PRAYING TO COMPLY TO GOD’S DEMANDS
Compliance is to acquiesce willingly to a demand, a request or a wish. It is not an act of blind obedience; but, a voluntary choice do what the person does I desire to follow. My problem is that I do not consider what I am asking. I may be going over my head and do not know it. James and John asked Jesus to be seated on his right and left. Jesus had two questions, do you know what you are asking and can you drink the cup I will drink? They had no answer to the first question, but they were certain that they could drink the cup. Their problem was that they missed the real reason why Jesus had chosen them (Mk. 10:35-45).
Jesus’ gave his final lesson during his last meal with his disciples when he washed their feet and then asked them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher and Lord’ and rightly so; for that is who I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” Why did Jesus stoop to such a low servant level? For some, it has become a command to engage in a religious ritual. To others, it was to show how to be humble. Everyone is entitled to draw his or her conclusion. I see no need to guess what Jesus had in mind. He provided us with his own reason. “I have set you and example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (Jn. 13:1-17).
Let us put into the context Jesus found himself. His disciples, like lords and masters, sat down and expected to be served. Jesus showed them, as their Teacher, what to do by getting up and do what they themselves should have done when they entered the room for the Last Supper. They had failed to comply with tradition or regulation to wash their feet. They expected to be served, rather than to serve. Jesus had no rank and file and no one was above the other. They all had to live with each other by being of service to one another within the laws and limits set by God or society. After the unreasonable request of the Zebedees, Jesus had called the disciples together and said, “You know that those endowed with power rule as lords over the Gentiles. That is not what you shall do. Anyone among you who wants to be great can be so by being a servant (diakonos) and any one that wants to be first must be like a slave (doulos). The Son of Man (your teacher) did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:42-45).
No one is an island in this word. The world is not build around us. It has limits and regulations to protect those boundaries. We have to learn to operate within the guidelines that are beneficial to most of us. Jesus, himself, did not come to free us from regulations that are beneficial to us (Mt. 5:17). He came to do the will or limits set by his heavenly Father (Jn. 6:38). He followed God’s blueprints and so must we. Jesus specifically taught us how to comply before we pray. The first thing we must ask ourselves, whether we are honoring God with our requests? Perhaps we should ask, are we fit to enter God’s presence? The idea that I can come as I am is not in the Bible. Even those of us, who believe in Jesus Christ as our way, must do as He did. It was not the self-righteous of a Pharisee God accepted, but the sinner who pleaded for mercy from a distance (Lk. 18:9-14). If we are unwilling to forgive, God shuts the door in our face (Mt. 6:14-15).
The second thing is, does our requests comply with God’s kingdom and will (Mt. 7:21)? God cannot step outside his dimension. We must move back into his world, his kingdom or his will. It is man that has distanced himself from God and it is man that must humble himself and start washing some feet on his way back to God. He must take responsibility for his action – good or bad. God made a good world and a good man and it was the good man that turned bad. It is also the bad man that can become good, when he complies with Jesus’ command. “If you keep my word, then by your deeds you are my disciples” (Jn. 8:31). “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (Jn. 15:14). “You have not chosen me; rather, I have chosen you and directed you to go and grow fruit that lasts. It is my commandment to you to keep on loving one another” (Jn. 15:16-17). Love is an endless relationship of complying with the will of God by the Commandments Christ came to restore (Mt. 5:17-18).
Grace has circumvented the Law, so say many advocates.
Jesus, to the contrary, complied with the tiniest dot of the Law and the Prophets (Mt. 5:18). John the Baptist declined to baptize Jesus and Jesus insisted, “Let it be so now, it is necessary for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15). The Greek text uses the little word “dei.” It is the equivalent of our English word “must.” Here are a few eye-openers. Jesus as a boy told his parents, “Did you not know that I “must” be about my Father’s business” (Lk. 2:49). “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that He “must” go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he “must” be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Mt.16:21). “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man “must” suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he “must” be killed and after three days rise again” (Mk. 8:31). “He said, ‘Son of Man “must” suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he “must” be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Lk. 9:22). Being human, Jesus too prayed for an alternative or a shortcut, but there was none (Mt. 26:39).
Well, we are not like Jesus. Why then should we have to face similar requirements? What “must” we do to claim John 3:16? Jesus’ answer was, “You “must” be born again” (Jn 3:7). Like a newborn baby, we must start from scratch and become pure and holy. It is similar to what Jesus said to Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part in me” (Jn. 13:8), or what He said to his listeners, “But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Lk. 13:3). In response to Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, peoples asked how they could comply and his answer is still valid today, “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Ac. 2:38-39). The Law or the Ten Commandments is about stopping man from sinning and Grace is about forgiving man when he repents; but grace does not abrogate God’s will or his Law. We must stop confusing God’s Law with human tradition (Mk. 7:9-13). For me this is a serious matter for prayer.