This Week's Teaching: "The Prayer of Nevertheless"
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Jesus taught, "Everything is possible if you believe." But then, when facing the cross, he prayed, "Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." And by the third time he prayed that, it had become, "If it's not possible, your will be done."
Hebrews 5:7 tells us that he cried out fervently with tears to the one who could save him from death and "he was heard because of his reverent submission." He was heard! He was! Nevertheless, avoiding the cross was not possible. So he submitted. "Nevertheless."
I'm actually inspired by what I call "the Prayer of Nevertheless." I believe it's the most powerful prayer we can pray. It trusts fully that God is good, loving, and powerful -- so much so that it trusts God's "no" just as much as his "yes."
But it also causes me tension. In my experience, sometimes submission is just me being complacent. Doesn't God call us to be bold and keep on asking?
Watch the above while following along below. I welcome your comments. For the edification of all.
<TRANSCRIPT OF ABOVE VIDEO>
I believe one of the most powerful words you can pray is nevertheless, or yet. Meaning, we can pray, "God, I really want this! Nevertheless, not what I want, but what you want. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will. Not my will be done, but your will be done."
Yet. Nevertheless. One of the most powerful words we can pray. It honors God. It recognizes my position as not God and God's position as God. It displays a genuine humility and honor.
In Matthew 6, Jesus was teaching the disciples how to pray. And he says, when you pray, pray like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
Later at the Garden of Gethsemane, before Jesus was going to the cross and he was grieving it. He was grieving in anticipation of it. He was experiencing all that you would experience in that. And he prayed. He went away by himself and he pleaded with God three times: "Father, if possible, let this cup" â€” this cup of suffering, this cross, the whole thing â€” "if possible, let this cup be taken from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will." He prayed it three times. "Nevertheless, not my will be done, but your will be done."
We're told in Hebrews 5:7 that Jesus "was heard because of his reverent submission." And yet, he had to go through the cross. He had to go through the cross.
Later on in Acts 21, we find Paul on his march toward Jerusalem, and everywhere he goes, the Holy Spirit keeps on giving prophetic witness that he's going toward imprisonment. And at one point Agabus, a prophet, comes and takes Paul's belt off of him. And he wraps his own hands up in it. And he says, "The owner of this belt will be led like this if you go to Jerusalem."
And Luke writes, "We and everyone there pleaded with Paul, 'Please don't go to Jerusalem. Please don't go to Jerusalem.'"
And Paul said, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I'm ready to die for the Lord." And then Luke writes it, "When we saw that he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, 'The Lords will be done.'"
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul's writing and he talks about how he was given a thorn in the flesh, a tormenting messenger of Satan, so that he wouldn't become puffed up. And, he pleaded with God three times that it would be taken away from him. And the answer that came back to him was, in essence, "No, my grace is sufficient for you."
We read in the book of Galatians that he came to Galatia because of a personal illness that he was experiencing. And he says, you had such great compassion on me, even though my illness was disgusting to you, he says, you loved me so much, you would've taken out your eyes and given them to me if you could. My sense is that he had an eye condition. And some people would say that it goes back to when he was blinded in the flash, seeing Jesus. Some have suggested that there is a medical condition that when your eyes receive something like that, and it crusts over, when the eyelashes grow back in it's like thorns in your eyes. Some would suggest a connection there. I tend to think that there is, but I wouldn't stake anything on it. But it makes sense to me.
Paul pleaded with God three times. How long does it take to plead? Was it just three requests? No. I think that there were three seasons of pleading with God. Lord, please take this thorn from me. And he says, "No. No. I want it to be there. My grace is sufficient for you." And just like Jesus, we can say Paul was heard because of his reverent submission.
Jesus reverently submitted. Paul reverently submitted. "Nevertheless." And we should reverently submit. It should cause us no angst to pray, "Nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done."
