I hailed a cab the other day in a new-to-me city.
I gave the driver the address and settled back in the seat.
But then I leaned forward and said, “You need to take 2nd Avenue across the river, turn left at the third stoplight and then make a left onto Delaney Street.”
The driver peered into his rear view mirror.
“Lady, that won’t get you where you need to go.”
But I ignored him, sat back and waited for him to follow my directions.
I had surgery the other day.
As they wheeled me into the operating room, I grabbed the surgeon’s gloved hand, stopping the progress of the gurney.
I said, “OK, Doc. The incision has to be less than four inches and this operation needs to only take an hour and half, no matter what. You have to use the scalpel I provided and be sure to only give me the medicine I brought with me. You got all that?”
I boarded a flight the other day.
As I shuffled through the line at the door of the plane, I noticed the captain standing there.
I stepped out of the line and cornered him.
“OK, sir, here are my instructions. Takeoff cannot be too steep because I don’t like them steep. I know we are in the middle of a city and you have to avoid some tall buildings, but I am confident you can get us off the ground at a more comfortable angle. After we are in the air, I expect absolutely no turbulence. And when we land, you need to make sure that there is very little bumping when then wheels touch down. I will probably be dozing and it is in my best interest if you make it as smooth as possible. I know you’re capable of all this – you have an amazing track record. So I’ll keep believing good things about you – if you meet all of these requirements. Have a nice day!”
Completely made up.
I have taken cabs in strange cities and gotten to my destination without telling the cabbie where to go or how to get me there.
I have had half a dozen surgeries in my life and never once told the surgeon how I expected him or her to do the job.
And I have flown thousands upon thousands of miles without ever giving the pilot my specifications.
Do I want the cabbie to take the best route, the quickest one, the least expensive?
Do I want the surgeon to do his or her best, using the right tools at the right time in the right way?
Do I want the aircraft pilot to give me a smooth flight with as little inconvenience to my sensibilities as possible?
But I know that they know more than I do.
Have experiences I do not have.
Possess abilities I do not.
But even as I put my faith in these folks, I also realize they are human.
Capable of mistakes.
And perhaps even dishonest in their dealings.
And yet I often put more faith in them than I do in the Living God.
That truth shows up when I pray.
When I pray, I tend to tell God what to do.
Demanding what must be done.
Instructing Him on the future.
What is best for me.
For others I know.
Giving Him detailed instructions to follow and then getting mad if He doesn’t align Himself with my desires.
When I pray that way, I am forgetting.
Forgetting that He is not me.
He is “not a man that He should lie”. (Numbers 23)
Forgetting that He is all-powerful.
He is outside of time.
He sees the end from the beginning.
He is all-knowing.
Forgetting His deep love for me.
That He sees me as His precious child.
That He has an un-thwart-able plan and a purpose for me.
When I forget all of that, my prayers turn into laundry lists of demands.
I may even glorify those demands by claiming that I am claiming.
Declaring His Word.
But I’m not.
I’m not really claiming a promise when I am doubting that He knows what He is doing.
And showing that doubt by enunciating what His next move MUST be.
I am not declaring His Word when my motive is to escape as much pain as possible.
Showing that I believe life is about me. My comfort. My ease. My pain levels.
I am not trusting Him for Who He is when I am treating Him like a vending machine.
Showing that I think He thinks like me, acts like me, is like me.
I’m not honoring Him or His Word when I make prayer an equation.
My Faith + A Bible Verse + Earnestness = My Desired Result
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, the first thing He taught them to do was to give glory to the Father. “Our Father in heaven, Holy is Your Name!” (Matthew 6)
And the very next thing He taught them to say – to pray – was, “May Your Kingdom come; may YOUR WILL BE DONE here on earth as it is in heaven.”
In the prayer that Jesus taught, first came the acknowledgement of Who God is.
Next came surrender to HIS agenda – and not just His agenda for me, but for His Kingdom.
After that came the asking.
But not before.
I understand that “Thy will be done” is a terrifying prayer.
If God is not Who He says He is.
If He is not to be trusted.
If He is not all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present.
If He is not good.
If He does not love you with a sacrificial, merciful, undying love.
Then it is a terrifying prayer.
And you better not pray it.
You better give Him a laundry list of expectations because you are better than Him and know more than what He knows.
But if He is completely good, it is the safest prayer to pray.
If He is the All-Powerful, Most High God, it is the most freeing prayer to pray.
If He loves you so much that He would send His Only Son as a substitute for the punishment due you, it is the most grateful prayer to pray.
If He is your Daddy, who delights in you and rejoices over you with singing, then it is a life-giving, worry-smashing, joy-causing prayer.
It is the ultimate declaration of Who He is.
Don’t get me wrong.
I am not telling you to stop talking to Him about your needs, your desires, your pain.
Or that of others.
But do it in the right order. With the right heart. The right attitude. The right surrender.
Because there is one prayer He always, always answers.
In the best possible way.
Even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time.
Even if the end result differs from what I want.
Author Jan Karon calls it, “The prayer that never fails.”
“Thy will be done.”
Because of what You know, Thy will be done.
Because of Your great love for me, Thy will be done.
Because You are You and I am me, Thy will be done.
Because of what I have seen You do in the past, Thy will be done.
Because I can trust You with my future, Thy will be done.
Because You are for me and not against me, Thy will be done.
Because of Who You are, Thy will be done.
Do you have the courage to sincerely pray “the prayer that never fails”?
I dare you!
Take God at His Word.
And see what happens.