I have been struggling a lot with prayer lately. I know this is unusual for the leader of a prayer ministry, but I have struggled with what I feel is the nature and outcome of prayer. For example, if I pray for someone who is sick to recover, my view of prayer changes dependent on the outcome of the prayer. If the person recovers, I say that this is an “answer to prayer.” If they do not recover, I often tell myself that “it was not God’s will” or “it was not God’s timing” or something of that nature. I am struggling even more with this issue now because I have so many friends and family members that are dealing with incredibly difficult situations (the death of a child, serious health problems, life threatening illness, the sickness of a young child or children, constant pain, etc.) I tell these people that I will pray for them, but when I pray, I do not know what to pray for. I often spend my prayer time making a desperate plea to God to “help them.”
Upon much reflection, I have realized that I do not know how to pray because I do not trust God and the nature of God. When I pray, I often pray for justice and fairness. I pray that children will not go hungry because I think that is unfair. I pray that a loved one will not suffer or be sick because I think it would be best if they were healed. I pray for certain situations because I want to “fix” the problem. I believe in my heart that if God would only do what I ask, there would be some justice and peace. I do not want to pray that God’s will be done because I really want my will to be done. When I pray, I am so focused on the outcome that I believe would be best because I believe that if I were God, I would not let children suffer. If I were God, I would not let parents lose a child. If I were God, I would do things differently.
I am appalled by my pride and arrogance. God has really dealt with me over the past few months, and I am coming to understand that I am not uncomfortable with the nature of prayer, but I am instead uncomfortable with the outcome that I see. In my prayer life, I have failed to realize that I am not God. I am not all knowing. I am not loving, just, kind, and good. I do not know what is best for my own life and my own family, much less what is best for humankind.
If I truly want to know about the nature of prayer and how to pray, Jesus gave the best example before his crucifixion:
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:39-44)
In this prayer, Jesus asks for what he wants – “take this cup from me”. Yet Jesus has the strength to submit his will to God the Father and states, “yet not my will, but yours be done.”
This model of prayer is simple – ask for what I want, and then ask that God’s will be done. However, living this prayer in my daily prayer life may be the most difficult task I will ever face. God is showing me that I have to learn to give up my desire to control and “fix” things. In doing so, I have to trust God and trust his will.
As I continue on my journey, I will try to live the words – “not my will, but yours be done.”