Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
- Matthew 26:39-42
Have you ever had a major decision in life? Sure, we all have, unless we are tremendously sheltered, or we are very young. But have you done the research, ran the calculations, and determined the best course of action? Maybe that applies to a few less people. But have you had a major decision, carefully determined the best course of action, and then prayed about it? In that prayer, did you say, “God, this is what I am going to do. Now, it is Your job to bless it. … … Oh, I forgot, amen.”
Note: Amen is “so be it” in Greek and has no connection to gender. In the prayer above, the “amen” means that you really don’t care whether God blesses it or not. You are moving forward. “Amen?” “Amen.” Note: I hate it when television preachers beg for someone to say “Amen.” They need to say something worthy of an “Amen” and then they would never have to beg.
Of course, you did not say the above words exactly, but, in essence, it is the result of many of our prayers. I will confess, I have done that several times. I have consciously thought, “God, I have run the numbers. This is the best course of action. If you want me to do something else, send some kind of a sign.” Yes, I have done that, and God has either sent a dozen signs that I rejected, or He was mute, knowing that my mind was made up anyway. Sometimes God sits back and lets the sparks fly.
I remember having such a prayer when I got out of the military. I had four job offers. Two were lousy and not even up for consideration, totally ignoring my industrial experience, military experience, and master’s degree, in a pool of recent graduates at their pay, a tremendous cut in pay for me. One other offer was with the company where I worked before I went into the Army. They were required by law to offer me my old job back, but my old job had ceased to exist due to corporate reorganization. I expressed my desires and they offered me the worst option based on my desires: job position, location, and poor salary. That left only one offer or staying in the military. I knew my wife did not want me to stay in the military. At least, I felt she didn’t. I moved to a nuclear site in South Carolina. They lied about why I was being hired. They lied about everything. And if I went back to the military, I would have lost a few years of time in grade, delaying the next promotion, getting less pay, and other negative aspects. From an outward worldly view of success, it was a downward spiral at that point, being used by others for their promotion, and then discarded. I never ate the peas from the pods that the pigs ate, but …
It is extremely hard to provide a “sign” for someone who already has their mind made up. Especially when they add to their statement regarding their decision being made up, “I have heard from God, and this is what we are going to do.” Some people say that you cannot argue with that point, but I have been argued with when I have said it. And sometimes for good reason.
No, you crunched the numbers, even while praying, but you had really already made up your mind.
In Ken Davis classic comedy routine, Super Sheep, he talks about praying that he will have a person with whom he can talk about God. Then he describes how, immediately after praying that, this strange man sits next to him on the bus, sobbing, wanting someone who will talk to him about God. Then, Ken Davis prays, “God … Is this a sign? … If this is a sign, turn the bus driver into an armadillo!” He had enough signs already; he just did not want to talk to the guy about God.
And we ignore the signs that say that our bad decision is horribly bad.
I could say, “Do a lot of praying,” but when your mind is made up and you are enamored by your decision, that may not work. I could say, “Do a lot of Bible study,” but it is amazing how we can turn the most obscure verses out of context to prove that we are right.
Someone that I know wants to home school the children. She and her husband, a schoolteacher, are at odds with one another. And oddly, both of them are quoting the same Bible verse as absolute proof that they are right, Matthew 19:14. “Let the little children come unto Me.” Strangely, both sides of the argument were taking the verse out of context. They went to a church pastor, one that specializes in family issues, and they decided to keep the children in school… for now. But that conviction that “God spoke to me…” will nag and nag and nag. And is it God speaking? In many cases, Satan uses such situations to breed distrust in God, in God’s Word, and prayer.
The problem that we have is not with God, the Bible, or prayer. It is with our attitude when we go to prayer. Jesus, in the Scripture above, says the same thing twice, but in a different way. “God, is this really necessary?!?!” and “God, do we really have to do it this way?!?!” Jesus approaches His death in two ways: 1) Let’s just decide not to do it at all. And 2) Let’s dream up a different option.
But in each case, Jesus said, “Your will be done.”
That is what we should seek.
And for you people that enjoy collecting data but never making a decision, not making a decision is making a decision. The circumstances make the decision for you.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.