Dear Corps of 24,
As aspiring people of prayer, as people who seek fluency in the biblical language of spiritual warfare, we have a problem. There’s no use denying it, and there’s plenty to be gained by confessing it: we are by nature rebels. In ourselves, surrender and submission is the last thing we would incline ourselves towards. I’m in my 40th year of serving Jesus and I am astounded (and ashamed) at how rare true and ongoing submission is in me. I am especially aware of this as I come out of a time of prayer and fasting. It is during these times, when I actually do experience “submission encounters,” that I realize how little I have been yielded the rest of the time.
We are selfish and self-centered. We want our own way, and more often than not we work out a way to get it. Those attitudes make a successful and consistent prayer life impossible, because submission is the very life blood of prayer. Look at this famous passage from Luke 18…
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (vv. 10-14, ESV)
Jesus focuses on humility, but in context that might as well be a synonym for submission.
There is what might be called an “elliptical” relationship between prayer and submission to God’s will. Successful prayer is not possible without submission, but true submission cannot remain in the prayerless heart. We must submit to pray—unrepentant rebels never pray—but we must stay close to God in prayer in order to even have a chance at cultivating a submitted heart. No one ever “decided” to be surrendered and accomplished it on their own; it is a work of the Holy Spirit, without whom it wouldn’t even occur to us to submit. Similarly, we can be submitted at one point but then “unsurrender,” and go back to a fleshly, self-determining way of living (often while still being very religious in the eyes of all outsiders).
These are sobering thoughts. When I consider the dilemma of the absolute necessity of submission combined with our inability to do so, then consider that God has also commanded us to be prayerful, deeply submitted people, I look around desperately for the tie breaker He has provided, because I know it cannot be found in me.
Thankfully, He’s made a way, but in our redeemed nature and by means of a method. I will discuss that tie breaker tomorrow. Praying for God’s grace in you today,