Could you pray for God to take your life? Or your child’s life? Or pray for cancer?
Our gut says no.
How do we pray for something that we *don’t* want to happen?
Everything in us resists.
But sometimes the prayers God desires are the prayers we do not want to pray.
Surrender is necessary.
What do I mean?
Is God so vindictive and manipulative that he would want me to die? Or take the life of a child? Or give someone cancer?
Honestly, those are deep theological issues that we all struggle with and I do not have a solid answer for you.
Seriously, I don’t know.
I think that the answer is no. I know that God is a loving God and I know that before the world was corrupted, Adam and Eve weren’t supposed to die. Death and disease and suffering are abnormal.
But on the other hand, in our world, these things exist and while God doesn't give us these things, sometimes, for his own reasons, God chooses not to take hardship away from us.
And so the question is, when trouble comes, when we experience hardship, and suffering, pain and even death… how should we pray?
Our natural reaction is to pray for God to rescue us from our trouble, to take away our pain, and to save us from death and most of the time, that is exactly how we pray. Unfortunately, that is not the model that we have been given.
In John 12:27-28, shortly before Jesus was arrested, he said this to his disciples:
27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
And later that night Jesus prayed two times saying, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) and then later, “He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
Knowing that God has sent him to die, Jesus prays that the Father will use his suffering to bring glory to God. Jesus lives as an example to us that our prayers might not always be for God to rescue us from our troubles, but that, if God has prepared that trouble for us, or has chosen to allow it into our lives, that our suffering would somehow bring God glory.
The crucifixion of Jesus meant the death of God’s own child but God allowed it, even planned it, because, in the grand scheme of things, in God’s master plan, that pain, that suffering, that death, made the entire world, and the future of everyone, better.
God brought glory to himself when Jesus was lifted up on the cross because that action pointed all of humanity toward Jesus and toward God. So we know, that whatever we do that points others toward Jesus, likewise brings glory to God.
And so when we experience hardship, and suffering, pain and even death, even though our natural reaction is to pray for God to rescue us, we must remember that is not the model that we have been given.
Praying for rescue isn’t a bad thing. Before his arrest Jesus was praying for exactly that when he said, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” But he didn’t stop there. Jesus continued by saying, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
It is okay for us to pray that God would rescue us, in fact, it’s normal. But we always need to remember that rescue might not be a part of God’s plan. And so, as we pray for rescue, we should also remember to pray that if God chooses not to rescue us, that our trouble, our suffering, and yes, even our death might, somehow, bring glory to God and point others toward him.
And those are probably the hardest prayers we will ever pray.
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