Saturday, November 23, 2013

Who is God? (The Lord's Prayer, Part III)

Priorities, son. Priorities.
"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

The third and final thing Jesus does in His prayer is finish with the proper posture and attitude towards God, by concluding, "Not what I will, but what You will." If Jesus started His prayer with who God is, then He finished by acknowledging who He Himself is towards who God is: the Son obedient and subject to the Father. He ended by asserting God's position and His, stating the nature of their relationship.

Now, our relationship with God is manifold, but there is one facet of it that must be stressed here: God is God, and we are not. We make our requests known, and make them known boldly, but at the end we acknowledge that He is God and we are not. His counsel will stand, and He will do as He pleases (Is. 46:9-10). Of course, the wonderful news is that God's counsel is for our good (Rom. 8:28-39), and that it pleases Him to do good for His children (Matt. 7:9-11), and so we need not fear His counsel and pleasure. Nevertheless, we ought to recognize it as supreme. Though Jesus requested it, the "cup" did not pass from Him, and it was for good, both for us (Rom. 5:1-2, 6-11) and for Him (Phil. 2:5-11).

"But I still want authentic love!"
Recognizing God as supreme is not as easy as it sounds. It is always easier to put ourselves first, seeing God as (at best) an equal to us and our wants. My generation really has a problem with recognizing authority or some supremacy that is not ourselves, but we live within contradiction. We demand self-actualization but also real love, neither of which can occupy the same space. A relationship (if it is to be successful) must necessarily be a place where you lay yourself down out of love for another; communication is not possible if each party is not willing to learn the language of the other, whether that language is foreign or cultural and emotional. It becomes worse with our relationship and communication with God, because He is not only another that is outside of us, but He is also the supreme other, one who merits (and calls for) our recognition of and submission to His supremacy. We must recognize/submit to His supremacy, or else our prayer life (and whole Christian life) will become a dead-end, narcissistic affair.

Rejoice in your smallness.
If our requests are the meat of the prayer-sandwich, then who God is (esp. in relation to us) becomes the slices of bread. To put it another way, prayer begins and ends by recognizing the nature of our relationship to the One to whom we are talking. We do this in daily conversation as well: begin and end by recognizing who we are talking to in the light of our relationship with them, whether it be a friend ("Hey, you." "Until our next meeting."), loved one ("Hey, babe." "Love you."), strangers ("Hello. Can I help you?" "Have a good day."), or even enemies ("What do you want?" "Don't ever talk to me again."). Of course, our relationship to God is unique since, as I said earlier, it is manifold: He is our Lord and Creator as well as Friend and Lover, but the principle still applies. You can begin and end by acknowledging who God is to you (i.e., who He has revealed Himself to be in your specific life), and in between those acknowledgements you make your requests known unto God.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

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