Praying in the Shadow of Gethsemane - Living Strong Television Network
Praying in the Shadow of Gethsemane

What Jesus’ midnight prayer in the garden tells us about cosmic conflict in the supernatural realm.

“Father, if it is your will, please heal your servant; yet not our will, but yours be done.” As a child, I recall hearing this kind of prayer and feeling deeply puzzled. If it is your will? I thought. Why wouldn’t it be God’s will to heal his servant?

Such prayers are not theologically incorrect—they echo the words of Christ himself and, rightly understood, believers ought to pray likewise. But wrongly understood, such prayers can be deeply confusing and troubling.

Imagine a young girl hearing people pray those words for her mother suffering with terminal cancer. What is she to think? Why wouldn’t God want to heal mommy—does he want her to suffer and die? Doesn’t God love mommy and me?

Even the most spiritually mature adults can struggle with the purpose and effect of their prayers—particularly when God seems absent or silent in their hour of greatest need, despite how faithfully and fervently they pray. If God is perfectly good, all-powerful, and knows our needs before we ask (as Jesus himself taught in Matthew 6:8), how could our prayers make any difference in God’s action? Wouldn’t God already know, will, and do whatever is preferable regardless of whether or how we pray?

These are not easy questions to answer, and they bring up sticky theological quandaries, such as how God’s sovereignty and human free will could possibly coexist. On this issue, Christians land on various parts of a spectrum, seeing it as some form of divine determinism, an optimistic vision of human partnership with God, or something else. Some see prayer primarily as a personal devotional practice that does not influence divine action, while others assume that unanswered prayers reflect …

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