Freedom In Prayer To A Sovereign God

“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

—Matthew 26:39

I love God, and I love how big and massive and beautiful He is. I also love how He is in control of all things. (Psalm 135:6)

However, as God began to deepen and widen my view of His sovereignty, something started to happen in my prayer life. A tinge of fear started to arise when praying certain things. If God is over all things and is accomplishing His will through everything, are my prayers an attempt to assert my will over His?

When I pray, “God please heal them of their sickness,” what if it’s not God’s will do to that? Am I trying to tell God what to do? Shouldn’t I just be quiet and trust He is doing everything according to His good and perfect plan?

This really bothered me. But I knew that in His word, God asks His children to bring their requests to Him, (Philippians 4:6) and there was the beginning of a change in my prayer life.

The Phrase

My first response to this tension in my heart and mind came through a phrase I began using in my prayers. Any time I would bring a request to the Lord that I felt uneasy about, I would follow it with something along these lines:

God let your will be done, and give us the grace we need to walk through it.

As I saw more and more of God’s sovereignty in His word, the more this phrase felt so necessary in my prayer life. And honestly, I welcomed it, felt comforted by it, and still do. I felt too uncomfortable coming to God and asking Him to alter mine, and even someone else’s situation in life. How am I to know what God may be working in that person’s life through that? How am I to know that the pain and struggle they are experiencing isn’t exactly what God is using to make them more complete and perfect? (James 1:2-4)

So I would still make my requests to the Lord, but this phrase kept coming with them. I didn’t fully understand it then, but God was shaping and growing my own heart in this struggle. He was shaping my desires in prayer to include making pleas to God for changes of the heart, rather than only changes in circumstances. Asking to be made into the image of Christ, than only asking for the removal of pain. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

When your prayers start changing from only asking God to do or change something for you, to including asking God to do or change something in you, I think that is a good thing.

The Family Prayer

This simple phrase eventually evolved into a prayer for my family. My wife and I went through some really rough times at the end of 2014, and in the months that followed a prayer arose that I would pray often for me and my family.

Lord, give us a desire for your will,
and the grace within it to be still.
Knowing that in unknowns that be,
glory is given when we trust in Thee.

This prayer is very special to me. God gave it to me in some of the darkest days I’ve experienced so far in my life. Still today my heart whispers it to my Father when things arise that I don’t understand, cannot comprehend, or that I don’t know what the outcome will be. Every word and phrase in this prayer is packed with meaning. A confession that I don’t naturally desire my Lord’s will, and in my own strength I’m restless when things fall apart; and without God’s power in my life I am unable to be still and rest in His control. That I need him to help me know, KNOW with certainty of mind and heart that he is holy and trustworthy and in control, to the point that his name is made great by the peace he gives me in the unknowns.

While I love this prayer, and I think it is God honoring and I still pray it often, at times I found it replacing my requests to God to do something specific. There was still this unsettled fear in my heart that I did not want to come to God telling Him what I think He should do.

Thankfully God is a gracious and patient God. He kept working on my heart till it finally clicked. Using a scripture I had read and heard several times God opened my eyes to this reality, that Christ had no problem praying like this!

The Model

Oh the beautiful example of our Lord. Everything finally fell into place to remove the tinge of fear in bringing these specific requests to God by seeing our Savior cry out to his Father in the garden. My fear of ever making a request that unknowingly went against God’s will, washed away while watching Christ bring his heart wrenching pleas to God that night before his crucifixion.

Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
…he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.—Matthew 26:38-39, 42, 44

If Christ can go to God the Father in His moment of deepest anguish and cry out for God to do something to change His circumstance, and be sinless in that cry, I do not need this burden of tension in my heart in doing the same thing! Oh the freedom this brings! Oh to come to God with no fear, bringing my requests before Him and still saying, “your will be done, and I need your grace to walk in it.” Because the truth is, if He alters my circumstances to remove suffering, or if he keeps me while I walk through it longer, I will need His grace to glorify Him in either outcome.

The key we see from Christ is confidence in His relationship with God, and also humility and faith in God’s will. Confidence to bring any request, and humility that submits to God’s will. Oh God cultivate our hearts more to that of Christ, and may we boldly come with our requests, and also humbly submit to Your will for us.