The statement “God willing” or “Lord willing” can often be heard in Christian circles. James does tell us that we shouldn’t boast about tomorrow, saying we ARE or we WILL do such and such, and that instead ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-17) But it goes deeper than that.
Taught to Pray
If you recall in the gospels, Jesus gave us an example or model of prayer recorded when the disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4). We know this was a model and is often broken down with acronyms to remember, such as ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication), but there’s one part I want to focus on:
“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you likely know this verse, if not the whole Lord’s Prayer, by memory. But even though I have this memorized, this question popped into my mind:
Do I pray like this?
Causing A More Earnest Prayer
In Luke 22, Jesus had just finished the Passover meal with His disciples, His disciples got into a little spat about who was the greatest (in the midst of Jesus! You know, only the Greatest Servant of All, the Son of God, Savior of the World, but that’s a whole other post in itself), He prophesied of Peter’s denial of Him, and then retreated to the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane to spend his last free moments with His Father.
In the Luke account, it tells us that Jesus, “being in agony He prayed more earnestly”, to the point that His sweat became like drops of blood. Jesus was in agony. He was in a severe mental and emotional struggle as He was within the hour of the start of what would end up being His crucifixion. He knew the cup the Father had given Him to bear and His human response was like ours, agony. And yet, it didn’t stop with agony, the agony pushed Jesus to pray more earnestly.
It may seem that agony pushing Him to prayer is simply because He is God, but we must remember that He is fully human too. We see this is true even in our flawed human lives as well. I know that the times I’ve been in immense amount of pain, it ushers in a spirit of desperation to get closer to God and seek His help. It’s also how I’ve learned to kiss the wave.
Jesus’ Prayer Request
As Jesus prayed, He asked the Father to remove the cup from Him in this manner: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) He was praying for the cup to be removed, yet sandwiched His request between expressing His desire for His Father’s will. Jesus' desire for the Father’s will to be done was more intense than His desire for His request, of the cup be taken away, to be granted. This again raised a question for me:
Is my desire for the Father’s will more intense than my desire for anything that I pray for?
In reflecting on this, and to be transparent with you…I don’t always pray like this. I wish I did and I strive to, but I fall short. Sometimes my desire for the Father’s will is more intense than my desire for my request, and in some things, I admit, it is not. Years ago, I prayed for someone with cancer to be healed and spent hours and hours in tearful and fervent prayer over it, and in the end He took them home. I can’t claim to know why or what His will was with that, only that it was, and I had to choose to accept His will or be angry about it. Ultimately, I know that His ways and thoughts are higher than my own and it is truly my deep and earnest desire for His will to be done, even though I have times of faltering in that desire.
THE Perfect Example
This led to asking myself: How would life be different if I ALWAYS prayed like this with every request I bring before God?
If I follow Jesus’ example in this, the general result is that I will be more like Him. Specifically, I would come confidently to the throne of grace during my time of need and I would not just be making my requests known, I would be surrendering my will at the same time. I would be aligning my heart with God’s and therefore my desires would always come second to His will, just as Jesus’ did.
Why do I not always do this?
Part of it may be that I, like the disciples, succumb to sleep. While yes, physical sleep overcomes even the best of us, when I say sleep, I mean sleepiness in the form of complacency, lack of earnest care, and lacking a strong desire to seek God and His will above all else. There are seasons where I find it hard to stay alert and I slip into periods of “sleep walking”. I can read about sad things going on in people’s lives and feel sad but not stirred with true compassion, and in turn fervent prayer. It bugs me when this happens and it takes a firm decision to stop it and refocus my eyes on Jesus. Ephesians 5 tells us to be imitators of God and says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” It goes on to explain why in saying, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:14-17 - bold emphasis added)
Help from Heaven
Lastly, we don’t want to let slip by that an angel from heaven was sent to strengthen Jesus after He prayed. Jesus’ prayer was not falling on deaf ears. The Father listened and responded. He didn’t do as Jesus asked, in taking the cup away from Him, but He did send an angel to help strengthen Him. We saw that angels were sent to minister to Him in the desert after He had fasted for 40 days and nights and had just been tempted by the devil (Matthew 4). We see all throughout the Old Testament as well, God sending angels to His praying people (Daniel 9-10 for example). God may not always answer our prayers as we want or hope, but He does listen and He always responds. God gives us His sufficient GRACE. In all things, may we be imitators of our Savior and learn to say, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done."