Thursday, November 21, 2013

What Do You Want? (The Lord's Prayer, Part II)

"Abba, Father, all things are possible for Thee. Take away this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what Thou will." Mark 14:36

"If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us.... We are far too easily pleased." -C.S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory"

The second thing Jesus does in His prayer is to state His request(s) or desire(s), and He is bold and honest about them: He asked that the "cup" of the cross and God's wrath be taken away from Him.

"Ask and it shall be given?"
Unless we are completely tactless, most of us are pretty gun-shy in this area. We find it indecent to ask God for what we really want. Shouldn't pray be about others? About our family? Our friends? The sick, the poor, and the hurting? The world? Peace on earth and all that? There is nothing at all wrong with asking for those things. They are all needed, but do not lose sight of how brash and personally specific Jesus made prayer. It was about you asking for personal things (Matt. 7:7-11), even down to your most basic needs and benefits (Matt. 6:11-13). The Psalms are sung prayers to God, and every one of them is filled with specific personal requests ("cleanse me from sin," "make my work prosper," "save me from trouble," "destroy my enemies," etc.), and even the apostles saw prayer in terms of personal requests (e.g., Phil. 4:6).

"Prove it!"
Of course, there is a right and wrong way to go about this. The wrong way is the "adulterous generation seeking a sign" way (Matt. 16:1-4; Mark 8:12). The Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus to give them a sign to prove that He was the Christ. They did this to "test" Him to see if He really was who He claimed to be, which means that they didn't believe that He was who He claimed to be. Thus, their "request" was asked out of unbelief; it was like telling God, "Oh yeah? Prove it." Such an attitude is the opposite of Christ, whose own brother explained, "Ask in faith, doubting nothing" (James 1:5-7), which is how the apostles would ask when they cast lots to choose someone to replace Judas. They prayed beforehand, asking God to guide the lots (Acts 1:24-26). This was not a "Oh yeah? Prove it" moment. They asked in faith, believing that God would answer and would answer rightly, which is the essence of proper asking in prayer.

Prayer: the original "Safe Place".
As stated before, prayer is not about you; but there is a place for you, a specific, safe place. A place where you can make your requests known unto God, where you can be honest and speak your mind, where you can approach the throne of grace boldly. If your prayer life is based off of your specific relationship with God, then is not honesty good for any close relationship? Should not that person, the one you are drawn close to, should not they be the one to whom you can be unbashful about how you feel, what you want, and what you fear? Give God the same brazenness. Give Him the same trust, for He is your good Father, and He will hear the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:3-5).

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013


  1. I usually pray for others first, then in the end for me. But I was also (sometimes) praying for a sign, a miracle? maybe a supernatural act? so that I could be washed away of any doubts that ocasionally will creep in my mind. I was praying that He will comunicate with me. Then I started visiting blogs I haven’t visit a long time and everything I read is how to pray well and ask the right things and search for the right things. Thank you. It’s me the problem. I am praying for the healing of my aunt from a terminal illness so it can be a witnessed miracle for me and my family and now I feel very bad.

  2. Pray for your aunt anyway. God's strength is made perfect in weakness, even the weakness of fear and doubt.