2.2 The Prayer of Relinquishment

This session of the Hudson Valley School of Prayer is about praying for ourselves. Before we can effectively bring the needs of others to God, we need to bring ourselves before Him. Praying for ourselves is all about worshiping God. The dictionary says worship is –the great feeling or expression of reverence (deep respect) and adoration for a deity; great admiration or devotion; religious rites and ceremonies.

Worship of God is more than that.  True worship is believing and declaring the truth about God and myself.  It is praising God for who He is.  It is bringing myself in line with His will and purposes for my life.  I love the picture in Revelation of the angels of God singing around the throne.  In pure worship they declare the worthiness of God to receive the praises of His people.  He is held up as the only one worthy of all power, all glory, all strength, all honor.  He is above all, overall.  He alone is God!  That is how we need to enter prayer. 

Why do we pray?  Is it so we will settle down and focus or become quieted in our spirits?  No, that isn’t prayer.  That is Yoga. Do we pray because we want to verbalize the situation we are concerned about and focus on it until we get some idea of how to handle it?  Or is it to free our minds to dream?  The answer to all of these is no. But if we aren’t worshiping God as we pray, prayer can become all these things. 

Prayer is recognizing our helplessness and bringing it to God’s sufficiency!

It is saying “You alone have the power, glory, honor, strength.  You have all knowledge, are all sufficient, have the ability to see everything about this situation and bring all things together for my good and Your glory so I leave it with You.”

It is true we need to come to God and lay our needs before Him.  We are to bring our requests, petitions, and supplications.  But most of all, we need to come recognizing who He is and yielding ourselves to His perfect will and plan. 

In her book Beyond Our Selves, Catherine Marshall wrote about encountering situations she feared, how she often panicked and exhibited a demanding spirit in prayer: “God, I must have thus and so.” God seemed remote. But when she surrendered the dreaded situation to Him to do with it exactly as He pleased, fear left and peace returned. From that moment on, God began working things out.  She called it the “prayer of relinquishment”

The “prayer of relinquishment” is the prayer of surrender.

It is the prayer of surrender.  There are many examples of it in Scripture. “And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son” (Gen. 22:6). Abraham knew that God had promised the blessing through Isaac yet he was willing to offer him as a sacrifice if that is what God wanted.  He actually believed God enough to know His promises would be true even if he sacrificed his son.

Isaac knew what his father planned.  He asked about the sacrifice.  He was a young powerful boy and his father was old.  I don’t think Abraham had to force him up onto that altar. Yet there is no word that Isaac rebelled about getting on the sacrifice altar. Just as Abraham was glad to hear the voice of the Lord stopping him, so was Isaac. 

There is Mary, the mother of Jesus.  When the angel came to her and told her that her life was about to be changed in a way that would make her the point of gossip for not only the whole town she lived in, but the whole world, that a sword would pierce her heart, that her life would never be her own again, she said “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38)

There is the example of Jesus in the prayer He taught His disciples to pray: ““Pray, then, in this way: “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:9‑10).

There is the example of the prayer Jesus prayed in the garden: “And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:41‑42).

In Psalm 37, David talked about both commitment and surrender: “Commit your way to the Lord,” he said, “trust also in Him” (v.5).

Worship is coming to God full of praise for who He is.  It is knowing that He alone is worthy, that He alone has the wisdom and power to intervene in the circumstances that concern you.  It includes relinquishment of your life and circumstances to Him.  If you don’t relinquish, you are saying that you don’t trust Him, that you don’t believe He has your best interest at heart, it says that you don’t serve Him as God.  You think you are more capable than He is!

The result of relinquishment is deeper intimacy with God.

The result of relinquishment is deeper intimacy with God.  Think of John, the disciple Jesus loved, leaning on Jesus’ breast.  It was a prayer, a silent plea for intimacy.

