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How bold should I be in prayer?

August 4, 2015 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Posted in: Prayer

“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.’” (Matthew 26:39)

When we are going through difficult times, or are watching our loved ones suffer, it can be hard to know the right way to pray. On the one hand, God is our good, all-knowing, and all-powerful heavenly Father, and so we may be tempted to simply pray that God’s will would be done, trusting that He will do what is best. On the other hand, we may feel that it is right to keep on asking and pleading for our desired outcome, believing in faith that God will bring what we ask for to pass.

We have all likely heard contradictory advice on this. I have heard preachers declare that praying “if it be your will” to God is a cop-out, a statement that reveals a lack of faith, because God honors audacity in prayer and does not need our permission to do what He wills. And there are certainly passages that challenge us towards bold prayer. James declares in James 4:2 that we don’t have because we don’t ask. Jesus tells a parable of a persistent widow in Luke 18, whose badgering of the judge gains her what she is asking for, as a reminder to keep on praying and to never give up. And of course, Jesus’ boldly challenges his disciples in Matthew 7 to ask, seek, and knock, knowing that God will answer us.

On the other hand, we recognize that there is a humility we need before God, that He alone has the proper perspective and knows what is best for us and for the world. In the same passage about asking, seeking, and knocking, Jesus reminds us that God is like a good father who won’t give us a stone to eat instead of bread, or a snake instead of fish. When we look back on our lives, we can see how many things we asked for were foolish, and be grateful that God in His wisdom chose to deny those prayers.

I think the best balance is found in Jesus’ prayer to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane before he is arrested, in Matthew 26:39. On the one hand, he clearly and boldly asks His Father for what he wants, namely that the cup would pass from him, that he would not have to suffer on the cross by bearing the wrath of the Father on human sin. But on the other hand, he ends his prayer by submitting to the Father’s will – “not my will but yours be done.” Certainly if Jesus added that to his prayer, then it is no cop-out for us to do the same! No, it is a recognition that the Father is sovereign, that He is good, and that our ultimate desire is that He would be glorified, not that He would give us everything our hearts want. As Jesus teaches us to pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Let Jesus’ prayer in the garden encourage you to pray boldly for what it is you want, and to continue praying and never giving up. As you pray, however, balance that boldness with humility, as you acknowledge that God is God and you are not, and trust that His will is ultimately what is best for you.

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