Whatever Happened to “Not My Will, But Thine Be Done”?

July 20, 2011 at 12:37 PM

I have been trying to honestly look at my prayer life and have come to some conclusions.  When I pray, I often bring my list of requests, but I realize that I rarely end my prayers with the statement that Jesus made in the Garden of Gethsemane noted in the title of this post.  Why is that?

I believe it is what it is for a number of reasons:

  • Selfishness
  • Little attempt to discern His actual will

That may seem obvious, but I challenge you to be mindful of these two indicators the next time you seek the Lord in prayer.  In fact, when you go into your prayer closet, determine first why you are there.  Are you there to ask God to do something for you?  Are you there to present a request that for some reason you think He may not be aware of, or are you there to worship Him first, determine His will second, and praise Him for His provision third?

As I mentioned yesterday, often my prayers can seem to me to be simply matters of a perfunctory nature. I have “needs,” and I take them to Him.  I also mentioned that sometimes – maybe more often than not – I go to Him with my own preconceived ideas of how I expect God to answer and respond to my requests.

I recall one time way back in Bible college, oh probably thirty or so years ago.  I had just begun my very first term at Philadelphia College of Bible and I had a special grant from the government that allowed me to pay for my tuition and my books.  The trouble is – as I found out after purchasing some books – that I was supposed to buy all of my books at the same time so that there would be one total purchase per semester.  I didn’t know that and when I went back to buy the rest of my books, I was told that I would have to pay cash for them since I had already purchased books against my account previously.

Well, as you can imagine, I was nervous.  I thought, “What am I going to do now?”  I left the bookstore and after making a quick trip to accounting, headed up to my room, where I literally got on my knees asking God to provide a way.  As I prayed, I began to release the frustration and tension that had been caused by this new situation.  In fact, I specifically recall saying to the Lord something along the lines of, “Lord, I really need to be able to purchase those additional books for my classes, but I do not have the money for it.  If you could open the door for that to happen, I would really appreciate it.”  As I continued to pray, I experienced a change of outlook.  I then prayed, “Lord, if you do not want me to buy these additional books now, then that’s fine.  I will use the books from the library to complete my studies until I can earn money from my job to purchase my own books.”

It was actually a very liberating situation.  I knew what I wanted as I went into prayer, but on this particular occasion, I agreed with the Lord that maybe He did not want to provide the additional money at this point.  If so, then I also knew He would provide a way for me to be able to use the necessary books for my classes.  In either case, the way the Lord answered the prayer was completely up to Him.

Feeling completely at peace about the situation, I went down to accounting where the folks in the bookstore told me I should go to double-check with them.  I had been there earlier and they told me to come back later that day after they had time to check things out.

I arrived at accounting and stood in line – about ten people back from the front.  As I moved closer, the lady behind the counter saw me, smiled and said, you’re fine.  You can go purchase your books and gave me the necessary voucher for the bookstore.  As you can imagine, I was elated, but up until that point, I was not aware of how the Lord would respond.  I really would have been fine either way, but of course, this way was by far easier.

As I look over my life since that point, I realize that on too many occasions, I never give the Lord an option to respond to my prayers His way.  I go before Him, lay out my requests, and then leave, hoping (not necessarily expecting) Him to answer me according to my wishes.

Can you imagine a slave doing that with his master?  Can you imagine a slave going to the master and asking the master to do things his (the slave’s) way?  That would be absurd!  Normally, a slave in Roman times would go to the master with the need and simply wait for the master to respond, telling the slave how he (the slave) should do something, or what he (the master) was going to do about the need.  As Christians, do we do this with God, or do we simply go to Him with our requests and give Him little to no room to decide how He wants to respond.

I recall on many occasions of prayer where I left my prayer time not sure of what God would do, but really wanting Him to do it my way.  How is that allowing God to be God?  How is that making Him Lord of my life?  It’s not – plain and simple.

If I am not willing to do what Jesus did as He suffered emotionally and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, then I don’t think I have any business going to the Lord in the first place!  I note that once Jesus finally released the entire upcoming (and horrendous) situation to the Father, He was at peace.

Please note that in Luke’s account of the situation in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was emotionally racked with pain, so much so that He began sweating drops of blood.  As He prayed that the upcoming “cup” would be removed from Him, Jesus always finished with the words, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done,” (Matthew 26:42b).

If Jesus did that, how much more should we do that with every request we bring to the Father?  We have no excuse, yet for me, I have spent a good portion of my prayer life dictating to God – yes, dictating – that He would do it my way.  How tragic and sinful is that?

It is obviously fine to present our wants to God.  Jesus did this in Gethsemane.  However, if we do not end it (and mean it) with “not mine, but your will be done,” then I believe we are opening ourselves up to confusion, frustration, and even possibly sinful reactions to His will because we are only prepared for His response if it coincides with our will.

