Pastoral Perspectives

To Pray – Not My Will

During one of the worship trainings, I asked all the students to write down the literal translation of the word ‘prayer’ from their language/dialect into English. There were 60 students and the translations soon filled up the white board. They came from different parts of the North-Eastern states in India and spoke many languages and dialects. Some of the translations read:

“petitions pronounced by an elder unto the Supreme being”
“worship, paying obeisance”

When the early converts translated the word ‘prayer’ from English into their vernacular, it carried the meaning of all of the above. As I grew older and listened to all kinds of prayers, I must admit that all of the above were included in my own prayers in one way or the other.

When we come to God in prayer, we normally come with something to ask in mind. It is no wonder then that we find words like “I ask that Lord you grant…” in our prayers. And it is perfectly alright to come to God with our prayers as His children. After all, we are taught to come to our heavenly Father and ask as His children should. It is alright so long as we have something to ask God. What if what we ask is no longer an option? Have you ever come across such situations? I remember holding my dying friend’s hand, trying to pray and say the right thing but getting lost for words. Deep in my heart, I wanted to pray something that will also help her family as they waited upon the Lord. Words failed me. I just held her hands.

What do we pray when we are finally lost for words? When words fail us and we don’t know what the future lies ahead, what do we say? In other words, when all “asking, pleading and petitions” are not the option, what do we do? I must say it is so much harder when it happens to us. Praying for others during challenging moments is hard enough but when we are the ones going through it, it becomes harder and even more real. This is where I find the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane speaking straight to my heart. Jesus prayed in Matthew 26:39

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus submitted to the Father’s will. Yes, we can continue to pray- not anymore on our terms but on God’s terms. This is different from being lost for words. When we are lost for words, we say nothing at all. But when we pray “your will be done” we are submitting to the Lord’s will and no longer asking, pleading, or petitioning on our terms. Yet it is still a prayer, a prayer that we are surrendering to God on His terms. Our Lord Jesus Christ actually taught His disciples to pray likewise – Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. One wonders then why we pray or submit only when all options are out. Could it be that surrendering our personal will daily to the father is a very difficult spiritual discipline? Jesus knows this very well and hence taught His disciples and us to pray likewise- not only when options are out but every day.

How might our prayers look like if we submit to God’s will every day, every moment of our lives? I think about the prayers I pray daily and confess that I would have prayed differently if I consciously submitted to His will. It is a spiritual discipline I am learning daily. Some of the frustrations in life are a result of praying according to my terms and not according to His will. In the first place, I got it all wrong! I thought I knew better than God. During the pandemic, I came across a simple and beautiful song that resonated with my struggle. It brought encouragement and motivation for me to continue to pray as Jesus taught us. The song was written by CitiAlight and the title of the song is Your Will be Done.” The writers said, “We are at a loss in so many ways, unsure of what to do, unsure of what to say, and unsure of what the future holds. But there is a prayer, however, which can be prayed when our own voices fail us. It is a prayer that our Lord Jesus prayed as his own world seemed to be falling apart – an innocent man praying alone in the garden, abandoned by his friends, betrayed by those he trusted, and awaiting his death. Even at his lowest point, Jesus was able to pray, ‘Father not my will, but yours be done’, because he knew that, in the chaos, his Father loved him and that his Father’s will was always good. If there was any plan that Jesus trusted in that dreadful hour, it was his Father’s. We offer this simple song, simply played, in the midst of this present trial, so that you might be able to pray these words along with our Saviour. There is a God who is still ruling on the throne, and He is our good and loving Father. If there is anything in which you can put your trust at this uncertain time, let it be the will of your loving Father. Church, in the chaos – in bedrooms, living rooms, hospital rooms, and virtual rooms – let us lift our voices in prayer and sing, ‘Father, not my will but Yours be done!’”

Your Will Be Done
Your will be done my God and Father
As in heaven so on earth
My heart is drawn to self-exalting
Help me seek Your kingdom first
As Jesus walked so shall I walk
Held by Your same unchanging love
Be still my soul O lift your voice and pray
Father not my will but Yours be done

How in that garden he persisted
I may never fully know
The fearful weight of true obedience
It was held by him alone
What wondrous faith to bear that cross
To bear my sin what wondrous love
My hope was sure when there my Saviour prayed
Father not my will but Yours be done

When I am lost when I am broken
In the night of fear and doubt
Still I will trust in my good Father
Yes to the one great King I bow
As Jesus rose so I shall rise
In ransomed glory at the throne
My heart restored with all Your saints I sing
Father not my will but Yours be done

As we go forth our God and Father
Lead us daily in the fight
That all the world might see Your glory
And Your Name be lifted high
And in this Name we overcome
For You shall see us safely home
Now as Your church we lift our voice and pray
Father not my will but Yours be done

CCLI Song # 7149566 Jonny Robinson | Rich Thompson © CityAlight Music (Admin. by Integrity Music)

I pray that the words of the song will also resonate and encourage you as you continue to pray every day, “Father not my will but Yours be done.”

Pr Loliro Sani

October 23, 2022