Prayer and Praise, Part 4
In our previous installment in this series, we covered aspects of what has become known as the Lord’s Prayer. Hopefully, you learned (or learned again), a number of important things, including the order or priority in which Jesus viewed things.
Not My Will
One of the things that I’m not sure we Christians appreciate that much is the fact that life is really a continuum. We are born, we live, and then we die and that all takes place in this physical realm. For many Christians though, the idea of death is anathema. It is something horrid, to be avoided at all costs. Even though we know about heaven and the perfection that exists there, we don’t want to physically die. Even though we understand that our soul is eternal and needs to break free of this “earthly tent,” as Paul calls it (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1), we shy away from the idea especially if we are young. We should see death as a simple doorway through which we pass when we will shed this physical skin, replacing it with another that God will provide, one that is infallible and not subject to the imperfections of the one we have in this realm. Life and death is really not the best way to describe things. Our souls are created by God, we are born into this realm, given a physical body, which will one day cease to exist and when it does, our soul will fly free!
Too many Christians seem to approach death the same way Hezekiah did as we see in Isaiah 37. When God told him his time on earth was coming to an end, Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and cried. He then begged God to change His mind and God did, giving Hezekiah 15 additional years. Those 15 years were horrid, but Hezekiah didn’t care because he was told that the bad really bad things would happen after he was gone. Christian, do you do that? When someone is sick, do we expect God to heal them? Do we automatically assume that is His will? I’ve given an example of how I made that mistake before.
When we talk about prayer, Christianity, and God’s sovereignty, why do we Christians tend to storm heaven with our requests, instead of first trying to figure out God’s will in the matter? I understand the words of the writer to the Hebrews who says “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:16). But if we consider the actual context of this oft-quoted passage, the writer has just referred to the fact that Jesus – because He has a human nature – is able to empathize with our weaknesses and offer help to us during the times we are tempted in order to avoid sinning. It is because Jesus (in His humanity), was tempted as we are tempted but never succumbed to the temptation to deviate from God’s will that He can also help us during those same times when we face temptation. Of course, we need to boldly ask Him for that help, don’t we?
Hebrews 4:16 is not saying that whatever we want from God, whatever happens to be on our want list, we should approach God boldly, believing that He will make those things come true. Instead, the simple fact of the matter is that when we are tempted to do something that is not God’s will, Jesus can help us remain true to Him by giving us strength from within (via the Holy Spirit who indwells all believers), to overcome each and every temptation that tries to move us away from God and His perfect will. In that case, we should go boldly before the throne requesting His strength to flow in and through us that we might not disappoint and dishonor God by sinning.
We previously quoted James 4:3 – “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” It is important to understand that rather than being preoccupied with our own felt needs, we need to understand what God’s will is for us. This can best be accomplished by praying as Jesus did and we referenced the night He was betrayed, as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Though Jesus did have wants and He mentioned a particular “want” during His prayer to the Father, it was presented with the caveat that in the end, Jesus truly only wanted the Father’s will to be done in His life. Ultimately, though He prayed that the Father would remove the “cup” (whatever that cup was doesn’t matter) from Him, Jesus wanted and accepted that “cup” if that’s what the Father wanted. The end. Point taken.
Yet, what do we Christians do all too often? We pray for specifics to a certain situation and often we do so before we even truly know what God’s will is and we rarely, if ever add the words, “yet, not mine, but thy will be done” to our prayers. We tend to think of those words as putting us in “defeatist” mode. How can we really “believe” God will provide the answer we are looking for if we add those words to the mix? Answer: we can’t, so we don’t add those words.
Here’s an entire page that highlights passages in which Jesus tells His followers that we should “ask anything” in His Name and He’ll do it. Here’s John 14:14, as one example.
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
The passage seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? People read that and say, “See? God wants us to ask Him for anything our heart desires and He will provide it…if we have faith!” Is that what the verse is telling us? It seems that way (and so-called “name it, claim it” proponents and “faith-healers” teach that), but context is nearly everything, so what does context tell us?
In John 14, Jesus is really His disciples farewell instructions. In so doing, Jesus takes a few moments to comfort His disciples (John 14:1-4). He tells them to be of good cheer, not to worry, because even though He’s leaving them and they cannot go where He’s going (then), He goes to prepare a place for them in His home. He’s also done that for you and for me, if you know Him and are in relationship with Him. Yes, you have a specific place in His Father’s house.
In John 14:5-7, Jesus affirms the truth that He is the only way to gain access to the Father. He is literally, the way, the truth, and the life. No one can do an end run around Jesus and get to heaven. It simply cannot happen. All these cults and sects that tend to place another human being on the same level as Jesus are wrong. In Mormonism, you cannot get to heaven unless both Jesus and Joseph Smith agree on it. In other cults, sects, or religions, other things are substituted for Jesus, but Jesus gave us a clear statement that salvation is gained only through Him and no one else.
John 14:9-14 inform us (in response to Philip’s request in verse 8), that Jesus was so united with the Father in thought, word, and deed, that if you saw Jesus, you actually saw the Father! This is not proof of the so-called heretical “oneness” doctrine, believing that there is one Being who sometimes is Jesus, other times is the Holy Spirit, and other times, the Father. It is simply demonstrating how united Jesus and the Father were in purpose. That union continues to this day.
Jesus is saying that He fulfilled every aspect of God’s the Father’s will for His life. He never wavered. Because of that “union” in thought, word, and deed, God the Father honored Jesus by responding to all of His prayers. But the caveat here is that Jesus only asked for the things that God the Father wanted. To ensure this outcome, Jesus didn’t go off the rails and ask for other things based on “felt needs” expecting the Father to fulfill them, but always included the caveat “not my will.”
Jesus ultimately only asked for the Father’s will in His life. That’s why the example in the Garden of Gethsemane is such a great example because there, we see that Jesus did have human desires, yet in spite of those desires, in the final analysis, Jesus acquiesced to the Father’s will.
Do we do that? Is it important enough for you to start and/or end every prayer giving God the Father the ability to do whatever He wants to do in and through your life? Jesus was so joined in like purpose with the Father that He fully understood His own purposes as He lived life here on planet earth. Because Jesus was so united with the Father, Jesus was able to judge those things that were not of the Father and ignore them.
We need to go into this a bit more, which we’ll do with our next installment. Join me then.
Entry filed under: christianity, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: garden of gethsemane, gethsemane, hebrews 4:16, isaiah 37, john 14, not my will, prayer.