I notice that after Jesus won this battle through prayer, He was ready to move forward.  He came to the point of letting go of His own want, in favor of the Father’s and because of that, He came to terms with it and peace enveloped Him.  “Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” (Matthew 26:45b-46)

If we follow that through line, we note that Jesus is fully in command.  He is in charge, allowing Himself to be arrested illegally and He allows Himself to be illegally tried by godless men.  Can you imagine standing as judge of the God of the universe?!  This is what Jesus allowed because He knew it was the Father’s will and thank God for it because without it, we would have no chance to receive salvation because it would not exist to be offered to us.

As I look back over my life and all of my prayers that I can remember, I realize that too often, I have not given God any room to act according to His will.  Because of this, I have experienced frustration (I was expecting a specific answer according to the way I had prayed) because the answer did not arrive as I expected it to arrive.  This frustration created an attitude of sinfulness and I regret that tremendously.  However, God is so patient that He allowed those things to occur so that I would learn how He wanted me to pray.

If we look at the Psalms, I don’t see the type of requests and minutiae from David that often is included in my prayers.  I see a large picture from the mouth of David.  Yes, there were times when he was greatly concerned for his own life, but even there, he normally ends his prayer with praise to the Lord.

Whose life is it anyway?  If – as I stated yesterday – I am a citizen of heaven because through salvation, I have been transferred out of the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light, then where does my allegiance lie?  Whom do I serve, my SELF, or God?  Obviously, it cannot be both.

More than anything, I want to pray for His will and His alone.  I fully believe that the more I see and comprehend that my citizenship is actually not on this planet, that alone makes it far easier to let go of the things that tend to bind me to this earth.

As we prepare to relocate to Georgia, it is possible that the Lord may be directing my wife and I into a program called “Tentmakers.”  This is where people train to plant a church and as pastor, have a job outside the church so that the church is not fully supporting me, as pastor.  If the Lord leads in such a way, quite frankly, I would prefer to receive no pay from the church at all, preferring instead to support myself fully with an outside job.  Imagine the benefits of that!  The money that is received can go much further in evangelism and support of missionaries!  The church will not have to deal with my salary or benefits, or anything like that.  The money will be the Lord’s.  Obviously, I would need an outside job for that to happen.  Whoopee!  Then I would get an outside job and I’m sure the Lord would be gracious enough to provide it!

I have grown so tired of seeing the exorbitant salaries and benefits that pastors receive these days.  One ad I read was looking for a pastor of a large church.  They were offering a salary of – are you ready? – $150,000 plus benefits, plus a 401k package!  This was an evangelical, large church in the southern part of the United States.  Now, my question is, how does a pastor justify receiving that type of income?

Even many small churches are paying their pastor exorbitant amounts of money for the size of the congregation.  I know of one small church (about 100 people in size, give or take) where the pastor receives an annual package of $76,000.  Not only this, but the church regularly gives additional gifts to the pastor and his wife.  One time, they had their kitchen completely redone.  Another occasion, they bought something else.  On yet another occasion, they bought them a trip to Israel.  What we need to realize is that a pastor’s salary is not taxed, so when they receive their paycheck, their take home is the same as their gross.  However, these additional gifts are taxable income, yet I wonder how many pastors actually claim these things on their tax returns?

The world is speeding toward the apocalypse and too many Christians are praying only about their concerns.  We are too busy worrying about how the Lord is going to do this or that, and hopefully, He will do it according to the way we pray.  We are way too concerned about having far more than we need and we believe the additional is also what we “need.”

Since the Lord has made it clear that He is relocating us to Georgia, my wife and I have spent a good amount of time going through our home to rid ourselves of the things we really do not need.  We rented one of those huge city dumpsters that they placed in front of our home so that we could simply toss things away.  We had to have it emptied three times.  We still have more that needs to be tossed, given away, or recycled.  When we leave, we will merely be taking what we need.

I want to be a man after God’s own heart.  I want to end each prayer (and mean it) with “not my will, but yours be done.”  I want Him to show me where He is leading me, not where I am trying to lead Him.  How can I call Him Lord and have it any other way?  Didn’t Jesus say that very same thing?  “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)  Excellent question, isn’t it?

If God has given us things to do, then shouldn’t we be spending more time in prayer asking Him to make His path clear?  I have noted all the times I literally begged God to do something according to my will only to end up thoroughly frustrated.  I was looking for the wrong thing and it was never coming.

A few years ago, my sister went to be with the Lord.  She is home.  She is happy.  She is healthy, and most importantly, she is worshiping Jesus face to face!  Is there anything better than that?

During the time just prior to her death, she was in the hospital in a coma for roughly a week.  You can imagine how I prayed.  I ceaselessly asked God to restore her to health.  All day long and into the night, I reminded Him of my request.  This went on for three days.

Finally, on the fourth day, I wanted to begin again asking Him to restore my sister to health, and the words would simply not come.  Oh, I could have said them, but they would have meant absolutely nothing.  The Lord graciously and patiently let me storm the gates of heaven with my selfish (yet, understandable) request to raise my sister to health.  Finally, He broke through and the sense I got was that it was simply not His will.  That was final.  He was not angry that I had prayed the way I did, but not once had I prayed for His will to be done where my sister was concerned.  Not once.

