Not worrying aloud or a shopping list.
‘Not my will but your’s be done.’ (Luke 22:42).
That should really be called the Lord’s Prayer, since it was one of very few recorded prayers of Jesus, prayed at the climax of his earthly life. He looks at the Cross, his body and mind recoils from it, but his spirit desires God’s will above everything else.
Video discussing this post
This is a prayer of submission, of surrender to his Father’s will. Even at great cost to himself. It is a prayer that puts the needs of others above his own. It is a prayer that reaches down through the years and says “God be glorified in the lives of my followers through my suffering.” It is a selfless prayer that took hold firmly of the mission God had for him. Its effects reach even to you and me.
Jesus’ prayer echoes the phrase “Your kingdom come, your will be done” from the prayer we often refer to as “the Lord’s Prayer” and a few verses later Jesus underlines this idea:
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33)
Do you pray in this way? Or do your prayers sound like worrying aloud? Are they focussed on asking for bad things not to happen to you? Do they sound something like this:
“Oh God please let me not get Coronavirus
Please stop my boss from being mean to me
Please don’t let me be fired
Please don’t let my kids stop following you.”
Or, if you are feeling more positive, do your prayers sound like a shopping list of things you want from God? Both these types of praying, can demonstrate our focus is wrong. The focus is on us not God. Of course God does invite us to ask him to do things for us, but first he wants us to re-orientate our lives around him.
Jesus wants us to seek HIS kingdom. To ask Him to help us to better follow him, and that we might learn and be equipped to obey him. Sometimes his best will for us does not include taking suffering away from us. Perhaps through your suffering you will meet someone else who you can introduce to Jesus Kingdom, who you can comfort with the comfort he has given you. This call to seek Jesus’ kingdom above your own comforts is a call to focus on Him so that you can then focus on his will. You see, as we will see in the next article in this series, he has a specific job for you to do.
Ask not what God can do for you, but what you can do for him.
So will you answer Jesus’ call to seeking the wellbeing of others and the extension of His kingdom before your own wellbeing? Are you willing to even suffer for the good of others? One of the most myserious verses in the Bible was the subject of the last sermon I head before my own lockdown given by R.T. Kendall on Colossians 1: 24
“now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake and in my flesh, I am filling up what is lacking in Christ afflictions for the sake of his body. That is the church.”
Somehow our sufferings can help others, and we even can be seen as extending the sufferings of Christ. Kind of puts a different perspective on prayer doesn’t it? Though of course even Paul prayed for his thorn to be taken away, but when he realised that it was necessary for him to fulfil God’s purpose in his life he learnt to accept it. We can even thank God in the midst of our sufferings when we have faith he is at work in and thorough them.
The real goal of prayer is enthroning Jesus in our hearts.
What is it YOU want God? That is what we should be asking. We should expect an answer since Jesus promises “my sheep hear my voice.”
Is my prayer a shopping list, worrying out loud, or “Let your kingdom come, let your will be done IN AND THROUGH ME as it is in heaven”? Ask not what God can do for you but what you can do for God. https://t.co/iSTNwKuQvd
— Adrian Warnock (@adrianwarnock) May 4, 2020
But even if we do not always hear a direct answer, the Bible shows us what Jesus wants to happen. Maybe in an era that reacts against the idea of obeying a king, we could talk more simply about learning to do what Jesus wants. That is what this whole long series of articles is about.
We know that God is in favour of justice, and loves the poor. So we pray for and work for his Kingdom to come by spreading good news, but also by feeding the hungry, and providing for the poor.
We know that Jesus hates sickness and promises to heal us. So it is not wrong to ask for his Kingdom to come into our sickness and those of others. We will need to remember, however that his promises are for now, but will only be fully implemented in eternity. Sometimes he does not heal us, and so we accept the help of doctors which is part of his healing. And re remember that Jesus weeps with us when we suffer, he is not somehow enjoying it!
So specifically right now we pray for the end to this Coronavirus. But all the time knowing that as much as it existing is not in keeping with God’s ultimate desire, he is turning it around for good. So for example in the UK ¼ of the population have attended an online service since lockdown, making us wonder if this is actually prompting a revival.
The fact that we know God works in and through even terrible events is one reason we can be kind to our enemies, like Joseph was. We can conclude that when they are working against us, God will work even harder for us. And in the Cross, which is where we started this article we see that God took the most evil act that man had ever committed (the murder of his son) and turned it around to save the whole world. How much more can he turn around difficult things in your life when you ask him:
“Let your kingdom come, let your will be done IN AND THROUGH ME as it is in heaven”