YOURS NOT MINE
A bar called Drummond's, in Mt Vernon, Texas began construction on an expansion of their building, hoping to "grow" their business. In response, the local Southern Baptist Church started a campaign to block the bar from expanding - petitions, prayers, etc. About a week before the bar's grand reopening, a bolt of lightning struck the bar and burned it to the ground! Afterward, the church folks were rather smug - bragging about "the power of prayer". The angry bar owner eventually sued the church on grounds that the church ... "was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, through direct actions or indirect means." Of course, the church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the building's demise.
The judge read carefully through the plaintiff's complaint and the defendant's reply. He then opened the hearing by saying: "I don't know how I'm going to decide this, but it appears from the paperwork that what we have here is a bar owner who now believes in the power of prayer, and entire church congregation that does not."
In the second half of my adult life, I discovered prayer. I had to. In the fall of 1999, I taught a Bible study course on the Psalms. It became clear to me that I was barely scratching the surface of what the Bible commanded and promised regarding prayer. Then came the dark weeks in New York after 9/11, when our whole city sank into a kind of corporate clinical depression, even as it rallied. For my family the shadow was intensified as my wife, Kathy, struggled with the effects of Crohn's disease. Finally, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. At one point during all this, my wife urged me to do something with her we had never been able to muster the self-discipline to do regularly. She asked me to pray with her every night. Every night. She used an illustration that crystallized her feelings very well. As we remember it, she said something like this:
Imagine you were diagnosed with such a lethal condition that the doctor told you that you would die within hours unless you took a particular medicine—a pill every night before going to sleep. Imagine that you were told that you could never miss it or you would die. Would you forget? Would you not get around to it some nights? No—it would be so crucial that you wouldn't forget, you would never miss. Well, if we don't pray together to God, we're not going to make it because of all we are facing. I'm certainly not. We have to pray, we can't let it just slip our minds.
Tim Keller, Prayer (Penguin Group, 2014), pp. 9-10
Most Christians are like the church in the first story. They pray but doubt. It is my prayer that our series on the prayer life of Jesus will cause a fresh discovery of prayer in your life.
The orientation of “The Lord’s Prayer” reveals to us its objective, reorientation. Our hearts are bent inward and not upward. It is not natural to turn our eyes toward Jesus but ourselves.
The opening words of “The Lord’s Prayer” are tone setting. There is nothing that reinforces our humanity more than prayer. You typically don’t find atheists in foxholes because life has a way of reminding us of our humanity.
Prayer is a natural response to an experience that reminds us of our humanity. Most people pray 911 prayers . We don’t pray more than we do because we don’t believe we are as human as we are. God’s don’t pray. They’re too powerful. They’re too wise. Only humans pray because they are too weak and also foolish.
Jesus, in Gethsemane’s Garden, prayed, “not as I will, but as you will.” If God the Son prayed this way, how much more do we? Jesus was a man of prayer. He did not need any experience to press Him into prayer. He never ceased to pray. Gethsemane’s Garden shows us a clear picture of His humanity. Matthew’s first-hand account paints a compelling composition of His humanity using powerful adverbial and adjectival strokes. Jesus, fully God and man, is experiencing the depths of His humanity and His response, prayer. Not just any prayer but a prayer which he had prayed every day of His life, “not as I will, but as you will.”
Educated Bible students will say, “this is the first recording of Him praying these words,” and they would be correct. However, we don’t need a prior record to know that he prayed in such a manner. His teaching should be sufficient, and if not, then His life should squelch any doubt.
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
If Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, lived a life of submission, how necessary is it that we live in like manner. The Son was equal in all respects to the Father. Yet He willingly submitted to His Father.
Jesus never used prayer as a means to get His Father to submit to His will but a means by which He submitted to His Father’s will. Prayer is the mechanism that bends our knee and will to the Father.
This line of The Lord’s Prayer concludes the opening half which orients itself around the word “your”. You must be centered on “your” before you can ask for “our”.
Let’s take a moment and retrace our journey. In week one we learned that “Our Father” gives us access to God in prayer through adoption. In week two we learned that “Hallowed be your name” reorients our heart through beholding, bethinking, be appraising, and be expressing. Last week we learned that praying “Your kingdom come” reorients my heart away from my preoccupation with building my kingdom. Today we will learn that “Your will be done” is dangerous yet delightful.
Feel the Gravity
Feel the Gravity
Submission is not safe for God’s will is rarely ours. God’s will is never safe as we define safety but it is sure. Jesus was always living out His Father’s will and it was anything but safe. This prayer is dangerous humanly speaking but delightful spiritually speaking.
Does Christianity call us to tiptoe through life only to arrive at death safely? Christian, have you forgotten the magnitude of your calling?
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Don’t sanitize or strip these verses of their intended meaning. They are weighty. They are gravitational words . They keep us grounded. They keep us connected. They press us into praying “not as I will, but as You will.” If we don’t pray like this we want see the kingdom of Heaven. Failure to pray in such a manner reveals our true citizenship.
