This must be the most unusual prayer found in the Bible. In fact, you could say that this is the most unusual prayer ever prayed. You see, we know about the prayerfulness of the godly, and we are all too familiar with the prayerlessness of the ungodly. But to think that prayer could actually be used as an ungodly instrument is a startling thought indeed.
I want you to imagine that the church service has started. Everybody is in their seat. Heads are bowed and eyes are closed. Then, in the stillness and solemnness of the moment these horrible words are heard. “Dear Jesus, Son of God, we come before your throne of grace this morning . . . and we ask that you leave this place today. We don’t like it when you’re here. We’re uncomfortable when you’re around. We feel that as long as you’re here we’ll have to do things that we don’t really want to do. We don’t like all of the suffering. We don’t want to think about the sacrifice. We don’t want to deny ourselves and take up our cross. We think we’ll happier and better off without you. We will have a greater freedom to live like we want if you’re not here. In your absence there is fullness of joy; in the removal of your right hand there are pleasures forevermore. So, we prayerfully and sincerely ask that you would withdraw yourself and leave this place today. Amen.”
What do you think would happen if somebody were to actually stand up and pray that prayer? Can you imagine the violent, vocal, visceral response? There would be a greater horror and outrage than if even a preacher stood to preach and loudly, openly, publicly declared himself to be an atheist.
You see, to battle against Jesus by blasphemy is a horrible and terrible thing, but to battle against Him by prayer is another matter entirely.
And yet, that is exactly what these people were doing. They came to Christ sincerely, honestly, and openly. They weren’t being hypocritical or sarcastic. In fact, that is part of what makes this scene so shocking. They acknowledged Chris for who He was. They recognized the obvious power that He had. They even acknowledged His character. And it was on the basis of His character they approached whim with their devout, determined request, “Dear Jesus, please leave.”
Be careful for what you pray for, because that is the difference between the ungodly and the godly mind. You see, the act of praying doesn’t make you godly – or even good for that matter. You can be sincere in your prayer and be sincerely wrong. The thing that determines the difference between an ungodly and godly prayer is the thing that is asked for. What you request, hunger for, depend upon makes all the difference. Every man cries out for the great grapes from Eshcol, but the difference is found in the grapes, not in the cry.
There are three possible ways in which we can pray. We can pray to have our brother’s vineyard – that’s bad. We can pray that the Lord blesses us with riches – that’s really neither. Or, we can pray that we would become unselfish – that’s godly. It’s not our prayer that so pleases the Father, it is the intention and the direction of our prayer that He most prizes. Do we consider a child so special when he comes and asks selfishly something for himself? No, not even if he did so with great sorrow and tears. But if he were to ask for something so that he might share with his brother or sister, that’s another matter entirely. At that point we would probably say something like, “That’s my boy! I’m so proud of you.”
That’s the way it is with our Heavenly Father. He waits until we pray for His presence, long for His light, hunger for His home, sigh for His song, call for His company, seek for His sign – the sign of His coming. When we pray for that, then that will be our Father’s greatest joy.