How often do we pray for deliverance, thinking that God will resolve our problem, somehow making it go away, or vindicating us before our enemies? When I am in a tight place, that is exactly what I want. However, when Paul wrote to the Philippian church about his confidence of deliverance from prison, he had some other possibilities in mind:
Yes, I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:18b-20)
This is not a popular view of deliverance. Like the boy who finds himself locked in the hot garden shed, we want to be set free so that we can frolic in the shade with our friends. We want to be comfortable again, and the restoration of our own comfort is the motive for our prayers. Paul, in contrast to our current views on comfort, has one priority in mind: the exaltation of Christ. How this happens, (whether by life or by death), is up to God. Only the ultimate result matters.
While I generally agree with teachings about praying specifically so that God can show his might in our lives, I think there is humility in not counseling God to do our will. What if our prayers were that we could know his will, accepting and even facilitating it, no matter what? Jesus in Gethsemane showed us the bridge between these two views of prayer. He prayed repeatedly that “this cup,” (the crucifixion and temporary separation from God the Father and God the Spirit), would be taken from him. Ultimately, he submitted to God the Father, praying that the Father’s will be done even in this most extreme of circumstances. Frankly, some today would consider this waffling, asserting that we should not be double-minded in our prayers, leaving room for doubt. There is a difference between double-mindedness and remembering who is God.
Such a biblical view of deliverance is a “win-win” view of life’s circumstances. There is no bad outcome as long as Christ is glorified. We can unclench our minds and let go of the circumstantial outcomes. If our focus in on Christ alone, he will have our backs, causing all things to work for our (eternal) good. Let’s ask God to deliver us—from our selfish motivations to restore our own comfort—as we love him and others above ourselves.