“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” cannot, therefore, mean an effortless abandonment to divine purpose, achieved in lonely isolation. If the Spirit is to bring us into the authentic prayer of Jesus, these primary requests he gave us – for the kingdom and for the divine will – will often time mean, as they did for him, a sweaty struggle, a revulsion at what lies before us, and above all a desperate need for the support of others who will pray with us, however incompetently and sleepily. When this happens it is not, again, that something has gone wrong; rather, we are being pressed yet more deeply into the space of Jesus.
The famous spiritual director, Dom John Chapman, onetime Abbot of Downside, put it thus, and most beautifully, in a letter to a Benedictine nun, who was struggling with her own sense of inner turmoil and suffering in prayer. :”Contempt” of such suffering, he writes, is superhuman, not human:
“Our Lord has taught us this very plainly by his example. In the Agony, he did not say ‘I suffer, and I rejoice … [Rather], he prayed that the Chalice might be taken away, to show that the feeling of hating suffering, and feeling it unbearable, is part of [human] perfection for us, as it is a part [also] of our weakness of nature.”