was worth infinitely more to him than the coveted knowledge would have been.
There is something very beautiful in this simple statement, and its suggestion to us is surpassingly sweet. When God refuses us the thing we ask for because it is not a real good—he gives us his blessing instead. Shall we not learn to believe that God's refusal, when we plead, is better than his compliance would have been?
We may as well read a little further in Jacob's story, since we have come thus upon it. What was the substance of the blessing that he received that night? Was it not a new nature? He entered the struggle as Jacob the supplanter—he emerged from it as Israel, a prince with God. He had gotten his new spiritual blessing through the withering and crippling of his old self. We sometimes speak as though he had obtained his blessing through wrestling, but he was defeated as a wrestler and his power to struggle was crushed. He obtained his blessing after he had been defeated, by simply clinging. When he could wrestle no longer, he wound his arm around the neck of his divine contestant and clung there, refusing to let go his hold until he received a blessing.
The meaning of all this strange experience is that the blessing Jacob needed could come only through the defeat and crushing of the old nature in him. Is it not often so with us when we cry
"Father, Bless Me!" to God? We may think it is something else—that some change in our circumstances would bring us peace—but in reality the trouble is within and can only be cured by the withering touch of God's hand upon some grave, sore fault in us, and then by the divine blessing coming upon us, when in our weakness we no longer wrestle but humbly cling, and cry, "I will not let you go except you bless me!"
Christlikeness in us is an infinitely greater blessing than physical health or worldly prosperity, social success or any earthly fullness. God does not want to mar our happiness nor cause us pain—but when in no other way he can bless our souls—he does not hesitate a moment. Lame, limping, disfigured Israel—was far better than strong, untamed, unmarred Jacob.
Spiritual life is full of just such crushings of physical beauty or earthly power, whose scars remain as the memorials of times when God gave blessing. There are all around us, those who have suffered sorely in "mind, body or estate," but have grown meanwhile in loveliness of disposition, and in strength of character.
God's pruning-knife leaves a scar, but the scar is the reminder only of the cutting away of a useless branch—while the whole vine is covered with its richer clusters of grapes. There are unforgotten sorrows, whose wounds, while memorials of pain and grief—point to nobler life, and holier character, and greater usefulness as their final results. God gave blessing in answer to the prayer for the removal of sorrow; and afterward it is plain that the blessing was far better than the answer sought would have been.
May we not then learn to put our requests more frequently into the short petition, "Father, bless me!"—not choosing what the blessing shall be, nor how it shall come. God knows what we need. When he withholds the thing we want—the blessing is in the not getting. When he presses into our lives, in spite of our entreaties, the thing we shrink from receiving—it is because there is a blessing in it which he is not willing we should miss.