The Prayer of Relinquishment...the hardest prayer to pray

The Prayer of Relinquishment...the hardest prayer to pray

Like most people, when I first began active experimentation with prayer, I was full of questions, such as: Why are some agonizingly sincere prayers granted, while others are not? I still have questions. Mysteries about prayer are always ahead of present knowledge—luring, beckoning on to further experimentation.

But one thing I do know; I learned it through hard experience. It’s a way of prayer that has resulted consistently in a glorious answer, glorious because each time, power beyond human reckoning has been released. This is the Prayer of Relinquishment.

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Unfolding Fullness

Unfolding Fullness

At the beginning of this calendar year something interesting happened . . . the Lord gave me "a word" for my year. Have you heard of having a word for your year? I had a few years ago, but I never really had one . . . until 2016. The word He gave me was "unfolding." But it didn't stop there. I sensed the Lord adding to it . . . "fullness." So it became "Unfolding Fullness."

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The Prayer of Relinquishment with a different outcome, part 2

Welcome to part 2 of an article by Catherine Marshall entitled, the Prayer of Relinquishment.  If you missed part 1, be sure to read the previous post before today's post.

...In time, I gained more understanding about the Prayer of Relinquishment through the experiences of others in contemporary life and through books. Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is a pattern for us, I learned. Christ could have avoided the cross. He did not have to go to Jerusalem that last time.

He could have compromised with the priests, bargained with Caiaphas. He could have capitalized on his following and appeased Judas by setting up the beginning of an earthly kingdom. Pilate wanted to release him, all but begged him to say the right words so that he might. In the Garden, Christ had plenty of time to flee, but he used his free will to leave the decision up to his Father.

J. B. Phillips, in his book The Gospels: Translated into Modern English, brings Jesus’ prayer into focus for us. Dear Father, all things are possible to you. Please let me not have to drink this cup. Yet it is not what I want, but what you want.

The prayer was not answered as the human Jesus wished. Yet power has been flowing from his cross ever since.

Even when Christ was bowing to the possibility of death by crucifixion, he never forgot either the presence or the power of God. The Prayer of Relinquishment must not be interpreted negatively. It does not let us lie down in the dust of a godless universe and steel ourselves just for the worst.

Rather it says, “This is my situation at the moment. I’ll face the reality of it. But I’ll also accept willingly whatever a loving Father sends.” Acceptance, therefore, never slams the door on hope.

Yet even with hope our relinquishment must be the real thing, because this giving up of self-will is the hardest thing we human beings are ever called on to do. I remember the agony of Sara, an attractive young girl who shared with me her doubts about her engagement.

“I love Jeb,” she said, “but he drinks. Not that he’s an alcoholic. Yet the drinking is a sort of symbol of a lot of ideas he has. This has bothered me so much that I wonder if God is trying to tell me to give Jeb up.” As we talked, Sara came to the conclusion that she would lose something precious if she didn’t follow the highest and the best that she knew.

Tears glistened in her eyes as she said, “I’m going to break the engagement. If God wants me to marry Jeb, he will see that things change—about the drinking and all.” Right then, simply and poignantly, she told God of her decision. She was putting her broken dreams and her future into God’s hands.

Jeb’s ideas and ideals didn’t change, so Sara did not marry him. But a year later she wrote me an ecstatic letter. “It nearly killed me to give up Jeb. Yet God knew that he wasn’t the one for me. Now I’ve met The Man and we’re to be married. Now I really have something to say about trusting God!”

It’s good to remember that not even the Master Shepherd can lead if the sheep have not this trust in him. That’s the why of Christ’s insistence on practical obedience: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Our pliability must be complete, from our wills right on through to our actions.

When we come right down to it, how can we make obedience real, except as we give over our self-will in reference to each of life’s episodes as it unfolds? That’s why it shouldn’t surprise us that at the heart of the secret of answered prayer lies the Law of Relinquishment.

So Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne, wife of the famous American author, found as she wrestled in prayer in the city of Rome one day in 1860. Una, the Hawthornes’ eldest daughter, had a virulent form of malaria. The attending physician had that afternoon warned that unless the young girl’s fever abated before morning, she would die.

As Mrs. Hawthorne sat by Una’s bed, her thoughts went to what her husband had said earlier that day. “I cannot endure the alternations of hope and fear; therefore I have settled with myself not to hope at all.” But the mother could not share Nathaniel’s hopelessness. Una could not, must not die. This daughter had the finest mind, the most complex character of all the Hawthorne children. Why should some capricious Providence demand that they give her up?

As the night deepened, the girl lay so still that she seemed to be in the anteroom of death. The mother looked out the window onto the piazza. A dark and silent sky was heavy with clouds.

