Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pastoral Ponderings ~ Praying our Feelings, Praying God’s Will

          Things happen in life where we wish that certain biblical prayers could be applied to our situations. You know, the ones where we can quote a Scripture-writer when he asked God to bring back on someone’s wicked head the same wickedness they have perpetrated against others.[1] Or, we read about an evil man who was hung on the very gallows he had built to execute one of God’s innocent children,[2] and we wonder if God would accept us asking him to do such things in our day.

          People who truly love the Lord Jesus Christ have this “check” in their spirits that tells them that such desires for vengeance are not the way the church prays for our enemies. We know that, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”[3] Our minds understand we are to Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Jesus own words).[4] Jesus was very clear when he elaborated, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.[5]

          Some of God’s children have been known to feel a genuine let-down when they accept that they cannot pray one of those, “God, get them good!” kind of prayers. After entertaining all the possibilities, their desire to have God’s will in their lives wins the day, and they reluctantly try to pray the way they are told.

          But, what if we can pray those in-the-word-of-God prayers? What if our either-or praying is missing the opportunity to pray out of both sides of our hearts in the same prayer? What if our desire to “do the right thing” is stealing away our opportunity to experience the kind of praying that combines both our feelings and our faith? What if God’s word still invites us to the release of expressing those heartfelt prayers of divine justice, while surrendering ourselves to the good and acceptable and perfect[6] will of God.

          What I mean is that there is good reason to believe that God still invites us to pray out all that we are feeling, while also surrendering ourselves to the kind of loving, praying-for-blessing he wants us to express on behalf of our enemies. After all, is this not what we often see in the Psalms themselves, that a writer expresses exactly how he was feeling about something, but then concludes by surrendering himself to the divine will on the matter? Asaph told us all about his envy of the wicked,[7] but then how God transformed him through the renewal of his mind[8] so that he prayed that beautiful expression, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”[9] Methinks that the new covenant invites us to the same heart-to-heart praying that covers the full expression of our feelings and our faith in one fell swoop, so to speak.

          My favorite praying-out-of-both-sides-of-my-heart prayer is what Jesus expressed to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. As Jesus approached the day of his crucifixion, which would include his propitious bearing of the wrath of God against our sins, he prayed this fascinating prayer, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”[10]The cup of suffering he was about to experience was so grievous to him that we are told, “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”[11]

          The point is that Jesus prayed for something he knew his Father would not do, but he prayed it because that was what he was feeling. He was experiencing horror and sorrow and agony of soul because of what was about to happen to him. He put into words a request that the Father could not answer with a yes. He clearly showed that he wanted his Father’s ultimate will to be done in his life, but he still voiced, or expressed, the way the approaching hour was affecting him. Or, dare I say, the way the anticipation of his suffering was making him feel.

          I take Jesus’ example as an invitation to pray to God in the same way. If what someone did to me is causing me heartache, I can tell my Father all about how I am feeling. If someone’s recurring “getting away with it” makes my heart cry out at the grave injustice that the world, the flesh and the devil promote, I can tell my Father how I am doing. That is, as long as I do not conclude my prayer until my heart has come to rest in the reverential submission of, “nevertheless, not my will, by yours be done.”

          Now, you know those situations where two professing-to-be-children of God both think they are right and the other is wrong, and they both think the other has done something so wicked that those God-get-them prayers seem both good and just? What would happen if both of them told God how they were feeling, and both surrendered to God with their “nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done”?

          If both sides do the same thing, pour out their hearts to God about all that they feel, and then surrender their hearts to the divine will, there will be God-honoring reconciliations that come about because everyone involved has asked to know and do the will of God. Since God has a will for all his children to eagerly maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”,[12] we can be sure that praying for this reality will lead us all into blessings of reconciliation that feel much better than those short seasons of hurt. I have actually experienced this before, and it is worth having!

          Because Scripture presents the experience of God’s will as the supreme good of the children of God,[13] it doesn’t matter how hurt we are, how much poison and confusion has poured out of our souls in prayer, or how much our minds need to be changed about anything that has taken place. If we end every prayer with the affirmation that we are denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily, and following Christ wherever he leads,[14] we will find him bringing us into the kinds of transformations that would qualify as, “from one degree of glory to another,”[15] just as Paul described.

          So, when you feel like you’re in a situation where someone fits to a T those wicked-hearted men who got Daniel thrown in a lion’s den,[16] be like a little child who climbs up on your Father’s lap and tells him exactly how you feel. Then lean back into his loving arms and listen to what he has to say.[17] I have seen the rest that comes to children’s hearts and minds when they do this with us, when they pour out their feelings about some grave injustice, and then listen to the wisdom of our years lead them to a resolution that is better than they could have imagined.

          In fact, I have seen children playing together quite joyfully after episodes where both sides had wanted me to hear about the terrible things the other one did to them, but they discovered that I had things to deal with in them both, and a resolution they had not considered. I am convinced that, if I pray that way, pouring out my feelings, and surrendering to the sound of my Shepherd’s voice on the matter, that I will one day see the same thing happen amongst us childish little adults as well.

          From my heart,



© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)


[1] 18 Then they said, “Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not pay attention to any of his words.” 19 Hear me, O Lord, and listen to the voice of my adversaries. 20 Should good be repaid with evil? Yet they have dug a pit for my life. Remember how I stood before you to speak good for them, to turn away your wrath from them. 21 Therefore deliver up their children to famine; give them over to the power of the sword; let their wives become childless and widowed. May their men meet death by pestilence, their youths be struck down by the sword in battle. 22 May a cry be heard from their houses, when you bring the plunderer suddenly upon them! For they have dug a pit to take me and laid snares for my feet. 23 Yet you, O Lord, know all their plotting to kill me. Forgive not their iniquity, nor blot out their sin from your sight. Let them be overthrown before you; deal with them in the time of your anger. (Jeremiah 18)
[2] Esther 3-7
[3] Romans 12:19
[4] Matthew 5:44
[5] Luke 6:27-28
[6] Romans 12:2
[7] Psalm 73
[8] Romans 12:1-2
[9] Psalm 73:25
[10] Luke 22:42
[11] Luke 22:44
[12] Ephesians 4:3
[13] Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.’” (John 4:34)
[14] And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23)
[15] “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (II Corinthians 3:18)
[16] Daniel 6
[17] For me, this looks like getting up in the morning, pouring my heart out to God, meditating on whatever Scriptures are before me, and receiving whatever is the revealed will of God, applied without favoritism or partiality to whatever I am going through.

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