Want to learn more about building a life of prayer? Me too. Meet me here on Wednesdays for an ongoing series exploring prayer using Dr. Andrew Murray's book, With Christ in the School of Prayer. I'm honored to learn alongside you.
In lesson twenty-seven we looked at the power of Christ's "Father, I will!" and today we look at "Father, not what I will!"
For all who would learn to pray in the school of Jesus, this Gethsemane lesson is one of the most sacred and precious. To a superficial scholar it may appear to take away the courage to pray in faith. If even the earnest supplication of the Son was not heard, if even the Beloved had to say, ‘NOT WHAT I WILL!’ how much more do we need to speak so. And thus it appears impossible that the promises which the Lord had given only a few hours previously, ‘WHATSOEVER YE SHALL ASK,’ ‘WHATSOEVER YE WILL,’ could have been meant literally. A deeper insight into the meaning of Gethsemane would teach us that we have just here the sure ground and the open way to the assurance of an answer to our prayer. Let us draw nigh in reverent and adoring wonder, to gaze on this great sight—God’s Son thus offering up prayer and supplications with strong crying and tears, and not obtaining what He asks. He Himself is our Teacher, and will open up to us the mystery of His holy sacrifice, as revealed in this wondrous prayer.
Dr. Murray tells us that Jesus' eager willingness of His former prayer was for the glory of the Father. He prayed gladly according to what He knew was the will of God and rejoiced in how it would bring glory to His Father, His own name and His people.
Here He prays for something in regard to which the Father’s will is not yet clear to Him. As far as He knows, it is the Father’s will that He should drink the cup. He had told His disciples of the cup He must drink: a little later He would again say, ‘The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?’ It was for this He had come to this earth. But when, in the unutterable agony of soul that burst upon him as the power of darkness came upon Him, and He began to taste the first drops of death as the wrath of God against sin, His human nature, as it shuddered in presence of the awful reality of being made a curse, gave utterance in this cry of anguish, to its desire that, if God’s purpose could be accomplished without it, He might be spared the awful cup: ‘Let this cup pass from me.’ That desire was the evidence of the intense reality of His humanity. The ‘Not as I will’ kept that desire from being sinful: as He pleadingly cries, ‘All things are possible with Thee,’ and returns again to still more earnest prayer that the cup may be removed, it is His thrice-repeated ‘NOT WHAT I WILL’ that constitutes the very essence and worth of His sacrifice. He had asked for something of which He could not say: I know it is Thy will. He had pleaded God’s power and love, and had then withdrawn it in His final, ‘THY WILL BE DONE.’ The prayer that the cup should pass away could not be answered; the prayer of submission that God’s will be done was heard, and gloriously answered in His victory first over the fear, and then over the power of death.
It is in that willing, aching sacrifice that Christ learned obedience. It is there, in that willingness to lay down all of Himself at tremendous cost, that He earned the staggering promises of prayer.
This is in harmony with the whole scheme of redemption. Our Lord always wins for us the opposite of what He suffered. He was bound that we might go free. He was made sin that we might become the righteousness of God. He died that we might live. He bore God’s curse that God’s blessing might be ours. He endured the not answering of His prayer, that our prayers might find an answer. Yea, He spake, ‘Not as I will,’ that He might say to us, ‘If ye abide in me, ask what ye will; it shall be done unto you.’
"If ye abide in me..." This is the heart and soul of our discipleship and our learning to pray. If we will remain with Christ in the complete surrender, in the full submission of our wills to His own, then we will enter into the promises of God with Him, standing beneath His sacrifice and offering completely accepted into the Beloved.
That Spirit teaches me to yield my will entirely to the will of the Father, to give it up even unto the death, in Christ to be dead to it. Whatever is my own mind and thought and will, even though it be not directly sinful, He teaches me to fear and flee. He opens my ear to wait in great gentleness and teachableness of soul for what the Father has day by day to speak and to teach. He discovers to me how union with God’s will in the love of it is union with God Himself; how entire surrender to God’s will is the Father’s claim, the Son’s example, and the true blessedness of the soul. He leads my will into the fellowship of Christ’s death and resurrection, my will dies in Him, in Him to be made alive again. He breathes into it, as a renewed and quickened will, a holy insight into God’s perfect will, a holy joy in yielding itself to be an instrument of that will, a holy liberty and power to lay hold of God’s will to answer prayer. With my whole will I learn to live for the interests of God and His kingdom, to exercise the power of that will—crucified but risen again—in nature and in prayer, on earth and in heaven, with men and with God. The more deeply I enter into the ‘FATHER! NOT WHAT I WILL’ of Gethsemane, and into Him who spake it, to abide in Him, the fuller is my spiritual access into the power of His ‘FATHER! I WILL.
Give us grace to enter into the boldness of Your prayer: Father, not what I will." Even now there are circumstances in our lives and hearts where we have reserved our own rights, holding onto things that we cannot bear to release to You. We have fears and doubts we cling to with all our strength, too frightened to kneel with You in the garden and embrace the cup of our Father. Will You give us Your strength now to release our fears and pride and rights and will to You, dearest Lord?
We cannot fully know how to pray until we have stayed awake with You in this garden and accepted the cup of God. Lord, en-courage us.
We continue to pray Lord, more of You, less of me. May You increase, dear Jesus.
In Your name,
for Your glory,
Next I'll be sharing my thoughts from Lesson Twenty-Nine: ‘According to His Will’ Or, Our Boldness in Prayer. I hope you'll join us.
Previous entries in this series can be found here: Wednesday Prayer Series