Prayer is hard work.
It seems like it should be easy, right? How hard is it to simply talk to God? But so many things crowd out this most simple and most important thing. When my heart spontaneously turns to prayer, I’m always thankful and then wonder, “Why don’t I do this every five minutes?” Our natural bent towards independence, or to name it more accurately, life apart from fellowship with God, is worth a lifetime of fighting to overcome.
And if that isn’t enough to overcome, then there is this: prayer always brings me face to face with an even uglier side of myself, the part that fears to trust the hand of God, the part that questions His wisdom, the part that brings me back to my own inability to control anything. It’s that simple line from the Lord’s prayer, “Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10). This longing for the will of God at any cost sometimes takes a pause in prayer, and sometimes it takes days of wrestling. C.S. Lewis summarized the struggle well when he said, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
This fight to get on the other side of those words is worth the battle, whether it takes five seconds or five months. The most obvious motivation is just to get to the place of obedience. Jesus tells us to pray, “Your will be done” and He left us with an example. On the night before His crucifixion, we are given a glimpse of His own fight for the will of God at any cost, and He got there (Luke 22:42). What a great encouragement that Jesus trusted Himself to the will of God, fulfilling this prayer command perfectly in my place.
But this ability to say, “Your will be done,” and mean it, gives us so much more than obedience. It is the gateway to peace, because it’s an agreement with the righteous sovereignty of God. And this open-handed acceptance of the will of God brings a wave of unexplainable peace. The “yes” to God is so hard, but the release of trying to hang onto and control that which I can’t is a sweet freedom. Peter Kreeft wrote, “No one who has ever said to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and meant it with his heart, ever failed to find joy – not just in heaven, or even down the road in the future of this world, but in this world at that very moment. Every other Christian who has ever lived has found exactly the same thing in his own experience. It is an experiment that has been performed over and over again billions of times, always with the same result.”
This prayer cannot fail, because won’t His will come whether I accept it or not? So from spilt milk to devastating loss I can whisper the four words that never fail, and step out on the other side to peace and freedom. This, I think, is the ultimate in prayer, not that I have placed my heart into God’s, but that He has placed His heart into me.
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