“And He said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.’ And going a little farther, He fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.'” (Mark 14:34-36)
Sometimes it seems my prayer life swings on a pendulum between yearning and yielding, between asking God for what I want and submitting to what He wants. In the most intimate, passionate prayer we have on record, Jesus did both: He earnestly asked for something He desired and then He submitted His will to the Father’s.
Some will emphasize one type of praying to the near exclusion of the other. There are those who have told me to “ask the Father for whatever you want, and He will give it to you” and have even suggested that a certain kind of “believing prayer” will move the hand of God and grant me my wish. These folks believe that adding “if it be Your will” to my requests reflects an unacceptable lack of faith. Then there are those who have understandably reacted against “name-it-claim-it” prayers but have inadvertently taught me that asking for what I desire is selfish and reflects an unacceptable lack of faith. They rightly remind me that Jesus did not teach us to pray “my will be done on earth until I get to heaven.”
Oh, to pray like Jesus. To plead with the Father in prayer with every honest, raw desire of my heart. To truly believe that all things are possible with Him and to ask for what my heart wants. And then, when all the childlike (and even childish) begging is done, to rest in His wonderful, wise will and say, “Not what I want, Father, but what You want.” To freely, with courage, express my wants. To finally, with contententment, embrace His wants as my own. To quit succumbing to the “paralysis of analysis” by letting my fear of the extremes keep me from seeking Him at all.