Prayer is one of the most rebellious things that a person can do.
It doesn’t seem like it though. When we think of rebellion, we probably have in mind mass uprisings and people taking to the streets. Perhaps we think of protests such as the Occupy movement or the gilet jaunes crowds in France at the moment. An individual on their knees in prayer, or a group of Christians praying quietly in church, does not seem like an obvious symbol of resistance and rebellion.
Yet it is. As Christians we have an obligation to pray for those in leadership and authority. We also have an obligation to pray for the reform and renewal of unjust regimes, systems of oppression and leadership that exploits or ignores the poor and needy. We may indeed pray for a change of government in certain countries. Yet, while that might seem like an act of rebellion, it’s not the rebellious prayer that I am thinking about.
The essence of Christian prayer is shown by Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. There, on the night before his crucifixion, Jesus prays:
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”Luke 22:42
At its core, prayer is saying as Jesus did to his Father, “not my will, but yours be done.” Prayer is much richer and more complex than this, of course; we do not just say “your will be done” and that’s it. Yet, at its heart, prayer always has this dynamic: coming to our Father in heaven and saying ‘your will, not mine’.
This is a fundamental act of rebellion. It is declaring that God is in charge and that he is in control. Prayer is a proclamation of regime change: saying that God rules and that we want to see his rule and will be done in each and every situation. Prayer is an act of laying down our rule, our leadership, our will and dependently asking for our Father to take control. It is a profound act of rebellion against ourselves.
Prayer puts to death self-rule. It is an act of confession, saying that we cannot run the world ourselves, nor would it be a good thing if we could. It asks God to overthrow our desire to run things ourselves and let him take the lead.
Prayer meetings might not seem like a rebellious act. There isn’t (usually) a lot of shouting. There aren’t slogans and placards and storming of palaces. A Christian on their knees does not look like a rebel. Yet they are rebels in one of the deepest ways possible. They are rebels against themselves, overthrowing their own power and authority and voluntarily giving that power over to Almighty God. Prayer rebels against ourselves and asks God to rule over us. In that way, it is a fundamental part of what it means to be a Christian.