I dare not ask either a cross or consolation.
Save us from the time of trial. That’s another translation of the Lord’s Prayer line, “Lead us not into temptation.” Both versions end the thought with “and/but deliver us from evil.” Apparently, the time of trial/temptation might very well lead to a need to be delivered from evil. It’s why we pray to be spared these times. Jesus prayed this in the hours before he was crucified(Luke 22:42), and we are wise to follow his example in this.
There is no need to chase after hardship and grief. These things will find us. Asking for a cross isn’t the same as taking up the cross that comes to us, and faith is as much about living for God and the world as it is about dying for it. Asking for a cross is borrowing trouble – an exercise in hubris more than humility. It can be an attempt to dictate the terms of our life and death rather than seeking God’s gracious presence in whatever comes.
There’s nothing wrong with receiving consolation and comfort; another name for the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, and we are encouraged to seek the Spirit in our need. That’s not what seeking consolation means in this prayer. This is closer to asking someone to feel sorry for us, for the “Oh, poor you, your life is too hard,” refusing the cross that is ours to carry. Seeking consolation in this sense seems closer to self-pity, not even trying to meet life’s challenges with courage and wisdom.
When my brother was learning how to walk, he took a few spills. One day, he tripped over a toy and landed hard. I went to pick him up, but my mother stopped me. “Wait a minute, see what he does first.” Scott stayed on the floor for a few seconds, then got up and continued on his way. No tears, no drama. My mother said to me, “It’s my job to take care of him when he really hurts himself. It’s also my job to teach him that he can handle the usual bumps and falls without my help.”
Asking for a cross is throwing myself on the ground seeking injury; asking for consolation is crying a river over a minor bump. Neither will make me more faithful to God. There will be enough hurt and enough help in my life without asking God for extra helpings of either.
Prayer for the Acceptance of God’s Will
(Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow)
O Lord, I know not what to ask of thee. Thou alone knowest what are my true needs. Thou lovest me more than I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on thee. My heart is open to thee. Visit and help me, for thy great mercy’s sake. Strike me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence thy holy will and thine inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to thee. I put all my trust in thee. I have no other desire than to fulfil thy will. Teach me how to pray. Pray thou thyself in me. Amen. (From A Manual of Eastern Orthodox Prayers, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991, p.24)