But here's the tension I have with it: Sometimes submission can just be complacency. How do I know when it is? Like complacency might be out of fear, it might be out of laziness. I might be afraid or a little embarrassed to say, "Lord, I really want this!" And I back off, "Whatever you want, God." Or it might just be laziness. I have no urge to plead. "Lord, please heal so and so... If you want to." And I move on. "Lord, please do this... But if you don't feel like it, that's okay."
How do I know when submission â€” the submission of "nevertheless" â€” is just complacency.
In fact, some people do teach that we need to declare with authority. We need to proclaim and claim with authority. They say that to pray "your will be done" actually lacks faith. Because faith asks, believing with confidence that what we have asked we will receive. And you can't do that while still leaving room for God to give you something different than what you've asked for.
Didn't Jesus also say to keep on praying and never give up. He told parables about it. In Luke 11:5, he said, suppose you have a friend and you go to him at midnight and you say, Hey, someone's coming over to my house and I need bread. Give me some bread. I don't have any. And the guy just won't get up. And you just keep on pounding on the door. Please, please, please. And Jesus says that even if he doesn't open the door just because you are a friend, he will eventually open the door because of your shameless audacity. And he says, "So I say to you, ask or keep on asking, and it will be given to you. Keep on seeking and you will find keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. The one who seeks, finds. And to the one who knocks, the door will be opened to you."
In Luke 18 verse one, it says, "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." And then he tells a story about an unjust judge. A widow goes to an unjust judge and seeks justice and keeps on going to him and finally gets justice. And then he says, "And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly."
But It's a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
Jesus did say, pray. Never give up.
Didn't Jesus also say that anything is possible if we believe?
In Mark 9, a father brings his son to Jesus, and the son is possessed by a demon and has been since he was a child. And the man says to Jesus, "If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." And Jesus snaps back at him and says, "' If you can'?! Everything is possible for one who believes."
And immediately the boy's father says, what you and I have likely said, "I do believe! I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!" Anything, everything is possible for one who believes at least according to Jesus.
In Mark 11, he says, "Have faith in God. Truly, I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, go throw yourself into the sea and does not doubt in their heart, but believes that what they say will happen. It will be done for them. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.
Jesus said that. Everything is possible if you believe. Everything is a lot of things.
It sounds as if Jesus is saying, "Don't take no for an answer. Just believe that it will happen and it'll happen."
And doesn't God also call us as ambassadors to do things that he or angels won't?
In Acts 9 when Saul, the apostle Paul, is converted, he's on his way on a mission to persecute the Christians, and suddenly this flash of light blinds him and he falls to the ground. And Jesus says to him, " Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" And Saul is left blind. And then he sees the vision, a man coming to lay hands on him and to heal him.
Now, Jesus was already there. Couldn't he have just healed him? I mean, that was sort of his gig. He could have just healed him. And yet he says, I want a man to come do this.
And then in a vision, he goes to a man named Ananias and says, "I need you to go to Saul. I need you to lay hands on him and heal him." And Ananias objects because Saul's a ruthless and dangerous man.
And, Jesus says, "No, I want you to go heal him. I'll show him how much he must suffer for my name. But I want you to go and heal him." And so Ananias goes and lays hands on him and heals him.
I mean, Jesus could have done that. He could have sent an angel to do that. In fact, in Acts 10, the next chapter when Cornelius, a faithful God-fearing Gentile, who prays to God regularly and gives offerings to the poor â€” an angel visits Cornelius and says, "Cornelius, your prayers have come up as a memorial offering before God. He has heard your prayers. Now, send for a man named Peter," â€” tells him where to go and get him â€” "send for a man named Peter. He will tell you how to be saved."
Why didn't the angel just tell him? I mean, he already had his attention. The angel could have just gone and said, Hey, your prayers have come up as a memorial offering before God. I'm here to tell you how to be saved." But no. He says, "I'm here to tell you to send for a man to tell you how to be saved." And so he sends for Peter.
And then Peter, in a vision, is told to go to cornelius and he does. And Peter, the man, goes and explains the gospel to him, and the Holy Spirit falls on Cornelius and he's saved.
God does call us as ambassadors to do things that he or angels won't.