When Jennifer was little, discipline was a long process.  We always tried to match the punishment to the crime.  We used a lot of natural consequences to teach her self-discipline.  But when it came to outright rebellion and deliberate disobedience, she got a spanking, and that was always a long-involved process.  We had a ping pong paddle on which we had written Bible verses about learning obedience and discipline and when the occasion arose, we used it on the bottom which God created full of padding. The swats with the paddle stung, but they did no damage. But after the spanking had been administrated, we would sit and hold Jennifer until our relationship was restored. I remember once sitting for ages with my arms around Jennifer’s waist, holding her on my lap while she sat at the edge of my knees leaning as far away from me as she could. I’m not sure what was going through her head, but she wasn’t crying, just determined not to give in to my love.  Finally, she relaxed and leaned back against me and I cuddled her on my lap.  I remember sitting there for a long time again just letting her rest against me, her struggle all done.

That is a picture of relinquishment.  We struggle, demand our own way.  We come to Jesus but sit on the end of His knees, leaning away, wanting our own way.  But when we give up our demanding, give up our rebellion, we nestle against the Father and the intimacy and love flow between us.  We rest on Him.

A campus minister and author named Ben Patterson, wrote:

“I’m not into prayer. I seem to have missed the religious gene or whatever it is that makes people enjoy the act of praying. It’s not my nature to pray. I’m not into prayer, I am into God! I thirst and hunger for God, I ache for God. Without His everlasting arms holding me up, I will fall. So I must pray.”

Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ.”

Oswald Chambers wrote:

“No one is ever united with the Lord Jesus Christ until he is willing to relinquish all of the life he held before. This does not only mean relinquishing sin, it means relinquishing the whole way of looking at things. To be born from above of the Spirit of God means that we must let go before we lay hold. There are many people who believe in Jesus Christ but they have not relinquished anything, consequently they have not received anything.”

Just as my daughter could not receive my love until she let go of the rebellion and anger in her heart, we can receive nothing from God until we let go of the things we hang on to and come to Him in empty handed surrender.

And even more than surrender. Paul said, in Gal. 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the {life} which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Surrender of self is no substitute for death of self.  I die to my wants and desires, to my life as I know it and put on Christ and His life and all that He is.  And He is enough.  As Jesus told Paul when he asked for the thorn in his flesh to be removed, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:9‑10).

Surrender needs submission, or we are not changed.

Coming to the point of surrender needs to be followed by coming to a point of submission.  Then we have relinquishment. Surrender needs submission, or we are not changed.

Here is a section of my prayer journal as God interacted with me over relinquishment, over surrender and submission. The entry is in italics. (The RED parts are my prayer to God. The PURPLE parts are what I heard God saying to my heart.)

My Grace is sufficient for you. 

Do you mean sufficient for handling(resolving) the need or in spite of the need? 

Does it matter?

I want You to be sufficient to remove the need.  I don’t like having it.

It is both.  Which I choose is up to Me.  Can you handle that?

Is my search for holiness hindered by my attitude toward sin?  Do I see the harm of sin as the fact that I feel bad or how guilty I feel or my shame and defeat, or do I recognize that my sin mocks the blood of Jesus Christ and that I insult the Holy Spirit of grace each time I willfully choose to sin?  Do I hate to fail or do I hate to offend You, God?

Do I not sin because I love You, God, or because You won’t bless me and may punish me if I do?

Sin is like spitting in Jesus’ face:  It is His law I break, His grace I abuse, His Spirit I tell to get lost, His character I despise, His authority I am rebelling against, His kingdom I undermine and turn traitor to.

Saying “I’m sorry” and walking away knowing I will probably do it again just doesn’t cut it.  That is not repentance.  Repentance is not doing it again!  Spiritual victory is a by product of Spiritual obedience.  I Choose–to sin, or to obey.

The idea of me getting hurt bothers me more than the Idea of me hurting You. 

I want to be holy. 

But why?  Because famous people were and you want to be like them?  Do you want people in the future to read your life story? 

(This time I was the silent one.)

Do not be afraid. Remember the Lord your God is great and Awesome. Why are you afraid, you of little faith?

Lord, what am I afraid of?

Of being out of control

I am an old piece of cloth, an old wine skin.  If I stay the way I am but simply add God’s ruling Spirit, I will burst.  God, if You want me, You’ll have to change me from the inside out.

And God, I am afraid.  Afraid of people, afraid of pain, afraid of rejection, afraid of ruts.

Are you afraid of Me?

