For the last few weeks, we’ve been delving into the prayer that Jesus uttered in the Garden before He was crucified, and the difference it can make if you’re prone to worry or uncomfortable with uncertainty. (If you missed the earlier posts, you can catch up here, here and here.) Today, we wrap up this little series with another anecdote about how this prayer has helped me, along with some final thoughts about its current relevance.
You may wonder, as I sometimes have, if praying for God’s will and not ours during an uncertain situation shows a lack of faith.
When Randy and I prayed this way during our years of infertility, for example, I sometimes felt as if I were hanging on to an escape clause, giving both God and myself a way out in case my prayers for a baby weren’t answered the way I wanted. (Sort of like the fine print of prayer, if you will).
I believed that He could make me pregnant, no matter what the doctors said. But I didn’t know whether He would, and at times I felt as if praying this way was my own little way of protecting myself and keeping my expectations in check.
But then, I had to keep going back to the peace I was experiencing. I wasn’t worrying. (Given my previous struggles in this area, that was a miracle in itself.) I wasn’t fretting. I wasn’t agonizing over what was going to happen to me in the future.
All that reassured me that this really was a good way to pray. And the fact that Jesus Himself prayed like this pretty much sealed the deal—I don’t think it would have been included in scripture if it wasn’t meant to guide and encourage us.
As I shared last week, praying for God’s will to be done during that season of infertility was what finally released me from the stronghold of worry that had held me captive since childhood. Since then, though, I’ve had to return to the prayer again and again, as God continues to give me opportunities to choose trust over worry and fear.
Sometimes I fail miserably. Other times, it takes me a while to get there, but when I finally remember, it never fails to usher in the peace that surpasses all understanding.
For example, we found out in late 2003 that Randy was going to be let go from a company he’d been with for 10 years. The good news was that he discovered this was going to happen several months before it did, so he had time to prepare. But the impending job loss was still stressful, and even more so because we were building a house and preferred to have some degree of financial stability during that process.
I knew I needed to submit this concern to God in prayer, but instead, I often found myself giving Him a 17-step plan of what I thought should happen. Randy needed to get a job with this company, and it needed to come at this time and in this way so that all of our insurance and budgetary needs would be covered.
When I caught myself telling God what needed to occur with Randy’s job, I had to keep going back to that prayer—not my will, but yours be done. Once again, praying this way brought me peace during those months of waiting and uncertainty. It helped me hold my expectations of what was going to happen loosely. It reminded me that I was not in control or responsible for the outcome.
Still, for me, trusting God about our financial future was much more difficult than trusting Him about our future family.
Everything I believed about God when we were dealing with infertility was still true. He was still sovereign. His plan for me was still perfect and good, even if it included things I didn’t like or didn’t understand. He still loved me. He still knew what was best for me and my family. He still wasn’t going to leave me nor forsake me.
But I still had to make a conscious decision to trust Him. And for me, verbalizing that prayer once again kept me focused on what I knew to be true and helped me (mostly) avoid my old habit of worrying.
This applies to so many things that might concern us today, doesn’t it? The upcoming presidential elections. The appointment of Supreme Court justices. Unsettling changes in the world and in society. Healing for ourselves and loved ones. Provision of our daily needs. And so on.
Not my will, but yours be done.
Although I didn’t really plan to delve into this topic quite so deeply this summer, I’m glad I did. I need these reminders now more than ever, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one. But before I shut the door (at least for now) on this unexpected little series, I want to add one last thought.
When we pray for God’s will to be done and begin holding our expectations—about anything—more loosely, it does not mean that we are abandoning hope. Yes, the Greek word for “hope” does mean “confident expectation,” but the key here is the object of our hope.
We get in trouble when we put our hope in something that we want to happen, or someone we want to come through for us in some way. It is only when we place our hope—our confident expectation—in God, in His Word, in His unfailing love—that we can have peace in the midst of uncertainty.
P.S. Parts of this post were adapted from my book Infertility: Finding God’s Peace in the Journey (Harvest House, 2003), available here.
Also, this week I’m linking up with Suzie Eller and friends at #LiveFreeThursday.