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Praying for Exactly the Wrong Thing

Jesus had finished Passover with His disciples and had dismissed Judas to commit his treachery. His body was heavy from the long meal and drink that he had ingested, his mind was in turmoil over the horrendous journey to His death that he would have to undertake, and his heart was overloaded with betrayal, helplessness, sorrow and anguish.

He went with his 11 friends to a place on the Mount of Olives called Gethsemane, told His disciples to pray, and fell apart. He said to Peter and the two sons of Zebedee “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” He walked a little farther through the garden, fell on His knees with his face buried to the ground, crushed by the immensity of it all and prayed, cried out to God, sweat pouring from his face as the reality of what was happening pushed down around Him. And in a voice wracked with sobs He said: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” (Matt. 26:36-39)

What do your prayers look like in your most desperate hours? When you are far beyond the end of yourself and the inner turmoil threatens to tear you apart, what do you pray for? When the sweat pours like blood from your face and you can barely speak for the enormity of it all, what is your request of God? Maybe they sound something like this: “God, my financial situation is beyond hope. Please provide a miracle!” “Father, my work is cutting back and I am in extreme danger of being let go, please let me keep my job!” “God, I have been dealing with this chronic illness for years, heal my body!” “Lord, my life has become unbearably difficult, problems seem to spring up like dandelions, make my life easier please!” And you pray with all the earnestness of Jesus as he prayed that night; but what if you are praying for exactly the wrong thing?

What would have happened if Jesus would have gotten His request that night? No torture, no humiliation, no betrayal, no death, no resurrection, no salvation for us. See, the Father’s plan was bigger than what Jesus was going through at that moment. In Isaiah 46: 10 God describes Himself: “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.” He has a plan and He sees the whole picture. We don’t.

What if your financial situation is teaching you to trust God? What if your being let go from your job opens the door to a better future for your family? What if your chronic illness and the way you deal with it is instrumental in someone else coming to the knowledge of Christ? What if the difficulties in your life are the way that God is making you stronger? God knows the whole plan, and when we pray it is good for us to remember that or we may find ourselves praying for the wrong thing.

See, Jesus didn’t stop with his request for the Father to rescue Him from what He was about to go through, He continued with a few simple but profound words that changed the course of history: “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” He acknowledged that God was sovereign and that the Father’s will would be the best for Him, for those around Him and for everyone to come. With those words, He said that He understood that God saw the end from the beginning and He placed His trust in His Father’s hands. He trusted His Father’s perspective.

As we go to God in prayer, can we do any less? Should we put ourselves in the place of God and pretend that we know what is best for us? Should we impose our will over His? Understand that I am not saying that we shouldn’t express our thoughts, opinions and requests. By all means we should let our requests be known. We should tell Him how we see the situation and how we would like it to work out. But in the end, we need to trust in His perspective and let the last words of our hearts be: “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

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