Think back to when you first met Jesus. Would it not have been easy to selfishly grab hold of only what salvation had to offer you? Security. Eternal bliss. Future promises. Walking with God. But what about focus on others?
When one humbly comes before Holy God, the main focus cannot be self only.
One could easily be caught up in the things that God has in store for their life or family, but what about the people of whom God has placed around them? Prayer should actually lead to that type of discipleship mindset. The heart is drawn to God, but will eventually bend thoughts toward others’ needs – completely outside of oneself.
Consider the passage in Mark 10:37 when James and John asked Jesus, “Allow us to sit at your right and your left in glory.” — asking for a place at the table of glory! We tend to think, “How could they ask such a selfish question?”. In reality, all Christians are capable of such selfish behavior because of a Genesis 3 world. Outside of Christ, no one would be able to live unselfishly. Jesus replied, “On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you will be slave to all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Then one should ask, if that is true, where is that biblical principle expressed with prayer. Two strong examples come to mind. First, we find Jesus in the upper room with the Twelve. Jesus knows exactly what is about to unfold, yet he prays a prayer over them instead of himself. In John 17:11-16, “Holy Father, protect them . . . that they may be one . . . joy completed in them . . . so that they may be sanctified by the truth.” This narrative is an amazing example of selfless servanthood. Through Jesus’ intimate prayers, he called upon the Father to minister to these men who would become future pastors, leaders, and martyrs.
Secondly, the greatest example is found in Mark 14:36, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will but what you will.” It could be quite easy for a believer to simply wash over these verses and go on to another activity in their life. Jesus not only placed the Twelve at the top of his priority list, but the entire world of sinners. He died to show that servanthood was more important than glorification.
What does it take for a believer to come to the realization that serving others trumps glorification?
Answer: Prayer that leads to humility. When one prays, unworthiness rises to the top. That unworthiness subsequently points to others and challenges one not to serve themselves. Therefore, the goal is to resist selfishness through vibrant prayer that leads to true servanthood.
- Written by Dr. Tim Turner, WVCSB Evangelism + Discipleship Director