The Prayer of Relinquishment
As we progress in prayer, our prayers gradually begin to look more and more like those we see from Jesus and Paul and others. The prayer of relinquishment moves us from struggling in always asking God for what we want to releasing our will to His.
Side note: When I first taught this, this form of prayer was foreign to me. Since then, it has become one of my favorites.
Jesus. praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, laid down his human will. Christian theology says that there is one person, both fully God and fully human, Jesus Christ, who had two wills. To believe that Jesus only had one will is heresy. Jesus’ human will submitted fully to his divine will. Jesus’ prayer in the Garden displayed his human will asking for God to let the cup pass from him, finding his prayer unanswered, and submitting his human will to the divine will.
Obviously, you and I only have one will. But it still must be transformed and surrendered to the will of God.
Richard Foster describes this prayer with the image of a person sitting in the hot summer sun who falls into a swimming pool for relief from the heat. There is a sense that a thirst has been quenched when a person falls into the arms of Jesus with this kind of prayer. I agree with him, at least at the end. But at the beginning, this prayer is a struggle.
Struggle is a necessary feature of this prayer. Jesus struggled in the garden to the point of sweating blood. Foster writes, “Struggle is important because the Prayer of Relinquishment is Christian prayer and not fatalism. We do not resign ourselves to fate.” Instead, we surrender our wills, crucify our wills, knowing that day by day, as we face the decisions in front of us, God will be faithful to see us through.
Andrew Murray writes,
“The Spirit teaches me to yield my will entirely to the will of the Father. He opens my ear to wait in great gentleness and teachableness of soul for what the Father has day by day to speak and to teach. He discovers to me how union with God’s will is union with God Himself; how entire surrender to God’s will is the Father’s claim, the Son’s example, and the true blessedness of the soul.”
The prayer of relinquishment may happen more easily by changing posture. Kneeling to pray and lifting your hands to God symbolizes your surrender. Wrestle with God in your words. Don’t simply start the prayer by telling God that you want His will to be done. Tell him what you really want to happen. And be careful not to assume that just because you want something, it is at odds with what God wants.
You might lift up in your arms people: your spouse, children, and close friends. Then give God your future, hopes and dreams. Give him your angers, enemies, and desire for revenge. At the end, pray something like, “Lord, crucify in me what needs to be crucified. Bring back to life what will please you and advance your kingdom. Let it come in whatever form you desire. Let it be in your time and in your way. Thank you for resurrection.” Some things will stay dead, and that’s good.
So, what do you need to relinquish? And what might your life look like if this became a regular part of your prayers?