I have a friend who has a favorite quote that he has to use often. He plans out his week, prioritizes things and works his plan. All week long people come to him and ask him to stop what he’s doing in order to help them. They give excuses and sob stories to try to get him to stop what he’s doing so he can work on their project. Some will even invoke the boss’ name to try to get him to work on their stuff. “The boss says you need to work on this right away.” He’s learned that rarely has the boss ever asked him to stop what he’s doing in order to do an immediate request. So his normal response is, “A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.” He then adds them to his list and gets to them later.
Being around him and watching people beg, barter and demand he do their project now always gets me to thinking how often I treat God that way. “God, if you get me out of this, I’ll do better next time.” “God, please! I need you to do this right now! Hurry!” “God, your Word says you have to do this and you can’t be untrue to your Word, so do it in Jesus name!” Sound familiar? I’ve prayed every one of those prayers in the last couple of weeks. I try to paint God into a corner in order to get Him to give me what I want. If that’s the on,y time we’re talking and that’s how I’m treating Him, there’s a spiritual maturity problem on my end. The phrase, “Thy will be done,” often comes to mind in those moment when I want it to be, “My will be done.”
In Psalm 69, David starts his prayer off, “Save me, O God! The water is up to my neck; I am sinking in deep mud, and there is no solid ground; I am out in deep water, and the waves are about to drown me” (GNT). He’s clearly in an emergency situation as he describes throughout this Psalm. However, in verse 13, his tone changes and he prays, “But as for me, I will pray to you, Lord; answer me, God, at a time you choose.” Instead or telling God when to help or even how to help, a sign of maturity is asking God to help in His time and in His way. I often wonder how many of my prayers go unanswered or that I don’t recognize the answer because I tell God how and when to answer, but those aren’t what His plans are. Jesus started the Lord’s Prayer giving God permission to have His will be done. Since He was teaching us to pray, let’s focus on the words we use in our prayers to make sure we’re asking according to His will and not ours.
Recently in our life group we were discussing prayer, when one of our pastors spoke up. He said, “Agreement is the seat of power when it comes to prayer. There is power when we agree with each other in prayer, and even more so when we agree with God.” I’ve found that if you have a body of believers around you, it’s fairly easy to find someone to agree with you in prayer regarding something. I’m called fairly often with a request to pray for something. It’s my honor to agree with someone in prayer. So much so, that I stop what I’m doing and we pray right then.
The harder agreement to be in is the one with God’s will. I don’t always know that, so I end up praying my will and hope it aligns with His. I’ve learned to pray like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane where I let God know my request, but then say, “Not my will, but yours be done.” That’s a hard prayer to pray if we’re honest, especially when we are praying over a loved one who is fighting for life. Praying for God’s will isn’t about trying to change the will of God, but rather praying for me to accept what God wants to do and to be in agreement with it.
Something I’ve done in my prayer life to help me pray the will of God, is to give him a blank page. I pray, “God, whatever it is that you want to write into my life according to your will, I give you permission. Do what you want, when you want. You know the things I’m praying for. Help me to know the things you want to do in my life and through me. I make myself available to your will.” Be careful praying this prayer. If you mean it, this will unlock the power of agreement with God in your life and things will happen.
In Matthew 18:19, Jesus said, “Again I say to you, that if two believers on earth agree [that is, are of one mind, in harmony] about anything that they ask [within the will of God], it will be done for them by My Father in heaven” (AMP). Because agreement is the seat of power in prayer, make sure you’re bringing someone else along to pray with you on the things that matter most to you. Beyond that, leave room in your prayers for God’s will to take place in your life. When our will conforms to His, it’s a powerful thing.
As many of you know, I went back to Israel this past summer. One of the most visited places in Jerusalem has to be the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s filled with Olive trees as pictured here. On this trip, I discovered that the name Gethsemane means the olive press. We got to see an olive press to understand how it crushes the olives to make oil. That first pressing of the Olive is holy and belongs to God. I think that’s important to know when considering what happened there the night before Jesus was crucified.
Matthew 26 tells us that Jesus went there with the disciples and that grief and anguish came over Him. In verse 38, Jesus said, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me” (GNT). He was being pressed like an olive in that moment. His prayer in the next verse is what I want to focus on today. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! Yet not what I want, but what you want.”
Each of us have times in our lives when we are being crushed by problems and things going on. Just like Jesus, our first instinct is to pray, “Father, if it’s possible, get me out of this!” We cry and we pray for God to help us. But what if God wants to use that time to create a holy offering in your life? What if He is allowing you to be crushed so what’s inside comes out? I’m sure the olives in the press don’t appreciate the stone mill rolling over them, but what comes out is more useful than just the olive by itself.
Jesus understood this. That’s why His next breath was, “Yet not what I want, but what you want.” Instead of praying for God to get us out of the press, ask God that His will be done instead of ours. James 1:12 says, “Happy are those who remain faithful under trials, because when they succeed in passing such a test, they will receive as their reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.” Remaining under the press, like Jesus did, is the way to receive the life God promises us.