“. . . take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Recall how we’ve defined abandon. To give up completely. To give up with the intent of never again claiming a right or interest in.
What if we prayed this way? Not my will. Not my desire for my husband to be healthy . . . for my teenager to return home . . . for my parents to ask for help in their elderly years. Not my will.
What then? There’s a relinquishment here that we may not be comfortable with. A giving over of what I long for, what I believe is best to what God somehow sees. A giving up of what I want for what God wants.
Dare we pray this way?
We need to be careful here. We can too easily default to what I call an “auto-abandon.” As if we’re supposed to surrender, so we do. Thy will be done. There—settled, done. But in our heart of hearts, beneath our outward confession of relinquishment, we’re like toddlers holding tightly to a stuffed toy—something we truly believe will provide the comfort and protection we’ve come to depend on. Often, in that innermost spot, it’s not God.
Auto-abandon isn’t really abandon. It something more like resignation.
What holds us back from true abandon?
Abandon isn’t safe. Hissing lies slither beneath the surface of my days and nights, coiling their untruths through my thinking.
And I listen as the first lie says, God will hurt me. Surely, he can’t love someone like me. Maybe God isn’t even good.
Then the second lie whispers, God can’t possibly love this wormy, selfish part of me.
Mark Batterson, author of the best-selling book on prayer The Circle Maker, challenges my thinking. “God is not a genie in a bottle, and your wish is not His command,” he writes. “His command better be your wish. . . . And until His sovereign will becomes your sanctified wish, your prayer life will be unplugged from its power supply.”
His sovereign will? That’s intimidating. And powerful. I squint across the chasm between honest and abandon, and I consider yet another attempt.
Then it comes, forming in the fog of ambivalence. Yet another reason I fear, perhaps the core cause—a wacky thought really, but it comes: God is not good. Lie number three.
I consider a pronouncement often attributed to Oswald Chambers, “The root of all sin is the suspicion that God is not good.” I sigh.
Baby Steps to Abandon—Answers to Our Avoidance
Let’s go back to Jesus. How he did honest. How he got to abandon.
Oh, but he’s Jesus, you say. I know. That’s the point. We need to let Jesus stomp on the lies that wriggle through our thinking here.
I can’t pray abandon because I fear that God will hurt me. Jesus prayed Take This Cup and Not My Will and God hurt him.
But because God hurt Jesus, he won’t hurt us. Tim Keller fastens a hammock of hope over the canyon of abandon, writing, “Jesus got the scorpion and the snake so that we could have food at the Father’s table. He received the sting and venom of death in our place. . . . We know that God will answer us when we call ‘my God’ because God did not answer Jesus when he made the same petition on the cross.”
The “hurt” we fear in abandon is a pain that God himself has carried.
Maybe praying abandon will not cause God to “hurt” me, but rather it will slice open my hurt places so God can inhabit them with healing.
I take one baby step closer to the right side, to abandon.
But what if God doesn’t really love me? Not so much because he is not loving, but because I am not lovable? What will happen to me when God is put in charge of the awfulness of me in my abandon?
I love the writing of Canadian farmer’s wife Ann Voskamp. One night, when her husband unexpectedly massaged her feet, she wondered, “Why is it easier to pour out than to let yourself be loved? . . . Letting yourself receive love means trusting you will be loved in your vulnerable need; it means believing you are worthy of being loved. Why can that be so heartbreakingly hard?”
I know why: because I know what’s inside me. The pride. The selfishness. What I did yesterday. The things I thought—just an hour ago.
Stop it now. God is love. And our vulnerable God opens himself to cover my love-fears with himself. Love is not about my worthiness, my enough-ness. It’s about God’s unendingness.
I turn from fear. I open to love.
But then comes one more lie.
What if God, really, is not good? Beyond our understanding. Beyond our comprehension? The abandon prayer of Not My Will would make suicidal sense in such a case.
Here, from this filthy pit of twisted thinking, is where Satan emerged in Eden to address Eve: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’ ” (Genesis 3:1) Hiissssss! How can a good God not want you to eat of the delicious tree? “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4–5). Hiissssss! God is not good—or he would want you to be like him.
Gulp, gulp, gulp. We devour the lies, swallowing them down into our very beings where they merge and integrate, silently morphing into a new reality.
Likely, it was this same untruth that tried to coil itself around Jesus during his garden prayer.God will hurt you! God does not love you! God is not good! Take this cup! But in Jesus’s prayer coin, his honest Take This Cup answered the hiss with solid abandon: Not My Will. Jesus prayed a prayer of absolute abandon because he knew the Father loved him, and he trusted and loved the Father back. I know that God hears my honest requests and receives my honest expression of them. I yield to his goodness. I embrace his presence in my fears. I let him love me.
Study: Read Hebrews 5:8. How did Jesus “grow” in his ability to abandon in prayer?
Reflect: Can you identify a lie – and where you learned it – that holds you back from abandon?
Practice: What abandon, Not My Will, prayer are you currently praying? Ask God what he wants in this situation and lean in to what you sense might be his response, especially as he speaks against a lie you may have believed.