When Paul's writing 2 Corinthians 5, he says, "We are as God's ambassadors imploring you to be reconciled to God."
There's a certain part of being a faithful follower of Christ that takes action, that acts on faith, that goes as ambassadors.
And so that causes tension for me. If I just submit and say, "Not my will, but yours be done," when does that become complacency? When does that become forsaking my responsibility? Neglecting my call? Shouldn't I be pleading like Jesus told me to? Shouldn't I be believing that I have received it like Jesus said to? Shouldn't I be carrying out the things boldly, not taking no for an answer. Shouldn't I be doing that?
We are to be bold. We are to be bold.
On the other hand, some people are so demanding of God. They have no humility, no shame, no spirit of submission. It's as if God is there to serve them, to make them healthy and wealthy kings and queens in their own kingdom. They stand boldly before God, going toe to toe and nose to nose with the Almighty, trying to get what they want. They're shameless. They don't know their place.
Sometimes submission is just complacency, but sometimes pleading with God, not taking no for an answer and acting on faith boldly is just my attempt to Lord it over God. It's demanding, it's presumptuous. Sometimes pleading and acting on faith is just lording my will over God.
How do we know when it is? How do we know when submission is complacency and when pleading and acting and believing and claiming and declaring is just lording it over God? How do we know when it is?
The answer is it is when it is, and it isn't when it isn't. It is when it is. It isn't, when it isn't.
And so submit to God. But don't be complacent. Plead with God, believing. But don't lord it over him. Act on faith. But don't be presumptuous. Know your place. Trust God, not yourself. Make requests not requirements. Don't confuse faith with certitude.
Faith believes that God can do all and will do all that is in our best interest. Certitude says, I've got all figured out and I go to God with that as if he needs to bend to that.
Faith is trust, not self-confidence, not self assertion. Faith is simply trust. We trust God.
If you can't surrender, "nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done," you are likely trying to Lord it over God. And if you can't plead fervently, you are likely being complacent.
Both are acts of distrust. Both distrust that God is good, loving and powerful. They both do not believe that God is really good and loving and powerful. All good, all loving, all powerful. Always good, always loving, always powerful.
Because if God is really good and loving and powerful, you can act on faith, you can trust him.
And if God is really good and loving and powerful, you can plead earnestly. Fervently. You can plead even believing, because he is good, loving and powerful.
And if God really is good and loving and powerful, you can absolutely pray the most powerful prayer: "Nevertheless, not my will, not what I've asked â€” Lord, I want what you want. If you have a better way, do it, Lord. You do it. Because your way will always be higher than my way â€” nevertheless, not what I've asked, but what you would do, Lord. That is what I'm truly asking."
Reverent submission trusts God. Trust God.
Here's the challenge that I would suggest each of us lean into. What are you more inclined toward? In your relationships, are you more inclined to lord it over others, or to give in to others? I mean, you know. Are you more inclined to give up quickly? "Oh, that's okay. We don't need to fight about it." Or are you more inclined to go toe to toe, nose to nose until you get your way? Which are you more inclined to do?
When a decision in a group needs to be made, does it usually go your way or do you usually go their way? What are you more inclined toward? We Audacity or complacency? What are you more inclined toward?
And in your relationship with God, what are you more inclined toward? Going with bold requests, bold declarations, believing for big things with God, or just leaning back and saying, "God, whatever you'd like to do, I'm good with it." Which are you more inclined toward: audacity or complacency?
Always, whether you are pleading or whether you are acting on faith or whether you are saying "nevertheless," always bow forward. Bow toward God. Know your place. He is God. You're not. Trust him that he has the best in mind.
So be thoughtful in your prayers. Today, tomorrow, this week. Be thoughtful in your prayers. Do you need to plead? Plead? Do you need to act? Act.
These days, I'm pleading with God. I plead with God for my wife's migraines to go away. Please Lord, please. And he hasn't released me from pleading. I plead.
