If God Is In Control, Why Do We Still Need To Pray?
He is in control, yet also listening
We’ve gone through a lot since last year. In the Philippines, there’s the comeback of lockdown policies due to the intense rise of new COVID-19 cases and variants.
It seems that going back to normal will take a lot of waiting and prayer.
These events in our lives made us face anxiety and confusion.
Whether in abundance or lack, in good condition or sorrow and distress, we ask, “Is there any hope with all that’s happening in the country and the world? And what does God even do in the midst of these crises?”
In the New Testament, there’s a passage where Jesus was going through sorrow and distress. This was the beginning of His agony, and it’s one of the deciding moments in His ministry, Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane.
In Mark chapter 14, verses 32 through 42, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane (after the last supper) with His disciples to pray. It is nearing the end of His ministry, and Judas Iscariot has already betrayed Him, and the temple guards are in pursuit.
There’s no turning back for Jesus.
Jesus and the twelve disciples went to the garden and told them to sit while He prays. He also took Peter, James, and John with Him farther (Jesus is beginning to be greatly distressed and troubled), and He said to the three, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.”
Going a little farther, He fell on the ground and prayed (Mark 14:32–35). Returning to Peter, James, and John, who are sleeping in the most crucial moments in history, Jesus told Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”(Mark 14:37–38).
Then again, He went away and prayed. This happened three times. Three times Jesus prayed, and three times Peter, James, and John slept (Mark 14:39–41).
This was intense. I can imagine Jesus’ heartbeat rising and sweat coming out all over His face. It’s only natural for some of us to feel the intensity of this moment because we already know what will happen.
But can you imagine you’re one of the disciples? You have no clue what’s about to happen? Even the closest friends of Jesus didn’t know the events to come. (Just as we don’t know what’s about to happen in our situation today.)
In the most crucial moments in the life of Jesus here on earth, He chose to pray. For some, that’s the last option. Even in desperate moments, prayer always seems to be the last resort or the last thing we do.
Well, Jesus prayed because He’s Jesus (He’s God in the flesh, duh). But isn’t that all the more reason to ask, why did Jesus pray? And what’s the content of His prayer? Because if Jesus is really who He says e is, why bother praying?
“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36, ESV).
What can we learn from that prayer? Because if we would want the lifestyle of prayer, then we need to learn it from Jesus.
God revealed His special personal name to the Israelites. It’s the consonants YHWH (that’s the all capital letter, LORD, in your Bible). The pronunciation is uncertain because Jewish people give thought to the personal name of God to be so holy that it should never be spoken out loud.
Out of reverence, they would read YHWH as “Adonai” (which means Lord) or “HaShem” (which means “the Name”), and sometimes they would refer to Him as “Elohim” (which means God).
Despite the knowledge of God’s personal name, they refrain from calling God, YHWH, out of reverence.
In the prayer of Jesus, He neither calls God “Adonai” or “HaShem”; not even “Elohim,” but calls God Abba, Father. Jesus knew who God is, and He also knew who he was in God’s eyes.
- God is a Father who is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and utterly faithful.
- This God invites us to become His sons and daughters.
Sometimes, what hinders us from praying is the concept that I need to be right from God for Him to listen; I need to pull myself together first before praying to God.
Our identity is never about how good we are or how bad we were; our identity is based on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Because of that good news, we can come to God’s presence weary and burdened (Matthew 11:28) and cast all our anxieties on him because we know that He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
“…All things are possible for you...” (Mark 14:36, ESV).
(This is not your Christian friend who’s trying to encourage you with cliché phrases. This is Jesus praying; these are actual words that come out of his mouth.)
In Jesus’ darkest moments, He uttered these words as if God would fulfill His prayers.
SPOILER ALERT: God didn’t answer His prayers, and instead, Jesus died a gruesome death at the cross. Despite that, Jesus declared the truth and that all things are possible to God. Jesus believed that God is in control and He is all-powerful.
Our faith should always be anchored in the truth. That is, God can do wonders even when it seems impossible.
And when wonders don’t happen, we can still say, “I will still trust you, even if….”
That leads us to Jesus’ final word in his prayer:
“…Yet not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36, ESV).
Jesus — the God incarnate — gave up what’s comfortable; what’s convenient to obey the will of His Abba, Father.
Here’s my problem: Jesus is already in control!
He already has the power to abandon us and start all over again, creating much better human beings without even going to the cross. And it dawned on me, Jesus is teaching and showing us that in our darkest moments, we must surrender to God’s plans and obey His will, even if it hurts.
I remember this quote from Experiencing God Devotionals, “If you become bitter over your hardships, you close some parts of your life from God… Don’t resent the suffering God allows in your life.
Don’t make all your decisions and invest everything you have into avoiding hardships. God did not spare His own Son. How can we expect Him to spare us? Learn obedience even when it hurts.”
It is God’s nature to show compassion to the hurting, even going to the point where He’ll take all that sorrow, suffering, and distress just to show us how much He loves us; and how much He’s willing to save us.
How many of us would have the audacity to pray this kind of prayer? Despite all odds, would we even pray and believe? Jesus modeled to us a picture of a person completely sold out to God and His will. He is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
Yes, God is in control, but that doesn’t mean He’s not listening. As God orchestrates His beautiful redemption to the world, He never fails to be a personal God to His people. This personal God creates new humanity out of the old, rebellious, and sinful humans by showing us what new humanity should look like — Christ-like.
Reflection: Why do you think it’s hard to pray? What does it look like if prayer is a lifestyle for an individual and as a community?
Let’s take this time to reflect on His goodness and beauty, focusing on Jesus. Let’s pray and talk to our Abba, Father; declare the impossible and ask God to reveal to us His will, and be at peace that God knows what He’s doing that we can fully trust His wisdom and His character even in our darkest moments.
And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36, ESV).