Praying Terrifying Prayers
An opportunity to serve Christ and his church came my way but I wanted to look the other way. I was terrified to even consider praying about it.
Why do we do this? How does it happen?
As Christians we know that transformation is embedded into the fabric of our identity. We are told by Paul to continually have our minds renewed by the truth of Scripture:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Rom. 12:2a)
Our will has to be one of most difficult areas of renewal. We conceptually understand the truth that Christ is Lord and it is his will that we are to salute and submit to; however, it is the practical application of this truth that plagues us all. There is a regrettable gap between knowing and doing. I call this the “Lordship-gap.” This gap is seen vividly in the area of prayer.
In my circumstance I was serving in a church as an Assistant Pastor. The elders asked that I prayerfully consider being sent to plant a church about 20 miles south of our current location. To be honest, I did not want to do it. I did not want to go and I did not want to pray about it. To my shame, I was living in the midst of this Lordship-gap.
As Christians we do this in other areas as well. We know we should love that seemingly unlovely person—but we don’t. We know we should pursue reconciliation—but we don’t. We know we should talk to our neighbor about Jesus—but we don’t. We know that we should be more intentional about building others up in the grace of Christ—but we don’t. This is a Lordship-gap. We salute Christ’s authority conceptually but deny it practically.
What is the solution? Ironically, it is looking at the Lord himself. Perhaps there is no better place to deal with the issue of aligning our minds, hearts, and lives with God’s than the Garden of Gethsemane. You know the scene; Jesus is laying prostrate on the cold Palestinian ground while his disciples are asleep under the blanket of the night sky. The Son of God is emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained. Luke tells us that this torment was so deep that he was literally sweating drops of blood (Lk. 22:44). The pending cup of undiluted, fully fermented divine wrath was set before him. It was now his hour to serve sinners like you and me. And he prayed. He brings his fully knotted rope of a heart to be untied before his Father in prayer. Remember what he prayed?
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” (Lk. 22:42)
When we see the Lord of glory pleading for God’s will to be done, even in the face of his own darkest hour, we know that we have found our model. Peter reminds us that we are to follow Jesus in this as he kept entrusting himself to the one who judges righteously (1 Pt. 2:23). We don’t simply salute Christ’s Lordship conceptually (with our minds only) but practically (with our hearts and wills).
In addition to the model for our prayers, we have the motivation. Christ actually did drink that cup. He did die for us. He purchased us for God (Rv. 5.9). We know that since God did not spare Jesus but delivered him up for us all then he will, with him, graciously give us all things (Rm. 8:32). This motivates us to pray terrifying prayers.
With my own reluctance I had to pray that terrifying prayer. I had to come to the point of Christian obedience when I said, “Father, not my will but yours be done.” That is hard, but it is right and good. In and through praying, God brought me to a place where his will actually became my will. I wanted to plant the church. I wanted to move. I wanted to go and serve different people in a different area. God did that.
This is the work of transformation in the life of the Christian. God the Holy Spirit continues to work, narrowing that Lordship-gap and bringing joyful obedience. What is it for you today? What area of your life does God need to deal with? How about honestly seeking the Lord in prayer? Begin like this: “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name….Not my will but yours be done.” This is bound to joyfully and profoundly transform us.
Erik Raymond is pastor at Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and he writes regularly at his blog, Ordinary Pastor.