We can’t relate to when Jesus obeyed God’s law perfectlyor healed miraculously, but we can relate to how it feels to be overwhelmed, depressed and have deep unrest in our souls – which is what He felt in the Garden of Gethsemane.
He sweat great drops of blood in intense anxiety as He pondered the horrifying suffering that He would endure on a Roman cross – for us.
In that dark and lonely place, Jesus prayed a prayer of faith. What did Jesus’ prayer of faith sound like? [Matthew 26:30-46]
Jesus first prayer was “If it is possible.”
Verse 39 epitomizes that while Jesus was fully God, He was fully man. In his sinless, human nature, He perceived the horror of his coming execution and very naturally and appropriately asked His Father if there was another way to accomplish His plan of redemption.
Remember: Jesus knows all things are possible with God.
It is important to note that Jesus already taught in Matthew 19:26 that there isn’t anything God can’t do. He said that with men, things are impossible but with God, “all things are possible.”
Your will be done
Jesus 2nd prayer was “if it is not possible.”
If Jesus already knows that all things are possible with God, why would He further pray that if bypassing the cross was not possible, “… nevertheless not my will but Your will be done”?
Is Jesus confused? Is He contradicting His earlier teachings? No. In verses 42-44 , we see that Jesus has come to rest in the wisdom and ultimate goodness of God’s will.
Jesus reveals that though all things are possible with God, not all things that are possible – are God’s will.
Jesus faith is so great, He has come to rest in the truth that if the Father’s answer to His prayer is the exact opposite of what He prayed for – it’s wise, loving and good.
To be sure, the Christ is not sinfully wavering on whether or not He will obey, He is praying and asking God if there is another means by which He can obey. Therefore …
The lips of Jesus teach us that the prayer of faith sounds like, “Your will be done.”
This is where my pride often gets involved in prayer. I can’t imagine how God could have a better plan than to give me what I’m asking for. More often than I’d care to admit, I think that My will be done and Thy will be done are synonymous – and they just aren’t.
Creature, meet Creator
In my earlier years as a preacher, my theology was liberal and deistic. I thought that uttering the words, “if it be Your will” jinxed my prayers because men of faith and power were supposed to know what God’s will was and keep confessing it until “your confession resulted in manifestation.”
Such liberal theology cannot allow the believer to rest in “Your will be done” because it takes an incommunicable attribute of God (that He spoke things into existence), and then attributes that quality to men. This false teaching thoroughly confuses believers because it leads them into presumption in prayer with no answers for why their heartfelt confessions were not heard by heaven. Let’s call that theological mess, ditch one.
The other ditch is equally faithless, whereby one doesn’t bother to go to God in prayer for anything. This is fueled by the false notion that there’s no sense in praying because it doesn’t change anything anyways. God is perceived as distant from His creation, having wound it up and let it go to play itself out. Instead of understanding God’s sovereignty as loving Fatherly engagement with His creation, it is misunderstood as fatalism. Instead of seeing prayer as a beautiful gift that nourishes and changes us, one has no need for prayer if it’s only purpose is to change things. Let’s call this fatalistic mess, ditch two.
Bold Prayer of Faith
Notice in the prayer of Jesus in the garden that there are two truths about prayer we must hold in tension: Jesus asked boldly of His Father: therefore, so can we. Jesus found rest in the sovereign wisdom of His Father: therefore, so can we.
If we had been at the cross of Calvary in person, we (like the disciples) would have thought we were gazing upon the worst possible scenario when, in fact, we would have been looking at the best possible scenario. That’s how far we are from understanding how “Your will be done” could be a beautiful prayer of faith.
Faith-filled prayer is not declaring with confidence what we think God should do.
Faith-filled prayer is asking and having confidence that what God chooses to do is perfect.
God heard and answered Jesus’ prayer. How? Not by sparing Jesus from suffering but by reassuring Jesus that He was working in the suffering. Not by sparing Jesus from death on the cross but by raising Him from death in the tomb.
The Father’s answer did not resemble the Son’s request, but it was perfect, and the Son found grace to rest in that perfection.
May we learn to rest in the goodness of God in prayer so that when we hear “My grace is sufficient for you”, (II Cor. 12:9) it hits our ears as words of great comfort and not a divine letdown.
Pray and ask boldly friend – you are in good hands.
Pray with great confidence and thanksgiving – not because you presume to have asked perfectly but because God’s answer will be perfect.
Pray and rest in “Your will be done.” May you find great grace in that place of prayer, being reminded continually that you are loved with a love that has defeated death itself!
Paul Dunk is a student at Knox Theological Seminary, a church planter, a performance driver and an actor.