We can learn to pray by following Jesus’s example, as long as we don’t misapply it

When it comes to praying, there is no better teacher than Jesus. Perhaps that’s why many of his followers memorize the prayer he taught his disciples and why many churches include this prayer in their church services. We commonly call this The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). This prayer serves as our model.Should We Pray “If It’s Your Will?”

Another one of Jesus’s instructive prayers occurs in John’s biography of Jesus. In the most lengthy of Jesus’s prayers in the Bible, we see three themes. First, Jesus prays that his death will glorify his father. Next, he prays for his disciples. And last, he prays for his future followers: us (John 17). This final section of his prayer shows us what Jesus expects of us, which should inform how we pray.

A third prayer of Jesus stands as his most passionate. As he prepares himself to become the ultimate sacrifice, he asks his father for a reprieve, perhaps thinking of when God kept Abraham from sacrificing Isaac by providing an alternate option (Genesis 22:1-19). Yet after making his bold request, Jesus quickly confirms he will obey his Father and do his will (Luke 22:42, Matthew 26:39).

Most translations of the Bible (32 times out of 56) use the phrase “if you are willing” in recording the opening to this prayer of Jesus.

Should we do the same?

Yes. By including this phrase, we follow Jesus’s example by acknowledging God’s sovereignty, that is, his supreme authority and power over us and everything that is. We admit his plan is far better than our wishes and narrow perspective. We concede he is in control and we are not. Affirming God’s will in this way, confirms his character.It’s right to pray “if it’s your will” as long as this reminds us of God’s sovereignty. Click To Tweet

Yet, this phrase can also give our faith an out, an escape hatch. If we make an audacious request of God and then tack on an “if it’s your will” at the end, we provide ourselves a feeble rationalization should God not answer our request the way we hope.

For example, if we pray for a miraculous healing, but it doesn’t occur, we can shrug and say, “I guess it wasn’t God’s will.” This helps stave off disappointment. It also keeps our faith intact. Taken to an unhealthy extreme, this phrase can even remove faith completely from our prayers, along with the expectation of the answer we long for. Praying “if it’s your will” could turn our prayers into weak, meaningless requests of an all-powerful God. May it never be.

It is right for us to pray “if it’s your will” as long as this reminds us of God’s sovereignty and character. But if this phrase effectively removes faith and expectation from our prayers and renders them powerless, then it might be wise to avoid it.

The key is that God wants us to pray. He wants us to talk to him. The words we say aren’t as important as our intent behind them. May our prayers always serve to connect us to our Father.

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2 Comments

  • Linda Vogt Turner Posted July 24, 2017 11:31 am

    The scripture verse “Not my will but the one who sent me (John 6:38)” paired with “No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven–the Son of Man.(John 3:13)” puts the idea of submission to the Will of the Father in a different light. Thinking of the Trinity and how each respects the Will of the “Other”…the Father’s will is to be respected as is the Son’s and the Holy Spirit’s. The Fallen person cannot raise himself up. He needs to face the Truth and admit it. He is the Rabbi that came to see Jesus the Holy Spirit under the cover of darkness and his teaching has caused the Father to lose faith in both of them and vice versa. Jesus the Rabbi has a problem, he accepts the CROSS and takes responsibility for the suffering SHE has caused him and will cause him. But…until Jesus the Father forgives him and welcomes them both into his bosom, the Son and the Holy Spirit remain buried in this world as fallen people. The Lord’s prayer calls on Jesus the Father to forgive us…as we forgive “those” who trespass against us. In other words, Jesus the Son prays…forgive those who have lost faith in us and who reject us and cast us out. Luke 7:36-50 also sheds light on this text. Simon, the Judgmental Father needs to lose his judgmental attitude and put on an attitude of forgiveness. SIMON The FATHER needs to forgive the Rabbi and the Woman who weeps at his feet and show them both hospitality, welcome them both into his heart before they can all go and make peace with each other and sow seeds of peacemaking in the World.

    • Peter DeHaan Posted July 24, 2017 1:38 pm

      Linda, wow! That’s a lot to think about!

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