The thought of what You could do in my life is terrifying, but at the same time, it is exciting.  The thought of You doing nothing in my life is even more terrifying but also devastating.  I couldn’t stand my life if You did nothing.

God, I just had a tiny piece of glass in my foot.  Such a tiny sliver of glass caused my foot to hurt.  It wasn’t much.  Yet, God, a tiny area of my life I don’t give to You stops everything You want to do in me, to be in me!

And God, I’m afraid to place everything before You because what if nothing happens?  What if my life doesn’t change?  I will have no hope left.

What if David had said “I want to ask Julia out but she might say no so I won’t ask her?”  Or “I want to ask her to marry me, but she might say no so I won’t ask her.”

But David knew me.

You know Me.  Do you trust Me?

God, I realize I know You.  I have come to You for cleansing from my sins.  And you have forgiven me of my sins, past. Present, and future.  You laid them on Jesus and they are dead and gone because of His blood.

And God, I have answered Your call to follow You.  I have done what I thought You wanted, gone where I thought You lead.

But all the time you’ve been pulling a wagon that holds the ‘things that make me, me” stuff.  Things you pull out to impress people. Things you write on your resume.  Things that give you significance.  Things that make you different than the run-of-the-mill person around you.

You’re asking me to let go of my wagon and walk away.  It’s just junk, but God, it’s my junk!


That IS the choice You’re giving me, isn’t it?  I can have the wagon and it’s junk or I can have You and all You are.

It sounds like a no brainer, but I can’t pry my hands loose.  I can’t pull my heart from the wagon and the junk.  I’m nothing without my wagon.

You’re nothing without Me.

What if I leave my wagon and nothing happens? 

You will have obeyed.

My wagon has my stories in it.  You like stories.  The Bible is full of them.

But those are My stories, not yours.

What if I give You my wagon?

You want me to redeem them and give them back?  No, I don’t want your wagon.  Leave it.  Come to me without it.  Remember the song “Nothing in my hands I bring.  Only to Your Cross I cling.”?  I want you empty handed.

God, I didn’t know this would be so hard.

My life for your junk.

Why can’t I let go?  Is my grip to strong or am I too weak to move my fingers and let go?  I give you permission, no, I beg You to pry my hand off.

Be it done to you according to your faith.

That’s my problem isn’t it Lord?  My faith is in the wagon along with the other stuff.  Why is my faith in the wagon?  Isn’t faith from You?

So are the other things in the wagon.  None of these things are yours.  They are all gifts from Me.

So why are they wrong?  Why must I let go of them?

Freely you received, freely give.  Gifts aren’t given to be put in a wagon, to be pulled out and shown off.  Gifts are given to be poured out.  Broken, given away till none are left. She who has found her life will lose it, and she who has lost her life for My sake will find it.  Do you believe Me? (Matt. 10:39)

Nothing in my hand I bring, Only to Thy cross I cling.

What is our response to God’s call on our lives to relinquish everything and come to Him empty handed?  Do we give up and say, “I can’t do that so I just won’t come?’‘ Or do we push God’s demands lower saying He must grade on the curve, after all, I am better than most, I come emptier than most?

We say long for intimacy with God.  We want to have a vital, alive, real relationship with Him.  We say we want to talk to Him and hear His voice to us.  But when we realize it means putting ourselves on the cross and dying to everything about us and coming to Him totally empty handed, we have to make a choice.  I choose God or I choose my wagon full of stuff. I choose my way, or I choose God’s way. I declare that HE is God, or I declare that I am God.

  • Julia Ewert (Sunday, September 20, 2020)
Scripture is taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

Video for this Lesson

Study Guide for this Lesson


Suggested Growth Activities

Activity #1: Preparing the Peace Offering (Sacrifice of Praise)

Christian songs and hymns have great value in shaping our prayers for ourselves. We suggest that you begin to build a favorites playlist that has that goal in mind – specifically to help you pray according to God’s will for yourself. Here is a sample playlist of songs that have meant a lot to the Ewerts in their personal prayer lives: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL08dGtQFa7F1zLelbxhPiWJSdoXk94psG

1 Kings 8:37-43 (ESV)

“If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemy besieges them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, 38 whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house, 39 then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind), 40 that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers.

“Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake 42 (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, 43 hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.

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