By Chad Smith
Several years ago I remember praying for something. I really wanted this thing to happen. With each passing month not seeing anything happen, I was disappointed.
I would like to think I was seeking God’s will, but I don’t think my appeals were totally faith-filled. They were definitely wish-filled. Wish-filled prayers are for God to make his will my will. After six-months of praying for that thing to happen, I finally let it go.
About a year later that situation I had been praying about came to my mind. It dawned on me how I really didn’t want it anymore. I was so relieved my prayers had not been answered. I was, also, alarmed by how dangerous my wish-filled appeals were.
I really wanted my will to be done those six months. I am slow to give up. Not in a persistent-widow-kind-of-way. I’m more like a stubborn, willful child. I don’t easily surrender.
I contrast my willfulness, with Jesus’ obedience in Gethsemane. Jonathan Edwards called Jesus’ wrestling in Gethsemane “the greatest act of obedience Christ was to perform.”(1) Jesus wanted the cup of suffering to pass. He despised the cross. He did not want to experience the pain or shame of crucifixion. He prayed three times. But he was completely surrendered to the Father’s will.
I believe the description of Jesus’ prayer in Hebrews 5:7 refers to Gethsemane. Hebrews 5:7 says, “Jesus offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” This corresponds better than any other episode we have of Jesus’ life on earth.
Jesus prayed agonizingly to be spared. Fortunately for you and me his “reverent submission” kept him obedient to the mission. He really did want the Father’s will. Once it was clear there was no other way, he didn’t want his will and he “endured the cross” (Heb 12:2)
Gethsemane was an olive grove. Scripture calls it a garden. It was probably a peaceful and pretty place, away from the bustle in town. We are told Jesus would often go there to pray. That Jesus would retreat here is not surprising.
It is said Gethsemane was also an olive press. It would make sense, because that’s where the olives were (and that’s what the name means). Huge stone slabs would get dragged on top of the olives to make oil. The metaphor of Gethsemane as the place Jesus’ will was pressed into obedience is an easy one to make.
If your prayers were rendered as a place, where would it be? What would be an appropriate metaphor?
- your workshop, where you are trying to fix things?
- your favorite gym, where you go to work on yourself and work up a sweat?
- your empty guest room at home, rarely visited?
- your cluttered storage closet, packed and disorganized?
- your job site, where it’s all business (mainly yours)?
I want the metaphor of my praying to be an olive press, where I can honestly say Not my will but yours. Time and time again God has proven his plan to be perfect. Time and again my will has proven imperfect.
He desires the best for us. He does not want to withhold any good thing from us. Whatever we are facing we can confidently pray Not my will but yours. Jesus was heard because of “reverent submission.”
- Jonathan Edwards, “Christ’s Agony”, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/sermons.agony.html