When asked, "How does Jesus teach us to pray?" most Christians would probably answer, "through the Lord's Prayer." But there's another powerful example from Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he modeled a prayer that can revitalize and transform any believer. In the same sentence Jesus both requested ("Take this cup") and relinquished ("Not my will"). He prayed two sides of the "prayer coin"-honesty and abandon. In the upcoming book, The Prayer Coin: Daring to Pray with Honest Abandon (Discovery House Publishers, ISBN 978-1-62707-883-2, $16.99, Hardcover, July 17, 2018), author Elisa Morgan explores this two-sided masterpiece of prayer, inviting readers to the intimacy Jesus died to provide.
Morgan, named one of Christianity Today's top 50 female influencers of the church and culture, had her own epiphany while wrestling in prayer. Should she be more open and honest in a "pour your heart out" way, or should she simply submit to God's will and wait? She discovered, through the example of Jesus, that she could do both.
She terms this method the "prayer coin"-flipping from the brutal honesty of our own desires to a complete abandon in allowing God to lead. Moving from one side of the coin to the other and back again creates a new intimacy with the Creator.
In The Prayer Coin, Morgan shares her own journey as well as the examples of others as she leads us along a path of deeper fellowship with our Father-through his gift of prayer.
Q: Elisa, thank you for doing this interview with us. Let's start with yourself, tell us a little about yourself and your ministry.
I'm an author and a speaker as well as a cohost for the syndicated radio broadcast of Our Daily Bread Ministries, Discover the Word. I also write for the devotional, Our Daily Bread. Perhaps I'm best known for being the CEO of MOPS International for 20 years. But mostly what folks need to know about me is that I'm a woman who's a "mess," broken by life and made whole by Jesus. I grew up in a home torn by divorce and alcoholism, found Jesus as a teen, went to college and then to seminary where I met my husband, Evan. We've been married nearly 40 years and love that our family of two grown and married children and two grandchildren are "gooey in the middle" as we all continue to grow into who God already knows us to be.
Q: Why did you decide to write a book on prayer?
Only because I felt led to do so by God. I've never considered myself a prayer warrior. I learned the Lord's Prayer as a teen and recited it often in my home church. I have a prayer journal which I sometimes use and sometimes don't. I think prayer is just having a conversation with God but I've often wondered if I'm doing it "right". And then I discovered a two-sided prayer of Jesus, the one he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane the night before he went to the cross and I began to look at prayer differently. The Bible reports Jesus praying this prayer repeatedly, two seemingly opposite requests in a single sentence. "Father if you are willing, take this cup, yet not my will but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). The prayer is recorded in three of the four gospels and mentioned in the fourth. If Jesus prayed this way before his heavenly Father, and invited his first century disciples to do so...what if we, his twenty-first century disciples prayed after his example? What might happen as a result in our prayer relationship with God?
Q: Can you explain to our readers the meaning of your book title "The Prayer Coin"?
The prayer coin is a term I use to refer to Jesus' two-sided garden prayer prayed the night before he went to the cross: "Take this cup...yet, not my will but yours be done." He basically says, "This is what I want, God." "But, what do YOU want?" The first side is honest: a true statement of not wanting to go to the cross. The second side is abandon: a yielding to the Father's desires. Jesus invited his first century disciples to be present while he prayed and to learn from him. We, as his twenty-first century disciples are invited as well.
Q: What does it mean to pray honestly? And when have we been dishonest sometimes in our prayers?
Honest prayer is admitting our human need before God and asking for divine help. Just as we are. Jesus was completely honest - an unthinkable request to avoid the very cup he was designed to drink. The gospels tell us that he was overwhelmed with grief to the point of death. That his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44) Hebrews 5:7 tells us, " During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission." We have a hard time imagining being that honest before God. But the reality is that because Jesus was honest, we can be too. Jesus was honest in his request and in his expression of his request. We aren't telling God anything he doesn't already know and because Jesus prayed this way and we trust in Jesus, we can pray this way too.
Q: What does it mean to pray with abandon?
I struggled to find the right word to express the prayer of "not my will but yours be done." I chose abandon because it means both giving over and giving whole-heartedly as in abandoned in love. To pray in abandon is to ask God what he wants - while not holding back what we want in honesty. Praying with abandon can be just as unsettling as praying in honesty. We give over our will to the will of the Father.
Q: What happens when we pray both sides of prayer: "Take this Cup: Honest" and "Not my Will: Abandon"?
The prayer coin practice is a cumulative practice. Honesty develops trust. Trust brings surrender. And the abandon of surrender yields intimacy. The ultimate result of praying both sides of The Prayer Coin (Honest and Abandon) is intimacy. The pivot of the word "yet" sent Jesus back and forth between the two sides until the intimacy he experienced was the intimacy he already possessed. Alignment. And this is really what Jesus died to provide for us: an intimacy with our God that is unlike any other. Where we can be utterly honest and safely abandoned.
Q: How have these two aspects of prayer helped you personally? Can you give us an example of how God used such a prayer?
Praying The Prayer Coin as a practice changes me. I become more aware of what I actually want and therefore more able to actually abandon to God's desires. Pivoting back and forth deepens my understanding and therefore what I receive from God. I first prayed this prayer over my husband's sudden blood infection when he almost died while I was thousands of miles away on another continent for a ministry trip. I honestly pleaded with God not to take my husband, to bring me home to him, to remove the burden of the ministry on my shoulders. As I repeatedly prayed honest, and then yielded to abandon for severals days of forced separation, I watched God use my children in the same city as my husband to care for him and to prepare them for our eventual death. I watched him meet my own need to care for my husband through Facetime calls and then eventually get me back to him. And I watched him creatively use a video of my speaking to meet additional ministry needs so that I could return home much sooner than planned.
Q: Do you have any idea what your next writing project will be?
I'm asking God about that right now. I've written over 25 books, never imagining another would follow after the last. And usually, I wait a year or more before even asking. But I'm asking now - with honest abandon!