Unknown and Unpredictable

From Philip Yancey:

It appears that prayer was no simple matter even for Jesus. Like the people who write me letters, Jesus knows the heartbreak of unanswered prayers. His longest prayer, after all, centers in a request for unity, “that all of them may be one, Father.” The slightest acquaintance with church history shows how far that prayer remains from being answered.

Another night Jesus sought guidance for choosing the twelve disciples whom he would entrust with his mission. Yet as I read the Gospels I marvel that this dodgy dozen could constitute the answer to any prayer. They included, Luke pointedly notes, “Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor,” not to mention the ambitious Sons of Thunder and the hothead Simon, whom Jesus would soon rebuke as “Satan.” When Jesus later sighed in exasperation over these twelve, “How long shall I put up with you?” I wonder if he momentarily questioned the Father’s guidance back on the mountainside.

In a provocative book, theologian Ray Anderson ponders Jesus’ selection of Judas as one of the twelve. Did Jesus foresee Judas’s destiny the night he prayed? Did he remind the Father of that prayer as Judas left the Last Supper table to betray him? Anderson draws from the experience of Judas a key principle about prayer:

“Prayer is not a means of removing the unknown and unpredictable elements in life, but rather a way of including the unknown and unpredictable in the outworking of the grace of God in our lives.”

Jesus’ own prayer for his disciples surely did not remove the “unknown and unpredictable elements.” The twelve periodically surprised and disappointed Jesus with their petty concerns and their inadequate faith. In the end, all twelve failed him at the hour of his deepest need. Eventually, however, eleven of the twelve underwent a slow but steady transformation, providing a kind of long-term answer to Jesus’ original prayer.

John softened into “the apostle of Love.” Simon Peter later showed how to “follow in his steps” by suffering as Christ did. The one exception, Judas, betrayed Jesus and yet that very act led to the cross and the salvation of the world. In strange and mysterious ways, prayer incorporates the unknown and unpredictable in the outworking of God’s grace.
~ From Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? (p 81-83)

P.S. – Join us at Hagerstown Congregational Christian Church this Wednesday (13th) @ 7:00 p.m. for some time of Prayer and Praise.


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