There’s something about 3 in the morning when one’s guard is down. The “ought to be’s” and “ought to do’s” are asleep with the rest of life. God is awake though, and when I wake up and pray at 3 am, He’s there waiting. It is so easy to meet with God when my guard is down and the pressures of life are asleep. I’m just me and God’s just Him. No agenda. Even if all I do is sit in silence, something happens. It’s nearly imperceptible, but there nonetheless.

Before my will has solidified in the sunlight of day, it is a soft thing. When I sit with the Father, tender and available, my will turns towards His will. As the sun rises and my will sets for the day that turn remains within its shape.

The next day is lived a little bit more for God and a little bit less for me. I see my town a little bit more the way Jesus sees it. My prayers seem to align with the ongoing intercession of the Holy Spirit that much more, and I become the echo of His Word. A reflection of His kindness.

By no means do I wake up every day at 3 to pray. But the times that I have done so linger in my memory. An impression that continues to influence me long after it was made. The way a smell triggers your olfactory to recall vividly where you were, or who you were when first you encountered that smell. It’s as if no time has passed.

The bend in my will towards God is still there, as if no time has passed. The change in my vision remains. The focus of my prayers still harkens to that original Word. Every 3 am I spend with my Father becomes something that is present. Even if it happened last year or five years ago, it is now. Because He is now, ever present.

The more 3 am I spend with God the more my life fills with His presence, His ever present now. Something funny happens to the will when it is immersed in the now of God. Yesterday and tomorrow don’t weigh so heavily on me and my decisions. They’re there, but their pull loosens. My will is less influenced by the external pressures of the culture I live in, and joyfully given to the Father.

It is in this moment of unity between my will and His will that the words “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” make sense. In that unity those words go on to make change in me and everything around me.

Perhaps it was in a moment of unity like this that Esther was able to say, “If I perish, I perish. I will enter the court of the king.” Before going on to fulfill the purposes of God for deliverance (The full story can be found in the book of Esther). And Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were able to say, “Our God will deliver us, even if we perish.” Before giving God an opportunity to show His glory to Nebuchadnezzer (The full story can be found in Daniel 3).

When my will is united to the will of God it becomes a door through which the kingdom of God can come down and become real here on earth. Our unity transcends the impossibility of a simultaneous now and not yet into the paradox that it is happening for the kingdom of God. It is, because He is.

I think this is why Jesus emphasized the unity of the church in John 17, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You Father, are in Me, and I in You that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one.” (John 17:20-22 NKJV) Jesus has just spent 14 verses praying for the disciples, and here extends His prayer to the people who will populate the future Church. His prayer is that the Church will have unity with each other just as Jesus was is unity with the Father. Somehow in that Christ-like unity within the Church draws it up into the greater unity between Jesus and the Father.

It seems to me if my unity with God creates a portal for the kingdom of God to be real here right now. Then the joint unity of the Church with God would create a quantum rift, opening up the world as we know it to transformation on a global scale. Maybe to the point of the paradox of right now and not yet breaking down to just right now.

When I look at the importance of unity, and the role my will has to play in this unity, I can see the passage from Revelation about the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven as something possible, something real.

“Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” (Rev. 21:2-5 NKJV)

Every sermon I have ever heard on this passage has told me that the bride of Christ is the Church. Wouldn’t that bride need to be whole and one, at unity with itself, in order to be ready to receive Jesus as the bridegroom? Isn’t it in this very union between the Church and Jesus that all sorrow is ended and all things made new? I’m no expert, so my opinion is a humble one, but this makes sense to me. The language here echoes the language of John 17. There is something deeply important about the unity between us and God as well as us and each other, and I believe the position of our will within that unity has a lot to do with the integrity of that unity.

So it is with this position of my will in mind that I say, like Esther, if I perish before the throne of the king, I perish. Yet I will live in the kingdom of the King of kings. If I succeed and bring restoration and freedom, I do so not by my strength but by His. The kingdom of God is not yet, the world is still a fallen one, but it is now because my will is functioning in unity with His will. At 3 am, the paradox is possible. In the morning, as I echo that possibility with my life it becomes real.

-Etta Woods