“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’” (Matthew 26:39).Do you ever struggle with knowing how to pray? Have you found yourself wondering if it is alright to ask God for something particular? How do we ask God for something that we are not absolutely sure is His will?
Jesus faced this dilemma in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of His crucifixion. Being fully human, Jesus knew the agony that awaited Him at the Cross. Being fully divine, He knew the Cross was the only way to completely atone for our sins. So even Jesus struggled in His praying between what would be least painful for Him (“may this cup be taken from me”), and what would be most helpful in the Father’s redemptive plan (“Yet not as I will, but as you will”).
Our family has just come through an experience where we faced this dilemma in prayer. There was the possibility of a terrific professional opportunity for a member of our family. On one hand, we wanted to pray for what we felt would be the best thing from a human perspective. Obviously our will was that our loved one would get this new job.
We, however, have walked with God long enough to know that what seems like the best thing from our perspective, is not always the best thing from God’s perspective of perfect omniscience. So we struggle: “Is it appropriate for us to ask God for what we think is a good thing, or should we only simply say, “God, Your will be done”?
Jesus’ prayer helps us here. He was honest with the Father about what was His (Jesus’) will, namely to avoid the awful pain of rejection and crucifixion. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” I take from this that we can be secure enough in our relationship with our heavenly Father that we can say “Father, this is my heart’s desire. If it possibly fits in Your perfect, all-wise plans, please make it so.”
In the end, we must also acknowledge that God knows things that we don’t know. Any parent understands that there are some things that our children ask us for that we know are not good for them. Our love for them and our knowledge of the larger picture simply will not allow us to grant their request.
Jesus knew this perfectly well. He and the Father were one, yet He was submissive to His Father’s will. Thus Jesus prayed, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
In praying through this experience I have learned that is alright to tell the Father what our desire is. He knows it whether we tell him or not. God is a Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children. He genuinely wants to bless us, so long as those blessings fit His sovereign will for us.
And in this instance our desires happen to be the same as God’s desire. Our family member got the job!
But in every matter we humbly submit to whatever God’s good pleasure is, knowing that in the end He has our best interest at heart … for now and eternity.