“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. (NIV)
OK, so I know it is not a very spiritual movie, but do you remember Bruce Almighty. Jim Carrey played Bruce Nolan, a television field reporter who gets disillusioned with God, played by Morgan Freeman. God then gives Bruce all of His power so he can get a taste of how free will works. Bruce, of course, quickly abuses the power. He sets himself up in a crazy sports car only to find himself in thick traffic. So as Moses parted the Red Sea so Bruce parted the traffic making a way for him to speed down the middle of cars moved to the side. Well, yesterday, that was my prayer!
Yesterday, my son Jaden had an orchestra concert. I picked him up at home to get him there on time. As I drove into our driveway, he called saying that he couldn’t find his black dress pants that he was supposed to wear. My brain, which had so easily forgotten until this very moment, now remembered that I had thrown them out because they were stained. At the time I thought I would go and get him another pair, but you know, I never did. I looked at the clock realizing we had plenty of time to run to Walmart. We got in the car and headed out to face 5 o’clock traffic to get to Walmart. But lo and behold, I made a wrong turn down Culebra. Should I do a u-turn? No, I will just keep going and head over to Target, then back to his school. But on my way, would you believe, I made another wrong turn and suddenly I was behind a great host of vehicles not moving, standing bumper to bumper. I looked at the clock realizing things were not looking good. Was I going to be that parent that brings their kid in after the concert has already started? Would this be the embarrassing nightmare my child would never recover from? Would my horn be loud enough to make everyone move out of the way?!?!
Like a good pastor, I started to pray. ‘Lord, move these cars OUT OF MY WAY!!!!....please 😊’ Pretty holy, huh?
Our Lord did not pray for a miracle to alleviate His suffering, but instead prayed that God would be glorified. He denied Himself the prayer of the Father saving Him. Because we are called to glorify Him and because suffering provides great opportunities to unveil just how marvelous God is, maybe we should change how we pray in suffering. What do you think? Maybe our only prayer shouldn’t be for miracles of deliverance?
The example that Christ gives us is not to pray for relief, but to pray that we are used in our suffering to bring glory to Him. At the same time, we don’t want to swing the pendulum so far this way that we never pray for miracles. God has instructed us to pray for miracles. Miracles also bring glory to God. But, if you are like me, sometimes I pray earnestly for the miracle and then casually out of the side of my mouth, I might pray that God helps me to endure the suffering that He might be glorified. We should pray for the Lord’s will. His will is that He be glorified as the only source of healing, salvation, and eternal life. But the methodology by which He will be glorified is a detail we are not always made privy to. Will He glorify Himself by healing the cancer or giving grace enough to praise Him in the pain?
It would be nice if He would tell us exactly how He intends to receive glory in every situation, but He also receives glory when we wait in faith, not knowing what He will do, but trusting anyway. Each day I wait for God to move requires more faith. The increasing faith becomes a statement of just how big we believe God to be. It is one thing to sing from the comfort of a padded pew about the faithfulness of God. But it is a whole other level of praise to still trust in that faithfulness though God seems to have done nothing for days, or months, or years.
I remember a saintly lady of our church who testified to how she prayed for her husband for decades. He was not saved and she prayed every day and they were married for over 50 years. It was on his deathbed that he called her to his bedside and asked her to pray for him and there, just a few hours before leaving this life, the Lord melted his heart answering a 50-year-old prayer. How she wished he would have accepted Christ so many years ago, but her faithfulness to keep praying for 50 years and God’s answer to that prayer was a statement that God hears our prayers and never stops working on our behalf. She kept praying and the Lord kept working, though no one could see His progress until the very moment.
Was she glorified for an incredible faith and prayer life? She was. After all, I just referred to her as ‘saintly.’ But God was glorified all the more as the One who does the impossible. We might think that God showed little mercy in waiting so long, but salvation is a choice. God could not force this man to Him. He had to love this man enough to overcome this man’s justification to reject God. This man had rejected the Gospel. He had rejected pleas from his wife. He had rejected church. He rejected the Bible. He was angry with God. Salvation seemed impossible, but then God reminds us that all things are possible for those who believe. To God be the glory.
So, let’s pray for the miracle, but let’s also acknowledge that God may want to delay the miracles to reveal His power to sustain us and deliver us even through the valley of the shadow of death. Rather than praying for our comfort, let’s pray for His glory.
2 Corinthians 4:7-12
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. (NIV)