Back in the fall of 2012, Brennan preached a sermon entitled “The Awesome Submission of Christ” as part of the Jesus You Might Not Know series on the Gospel of Mark. This particular one focused on Mark: 14 with Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane. What I pulled out of this, and what we continued a conversation on as part of our community group, was the personally and theologically challenging nature of that prayer.
“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” – Mark 14:36
Brennan focused on this prayer as Jesus’ model of complete submission. But the question this brought up for many in our group was, “why pray and ask God for anything?” If my aim is to submitted totally to the will of God, and I have surrendered myself to that end, then what is the point of asking Him for something if I will always conclude with saying “do whatever you want”? At this point it is tempting for someone like me to seek out the theological answer; to find the right way to think about it. And I don’t want to devalue that, but at certain points we need something that satisfies more than the intellectual circumstance, something that we can personally grasp. And, as it happens, in our group conversation there were a couple analogies given that I think were very meaningful for personalizing the reasoning behind prayers of supplication.
The first was in response to the topic of whether submission to His will is enough to make asking Him for something unnecessary. This came out of someone saying that ultimately, God, the creator of all things, chose to save us by sacrificing His son; He owes us nothing: no blessings, no answers to prayer. He has already redeemed us to an eternity with Him. But somehow that would not feel right. We are relational beings. God created us to have relationships and desires a relationship with us. That doesn’t say to me “I’ve already done enough, you should be happy just to take whatever comes your way”. What I hear, and what is reiterated throughout scripture is, “I desire to give you every good thing” (Matt. 7:11). So the analogy was this, paraphrasing a young wife from our group:
When we got married, we went through the ceremony, sealed it with a kiss, and signed the marriage certificate. If my husband then turned to me and said, “Great, I’ll see you in eternity!”, I would not be ok. Yes, being married to him is great, but that means so much more than the ceremony. I need the relationship.
What a simple truth. God knows us, knows that we are weak vessels that desperately need Him. Maybe we shouldn’t need more than His greatest gift of grace, but in our day to day lives, we do. We need a reassurance that we are His, and He cares for me. So when looking at submission to the will of God, the relationship that is built through honestly approaching Him with our desires cannot be overvalued. Submission that forgoes that relation for me would tend towards fatalism and loneliness.
The second analogy hits on a better picture of what that relationship is. A marriage is a wonderful way to picture our dependence, value and love, but I think the parent – child relationship illustrates better why it is important for us to come to God with requests. I’ll paraphrase my wife pictureing it this way, speaking about our 1 year old, Jed.
If Jed never asked us for anything, it would be weird. His asking for things is a sign of his trust and love. He knows we give him things, and so he asks for many things. He is upset when we don’t give him what he wants, but it’s ok because as he will grow and understand more and more why we do and don’t give certain things, and he will learn to trust us more and in turn continue to ask us for thing he wants, things he thinks we would want him to have. We are the providers and he is completely dependent on us. Also, there are many good things that we as his parents could choose to give to him, but we might not give him every single good thing that is available. Jed coming and asking for a specific thing allows us to reciprocate with giving him what is best for him that also aligns with what he desires.
God knows the desires of our heart, but if we never speak them out loud, are we really valuing the relationship that He has given us? The ability to come before Him and say, “Father, I think I need this, I don’t see any other way. But above all, I need you. Please provide for me according to Your will.”