on 2-corinthians 12 :8
I besought the Lord - That is, Christ, as the next verse absolutely proves, and the Socinians themselves confess. And if Christ be an object of prayer in such a case as this, or indeed in any case, it is a sure proof of his divinity; for only an omniscient Being can be made an object of prayer.
Thrice - Several suppose this to be a certain number for an uncertain; as if he had said, I often besought Christ to deliver me from this tormentor: or, which is perhaps more likely, the apostle may refer to three solemn, fixed, and fervent applications made to Christ at different times; at the last of which he received the answer which he immediately subjoins. It is worthy of remark, that our Lord in his agony acted in the same way: at three different times he applied to God that the cup might depart from him; and in each application he spoke the same words, Matthew 26:39-44. There is, therefore, a manifest allusion to our Lord's conduct in these words of the apostle.
on 2-corinthians 12 :8
For this thing - On account of this; in order that this calamity might be removed.
I besought the Lord - The word "Lord" in the New Testament, when it stands without any other word in connection to limit its signification, commonly denotes the Lord Jesus Christ; see the note on Acts 1:24. The following verse here shows conclusively that it was the Lord Jesus to whom Paul addressed this prayer. The answer was that his grace was sufficient for him; and Paul consoled himself by saying that it was a sufficient support if the power of Christ implied in that answer, should rest on him. He would glory in trials if such was their result. Even Rosenmuller maintains that it was the Lord Jesus to whom this prayer was addressed, and says that the Socinians themselves admit it. So Grotius (on 2 Corinthians 12:9) says that the answer was given by Christ. But if this refers to the Lord Jesus, then it proves that it is right to go to him in times of trouble, and that it is right to worship him. Prayer is the most solemn act of adoration which we can perform; and no better authority can be required for paying divine honors to Christ than the fact that Paul worshipped him and called upon him to remove a severe and grievous calamity.
Thrice - This may either mean that he prayed for this often, or that he sought it on three set and solemn occasions. Many commentators have supposed that the former is meant. But to me it seems probable that Paul on three special occasions earnestly prayed for the removal of this calamity. It will be recollected that the Lord Jesus prayed three times in the garden of Gethsemane that the cup might be removed from him, Matthew 26:44. At the third time he ceased, and submitted to what was the will of God. There is some reason to suppose that the Jews were in the habit of praying three times for any important blessing or for the removal of any calamity; and Paul in this would not only conform to the usual custom, but especially he would he disposed to imitate the example of the Lord Jesus. Among the Jews three was a sacred number, and repeated instances occur where an important transaction is mentioned as having been done thrice; see Numbers 22:28; Numbers 24:10; 1 Samuel 3:8; 1 Samuel 20:41; 1 Kings 18:44; Proverbs 22:20; Jeremiah 7:4; Jeremiah 22:29; John 21:17.
The probability, therefore, is, that Paul on three different occasions earnestly besought the Lord Jesus that this calamity might be removed from him. It might have been exceedingly painful, or it might, as he supposed, interfere with his success as a preacher; or it might have been of such a nature as to expose him to ridicule; and he prayed, therefore, if it were possible that it might be taken away. The passage proves that it is right to pray earnestly and repeatedly for the removal of any calamity. The Saviour so prayed in the garden; and Paul so prayed here. Yet it also proves that there should be a limit to such prayers. The Saviour prayed three times; and Paul limited himself to the same number of petitions and then submitted to the will of God. This does not prove that we should be limited to exactly this number in our petitions; but it proves that there should be a limit; that we should not be over-anxious, and that when it is plain from any cause that the calamity will not be removed, we should submit to it.
The Saviour in the garden knew that the cup would not be removed, and he acquiesced. Paul was told indirectly that his calamity would not be removed, and he submitted. We may expect no such revelation from heaven, but we may know in other ways that the calamity will not be removed; and we should submit. The child or other friend for whom we prayed may die; or the calamity, as, e. g., blindness, or deafness, or loss of health, or poverty, may become permanent, so that there is no hope of removing it; and we should then cease to pray that it may be removed, and we should cheerfully acquiesce in the will of God. So David prayed most fervently for his child when it was alive; when it was deceased, and it was of no further use to pray for it, he bowed in submission to the will of God, 2 Samuel 12:20.
on 2-corinthians 12 :8
12:8 Concerning this - He had now forgot his being lifted up. I besought the Lord thrice - As our Lord besought his Father.