Hello friends! Thank you for joining me for this series on prayer.
So far, we’ve learned that in order for our prayers to be effective there must be no un-confessed sin between us and God, and we must forgive others. The 3rd prerequisite, shared by Evelyn Christenson in her book, “What Happens When Women Pray”, is that we pray according to God’s will.
Martin Scott, author of “Gaining Ground, Prayer Strategies for Transforming Your Community,” taught that to make a difference within our sphere of influence one has to make a sound that attracts heaven. With all my heart, I believe that sound is comprised of the voices of God’s people praying for His will to be done. Jesus taught His disciples to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. There is nothing in heaven that is contrary to God’s will.
1 John 5:14-15 gives us this promise concerning our prayers to God:
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
How truly awesome is that? We can have confidence in approaching God in prayer, because we know that if what we want from God is what God wants to do, He will give us the requests that we ask of him.
So many times we hear individuals ask in prayer, either for themselves or for others, and they have a play list. They say, “Pray for this outcome (specifically); and pray against this outcome.” And even when we say please, our prayers often sound more like demands than requests.
Well, how do we know what God’s will is? And when we don’t know what God wants, how do we pray His will?
While it’s true that many times we don’t know God’s specific intention concerning the details of our lives, scripture gives us an overview of God’s will. We know that:
- God does not wish any to perish, 2 Peter 3:9
- It is His will that we love Him first and not allow any desire to to become an idol in our lives, Colossians 5:1-5
- It is His priority that we understand His will and grow in Spiritual maturity, Colossians 1:9,10
- It’s God’s desire that we walk by the Spirit and be filled with His character, Galations 5:13-26
- God will complete the work He has begun in each of His children (sanctification–producing the fruit of righteousness in our lives), Philippians 1:3-11
- and SO much more, if we dig into the scriptures with open eyes.
We can always ask for God’s will in our lives when we pray. We can ask specifically, citing scriptures like these examples, or broadly, trusting God to do what is best in our lives, in the Church, and for those He brings into our sphere of influence.
But what if God’s choice of methods to bring His will about in our lives is something we don’t want? So often, it is fear that keeps us from welcoming God’s will. And, it’s our reluctance that can clue us in to what we are keeping as idols in our hearts… our health, our possessions, our comfort in our present situation, our loved ones…
As long as we hold anything closer than God’s will, we will be controlled by fear and anxious about the future. Only by trusting God completely can we experience His peace and joy in any circumstance.
And when uncertainty does pressure us?
Jesus left us a powerful example of how to make requests while being submitting to what God wants. In the garden, while he prayed before his arrest and eventual crucifixion, he battled his humanity, knowing the suffering that lay before him and not wanting to have to walk the road that was prepared. He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” Luke 22:42
Don’t you love how he said, “If you are willing?” Even in stating his request, he acknowledged his Father’s Lordship in his circumstances, but then he followed his request in humble submission, offering, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Many times we lay our play list out there for God to follow, and then we tack a “if it’s your will,” onto the end. But I’ve come to realize that unless we approach God in submission, truly seeking His will while we lay our requests at His feet, our last minute “if it’s your will,” is nothing more than a dutiful disclaimer.
What else happens when we are praying for God’s will?
While we do this, we know (Romans 8:26-27) that the Holy Spirit knows God’s mind, and He helps us in our weakness by interceding for us, as He prays God’s specific will on our behalf.
What a compassionate God we have.
Putting out the Fleece
Sometimes, while we are asking for God’s will, we are trying to discern how He would have us to make a particular decision. In this case, Gideon sets an example for us in Judges 6:36-40. Gideon asked God, “if your will be “this” then please give me this sign,” and God was faithful to do so. Sometimes it’s simply asking God to open and close doors as He sees fit while we patiently stand ready to take on the opportunities He presents.
Last summer I had the privilege of leading a small group through “What Happens When Women Pray” while we prayed for Camp JIM, the salvation of campers, and each other. As the summer progressed, and we learned more of the prerequisites for effective prayer, I noticed changes in the way the women approached God with their requests. Their thanks multiplied and they frequently pointed out God’s will in scripture. They stopped telling God what they wanted and started asking for His will, even when it meant opening their hands and saying, “Whatever it takes, Lord, for your will to be done in this person’s life” (to bring them to you; to heal their hurts; etc…)… “whatever it takes.”
It was truly beautiful to see this transformation, for it wasn’t just their prayers that were changing, but they themselves. The way they prayed simply mirrored what God was doing in their hearts. Evelyn Christenson shared that according to Vine’s Expository of New Testament Words, the word “effectual,” found in James 5:16, means “the effect produced in the praying person, bringing him into line with the will of God.”
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
We want our prayers to be effectual, but “The effectual pray-er, then, is a person who is completely committed to God’s will for answers, and not to his own will.” ~E. Christenson
So, what happened in the midst of all that praying this summer? Statistically, there were more salvation decisions than any other summer in the 14 years our family has had the privilege of serving at Camp JIM. Praise God!!
As children of God, when we pray according to HIS will, rather than our will, we can have confidence because we know He hears us and gives us what we ask for! We can also have confidence knowing that wherever He leads us, something good is in the making, and for this we can rejoice! Romans 8:28
Whatever God’s will holds, it is a comfort to know He NEVER makes a mistake, and that is what we will discuss in the next post in this series.
But until then, I invite you to join me on Mondays, as we read from God’s Word and look for God’s will. We’ll highlight what we see and then use it to actually pray for ourselves, our family and friends, the Church body, and the world. Meet me here on Monday, February 19th to begin praying God’s will from 1 Thessalonians, chapter 1. I’ll be studying in the English Standard Version and the New American Standard Version in preparation.
You can read the previous posts from this series by posting on their links at the end of This Post.
Praying God’s will for you,