“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”—James 4:7 (ESV).
James opens the fourth chapter of his epistle with a question, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? He then shoots us a no-nonsense, between-the-eyes response: “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”
Passions, also called freewill is a bunch of desires that control man like a puppet. They create a civil war within him so that he can neither love nor allow any external love come to him. These passions push him to “go out and get” anything that promises to heal whatever ailment he is struggling with.
Being fallen, man’s freewill is fallen too. In fact the biblical definition of freewill is sin. Our thoughts, values, desires, philosophy/world view, ideals, knowledge, quests are all fallen. All these exist in rebellion to God—to provide a better alternative to God—either in someone or something smaller than Jesus.
Like Martin Luther put it, we are “turned in” on ourselves. We don’t see or value other people but ourselves in one way, shape or form. We are hell-bent on finding ‘our best life now’ instead of identifying and meeting the needs of our neighbour.
What then does this say about our prayer life? I’ll answer that: Our prayers are in and of themselves self-willed. We pray with ourselves alone in mind. A good job, good health, big paycheck, obedient kids, etcetera. Just like the two lost sons in the Parable of the Prodigal God, we want the Father’s things not the Father Himself. In actual fact if given a choice between Abba and our passions, we would pick our passions. We do that every day ten thousand different ways.
Left to our freewill, we are just another disaster waiting to strike. No one paints this picture clearly like St. Paul:
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”—Romans 1:21-26, (ESV)
You can now see that things are not good. Aside from the dangerous optimism of our generation and culture, things can ’t be any worse than they already are.
This is why the gospel is such Good News. The reality of Christ’s imputed righteousness (to us) and our imputed unrighteousness to Him is the only answer here. Not try harder, do more or get better.
Jesus, the last and better Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45) always submitted to the will of His Father. He chose His Father over the Devil (Matt 4:1-11), was obedient to His Father (Phil 2:6-8), submitted and did His Father’s will (John 19:30). In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed: “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nonetheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”—Luke 22:42 (ESV).
That record of perfect obedience is given to you free of charge. When God looks at you, he doesn’t see the self-willed individual that you are but one who has fully submitted to His will. It’s called substitution—Jesus takes your place and you take His. That is the gospel—God’s gifts at Christ’s expense!
Now you can submit to His will in prayer because you are in Jesus who did for you what you could never do for yourself left to your own resources. That is why we pray inJesus, because He became for us the Father’s will in our lives.
Because Jesus fully submitted to His father, we therefore pray in Him whose submission is now ours.
That is your Lifeline, AMEN.
Image: Faith Christian Fellowship.