One of the places where many choose to walk away from the faith is when they have prayed for answer to a problem, an illness, or other troubling issue and feel that God did not answer. Some of this is truly a matter of our expectations being unrealistic about what prayer really is about.
Sometimes our prayers are not answered simply because they did not fall into the template of “God’s will.” “It must not have been the will of God,” we sometimes tell those who come to us wondering why prayer wasn’t answered.
We are taught by our Savior to pray, “Thy will be done.” This is not a built in “escape clause” for those experiences where prayer didn’t get answered. “I pray that your husband will be saved if it’s God’s will.” Well, OF COURSE it’s God’s will! “He wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” Yet that doesn’t guarantee an automatic YES to the request of prayer. This is where we enter in to LABOR in prayer. There is an intensity about true prayer that goes beyond much of the casual verbiage that passes for prayer in churches today.
Jesus’ struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane was between the desire for God’s will to be done but arriving at the place where He could say that was a battle that drew blood from Him. It was intense for His flesh, though sinless, to die to the Father’s will. It put Him on His face, dripping wet, bloodlets of moisture mixed with the dirt floor of the Garden… the “olive press.”
Few of us have ever entered in to that intensity of prayer, certainly not in an effort to make sure we DON’T get what our flesh wants! A few of us have wept hot tears trying to get what WE want that we think will fulfill us or make us happier or life easier. But putting our flesh to death in prayer?
But that is precisely what we are doing when we pray “Not my will, but Yours be done.” We are praying, God let me flesh be crucified. Let my selfishness, my self-seeking, my self-centeredness be put to death that Your will may truly come alive in me. That Your will would be done through me.
And when we come to that place, to that Gethsemane, we can know we’ve truly prayed.
“Father, not My will, but Thine be done.” (Luke 22:42)
FOR REFLECTION: In what way today can you be sure God’s will is done in your life?