When our oldest was a junior in high school, her water polo team was playing in the CIF quarterfinals at an indoor pool in Downey. Inside this aquatic center, it was loud and tense and humid. I sat trembling with anxiety and prayed, Lord, let them win. Please let them win. You can do this and I am trusting you to make it happen.
My last memory of that game was her coach sitting poolside with his head in his hands. The girls were devastated and I was crushed. How could God not answer that prayer? Was there a different way I should have prayed? Should I have prayed that prayer at all?
These are questions I’ve asked throughout my years as a believer. And I’m not sure I understand any better 35 years later.
But what I know is this: Jesus also asked the Father for something. A pretty big something. But rather than wait trembling, wondering which way God was going to go with his request, He turned it back to God before leaving, trusting in God’s good and perfect will.
In the garden, Jesus is “sorrowful and troubled.” He falls on his face and asks his Father to save the world another way. Trembling and tense, he has three brief conversations with God — Please, please, please, take this responsibility from me.
And three times Jesus gives up what he wants to God’s will and way.
Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, confessing to the Father, three times, that He would really rather not go to the cross. Please God, let this saving of the world be solved another way. Three times he asks. And three times he submits to his Father.
We’re taught to name it and claim it. We’re taught to tell God what we want, and then believe that it will be so. And there are scriptures that seem to support this.
However, whenever I’m tempted to follow that teaching, I remember the garden and the sorrow and the submission.
If Jesus could ask boldly and bravely for what He wanted, but in the same sentence, relinquish what he wanted to the will and way of the Father, then that is the model I want to follow and obey.
“Not as I will, but as you will.” (26:39b)
“Your will be done.” (26:42b)
“The same words again.” (26:44b)
We’ve also read and been taught that these responses are spiritually weak and wimpy. That they are cop outs for bold, brave prayers.
Well, if these words are good enough for Jesus, they are good enough for us.
If Jesus wasn’t naming it and claiming it . . .
If Jesus could ask specifically for what he wanted, but end his prayer with “nevertheless,” your will God, not mine . . .
If Jesus could trust His Father to work it all out for His glory and the world’s good . . .
then so can we.
Since that afternoon in Downey, we’ve sat through many more CIF games. Tense and trembling, parched and panicky, I’ve prayed over and over that our team would win.