Matthew 6:9-10 (KJV) 9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Before the memory of Irma fades I’d like to share a few more thoughts. As the hurricane approached the U.S. many people began to pray – for the Caribbean Islands as well as for Florida. I was among them, and it is the Florida-related prayers that I’ve been thinking about. No one knew for sure which path Irma was going to take. Most prayers took the form of asking God if it could go out to sea and affect no one. But, if that couldn’t happen… would the prayers of the west coast believers prevail, or would the prayers of the east coast believers? It makes me wonder… is prayer – at times – like a tug of war? A tug of war is “a contest in which two teams pull at opposite ends of a rope until one drags the other over a central line”. Many of us have participated in such a contest when we were younger.
My prayers (from Maine) were “west-coast” oriented, because my son lives about a quarter mile from the Gulf Coast, and I know others up and down the west coast of Florida. I wanted them to be safe. I wanted their property to be secure. I wanted everything to be okay for them. BUT… at the same time… I also know people on the east coast of Florida. I did not want harm to come to them or their property either. At first people on the west coast were “relieved” because the storm was supposed to travel up the east coast. Perhaps the brunt of it would miss them. Then people on the east coast were relieved because the worst of the storm was forecast to travel up the west coast. So… whose prayers “prevailed”? The east coasters or the west coasters… or someone else’s? Does prayer even affect the weather? Did the Christians on one coast have more faith… or were they “better” people? What about the south coast (the Keys) and the mid-state region? The more you think about these things the “trickier” prayer is to nail down to some automatic formula or response on God’s part. In fact, these kinds of thinking reveal some flaws in our understanding and practice of prayer.
Too often we approach prayer like we do the restaurant experience. And, though we do not use these words, the true approach of many a prayer is, “Dear God, are you ready to take my order?” We come before God and we see/imagine the “menu” available to us. Then we say, “I’d like this… and this… and that… please be as quick as you can to bring me just what I want.”
When the Holy Spirit (the “waiter”) takes our order to the cook (God the Father) we expect something great. When it is placed before us we do not always receive it with satisfaction. If I get a meal at a restaurant that I do not like, what do I do? In my case, I say nothing. But to myself and to Joanne I will grumble, grumble, grumble. In contrast, when my older brother gets a meal that he does not like, he sends it back demanding that it be “fixed” or replaced. How dare the cook send out such a disgusting or inferior thing and expect him to eat it!
Is the unwillingness to accept what God sends our way an appropriate attitude in our prayer lives? Is grumbling or complaining? Is getting up and walking out on Him? These things (as well as a “perfect meal”) are all related to “me getting what I wanted” out of God. But God is not my servant. I am His. Sometimes what God puts before me is bitter. It’s really hard to swallow. I don’t want it. Yet it is what God puts before me. Sometimes what God puts before me is sour. It feels like it has gone bad. It’s not fresh. It may even give me the “shivers” to get it down. Sometimes what God puts before me is salty. It leaves me wanting/needing more… something else to wash it down or quench my thirst (for Him). And sometimes what God puts before me is sweet. It tastes great. I can’t get enough of it. I think it should always be this way. If God “really” loves me everything He gives will be this way, and it will always be in line with just what I want.
In cases like these, we end up in a “tug of war” not with other Christians, but with God Himself. And guess what? That is one you will never win. If you think in these terms you will inevitably have to conclude at some point that God is against you. And honestly… is that the case? Do you really believe that? Dallas Willard (in Renovation of the Heart) asks a question that all of us truly need to come to terms with:…
“Do you want God to help you, or do you want God to be God?” God has a perfect will, and my only need is to seek, receive, and follow that will, not to seek for my will to prevail. At the end of it all, our best prayer is no more and no less than what Jesus taught us to pray…
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…” – More than anything else, O Lord, I want your name to be honored by me, through me, and in me.
“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” – Jesus modeled this at the end of His life when He came to the cross. And He taught it as the model of our prayers.
Am I willing for God’s will to be done… even when it is bitter to me? Can I trust God to do what is best and right in His sight, and can I trust that He is strong enough, wise enough, and loving enough to carry me and to glorify Himself in me? The tug of war of prayer is what is going on in my heart – between self and surrender, between discontentment and contentment, between rejection and acceptance. Do I really want God’s will, or don’t I? Will I be satisfied in Him? Will I follow in faith, or leave in disappointment? Am I ready to hold everything else with a loose grip, so that I may hold tightly only to God?
If your pattern of prayer is, “God, are you ready to take my order?”… I believe you will inevitably be disappointed with God. But if your pattern of prayer is, “Not my will, but Thy will be done”… then you will be living your life at a whole new level spiritually: deeper and richer and ultimately satisfying to you, as well as pleasing to God.
John 14:1 (NIV) "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
Matthew 26:42 (NIV) He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."
1 John 5:14-15 (KJV) 14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: 15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
Job 2:10 (NIV) He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
PRAYER: Lord, may I want your will… may I love your will, and may I accept your will with faith… each and every day. In the name of Jesus, AMEN.”
Jesus Christ is Lord!