Finally, I just simply stopped.  Then I said, “Lord, you know all things.  You not only know what is best for my sister, but your will has been predetermined here.  If it is such that you will be taking my sister home, then so be it, Lord.  Your will is perfect and reigns supreme.  I thank you for it.”

As you might imagine, that was a very difficult prayer to pray because it meant that I was acknowledging my sister was going to die and I would not see her again until I died.  However, I felt that it was okay to continue to pray and as I did, I asked the Lord to grant one request – if it was His will.  My one request was that my sister would open her eyes and we could “connect” so that I could say good-bye.  Ever since entering the hospital (before I arrived) she had been in a coma.  I found out later that she had flatlined twice with the paramedics before they were able to get her to the hospital.

That day, I went to the hospital and after lunch, my brother-in-law, nephew and I stood in my sister’s hospital room.  There she was, the same as always, machines doing her breathing and no real brain activity.  The nurse was also there and as I watched, she lifted up each of my sister’s eyelids and shone a flashlight into her eyes, which were looking straight down into the bottom of her lids.  Her pupil did not dilate and there was no movement at all.  I asked what that meant – duh! – and the nurse told me there was no brain activity.

She left and we prayed.  As we prayed, I glanced up and gently lifted one of my sister’s eyelids.  She was actually looking right at me!  I released it then continued praying.  I looked up again and this time, both of her eyelids were fluttering and then they both opened…wide.  She stared directly at me!  I knew that we had made contact.

Later that evening, we received a call from the hospital and we were told “something had changed.”  When we arrived, my sister had gone onto glory where she blissfully lives now.  I still cried like a baby, but God was so gracious in answering my prayer; a prayer He did not have to answer.

I am endeavoring to pray only for His will.  I have a lot of requests, requests that often seem to go ignored.  I think it’s largely because as James says, I have been asking amiss.  “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures,” (James 4:3).  Yep, that’s me, constantly asking with the wrong motives.  How about you?  Can you say with surety that every time you go before the Lord’s throne, you are free of ulterior motives?

If we are truly Jesus’ slaves (and is there a better Master?) and if we are truly citizens of heaven, then how can we live as if we are in charge of our own lives, as if we know better than God?  Is He working in and through us to accomplish His will, or are we working to accomplish what we believe is His will?

It is time for authentic Christians to realize that not only is our time short on this earth, but much of what we do will not matter when we compare it with eternity.  The number of books I’ve sold won’t matter.  The amount of money I may have spent to “get my books out there” will not matter.  The only thing that matters is whether or not I have been fulfilling God’s will or mine.

Paul brings this into sharp focus for us in a letter he wrote to the Corinthians.  “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself
will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire,” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).

Paul cannot be speaking of non-Christians here because of the phrase I have bolded.  A non-Christian builds his house on the sand and is not saved.  Paul is speaking of Christians here – authentic Christians.  He is referencing the time when we will all stand before Jesus in judgment; judgment not for salvation, but for rewards.  Everything I have done, everything I have said, and everything I have thought will go through the fires of judgment.  The things that remain will provide me with a reward.  Those things that do not remain but are burned up will give me no reward.  In the end, a Christian could have all his works burned up and he will still have his salvation, because it will not burn up.

This is a very sobering principle here.  We shouldn’t do these things because we want rewards.  We should do them because we want to glorify Him.  Any crowns of rewards we get will be fittingly and reverently tossed at His feet anyway according to Revelation.  Why?  Because without His presence and strength in our lives, those rewards would not be possible.  In essence then, Jesus grants salvation and enables us to live lives that glorify Him.  In the process, we receive rewards that He enables and helps us to earn through the works we do; works done in His strength, not our own.

I am endeavoring to revamp my prayer life so that I only ask for those things that are His will.  When I do not know His will, then I am required to leave it completely up to Him.  Even when I do know His will, I still need to leave it up to Him.

Jesus is our rock and our salvation.  He is our Master and provider.  He has stated He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  If that is the truth – and it is – how is it I can doubt that He will provide for my needs?  I truly must have this same attitude that Jesus had, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” (Philippians 2:6-11).

If Jesus Himself did that, how can I not?

Entry filed under: 9/11, alienology, Atheism and religion, Barack Hussein Obama, Barry Sotero, Communism, Demonic, dispensationalism, Eastern Mysticism, emergent church, Gun Control, Islam, Islamofascism, israel, Judaism, Life in America, Maitreya, new age movement, Posttribulational Rapture, Pretribulational Rapture, Radical Islam, rapture, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation, Satanism, second coming, Sharia Law, Socialism, temple mount, ufology. Tags: , , , , .

Our Citizenship – Where Is It? Demons, Devils, and Exorcisms

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