It would seem wonderful if in our prayers we could receive everything that we want and ask for. After all, who knows better than we do what we really need? And yet the Gospel story, in all its gentle wisdom seeks to remind us that this is not the case. As finite men and women, we seldom see the whole picture or know all the story. Quite the contrary is true; in what we want or ask for, we seldom glance beyond the immediate moment, or take the longer view.
The request of the wife of Zebedee for her two sons is a wonderful example of this wisdom. In the gospel of St. Matthew (20:21) she is recorded as asking Jesus for a special favor. "Promise me that these two sons of mine will sit at your right and your left when you are King." But Jesus refused her request explaining that, "You do not know what you are asking for." Little did she know that had Christ honored her request, her sons would have been crucified with Jesus in place of the thieves, one on his right, and one on his left!
In this same context, a wise man once suggested that each of us write our ten greatest priorities in life and seal them in an envelope, and that ten years later we open and read them. What we thought we wanted then, we can be sure, will bear no resemblance to what is important now.
It is always like this. That is why Christ in his prayer asked for nothing specific except that God's will be done. He knew and trusted in God's greater wisdom. He also knew that when our heavenly Father declines our request it is not so that He can show us His strength, but rather so that we can learn that He loves us best.