not my will but yours be done

God answers well-intentioned prayers in which you submit yourself to His will, but abandon what you’d really sort of prefer. It’s too bad. (But  actually sooo good. Just like it’s good to have someone else rip that old band-aid off your leg because you would just peel it off oh-so-slowly and take forever. Or to yank out that loose tooth you would otherwise just push around with your tongue.)

In Luke 22:42, did Jesus not pray, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me —nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” Yes, in the end, God’s will was done; Jesus died and was alive again! Easter Sunday marked the commemoration, in fact. His death was not pleasant in any description, but it was done.

I am glad. Saddened, but gladdened.

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Labour at Prayer

A public service announcement brought to you by the Letter to the Colossians.

1:3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you…

1:9-14 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us form the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

2:6-7 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

4:3-4 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for your message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I an in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

4:12b He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

There you have it – a Colossian reminder to pray continually. Because praying is the great work of God at work. Because a simple childlike prayer is all that is needed. Because prayer is the battle. Because it is not just about the thrill of seeing prayer answered. Because it is simply following what Christ commanded.

You couldn’t have planned it better

I recently spent some time talking with friends about the withered fig tree in Mark 11. We were a little stumped by the placement of this section and the meaning it was supposed to convey. I’m still unsure about this whole tree/fruit thing, but as for one verse in the section, I have seen some illumination from scripture-lived-out.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24)

I was unsure about how the logic of ‘believe that you have received, and it will be yours” would work, but it is becoming clear as I attempt to ask for specific things in prayer (and have other people pray for me), attempt to believe that God has answered my (our) requests, and then see that… whoa… God was working that out and doing stuff about that specific area before I even realised I should pray for it. It might not even be ask for A and get A, but the unexpected (perhaps even unrelated) B that happens is interconnected. I think such things (chain answers to prayer) happen in conjunction with a chain of obedience linked by a great dollop of faith. Not everything is pleasant, but it’s all working for good.

Sometimes God answers so suddenly and clearly — but you know, in a casual “I’ve always been working” God way.

Now you don’t see it… and now you do :)

Fast Food Prayers and Garden-Grown Slow Cooked Prayers

Immediate answers to prayer aren’t necessarily the biggest shows of God’s power.

Faithfulness shows the most over time, and when you wait for something for such a long time and then find your waiting faithfully answered, the feeling of love is mind-numbing. You had begun to think that your request may have been unimportant or forgotten, or that it was a misplaced request not seeking God’s will.

But God’s artistry of delay is too spectacular.

His delay requires a lot of our faith in His follow-through. Faith when you are anxious is believing that the answer is not late; it is timely.

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. (Matt 21:22)

In fact, you should mentally expect the answer to come, and arrange your heart for its imminent arrival, even if it is a distant imminence.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24)

Meanwhile, expecting the answer to come does not mean you stop praying. And continuing to pray about the same thing does not mean you are not having faith or not ‘believing that you have received it’ – it tests your heart’s desire for this, reminds it to desire this without giving up, and keeps you aware and on the lookout.

I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. (Romans 1:10)

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

[Stand therefore…] praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… (Eph 6:18)

Finally, God’s work is mostly a big long epic project and it would be rather silly of us to expect a single package as answer and gift for our prayers.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment… (Phil 1:9)

God has been faithful, and so I must assert it!