Let’s say you are without work. And imagine you just returned from an interview for a job you really want, and you decide to pray about the job. But as you think about praying, you start to wonder —
• Why pray, when it’s the interviewer who will decide who gets the job?
• Maybe instead of praying that I get the job, I should just tell God that I submit to his will.
• Maybe to have my prayer for the job answered I need to believe without any doubt that God is going to give me the job.
These questions can discourage our prayer. So how can we answer them? Let us turn to Jesus for his wisdom. What helps me with those questions is Jesus’ prayer in Mark 14:36.
It’s late at night. Jesus knows that the next day he faces hours of horrifying suffering as God’s wrath for our sin is poured upon him on the Cross. So he heads to the garden of Gethsemane, and asks Peter, James, and John to pray for him. Then he goes off a little farther away by himself, falls to the ground, and prays —
“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)
Each of these lines have helped me answer crucial questions about prayer —
“Father, all things are possible for you.”
Jesus understood that the Father was sovereign over everything, which means it is entirely up to the Father whether Jesus is spared the Cross, or sent to the Cross. That’s true for Jesus as he anticipates the Cross, and it’s true for every situation we face. God can do whatever he chooses to do.
So as you think about how much you want this job, it’s crucial to understand that God is able to give you the job, or to not give you the job. It’s ultimately up to him (Proverbs 21:1).
That doesn’t mean you don’t prepare for the interview. But it does mean that what happens is not ultimately about how well you interviewed, or who happens to do the interview. What happens is ultimately up to God.
That’s why it makes sense to pray for the job, because when you pray you are talking to the One who is in complete control of who gets the job.
“Remove this cup from me.”
Sometimes we think that if we were fully submitted to God, then all we would need to pray is “Do your will.” But that’s not how Jesus prays. There’s mystery here. But it seems clear that part of Jesus’ heart did not want to go to the Cross. So Jesus prays and asks God to keep him from the Cross — “Remove this cup from me.”
This was not all that was in his heart, as we will see in the next request. But it was part of what was in his heart. And that’s how God wants us to pray. God wants us to ask him to fulfill the desires of our hearts, as long as those desires are not against God’s Word.
So even though we don’t know God’s ultimate will, we should ask God for what seems right to us according to his Word. So we should go ahead and pray for jobs, healing, salvation, provision, protection, and so forth.
So don’t just pray “Do your will.” Pray as Jesus prayed — for the specific desires of your heart.
“Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
When you pray to get the job, do you need to believe with absolute certainty that God will give you the job? That’s not how Jesus prays. Jesus prays and asks God: “Remove this cup from me.” But Jesus also understands that what’s most crucial is submitting to God’s will — “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Sometimes God will give us a supernatural, spiritual gift of faith by which we know exactly what God is going to do. In that case we can pray with absolute confidence that God will do precisely as we ask.That is a spiritual gift which God sometimes gives to some of us. But it’s not something God always requires from us.
So apart from a spiritual gift of faith, we should pray as Jesus did in Gethsemane. Express to God the desires of your heart earnestly, persistently, and passionately —
• Please, Father, have the interviewer hire me.
• I plead with you, Father, heal me.
• For the sake of your name, free me from this trial.
This is crucial, because God might have ordained that your earnest pleading be what moves his heart to do exactly what you are asking. But at the same time, because you understand that God knows best, also pray —
Yet not what I want, but what you want.
This is also crucial, because it will remind you that God might have other, even better plans for you. And it will help you keep seeking your joy in God, and not in specific answers to prayer.
Learn how to pray — from Jesus.
A special thanks to Steve Fuller for the inspiration for this blog.