I cannot bear this loss—cannot—cannot....Then suddenly, unaccountably, another thought took over. Why should I doubt the goodness of God? Let him take Una, if he sees best. I can give her to him. No, I won’t fight against him anymore. Having made the great sacrifice, Mrs. Hawthorne expected to feel sadder. Instead she felt lighter, happier than at any time since Una’s long illness had begun.

Some minutes later she walked back to the girl’s bedside, felt her daughter’s forehead. It was moist and cool. Una was sleeping naturally. And the mother rushed into the next room to tell her husband that a miracle had happened.

Now, the intriguing question is, What is the spiritual law implicit in this Prayer of Relinquishment? Fear is like a screen erected between us and God, so that his power cannot get through to us. So, how does one get rid of fear?

This is not easy when what we want most is involved. At such times, every emotion, every passion, is tied up in the dread that what we fear is about to come upon us. Obviously, only drastic measures can deal with such a gigantic fear and the demanding spirit that usually goes along with it. Trying to deal with it by repeating faith affirmations is not drastic enough.

So then we are squarely up against the Law of Relinquishment. Was Jesus showing us how to use this law when he said, “Resist not evil” (Matthew 5:39)? In God’s eyes, fear is evil because it’s an acting out of lack of trust in him.

Jesus is saying, admit the possibility of what you fear most. Force yourself to walk up to the fear, look it full in the face—never forgetting that God and his power are still the supreme reality—and the fear evaporates. Drastic? Yes. But it is one sure way of releasing prayer power into human affairs.

The Prayer of Relinquishment with a different outcome

Years ago, I was captivated by A Man Called Peter, the story of Peter Marshall, the former chaplain to the Senate, as told by his wife, Catherine Marshall.  But it was Catherine herself that really drew my attention.  She had experiences with God that made me long for more than what my "camp" of Christianity had systematized.  So I began to read everything I could find about that fascinating woman.  And I searched for her writings, which at that time were few and far between...or so I thought. Though I couldn't seem to find much (that was before internet), I started to piece writings together and grew to love how she responded to the Spirit of God.

But recently I discovered an article in Guideposts magazine.  Apparently, Catherine had been one of that magazine's regular writers.  So for the next several days, I would like to re-post her classic article, entitled "The Prayer of Relinquishment."

Catherine's treatment of this subject gives another outcome from the previous post...but it is still at heart the same -- total submission of our self-will to the good and sovereign God who is also our loving Father.  He is worthy of no less!

Catherine in her own words:

Like most people, when I first began active experimentation with prayer, I was full of questions, such as: Why are some agonizingly sincere prayers granted, while others are not? I still have questions. Mysteries about prayer are always ahead of present knowledge—luring, beckoning on to further experimentation.

But one thing I do know; I learned it through hard experience. It’s a way of prayer that has resulted consistently in a glorious answer, glorious because each time, power beyond human reckoning has been released. This is the Prayer of Relinquishment.

I got my first glimpse of it in the fall of 1943. I had been ill for six months with a lung infection, and a bevy of specialists seemed unable to help. Persistent prayer, using all the faith I could muster, had resulted in—nothing. I was still in bed full-time.

One afternoon I read the story of a missionary who had been an invalid for eight years. Constantly she had prayed that God would make her well, so that she might do his work. Finally, worn out with futile petition, she prayed, All right. I give up. If you want me to be an invalid, that’s your business. Anyway, I want you even more than I want health. You decide. In two weeks the woman was out of bed, completely well.

This made no sense, yet the story would not leave me. On the morning of September 14—how can I ever forget the date?—I came to the same point of abject acceptance. I’m tired of asking, was the burden of my prayer. I’m beaten. God, you decide what you want for me. Tears flowed. I had no faith as I understood faith, expected nothing. The gift of my sick self was made with no trace of graciousness.

And the result? It was as if I had touched a button that opened windows in heaven; as if some dynamo of heavenly power began flowing. Within a few hours I had experienced the presence of the Living Christ in a way that wiped away doubt and revolutionized my life. From that moment my recovery began.

Through this incident, God was trying to teach me something important about prayer. Gradually, I saw that a demanding spirit, with self-will as its rudder, blocks prayer. I understood that the reason for this is that God absolutely refuses to violate our free will; that, therefore, unless self-will is voluntarily given up, even God cannot move to answer prayer...

Come back tomorrow for the remainder of this article.  Until then, the question:

What am I demanding of God, thinking wrongfully that it may be "faith"?  What am I holding back?

Lenten Meditation: A Prayer of Relinquishment

We humans have a problem with wanting to be in control, don't we?  To yield our will to another human is risky...will they follow through? Do they really have our best at heart? Or are they all about their own self-interest?

