“I prayed about it.”
These common words can be both comforting and annoying. My wife and I have been in a transition time in recent months and have prayed for wisdom on every decision, every option. Sometimes, I feel like Abraham on his journey “to a land I will show you.” God isn’t giving us anything but day-by-day, step-by-step guidance. We should not make decisions without praying, seeking the guidance of God’s word, and being led by the Spirit. Praying about things is important in our walk with Christ.
Still, there is a problem when we act as if saying “I prayed about it” or “After much prayer and consideration…” gives our decisions an unquestionable divine imprimatur on our actions. We’ve seen this from denominational entities and leaders who used the fact that they had prayed diligently over something to stifle dissent and prevent people from questioning their actions. They heard from God, who are we to argue?
In our Sunday School class yesterday, I noticed something as we were going over Luke 22:39-53, the story of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane and his arrest. It has always been a favorite story of mine. Jesus’ prayer is powerful. He makes the most audacious request anyone ever does, asking God to change his eternal plan at the last minute, then he prays, “nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done.” C.S. Lewis had a brilliant essay about these two types of prayer.
Then, the mob shows up to arrest Jesus. He responded gently to them, chastising Judas and questioning the soldiers who came to secure him. His disciples, filled with fleshly wrath, which they interpreted as holy, took a much different approach. They were convinced they were there to “Make Israel Great Again,” to establish an earthly, political kingdom, and that any day, Jesus would take off his glasses, tousle his hair, and reveal his superhero status to the Romans. They figured this must be the time, the moment to fight.
They asked him, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” Is it time to fight, Lord?
This is what I noticed yesterday. This is, in essence, a prayer. They prayed about it! Granted, they didn’t bow their heads and close their eyes, and no hands were lifted, but they were asking the wisdom of Jesus as to what they should do. Is that not what prayer is? Seeking God’s wisdom?
They sought the Savior’s direction, then did as they pleased. Is that not what we often do? We do what we want and assume it is what God wanted, because “I prayed about it?” These men jumped to disastrous action assuming they had divine blessing, as it they’d gotten a word from the Lord to go into battle. Peter picked up his sword (nothing but a large fisherman’s knife) and went off to fight. When we fight in the flesh, we are never successful, and he wasn’t. Swinging for the neck, he cut off Malchus’ ear. They sought Jesus’ will then did what they wanted.
Then, Jesus spoke definitively. “No more of this.” Swinging the sword wasn’t Jesus’ way. He wasn’t there to establish an earthly kingdom (yet – sorry, Amils, but that comes later!).
Jesus understood the Father’s plan and the disciples did not, even though they’d “prayed about it.” They didn’t take the time to get God’s will, they just prayed and did as they pleased. Jesus was walking the “Way of the Cross” not the way of war, not the path of triumph. The irony of this is great. Walking in the flesh, acting in human anger, and doing what he thought was right, Peter was attempting to STOP THE CROSS. If he’d succeeded, all he would have done is to stop Jesus from saving him. We are to follow Jesus on the way of the cross. Jesus was operating on the Father’s agenda while the disciples had baptized their own agenda and called it God’s. How easily we can convince ourselves that we are doing God’s will when we actually are doing the opposite. Jesus used divine weapons of power, not fleshly, impotent weapons. Jesus fought with love, with forgiveness, with the Spirit’s power. He did not use aggression, assertion, or human power – all those things the Romans prized and we do today. He endured evil to accomplish the Father’s glory.
We ought to continue to pray diligently and fervently, but our prayer ought to be that the Father would change us to be like Christ. We don’t pray so that God will bless our plans but so that the mind of Christ will become ours. We must fight with the powerful weapons of warfare Christ has given us – love, joy, peace, forgiveness, patience, kindness – not with fleshly swords that never work.
I know this is true.
I prayed about it.