The Unanswered Prayer of Jesus
No one is doubting the fierce faith of Jesus. He healed the blind, cured the sick, and raised Lazarus from the dead. He would often say to others what got you from point A to point B was your faith, “Your faith has healed you.”
And yet, no amount of faith or praying the perfect prayer would get Jesus out of the cross.
No one has ever had or will ever have more faith than Jesus. He was so on mission he headed towards his doom and tomb crying tears of blood, begging God, “If it’s possible to take the cup from me do so – but nevertheless let your will be done.”
Prayer has always been a hard one for me. Not the “doing” per say, but the “understanding.”
I’ve always been a guy who can jump in the deep end of the pool before I know how to swim. It often times has gotten me into a lot of trouble. But, to be fair, it also has led to a lot of fun and adventure.
On one side I’ve experienced childlike prayer from the very begging. God was always someone I talked to – A Loving Presence from my childhood that protected and saved me from a childhood scarier than any Hollywood Thriller. So hanging out with my FRIEND or my DADDY has never been hard for me. That piece of prayer has always been a gift.
But as I grew to read the Bible and rub shoulders with different friends in the faith – my brain would become more confused about the “potential of prayer” or the “power of prayer” or “manipulating God”…(JK – but…am I?).
Call it what you want…Petitioning prayer, Intercessory Prayer, Magic Prayer, Scratch Lottery Prayer – whatever you want to call it – if we come to the Throne Room of God in our hearts with a fun formula of, “If I just pray enough, then God will give me what I want?” We may not call it prosperity Gospel, the health wealth hocus pocus praying, or the name it and claim it conning God with our religious rapping – but it is what it is…You know it and I know it…we take a few pieces of scriptures out of context and suddenly we think we if we pray 27 times for something or maybe it takes 28…then God will “give me the desires of my heart.”
Look, I wish it worked that way – but it doesn’t. Even if it does – trust me – it doesn’t. You may be reading reality that way – but I’d encourage you to think about the type of god that makes “God” – if that were to be true.
God cusping his hands, with a cruel cackle laugh, saying…”Hahahahah if only Suzie would have prayed 29 times for that Cancer to go away then I would have taken it away.”
“Oh, sorry – you didn’t have enough faith. You had 75% faith and 25% doubt. I was more looking for something in the 90% range…so I will in fact be letting your United Airlines flight from Atlanta fall into the Atlantic Ocean. Sorry. K. Byeeeee.”
A god like that – no thank you. That is not the God revealed in and by Jesus.
Can I confess something? I’m in an intercessory prayer group. I was asked my some faith friends from a very different stream of Christianity than I am used to – and I’ve been learning a ton from. They really love Jesus. Wow! And their faith truly has and is shaping my own. I owe them a debt of gratitude. They seem to have binoculars into the profound possibilities of faith that most don’t even dare to dream or imagine. And yet sometimes I sit back and say (only to myself) what are we trying to do here fellas? I’m mostly in there to try and learn from my brothers and sisters because I truly don’t understand prayer. I have my guesses. But…don’t we all?
Here’s some of my guesses:
God is ALREADY a never ending flow of good and redemption. Imagine a hurricane of God’s goodness hitting the coastline – – it wouldn’t even come to your mind to say, “Hurricane…can you be a little more hurricane-y? Thanks. Amen.” The dam of God’s goodness has already broken open from the beginning of the Big Bang to this very moment as the universe continues to expand billions of light years away. God has never, and never will, hold anything back….So petitionary prayer in the sense of…God saying, “Okay 28 times…NOW I’ll give it to you.” Nah. But petitionary prayer in the sense of “God I pray for daily bread, today, and I’ll need to pray for it tomorrow, because otherwise I’ll learn independence. But that’s not what my soul needs. My soul needs dependence. I need to learn and relearn – practice and practice and more practice ‘Abiding in you’ – being a branch and living in your vine’ – every day, 20 times a day.” – That type of petitionary prayer, I can very much get down with. But the “other” nah – why?
Because. You can’t manipulate God.
But what about the, “A lot of times you don’t have because you don’t ask verse, you may say?”
Yes, in my younger years I too thought that there was some magic in that verse. But when I went looking, I didn’t find magic. I found love.
Imagine it’s Saturday morning and I go to my kid and ask, “Wanna go outside and play?” No thank you – she replies. Next Saturday, the same response. The next month and even year the same response. And then I stop asking. And after a few years, my daughter comes to me and says, “Hey, Dad why don’t you ever take me outside to play?” I would probably tell her, “Well, honey a lot of times you don’t have because you don’t ask.”
Bottom line prayer can only be problem solved if you take into account the free gift of free will, and that no matter how bad you want God to contradict the terms of the contract – God cannot (not will not) …CANNOT force…you to do anything you don’t WANT to do. Somehow in all of this mess called life, existence, relationship, and prayer with the DIVINE…your desires ARE a part of the equation.
Some people say …this is how I feel God is…and how I see him…Well, my friends than that will be who God is to you. You can press into your ideas about God, and because God can’t force…He has to allow you to get him wrong, you see. And that very notion right here – is why God entered human history – to change how you see him – so hopefully you can hear the true revelation of a unconditionally loving God that Jesus came to reveal.
Back on point. While you can’t treat God like an ATM machine or a Scratch Lotto Ticket…there is something about RELATIONSHIP , and back and forth, give and take to this whole prayer thing. God INVITES. We RESPOND. Jesus asks you to WALK ON WATER – but you don’t have to.
Remember the quote by Henry Ford, “If you think you can or if you think you can’t. You’re right.”
All things are possible in Christ who gives us strength – yes. But it’s still up to God according to his will – and what is his will (A NEVER ENDING FLOW OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE) – and frankly I don’t give a damn whether you believe it or not – it is – it is – it is – it is – it is…whether you feel it or not…think it or not…THE DAM OF GOD’S LOVE HAS BROKE…AND THE HURRICANE OF HIS LOVE IS ALREADY AT FULL CAPACITY.
So the only thing we can do is say, “Let your will be done” –
So manipulating God – no. Participating with God – Yes. But like any Dance. There needs to be someone taking the lead – and it can’t be you. Yes, you’re never going to experience the dance – IF YOU DON’T SAY YES…but you’ll always be frustrated if you try to take the lead vs. going with the flow.
Prayer for me comes down to two things: Intimacy and Soul Formation. And for brevity – I just say Intimacy. It’s in Intimacy where the soul is formed. Any other way would now be God manipulating us – and that’s not his style.
Want to both let God lead and experience the fullness of what God has for you in this life? Then there really is one thing and only one thing you need to say to God: Let your will be done.
All other prayer is about falling into the endlessness of who God is and who God is creating you to be.