“The Prayer of Abandonment”
Have you ever wondered at the thoughts of the disciples, immediately preceding the arrest of their Master, when praying for Him in the garden? Had they not been plagued with slumber, with drooping eyelids and strengthless bodies, and had they grasped fully the darkening night that was about to cast its shadow upon their Rabbi, what would they have prayed? It’s a terrifying clarity to realize that the only proper prayer that could have flowed from their tired hearts to the Father was that Jesus be tortured, beaten, scourged, nailed through hands and feet, and crushed by the Father on the cross. The only proper prayer was to ask the Father to cause blood to pour from the body of the Son of God, for Him to die the death that no other man could die, and for Him to suffer what no other man has or ever will suffer. Though difficult to fathom, this is the truest prayer of all, the will of God.
Imagine the only other alternative prayer, and the one that the present-day masses, and maybe ourselves, often pray. It would go something like this: “Holy Father, keep Your Son from death, from suffering, from pain. Grant Him victory in this battle, that His enemies will have nothing on Him, and that He will live to see the dawn of another day.” As far as that type of prayer may seem to ring with the sound of perfection, and may often even elevate the heart to a gladness that seems to spring from God, it cannot be answered for one very specific reason: it is not the will of God. Had the disciples prayed this, and had God answered their prayer, the shining hope of every living and long-passed soul would be helplessly nonexistent, and the miraculous bringing of our hearts back to the heart of God by the joyful sacrifice of the Son would be mythical and baseless.
Immediately following the greatest revelation Peter had ever received, the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God, and in the direct wake of the blessing of Jesus in receiving that revelation, Peter’s heart became darkened by his own (good) affections. Jesus described the death He would die in detail before Peter and the others, declaring with clarity the suffering He was bound to endure. Peter looked upon His Lord, with affections blazing through his soul, and love for His Master surging in his veins, and loudly exclaimed, “Far be it from You, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” With eyes turned upon Peter, Jesus replied, “Get behind me, Satan! …For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” The darkness that had concealed the truth to Peter was plain to Jesus, and the outflowing of His perfect heart only held rebuke for Peter. Peter’s affections were good, his heart loved his Lord, and he was shown later to even be willing to fight for Him. No one wants the one that they love to die. But Peter’s good, earthly affections had no bearing on spiritual reality. If their outcome had been brought to pass, his affections would’ve effectively vanquished the greatest plan of God that ever was. Fortunately, our God is not so small, and His plan not so fickle, as to be thwarted by man.
To clarify, this is not to say that a man can’t or shouldn’t pray for deliverance for his friend from an enemy, or that he couldn’t see his friend’s outright deliverance brought by the very hand of God in all of His glory! The point is not that. The point is this: there is only one prayer worth praying, and that is the prayer of the will of God, the prayer of abandonment. By abandonment, I mean abandonment of our own will, our own affections, in order to flow gladly in the stream of the will of God, hearing the still voice of our Creator, and aligning with His heart. I’ve wondered if it wasn’t the will of God for the disciples to fall asleep in the garden rather than pray for the Son. What if their prayers would have been as ours often are, disengaged from the heart of the Father and surging with longing for temporal gains rather than eternal ones? Surely if Peter’s heart hadn’t changed from the time of the Lord’s rebuke, his prayer would have failed. We must learn the prayer of abandonment.
The prayer of abandonment is the prayer of our King. He said, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Never, through the outcropping of all the ages, has a prayer been prayed with more abandonment than this one. This is our example. This is true prayer. This is the prayer of abandonment. In this the rarest of moments, Jesus’ will was not perfectly aligned with the will of His Father, but He knew better than any the prayer of abandonment. He abandoned His will for the will of His Father, abandoning all that He was to all that the Father was, and entrusted His affections to the plan of the Glorious One. Again, this is true prayer, to begin, first and foremost, with the setting aside of our own will, and to press in from the place of trust in the ultimate good.
Instead of Jesus’ “…living to see the dawn of another (earthly) day,” He lived to see the dawn of the eternal day, forever inhabiting the abode of God, His home, and welcoming every joy-filled saint that set their gaze to His. He lived to become the ladder that happily intertwined heaven with earth, God with man, King with servant, Father with son, and Divine with temporal. He lived that we might live. He lived that we might become His very own. And He did it all through the prayer of abandonment.