Harder still to surrender to a God who allows hard...even impossibly horrible things...to enter our lives.  He doesn't seem to play by our rules, does He?

But I am struck by Jesus' prayer from the cross.  It reveals a lifetime of surrender to His Father,

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

I reflect on His prayer just a few days earlier,

Not my will, but thine be done.

Many have followed a young mom who prayed that same prayer as she walked out her death for the past several years...leaving a devoted husband and four young children behind just the other day. A hard "why?" enters our minds.

But the wonderful thing was that Kara Tippetts "lived while she was alive."

Read her story here on her blog Mundane Faithfulness.

As I think of Christ's final prayer, I ask myself,

What am I hesitating to relinquish? How about my "All"?  Nothing held back!

What might you be hesitating to relinquish? Your all, holding nothing back?

Let's think about that and we'll talk again.

A simple morning prayer and praise for all who work...all of us!

a new day
a new day

Today, O gracious Lord,live through me,love through me, __________ [mother/father, teach, be a neighbor, reach out, do my job,...] through me! For your honor and glory! Amen.

Before You I kneel, my Master and MakerTo offer the work of my hands.For this is the day You’ve given You’re servant;I will rejoice and be gladFor the strength I have to live and breathe;For each skill Your grace has given me;For the needs and opportunitiesThat will glorify You great Name.

Before You I kneel and ask for Your goodnessTo cover the work of my hands.For patience and peace to shape all my labor,Your grace for thorns in my path.Flow within me like a living stream,Wear away the stones of pride and greed‘till Your ways are dwelling deep in meAnd a harvest of life is grown.

Before You we kneel, Our Master and Maker;Establish the work of our hands.And order our steps to seek first Your kingdomIn every small and great task.May we live the gospel of Your grace,Serve Your purpose in our fleeting days,Then our lives will bring eternal praiseAnd all glory to Your Name.

Before You I Kneel (A Worker's Prayer), Keith & Kristyn Getty


hour glass, sands
hour glass, sands

Morning Prayers

morning
morning

LordAs I begin this day, and as I continue throughout the day, I invite you to walk around in my body, love with my heart, speak with my lips, and think with my mind. I thank you that you promised to do greater things through me than you did when you were here on earth. John 14:12-14 By faith, I acknowledge your greatness, your power, and your authority in my life, and I invite you to do anything you wish in and through me today. Amen.

(author unknown)

HOLY SPIRIT, LIVING BREATH OF GOD Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend © 2006 Thankyou Music

Holy Spirit, living Breath of God, Breathe new life into my willing soul. Bring the presence of the risen Lord To renew my heart and make me whole. Cause Your Word to come alive in me; Give me faith for what I cannot see; Give me passion for Your purity. Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.

Holy Spirit, come abide within; May Your joy be seen in all I do— Love enough to cover ev'ry sin In each thought and deed and attitude, Kindness to the greatest and the least, Gentleness that sows the path of peace. Turn my striving into works of grace. Breath of God, show Christ in all I do.

Holy Spirit, from creation's birth, Giving life to all that God has made, Show your power once again on earth; Cause Your church to hunger for Your ways. Let the fragrance of our prayers arise. Lead us on the road of sacrifice That in unity the face of Christ Will be clear for all the world to see.

celtic cross
celtic cross

St Patrick's Breastplate

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

Morning Prayers with St Patrick's Breastplate

Lord,

sunrise
sunrise

As I begin this day, and as I continue throughout the day, I invite you to walk around in my body, love with my heart, speak with my lips, and think with my mind. I thank you that you promised to do greater things through me than you did when you were here on earth. John 14:12-14 By faith, I acknowledge your greatness, your power, and your authority in my life, and I invite you to do anything you wish in and through me today. Amen. (Bill Bright)

HOLY SPIRIT, LIVING BREATH OF GOD Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend © 2006 Thankyou Music

Holy Spirit, living Breath of God, Breathe new life into my willing soul. Bring the presence of the risen Lord To renew my heart and make me whole. Cause Your Word to come alive in me; Give me faith for what I cannot see; Give me passion for Your purity. Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.

Holy Spirit, come abide within; May Your joy be seen in all I do— Love enough to cover ev'ry sin In each thought and deed and attitude, Kindness to the greatest and the least, Gentleness that sows the path of peace. Turn my striving into works of grace. Breath of God, show Christ in all I do.

Holy Spirit, from creation's birth, Giving life to all that God has made, Show your power once again on earth; Cause Your church to hunger for Your ways. Let the fragrance of our prayers arise. Lead us on the road of sacrifice That in unity the face of Christ Will be clear for all the world to see.

celtic cross
celtic cross

St Patrick's Breastplate

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.