For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
I didn’t say this would be an easy prayer to pray. Yet, there should be within every true follower of Christ a compulsion to pray in such a manner. Do such verses evoke an AMEN? Do they energize you to run to your prayer closet and pray “not as I will, but as You will”? Only those who deny themselves can experience true delight. Jesus picked up His cross for the joy set before Him. Is there any less joy for us?
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Prayer is a tool that Our Father has provided for us to enable us to do His will.
Experience the Growth
Experience the Growth
When we pray, we acknowledge that which is true about us; we are weak and foolish. Nothing promotes more significant growth in our life than our acknowledgment of such truth.
In Christianity, childlike faith is the sign of maturity. Resting in “Our Father” through submission infuses the weak and foolish with strength and wisdom. Childlike faith enables us to put away “childish things”.
What type of children typically thrive? Those who submit to the leadership and authority of their parents. Jesus fully submitted Himself to His heavenly and earthly authority.
And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
There is no obedience without submission. If submission feels barbaric or tyrannical then you don’t know God as Father. Praying “not as I will, but as you will” does not restrict us from good but releases us to pursue our ultimate good.
Pursue the Good
Pursue the Good
Adoption reassures my heart that submission is for my good though it is dangerous. When Jesus prayed, “not as I will, but as you will,” Hebrews 12:2 says, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” Jesus saw His ultimate good and ours in His prayer.
Could there be a more dangerous proposition than death by crucifixion? No! Then where did Jesus get joy? He said in Matthew 26:39,42, “My Father.” When you know God as Father, you can trust Him with what seems to contradict His trustworthiness.
In The Garden, the first Adam disobeyed The Father concerning the tree. In The Garden, the second Adam obeyed The Father concerning the tree. The first Adam separated himself from The Father by sin. The Father separated himself from the second Adam when He became sin so that descendants of the first Adam could become sons and daughters of the second Adam’s Father.
Let me close with this little illustration. How do you know if prayer is going to work in your life? If you say “ your will be done” the Bible then says, “Then go to God and ask for all kinds of things. God loves to pour out all kinds of stuff on the hearts of people who start with “your will be done”.
If you condition your heart to say “your will be done” your Father will release his power out into history through your prayer.
There was an unhappy man in the book of Genesis named Jacob. Jacob wrestled with God all of his life. He was always in conflict with people. He had a fight with his brother Esau to get his father’s love and he didn’t get it. He had a fight with his uncle to get the wife he wanted. He had a fight for his career. He was always in conflict.
One night, all alone out in the desert, a stranger appears and begins to wrestle with Jacob. They wrestle for hours. As time goes on, Jacob begins to realize this is more than just mortal combat. He begins to realize this is the meaning of his life. He begins to realize that all of his life, he has been angry at God. All of his life, he has felt God has not given him the blessing he deserved. He had to scheme and struggle to get the wife he wanted. He had to scheme and struggle to get the career he wanted, and he still wasn’t happy.
God never gave him what he deserved and now Jacob begins to realize, he begins to suspect that this one that he is wrestling with is God in human form, and he says, “Finally! My chance to pin God! My chance to finally get him where he has to give me what I deserve.” He wrestles with every fiber of his being and more, and yet, just before daybreak, the stranger shows who he really is and how much strength he really has.
He reaches over and just touches Jacob’s thigh, and his entire leg immediately is paralyzed and goes totally lame. The battle is over and Jacob realizes he lost and in a moment of clarity Jacobs life turns around. He had been trying to demand, “God, give me what I deserve.”
He had been trying to wrestle with God out of strength. Suddenly, he realized that would never work and he changes. He turns around and he says, “If I cannot prevail through strength, I’ll prevail through weakness.” So lame and hurting he holds on to God and he won’t let him go. The the dawn is coming, and the stranger turns and says, “Let me go. It’s almost daybreak and you cannot see my face.” Both the stranger and Jacob know that nobody can look on the face of God and live. Jacob says, “I don’t care. I won’t let you go until you bless me.”
You know what Jacob wanted? What is the blessing? “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you …” What Jacob was saying is, “I just want you. I just want to see your face. I just want you.” God looks at him and says, “You have been called Jacob up to now, but now you’ll be called Israel because you wrestled with God and man, and you overcame, you triumphed.”
Jacob was born again at that moment because he finally realized after all this time that the only way to win was to surrender, to say, “… your will be done …” and to say, “All I want is you.” Jacob discovered what I hope you will discover … That is, God is his own happy ending. God is the answer to all the prayers. The minute that Jacob lost, he won. The minute he surrendered, he finally triumphed.
Finally, God turned and said, “Jacob, I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. It was only through his gentle wrestling that God actually accomplished it in Jacob’s life.” You know the reason that can happen to you and me is because Jesus Christ was our real champion, and he went off and wrestled with our real problem. It wasn’t us and it wasn’t God. The real problem is sin and evil.
Jesus Christ triumphed on the cross because like Jacob, he lost. He submitted to the Father. He said “ your will be done ” and in that loss, in that weakness, he triumphed. He took the punishment for our sin, justice was satisfied, and we could be saved; that’s the power of prayer.
Submission brings glory to God and our ultimate good. Listen to the words of Paul for help in our time of need . . .
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?