“Thy Will” vs. “My Will”
Praying Like Jesus
By Sherry Thomas and Bethany Lockett
In the early years of my marriage, conflict was frequent. Something as inconsequential as which direction the forks were placed in the dishwasher would result in a serious argument.
I would pray over our disagreements, often asking God to help my husband see that I was right. “Lord, please change my husband.” My heart attitude toward prayer was about controlling my circumstances and proving that I really had my family’s best interest at heart.
As time went on, I just felt more overwhelmed. This finally forced me to see past the immediate circumstances and change the way I prayed. In desperation, I began to pray, “Lord, please change me.”
In Matthew, we get a peek into Jesus’ understanding and practice of prayer.
Jesus’ prayer life is shockingly different from that of the Pharisees, the religious leaders of His day. Although they were commended by others for their beautiful, passionate, and public prayers, Jesus denounced them for praying only to receive the admiration of others in Matthew 6.
His rebukes came to fulfillment in Matthew 23, known as the passage of the “Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees.” Jesus did not hold back on His opinion of their practices, saying “You snakes! You brood of vipers.” He condemned them for being like a cup which is cleaned only on the outside and a tomb, which looks beautiful and white but is full of death on the inside.
Jesus was less concerned with the method of their prayer (both private and public prayers are appropriate) and more concerned with their motivation. He criticized their self-focused approach, believing “righteous” actions could control their own hearts and circumstances.
In contrast, Scripture tells us Jesus routinely woke up early in the morning to pray. He also prayed after full days of serving and teaching, during times of severe trial, and throughout the day to give thanks. His prayers expressed and empowered His desire to submit to the Father completely.
Jesus introduced the true motivation for prayer in the first section of “The Lord’s Prayer” and modeled its impact throughout His life and ministry.
A model of motivation
Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be thy name – Matthew 6:9
There should always be a direct correlation between the One receiving our prayers and what we say. While my name does not actually hint at my character or attributes, every single one of God’s names declares who He is.
So, how does the name you use for God affect your prayers?
In this prayer, Jesus taught the people to acknowledge:
- God is Father (the Good Father loves you)
- He is in Heaven (He has unlimited resources)
- His name is Holy (He is the only One worthy of worship)
Acknowledging different attributes or qualities of God tends to change the tone of our prayers, rearrange priorities, and sometimes change requests altogether. At times it can prevent us from asking God for something that is contrary to His nature.
There are many names for God throughout the Bible. Jesus frequently used the name “Father” (Greek: Patḗr or Aramaic: Abba). Similarly in the Old Testament, there are many names for God that reveal His character. In the Psalms He is called El Shaddai (meaning Lord God Almighty) or Jehovah Jireh (The Lord will provide).
One of my favorite names for God is “El Roi” (The God who sees me). He is the God who clearly sees me and chose to love me anyway. With my focus on El Roi, I confidently approach Him for daily guidance and in times of struggle.
These contemplations in prayer release me from the fear of failure and feelings of insecurity. They remind me to submit my desires and my life to Him because He is good, and His ways are perfect.
When we remember God’s attributes and His names, we adopt an attitude of worship within our prayers. By remembering His character, God ultimately works to re-shape our own.
Positioning our hearts
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. – Matthew 6:10
While it’s tempting to assume Jesus lived a perfect life solely because He is fully God, we must remember He became man and was tempted and struggled just like we do. His temptations, pains, and trials were no less severe than ours – the difference was He was determined and intentional in accomplishing God’s will. He always sought unity with the Father, and He accomplished this through prayer.
We have to ask ourselves, are we praying to prove we are right or to manipulate God into seeing our way? Or are we ready to be changed by God and submit to His will over our own?
In the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night Jesus sought His Father in severe distress, Jesus asked for an alternative solution to the cross. Three times He asked to avoid the wrath of God; however, each time He asked, He also reaffirmed His commitment to do the will of His Father. With those prayers, Jesus walked confidently to the cross, and three days later walked victoriously away from the grave. Jesus illustrated that submission to the Father’s will is rewarded with peace that far outweighs our pain. The same is true for us. While circumstances don’t always change, anxiety can be replaced with peace.
In our vulnerable moments, God welcomes our cries and tears. And when we offer those requests with a heart of submission, God gives us the peace and strength to endure our circumstances. Surrounded by betrayal and insults, Christ walked to the cross with peace and resolution. Through His sacrifice, we too can face the trials of this world with courage when we submit to the will of our Heavenly Father in prayer.
As I reflect on our marriage, I see the ways the Lord has drawn me closer to Him. He used Bible Study Fellowship to help me understand that His Word was a far better guide than my feelings, experience, or worldly wisdom. I realized that I had to let go of my need to control every situation and submit to God’s will for our lives. Today, our marriage is stronger, and we continue to see the deep impact of diligent prayer in every area of our lives.
Sherry Thomas was a child when she believed in the salvation offered by Jesus Christ, but it was as an adult that she understood the importance of growing in her relationship with Him through Bible study and prayer. She joined Bible Study Fellowship more than 10 years ago after the Lord called her out of a corporate job to become a stay-at-home mom. Sherry is happily married to her husband Jacob, who was an International Controller for Bible Study Fellowship. Today, Sherry homeschools their five children and the whole family participates in BSF classes in Lubbock, TX. She also enjoys serving in women’s and young adult ministries in their community.
Submit a Comment
Our BSF staff approves each comment to maintain privacy and security. It may take 24 – 48 hours for your comment to be posted. Be sure to check back for replies from the author or other BSF members!