Christians pray. I pray and I’ve heard a lot of others prayer over the years. One phrase I hear often is, “If it be your will...” I used to say it myself, I don’t anymore but I still hear it being spoken wherever prayer is being prayed, especially in prayers over sickness, disease or other dark circumstances. I hear it so often I began to wonder where it’s found in the Bible. Since the beginning of 2014, I’ve read through the entire Bible once and I’m on my 3rd round of reading through the New Testament. Each time I’ve read in different translations and you know what I’ve found? There is only one example of this being spoken...by Jesus, just before the events leading to his crucifixion.
I’m puzzled, and whenever I am puzzled I have questions. Is praying, “If it be your will...,” a valid prayer phrase?
I asked the Lord about it, I’ve looked at the Scriptural reference, and I’ve researched what other [wise and scholarly] Christians have said about it and this is my conclusion: it is either arrogant or ignorant to pray, “If it be your will.”
It’s arrogant because the underlying thought behind it is, “If I were God, I would do better.” Imagine a scenario where this kind of prayer takes place. A friend or family member is has stage 4 cancer and he or she is in pain. We love our friend and we don’t want to lose them from this world. Every belief or value we have that God is good is questioned and we pray out of desperation, and we put ourselves in the place of God. In essence we are saying, “If it was up to me, I’d heal you. I want to heal you but you know God...sometimes he doesn’t want to heal.” It’s arrogance. Anytime we set ourselves above God it’s arrogance. Period. It’s the worst kind of arrogance too, because we tack on a pious-sounding phrase so no one can argue because if our friend doesn’t get healed, well then, we blame God and it absolves us from any liability. We did what we could.
It’s arrogant and it points to the fact we don’t believe Jesus’ sacrifice was enough. Not really. This prayer is only mentioned once when Jesus was struggling – whether in his humanity or deity, I don’t know. The bible gives us account of his last hours, and we are privy to an exchange Jesus has with the Father. It’s honest, it’s raw, and we know how it ends. The Father turned his face away from the Son, and Jesus died to become the one and final sacrifice that restored humanity [and all creation] of all that was lost (Luke 19:10).
Hebrews 10:14 says, “By his one sacrifice, we are made perfect forever.” Jesus already suffered and died. It’s finished, and there is no more need for sacrifices. When Jesus commanded we pick up our cross and carry it, he meant carry it to Golgotha with him where he was crucified instead of us, for us, as us. It is finished. Finito. Fertig. Fini. There is no need for anyone else to carry the punishment, or hold sickness and disease. It has no hold on us because it had no hold on Jesus.
Without getting too nerdy and technical with linguistic analysis (mostly because I understand it but not enough to explain it) we are healed by his stripes (Isaiah 53:5), and Peter reminds us we have [already] been healed (1 Peter 2:24). An action has taken place at a definite point in time (Jesus was whipped, tortured and crucified), and by that action a different action (healing) is both finished and on-going. To suggest another action must take place (i.e. sickness or disease to be willed by God) is to negate Jesus’ sacrifice.
I fear I’ve only scratched the surface, and perhaps I didn’t even do that well. I’ve been thinking about it, about the things we say, without giving our words any thought. I want my words to communicate and line up with Scripture. I hope it caused someone else to think about it too.
Next post is about the ignorance of saying, “If it be your will.”