I’ll break a few rules here and start with a massive ‘wall of text’ quote from another work – Thomas à Kempis’, “The Imitation of Christ”:
“Not every desire is from the Holy Spirit, even though it may seem right and good. It is difficult to be certain whether it is a good spirit or a bad one that prompts one to this or that, and even to know whether you are being moved by your own spirit. Many who seemed at first to be led by a good spirit have been deceived in the end.
Whatever the mind sees as good, ask and desire in fear of God and humility of heart. Above all, commit the whole matter to Me with true resignation, and say: “Lord, You know what is better for me; let this be done or that be done as You please. Grant what You will, as much as You will, when You will. Do with me as You know best, as will most please You, and will be for Your greater honor. Place me where You will and deal with me freely in all things. I am in Your hand; turn me about whichever way You will. Behold, I am Your servant, ready to obey in all things. Not for myself do I desire to live, but for You—would that I could do this worthily and perfectly!” (from Book 3, Chapter 15)“
There is a lot in those two paragraphs; I want to concentrate on the bold portion.
There are shorter versions of this prayer around. “God, I will do anything you ask of me,” which when heart-felt are potent and dangerous prayers. I have noticed a problem with that simple prayer though, maybe it’s just me – but it looks like others have the same issue. It’s easy to pray…it sounds good…I mean it when I pray it…but it lacks something. ‘Anything’ is comprehensive, or so it implies, but in reality it isn’t. ‘Anything’ is easy to say without recognizing what ‘anything’ entails. For me, to my shame, it’s an easy prayer to fire and forget.
Kempis’ prayer doesn’t allow you to pray it without full awareness. “…what You will, as much as You will, when You will…,” is merely a start into several statements that verbalize full surrender, relinquishing control, and trusting God’s authority.
“Turn me about whichever way You will.” Dangerous words, I think most of us are frightened to pray such a way…and mean it. What if the “whichever way” is a job loss, a reduction in our lifestyle, or some other trial? We often pray these type of prayers expecting a blessing that leads to a more comfortable life. We need to stop equating blessed with easy or ‘successful’ or any variation on that theme.
I strongly oppose the prosperity “gospel”. But, if I’m honest with myself, I do secretly harbor a similar mindset. One that says, “God should be good to me because I’ve done ___________.” When life throws a bump or two my way, I have picked up my toys and run away. I’m growing stronger, but that twitch is still there…I sometimes still equate blessed with getting what I desire.
However, blessings come from being in the center of God’s will…even when, by the world’s standard, we are anything but blessed. My bank account, my job, my health…none of those are valid indicators of my blessings. I could be blessed in those areas…but I, we, must recognize we can be blessed no matter what happens in those areas. It could be what the world sees as unfavorable, blesses us.
Sometimes we have a problem thinking God is using us, blessing us, when life gets hard. When suffering comes our way. However, even when things don’t go as planned…being able to pray the prayer above, and mean it, keeps us in the center of His will…the place where we are blessed.
C. S. Lewis, in the book “Surprised by Joy”, put it this way:
“The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”
I’ve heard it said by several…God is more concerned with our spiritual health (or walk) and His Kingdom than He is about our comfort. And He called us to join Him in the Kingdom’s cause. Some see this as hard or harsh…but, which is harder/harsher? To take care of our comfort, in a temporary situation, at the expense of the Kingdom; or to allow suffering, hardship, or something we don’t like during our temporary position to further the cause of the Kingdom?
And that brings us back to Kempis’ prayer.
Can we be that specific in our surrender?
Will we pray such a thing, sincerely?
Will we make ourselves “available” to be used by God for His Kingdom?
…even if the way is harsh?
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. [James 1:2-4 ESV]
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. [Philippians 1:29-30 ESV]
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. [Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV]