PASSION | Not My Will

John Whirledge

Growing up 4H was a big part of my summer. I was a 10-year 4H member, including 7 years showing pigs in the Swine Club. Every year when the Elkhart County Fair began, I would dream about riding the rides. Every year I would think “this is the year!” But sadly, when the fair arrived my parents always said the same thing: “No, you are not riding those rides! Do you know how unsafe they are?”

Every year I would get my hopes up only to be told no yet again.

Fast forward twenty-five years. You better believe there is no way I’m letting my daughter ride ANYTHING at the Great Darke County Fair.


I’m going to tell her the same things my parents told me… “Those rides aren’t safe. All summer long they’re being set up, run non-stop for a week, broken down, loaded onto a trailer, and hauled off to the next county fair. There is no safety standard or accountability…”

It never occurred to me that my parents could see more than I could. **GASP!!!**

But… You better believe I am buying her a King’s Island Gold Pass, so we can enjoy those thrilling (AND SAFETY INSPECTED!) attractions together as a family!

There is a difference. I know I can trust the staff at King’s Island to inspect every inch of track and every restraint on every vehicle of every ride every day. And even though I didn’t always like it, I knew deep down I could trust my parents’ wisdom. I knew they wanted what was best for me.

Have you ever been told no when everything inside of you was screaming yes? Jesus hit a wall like this, too. He could see the cross ahead and it felt awful. He was panicked – experiencing anxiety on a level he’d never encountered.

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (Luke 22:39-44)

Jesus was facing a major struggle. For three years he grappled with the religious leaders, and they had finally had enough. The people of Israel were seeking a political and military messiah to deliver them from the Romans. Many, including Jesus’ disciples, thought he was that kind of messiah. Jesus knew it was time to lay down his life, knowing it would bring his time on earth to a close.

Jesus is in agony.


The Struggle is Real.

Some of us have experienced those moments where we felt like we could sweat blood. You know the days I’m talking about: The unexpected biopsy results; hearing the “C” word from your doctor; the 2am knock at your door from a police officer; the unexpected call from your boss asking to see you at the end of the day.

These are all out of our control.

But let’s be real – we’ve never actually been in control of our lives. Even when you think you’re in control, you’re not. Control, as the world defines it, is an illusion.

We’re a self-sufficient culture. We don’t like to ask for help because we don’t want to be perceived as weak, and we sure don’t want to give up our own rights and freedoms. We live by the mantra “Never give up, never surrender.”

Jesus – the son of the living God – grappled with surrender, to the point of anguish and exhaustion. He prayed Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.”

Jesus knew exactly what was ahead – slander, betrayal, abandonment, and physical and emotional torture. He was asking God if there was another way – a way out of the torment he was about to endure. And yet, with this full knowledge, Jesus still surrendered. “Not my will but yours be done.”

What if I told you, Surrender is not weakness?

Surrender is the ultimate sign of trust. Even when it hurts, surrender leads to something far greater than control.

A Surrendered Life is an Empowered Life.

Remember in the Kingdom of God, the counterintuitive approach is usually the best one. In surrender we find freedom from our own limitations, but even beyond freedom, empowerment.

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. (Luke 22:41-43)

Living as a human will undoubtedly include adversity and suffering of some kind. A surrendered life isn’t a ticket to an easy life. Jesus never promised anyone an easy life. We didn’t sign up for easy. If this is what we’re hoping for, we have put our prayers into a tiny box. We have limited our perspective of what God wants to do for us and through us.

It’s like my ten-year-old self wanting to ride those fair rides. I thought it would be amazing, but my perspective was limited – I could only see one small piece of that childhood puzzle, whereas my parents had a much broader view.

This is the human experience. With our limited perspective we can only see the small slice of life right before our eyes, right on our block, right in our cubicle at work. But God sees the entire 360º picture. When we surrender, we are opening ourselves to God’s great vision that sees so much more!

When we begin to pray “not my will” prayers of surrender, we’re saying so much more than “Jesus, take the wheel!” It isn’t taking our hands off the steering wheel and saying, “Whatever happens, happens.” No! A surrendered life opens ourselves to the new horizons and opportunities that arise from the tomb of our own limitations.

When we surrender, we open our lives to a new world of possibility. We stop limiting ourselves to our own resources, our own reasoning, our own wisdom, and our limited viewpoint. In the moment of surrender, we open ourselves up to God’s greater will.

Notice, however, that Jesus didn’t just start praying “Not my will” prayers that night in the Garden. This was a developed behavior.

Luke 22:39 says “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives.”

How many other times throughout the gospels does Jesus go away and pray? Jesus did this to keep his connection and relationship with God strong.

Jesus knew God. Jesus knew he could trust God. Jesus was able to be real and honest with God, even asking if there was another way to save the world. Jesus said what he needed to say, and then was able to walk into God’s future empowered for what was next. Because Jesus was able to trust the God he knew.


If you begin praying “not my will” today, next time you face a moment of crisis, it will be your first response – not your last resort.

My nephew Jayden was born 14 weeks premature via emergency C-Section and rushed immediately to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit.


Our entire family quickly learned what it truly means to pray “Not our will, but yours.”

Every day there was a new challenge, a new struggle, a new obstacle. And every day we prayed surrender over Jayden’s life.

God, we’re asking you for the swelling to go down…”

God, heal Jayden’s little body…”

God, bring Jayden through this surgery…”

My father-in-law said it this way: “You just have to surrender the whole situation to God, put it out there to God and say we’re laying this at your feet to do your will. That’s the most significant thing we can do – surrendering it to God and saying we need you. What’s next is just another opportunity for God to be God.”


Jayden has changed the way our family prays and changed our relationship with God.

Yes, we will face heartache. Yes, we will suffer. Yes, we will face pain. Yes, we will feel helpless along the way, but we can trust the God we know, no matter what.


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John Whirledge 1 Online Campus Director

John Whirledge
Online Campus Director | Ginghamsburg Church