Sunday, September 9, 2012

Praying Like Christ

Prayer is a key part of life with Christ but it is often misunderstood. To some it is a mystery. To some it is a duty. To some it is a burden. To others it is a way of life. To others it is a luxury if you have time for it. To others it is only an action for the weak. Some claim that it works and other can’t remember the last time a prayer request was answered.

It is in Jesus we find the answers to our questions about prayer. In Matthew 6:10, Jesus prays “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. ” How could He pray that? Because He knew what things were like in heaven and what things were like on earth. He is our model. He is our guide. He is the only one who knows the pain of the world and the true reality of the Father. He understood how this world works and how God works in it. With this in mind what did Jesus do? He prayed. . . a lot.

We can look in the book of Hebrews to see one reason why Jesus’ prayers were answered the way they were. The author is writing to believers in the early church. Hebrews 5:7 says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”

Reverent submission is humbling ourselves before God and surrendering in obedience to whatever He desires. Many times our prayers are the opposite of those of Christ’s. We start with our own ideas, our own perspective, our own desires and ask God to bless our plans when we have no idea what He is really doing in our situation and what is best for our lives.

God works in our lives through many different circumstances, but we will only be transformed and made holy to the extent we are willing to receive them as tools in the hand of our sovereign God.

One of the clearest pictures that we have of Jesus’ reverent submission is in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is praying to God the Father, knowing that in the next hours He will be arrested, beaten, falsely accused, and eventually crucified. We see that His struggle in prayer is overwhelming. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (Matt 26:38)An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:43-44)

But even in the midst of the struggle Jesus still chose the way of the Father. “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done. . . Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus was wrestling with God the Father in prayer. Do you ever do that? There is an important decision that you need to make and you really want God to agree with what you want. You pray out of emotion not wanting to let go of your plans. We see David starting prayers in this way in Psalms. He prays out of his sincere emotions and desires, but eventually arrives at the place in his heart that He once again recognizes, “but you are God.” Jesus was doing the same thing. He knew that his fleshly desire was to avoid the pain that He was about to experience, but He knew that His ultimate loyalties were with the Father. “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done. . . Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

It was not easy, but it also was not a forced or cowering submission. It was a reverent submission that had chosen to submit to the Father.  Even though many hours of torture and brutality were to come, the real struggle was in the prayer. Once the reverent submission was in place, Jesus set his heart, soul, and mind, on the purpose of the cross. . .

The reverent submission was not ultimately about the type of prayer, but the condition of the heart. God desires a heart that is fully dependent on Him. Those are the lives, the hearts, and the prayers that God will use to accomplish mighty things. Prayers may be said with a loud voice and a lot of emotion, they may even be with great words and ideas, but if the heart is not in a place of reverent submission, a place of ultimate surrender, the prayers will lack the power of God. Have you asked God to bring your heart to the neutral place where you will obey whatever God directs?

Author Ruth Haley Barton describes it this way:
The prayer of indifference expresses the fact that we have come to a place where we want God’s will—nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.  It means we want God’s will more than our own personal comfort or safety, more than ego-gratification or wanting to look good in the eyes of others, more than our own pleasure or preference, more than whatever it is we think we want. It is a state of wide openness to God in which we are free from undue attachments and have the capacity to relinquish whatever might keep us from choosing for God and for love in the world.  It is a prayer in which we abandon ourselves to God.

Today are we willing to give control of our lives and our prayers to the Father who knows what is best for us. Even when life is difficult and the future is unclear may we be willing to surrender our plans and rest in the love of God. As we draw near to God through prayer may He first of all work in us, so that we will be prepared for Him to work through us. For the glory of God.

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