And in my life, it's time to act right now. Wendy and I are getting ready to head out on the road to plant and encourage microchurches. We feel called to do that. It's a bold move on our part. And so we're acting on faith. Not presumptuous. We've thought it through to the nth degree. And we've prayed to God about it and he won't release us from â€” if I can say it that way â€” he won't release us from this, this burden, this call. We have to go do this. There's people who we want to go encourage and strengthen, and so we're getting ready to head out and do that for an extended period of time.
There's things I plead for and there's things that I am acting in faith on.
Do you need to plead? Do you need to act on faith? Do you need to submit? I mean, of course, always, always submit. Always. "Nevertheless" is the most powerful prayer you can pray, because, just like Jesus, we bow forward in reverent submission.
And I believe that it will be said of us what was said of Jesus in Hebrews 5:7, "He was heard because of his reverent submission." Not that he didn't pray. Let me read it.
" During the days of Jesus life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death. And he was heard because of his reverent submission.".
Make sure that that defines you. Pray fervently with tears, crying out to God for the things that he's put on your heart. Be ready to act. Do what he's called you to do.
And in it all, make sure that you are heard, not because you dare to go toe to toe and nose to nose with the Almighty, but because of your reverent submission. In everything, bow forward. Bow forward to God.
One final thought here. I've never moved any mountains. Jesus said if you believe , you can move mountains. I've never moved to any mountains, but one day I had enough faith to just breathe, "Jesus." Like a sigh. "Jesus." And in that moment, he took this mountain of sin â€” this idolatrous, adulterous, powerless life that I had put together, that I was living â€” he took this mountain of sin and he threw it in the sea. Miraculous. That faith as small as a mustard seed threw a mountain into the sea. I didn't throw it there. I believed Jesus, and he threw it there.
And I've pleaded â€” we might say it this way â€” I've pleaded to have this thorny flesh, this flesh that we all live with, like this flesh will always be just as stinking and rotting and corrupt as the day I called out Jesus. It is just what's built into the flesh. We don't try to make the flesh better. We try to submit to the Holy Spirit. We don't live to please the flesh. We live to please the Holy Spirit. But I've pleaded, "Lord, take this thorny flesh from me, these messengers of Satan, whatever you would call that, take it from me."
And he has said, "My grace is sufficient. That's not my plan. I've redeemed you, but you have not received the reward of your new body. And until that day, until this flesh breathes its last, my grace is sufficient for you."
And I've pleaded, like Jesus â€” we might say it this way â€” Jesus said, "Whoever wants to come after me must take up their cross daily and follow me." And I would love it. I would just love it if, if I could live my best life now, if following Jesus was all about getting this and that and that, and yet Jesus keeps on saying, "No. You lay down your life. To follow me is a life of self-sacrifice, self denial. Take up your death instrument, your cross, daily, and follow me."
And I've pleaded, you might say, I've pleaded, "Lord, could this cup be taken from me? Could I receive all the benefits in this world? Could this cup be taken from me?" I've said, "If it's possible, take it from me. And if it's not possible, nevertheless, less not what I will, but what you will. And Lord, since it's impossible for it to be taken from me, because this is how you've designed it, Lord, your will be done. Nevertheless, your will be done."
For Jesus, it was impossible to avoid the cross because it was the only way to demonstrate what we read in Acts 2:24, that "it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." He had to go to the death so that he could demonstrate power over death.
There's things in your life you've got to go through with because it's the only way to demonstrate that God's grace is sufficient. It's the only way to demonstrate the end reward. And I believe that one day the impossible will shift for us, like it did for Jesus. What is impossible to do right now will demonstrate ultimately that it was impossible for that thing to actually have victory over us. One day it will be said of me, it'll be said of you, I believe: " It was impossible for death to keep its hold on him . It was impossible for the flesh to have victory over him. He was heard because of his reverent submission, even while he pleaded."
That's the prayer of nevertheless. Pray that prayer. That's my goal. Nevertheless, not my will be done, but Lord, I trust that you are good, loving and powerful. Do what you would do. And I submit reverently with joy.
That's my goal. May it be your goal too.