During Advent, Jesus Shows Us How To Wait & Ask
All of a sudden, Advent (Latin ‘coming’ or ‘arriving’) is here. And although we celebrate Christ’s coming, we also remember that we are waiting.
Kids wait for gifts on Christmas morning. Big kids (like us) wait for time off at the end of the year, and time to reflect. And all of us wait for Jesus to return and make everything wrong right again.
What Do You Really Want?
What are you waiting for today?
Maybe it’s a better marriage. A break from your kids. For your kids to come back to the Lord. To get through the next exam. Achieve better health. Buy a nicer car or house. Begin dating someone. Obtain a career or job you really love. Draw closer to God when he feels far away.
Personally, I’m longing for COVID to end so we can connect more deeply with people in our new city. And, to fly back home and visit family and friends we dearly miss.
What are you really, really longing for?
God cares about everything on our lists. If we’re honest, some of those things might not be all that good, so God can’t grant it. Or, we might want something good too much.
Of course, there are other reasons why we might not get what we’re waiting for, but even if he can’t safely give us everything we want, we know he’s a generous, caring God. After all, ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights’ (James 1:17).
In a fallen, broken world, the issue isn’t whether we’ll be waiting or wanting, but how. And as long as we’re waiting, God invites us to ask for what we want.
So, how we can ask well? Without treating God like a vending machine or Santa Claus.
8 Ways Jesus Helps Us Wait & Ask Well
Ironically, as we remember Christ’s birth, we find help from a time just before his death. At a time he really wanted something and asked his Father for it. By looking at his interaction with the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46; Luke 22:39-46), we can learn how to ask God for what we want without using him.
- Get away from the crowds (Luke 22:39, 41). Jesus left Jerusalem and went to the Mount of Olives, close to the city, yet quiet and removed. The Garden was a familiar spot for him, the perfect place to connect with God. We can talk to God anywhere, of course, but a quiet, familiar place can really set the stage.
- Come with reverence (41). Jesus knelt down, perhaps partly because he was in deep distress, but also because he understood the character of his Father. There’s nothing magical about kneeling, but it is one way to practically acknowledge that we are small, and God is great.
- Come with trust in God as your Father. With the cross looming over him, Jesus addressed God as ‘Father’ (42). He understood God would provide for him and do what was best, even if he didn’t like the outcome. Can you trust that God has your best in mind even in a tough spot? Even when it might not go as you hope?
- Come with humility and respect for God’s wisdom. After addressing God as his Father, Jesus continued: ‘If you are willing… Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.’ (42) Even though Jesus was God, he submits his will to the Father’s and ultimately wants whatever God wants.
- Just ask for what you want. ‘… remove this cup from me’. (42) (‘This cup’ referred to God’s judgment against sin that he was about to endure (see Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15)). I love how Jesus just asks for what he wants. No long, flowery oratory or manipulation. (‘You know, dad, if I stayed around for awhile, we could get a lot more done…’) When we want something and come with respect for God and put his will first, then we can just ask God for what we want in a direct, to-the-point way.
- Do it in the strength God provides. After Jesus prays ‘there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him’ (43). The thought of facing the cross and God’s wrath against our sin was terrifying, but God gave Jesus everything he needed to hold up. When we’re facing really hard times and need to battle in prayer, God will give us strength, too. ‘… according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being’ (Ephesians 3:16).
- Keep praying, especially when it gets harder. Matthew’s version of the account (26:36-46) tells us that Jesus prayed the same prayer three times, and Luke says that ‘being in agony, he prayed more earnestly’ (44). A few chapters earlier, Luke relates the parable of the persistent widow to remind us that we ‘ought always to pray and not lose heart.’ (Luke 18:1-8) Rather than giving into apathy in our prayer life, we should keep asking for what’s on our hearts and not become discouraged and give up.
- Involve your friends. Jesus had consistent time alone with his Father, but in his time of deepest need he involved his friends, too. He brought Peter, James and John and asked them to ‘watch and pray’ with him (Matthew 26:41). Sometimes, our pride gets in the way and we don’t want to ask for prayer support. But if Jesus can do it, I figure I can, too.
I remember the time when our son, Matthew, was first diagnosed with autism. It’s not fair to compare it to what Jesus was facing here, but it was still a very dark time for us. I prayed, and prayed… and prayed that God would take Matthew’s autism away.
Even though he’s made a lot of progress, this is a prayer that God has chosen not to answer. At least not in the way I want him to. But I’ve experienced the peace and strength that comes with submitting to God’s will, and following (however imperfectly) the basic pattern Jesus sets for us here.
And no matter what, even when we have no clue what God is doing, we always know he cares. He proved it by sending what – Who – he treasured most and giving him up for us. When I slow down enough to let that sink in again, it blows me away every time.
This isn’t a prescriptive, step-by-step formula, but there does seem to be a real pattern here that will help us ask boldly for what we want without using God.
As we enter another Advent Season, I hope that Jesus’ example and strength will help you wait, want, and ask him for what you want with more joy, trust and faith.
- What do you really, really want?
- What part of Jesus’ example would most help you as you continue to wait and want?
See my follow-up post for two practical ways you can tell if you’re learning to ask in the way that Jesus does.