I am a very stubborn and competitive person. Whether it is sports, a board game or an argument, I don’t like to lose. The thought of giving up would be something that would never come to mind. In fact, even in my closest relationship with my wife, it took a decade before I could say I was sorry because of my stubbornness. But there is one relationship where I have discovered it is best to give up because there is no way to win. I have discovered that when it comes to my relationship with God, surrendering is something that is necessary for me to grow and learn.
With that in mind, let me start by asking the question, “Why do you pray?” Now it would be easy to give a generic Sunday school answer. But I really want us to really think about the what causes you to pray.
Perhaps the answer to that question can be discovered with another question we could ask, “When was the last time you prayed?” When I ask about prayer, I’m not talking about saying grace before a meal or praying during small group with a bunch of other people. Rather, I’m talking about you and God sitting down and having a chat.
I think that, at some level, we are tempted to view prayer only as a vehicle to bring God our list of wants, desires, or needs. We pray for our work, our family, a potential spouse… anything that is in our hearts and minds. But if that’s the case, we will only pray when something is outside of our ability to acquire it.
Now that is one of the purposes of prayer. As Jesus called us to pray in Matthew 6, He tells us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” We are to ask for the things we need, but prayer is so much more. One of the things I love most – and that also challenges me the most about The Lord’s Prayer is that it begins with surrender. Now you might wonder, “How is that so?”
Jesus says, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” You may not see it up front, but that is a surrendering prayer. From this phrase, I can see surrender in four different ways:
Firstly, prayer is surrendering to Someone more ultimate than you. We live in a culture where humanity’s perception of the world is everything revolves around self. But when we pray, it changes that perception. Our prayers become a confession that God is both our Father and Provider. In doing so, we immediately reduce ourselves to a child. If we pray this in conjunction with what is recorded in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God…” we discover that by keeping God first, it helps us to have a proper perspective in life and helps to keep us in our rightful place.
Secondly, prayer is surrendering to a plan bigger and better than yours. Prayer confronts us with the fact that we are not as smart or as powerful as we wish we were. It reminds us that there is a Kingdom that spans from before origin to beyond destiny and includes everything in between. God is and has always been above humanity. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” In this case, like the old 50’s show, “Father knows best.”
Thirdly, prayer is surrendering your right to live as you want. Like the Bon Jovi song, “It’s my life,” we believe our lives should be lived our way. But prayer is bowing our knee to the reality that we do not have any natural right at all to do what we want to do with our lives. We have been created to live inside God’s boundaries. The Bible declares that God made us for a purpose. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Living for God’s purpose requires us to surrender our will and be as Jesus who prayed, “not my will but your will…”
Fourthly, prayer is surrendering your hope in life to God’s grace. The entire Lord’s Prayer is actually one of surrender. It ends with “give us” and “forgive us” and “lead us” and “deliver us.” Each one is a cry to God for help because only He can meet our needs in those areas. Our only hope for all of these things is the generous, empowering grace of God!
Living a life of surrender to God on one level seems confining and restrictive. But the truth is, surrendering to God is liberating as it frees us from the stress and worries of life and confidently rests in the hands of the one who holds our world and lives together. As we go into this season of Thanksgiving, may we learn to yield our lives to God and allow Him the rightful place as Lord and King in our lives.