I was visiting this couple in the neo-natal unit at the hospital. Their son had been born with some serious complications and the doctors didnt know if he was going to make it. Now the neo-natal unit it's these large rooms and every 10 feet are these clear plastic boxes, and in each one of them are these tiny babies and I mean some of them are 3, maybe 4 pounds and they are fighting for their lives. And I stood over the clear plastic box that had this couples son in it, and he's got these tubes and wires coming out of his chest and his stomach and his mouth and his nose, and i prayed, and i asked God to heal him. And then I found out later that all kinds of people were praying for him, and he hung on for a little while, but he didnt make it and he died.
And then, soon after that I ran into this woman who I had known for a while, and she told me that her granddaughter had just been diagnosed with this rare heart condition that not very many babies survive. And so the family all started praying, and then they took her in for another round of tests, and after that round of tests the doctor said to the family I can't really explain it, I mean I'm an authority on this particular rare heart condition, and I don't know what else to say, but I can't find anything wrong with her, she's healed.
What do you do with That? I mean does God answer prayers some, but not all, or sometimes, but not all the times, or does God always answer prayers it just sometimes God says, No. ANd then sometimes people say we prayed and God showed up and did a miracle. Well then where was God the rest of the time, was God somewhere else doing something else, and then apparently decided to show up here and do something that hand't been done, but should have been done, then God all of a sudden at the last minute decided to do?
I mean no wonder prayer gets... confusing. And other people say "well, you just have to understand, that God is going to do what God is going to do". Well then, why pray and others say well you don't understand, God can do anything, well then why doesn't He?
Now the biblical accounts of Jesus life tell us that on the night he was betrayed He was in the garden with His disciples praying. And it's in the hours leading up to his arreset and then he's going to be tried as a criminal and then He's gonna be executed, and he's feeling the full weight of what's about to happen to Him, because He knew it was headed this way. So He's enduring the suffering of His coming death and He begins to pray, and He prays "Father, if its possible may this cup be taken from me, yet not what I will, but Your will". He essentially likens His death to a cup that he doesn't want to drink. I mean who would? And then he prays a little while later "If it's not possible for this cup to be taken from me, then may it be done according to your will".
So in the first prayer He essentially says: is there someway out of this I don't really want to go through this is there some other plan here, and the second prayer is more like, well I guess this is going to happen, nothing I can do to stop it, so I'm up for whatever you have in mind.
Now to understand why Jesus prays like this, we have to understand that Jesus took very seriously the creation poem Genesis, that the Bible begins with. And in this creation poem God creates, but God creates things that are capable of creating more, and so God creates trees but then gives trees the ability to create more. God creates animals and plants and fish but then empowers them to create more. And then God creates people, and gives them the ability to create more. So everything in creation is essentially unfinished, God leaves the world unfinished, and invites people to take part in the ongoing creation of the world. Now, when you create, you always run the risk that what you've created, won't turn out how you wanted it to, it may go a different direction, it may not be everything you intended it to be. It may veer off course, and it may break your heart.
And so, this creative energy, this divine creative energy that brought everything into existence it takes great risk in creating, but at the same time it works in a very specific way. It brings order out of chaos, so the Genesis creation poem says that it was wild and waste, chaos and void, and out of this God began the endless process of bringing design and order and beauty. So when Jesus prays, He's tapping into this divine creative energy that made everything.
And so prayer, for Jesus, it was not this passive, acceptance of well, I guess this is just how its gonna be, and it wasn't this active kind of rebellion against I'll dictate the future for Jesus prayer was being open to the God whos at work here and now, but to be open to the creative working of God in the world here and now you have to be honest , so when Jesus is saying things like is there any way for this cup to be taken so I don't have to drink it He's being brutally honest with God, God I dont really want to go through this. Like it says in the book of Psalms chapter 13 where the writer says God, how long will, will you forget me forever, how long will you hide your face from me? Jesus came from a long tradition of people who saw prayer as brutal honesty with God. Some people think that half of the psalms were laments, people grieving and outpouring their anguish in times of great suffering and torment, people shaking their fist at God, challenging God, doubting with God, wrestling with God, questioning God.
God can handle what you're thinking, God can handle how you're feeling, God ... can handle what you're saying. Prayer, if it's anything is truth, it's being honest with your maker. But for Jesus it wasn't just honesty that's going on in the garden when He's praying to His father, but Jesus questions assume that He is going to be involved in some way in the answer. Jesus assumption is there is some role for Him to play in this creative ongoing work of God in the world. Some people pray, and they say well, God didn't answer my prayer but maybe, maybe they were the answer to their prayer, don't ask God to feed someone who's hungry if you have plenty of food. Like it says in the book of James, the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Somebody who believes that the God who created the universe is at work here and now and somebody who is open to that, somebody who's aware, who's watching, who's listening, somebody who's looking for their role to play in the ongoing creation of the world, well that is going to be powerful.
Prayer isn't just like a formality or some sort of list or some sort of rote ritual that you just have to get through so that you can get on with your day, like it says in the New Testament, pray unceasingly. Prayer is your whole posture towards life, its way more than just words its the whole way that you see everything going on around you. And so, so prayer is being still, its meditating, its reflecting, its listening, its waking up, and its when you never stop asking the question what is God up to right here, right now, and how can I be a part of it. God's desire, is that the divine energy that made the world would flow between us and in the process draw us closer together. Prayer, is tapping into the same energy that formed the universe, thats why people say that they can feel prayers, its because we can. Praying connects us to the people and things we're praying for. Prayer enlarges our perspective, praying gives us a bigger heart, praying makes us feel things. Praying changes things, but prayer changes us. Praying, makes us better people.
So when people ask all sorts of questions why didn't God do this, why did God do this, why did God show up then, why did God make a miracle happen there, why'd God say yes to that prayer and no to that prayer, I don't know. Standing over that clear plastic box watching that little boy fighting for his life, I don't know why some situations go one way and some situations go another. But I do know, that you and I can be open to the new thing that's coming into being, not my will but yours be done.
May your whole life be a prayer. And may you be honest with God, as you become more and more open to your role in the ongoing creation of the world.--- Transcribed by R.M. Flight
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