Submission is a common theme in the Bible. At times it is interpreted improperly, causing a reaction of repulsion in many. Does the title of this article make your stomach turn a little? This is a theme we must explore.
Is submission only about wives submitting to husbands as Paul commands in Chapter 5 of his letter to the Ephesians? Do you immediately see that domineering husband pounding his fist on the table calling his wife to submit? I hope you’ll readily agree that there is so much more to submission than just wives submitting to husbands, but often this is the only picture non-Christians have of Biblical submission. I want to propose to you that there is a form of submission – the ultimate act of submission – that makes Christians unique in the world.
Even the words “submit” and “submission” have such a negative connotation in the world today. They carry a negative connotation because the concept (or misconception) stomps on our self-centered independent spirit. We don’t WANT to submit, because we are self-sufficient, self-reliant, self-righteous, self-centered, selfish…it is all about us – me, myself, and I. We reject the idea of submitting to another, even if we don’t admit it, the reaction is tucked deep into our hearts. How can I submit to another when my focus is locked like a tractor beam on ME!?! I don’t have to submit to anyone else, some might say. I am free and independent.
Are we free and independent? Or are we to submit to something greater? So, what is the ULTIMATE act of submission for all of mankind?
We know we are to submit to the Government and authorities that God has put over us (1 Pet 2:13-17, Rom 13:1-7). This is beautiful and gospel centered, but not the ultimate act of submission.
Children are to submit to their parents (Eph 6:1-3). This is beautiful and gospel centered, but not the ultimate act of submission.
Slaves are to submit to masters…or more realistic today, employees are to submit to employers (Eph 6:5-8). This is beautiful and gospel centered, but not the ultimate act of submission.
Wives are to submit to their own husbands (Eph 5:22-23). This is beautiful and gospel centered, but not the ultimate act of submission.
As believers, we are all to submit to each other (Eph 5:20-21). This is beautiful and gospel centered, but not the ultimate act of submission.
Husbands are to submit to Christ (Eph 5:23-33). This is beautiful and gospel centered, but not the ultimate act of submission.
We must do all these. Its not negotiable. But there is still something greater. If all these Biblical commands are not the ULTIMATE act of submission, what is?
Man giving into dependency on his creator is the ULTIMATE act of submission. Simply praying.
Prayer is the ultimate act of submission for mankind because it forces us to look away from self and look to another in dependency. We must set our self-sufficiency and self-reliance down in the hallway before entering the prayer room to face our maker and find sufficiency in HIM and reliance on Him and dependence on HIM.
Jesus tells us: “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6 ESV)
You get no fame when praying in secret. You get no accolades from those who hear when praying in public like the Pharisees. It can’t be an act. I’m not talking about public prayer, which is often a time when we show off and pray so men can hear us. I’m talking about the secret really prayer. It must be true submission to our God. We find yourself face-to-face with God in the Throne Room of Heaven and faced with the decision to submit to Him or to treat Him as our cosmic vending machine. Do we face Him and pray for what we want and then expect God provide because He is submissive to US? Or do we fall on our face in desperate reliance on the one who holds the stars in the sky (Heb 1:1-3)?
What does it look like for you? Is prayer for you just a chore or a laundry list of wants delivered as fast as possible? Or is prayer a time when you fall on your Abba, Father in complete reliance, dependency, worship, joy, and conversation. Is prayer cold and distant? Brief and lacking passion? Or are your regularly moved to tears and daily plead with God for His mercy and grace? What does it look like for you?
Paul and the other writers of the New Testament bring prayer to the forefront often with the following commands:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people… (1 Timothy 2:1 ESV)
Rom 12:12 – be in constant prayer
1 Cor 7:5 – devote yourself to prayer
2 Cor 1:11 – help us by prayer
Eph 6:18 – praying at all times in the spirit
Phil 4:6 – don’t be anxious…but in everything by prayer
Col 4:2 – continue steadfastly in prayer
1 Thes 5:17 – pray without ceasing
2 Thes 3:1 – pray for us
Heb 13:18 – pray for us
Jam 5:13 – if anyone is suffering…let them pray
Jude 1:20 – building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit
Rev 5:8 and 8:3 – we see the prayers of the saints in heaven
And from the Gospels:
Mat 6:5 – and when you pray you must not be like the hypocrites
Mat 6:9 – Pray like this…our Father
Mat 21:22 – and whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive
Luke 6:28 – pray for those that abuse you
Luke 10:2 – therefore pray earnestly to the lord of the harvest to send out laborers
Luke 22:40 – pray that you will not enter into temptation
Obviously Jesus, who was obedient and submissive to the Father, prayed in secret as our example. Jesus made prayer a priority:
Mathew 14:23 - And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
Mark 1:35 - And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
Mark 6:45-46 – Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
Mark 14:32 - And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
Luke 6:12 – In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.
Prayer is the air that the Christian must breath. If we come with a laundry list of wants and desires and not with a heart of true and complete submission, are we even praying at all? If we come self-reliant and self-sufficient, have we really come at all? I doubt it. How can we enter the Throne Room of Heaven with anything less than hearts on fire?
If we were faced with what Isaiah saw in his vision of the Lord on the throne in Isaiah 6, would we pray the same way we pray every day? Or would we respond as Isaiah did, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips!” We need to get on our knees and prostrate in full submission and hear from our LORD.
Prayer is the ultimate act of submission for mankind, and I say mankind because there was another form of submission that has already been fulfilled. It is the true one and only holy and righteous act of submission that was fulfilled by Jesus Christ on the cross. God himself, in the form of man, equal to God but stripped of his majesty and glory was submissive to the Father to the point of death on the cross (Phil 2:5-8) having been made to be the sins of the elect adopted children of God (2 Cor 5:21). The Son of God submitted to the full punishment and death for all the sins of his adopted siblings. This can never be duplicated and will never be repeated because it is finished. Finished in Christ, who submitted for us once and for all.
Are we able to submit to our God in the truest sense? To submit to Him through prayer? Or will we hold onto our self-sufficient, self-reliant, self-centered disbelief?