Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
God isn’t a genie in a bottle. We don’t rub him in all the right ways and expect him to do our bidding. If he did then who would be God?
Some have the mistaken notion that God exists out there as a sort of cosmic grand daddy eager to dispense blessings to all without discrimination. God answers prayer because it is his prerogative to do so. But sometimes he declines. And sometimes we have witnessed him acting in spectacular ways.
Is God being inconsistent? Nah. God refuses to be reducible. We can’t cut him down to the level of an idol. Idols can be manipulated. Just say the appropriate mantra, burn the smelliest incense, channel the right energies, and presto, you got yourself a domesticated deity that can do your will as a pup on a leash.
Jesus says, ” thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). If we can’t accept the notion of God being sovereign, then we aren’t ready to accept him as God. Parents don’t give everything to their children. When they do so we refer to such as spoiled brats deserving of our derision. But wait, even spoiled brats don’t get everything. They don’t get to be sovereigns of the family household. Presumably the adults are in charge. Can you imagine students managing schools and inmates running the prisons? Who would like to live in that kind of world?
The expectation that God sits in the heavens in order to serve us is about three hundred and sixty degrees wrong. God has decreed a certain course of action for each of us that is bound up with the vocation of Christ. Only in relation to Christ will God do or not do some things in reference to us. In Christ he will give us eternal life. Outside of Christ we will face damnation.
We must pray persistently and learn patience. The luckiest people are the ones who trust God and do not lean on their self-confidence at the expense of relying on God. When God says “no”, it might mean “wait.” If he says “yes”, he might have a different idea about how to help us than we originally envisioned. God’s “no” might be his way of redirecting us to a wiser course of action. Yet in other instances we are full of ourselves, rather than God.
“When we are at our wits’ end for an answer the Holy Spirit can give us an answer. But how can he give us an answer when we are still well supplied with all sorts of answers from our own.” — Karl Barth
Ultimately we must admit that there is an element of mystery involving prayer. Why does God allow our loved ones to die of cancer when we have asked for healing? Why does the pastor who prays daily for protection for his family faces the apalling horror of having an evil intruder rape and brutalize his wife in their own home (true story)? Why, why , why…..
Still we pray because we believe in the God who will finally and totally undo everything that has wrong in the world. I am not talking pie in the sky for when we die, but about God’s commitment to defeat the anti-God, anti-creation powers and usher in healing and renewal within time and space.
And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him.