Good evening! I hope that each of you had a blessed weekend. I was unable to post this sooner due to Wi-Fi connection issues this weekend, but as the saying goes, “better late than never!”
For the last few weeks, I’ve been writing about prayer—the importance of prayer, making time for prayer & showing God reverence in our prayers. You can read the post about reverence in prayer here and the importance of regular communication post here. I want to continue on the topic of prayer. It may seem as though I am overanalyzing the topic a bit, but I know for I sometimes slip into habits or that may not be inline with what is pleasing to God. So, in looking at these different facets of prayer, I am attempting to enhance my daily communication with our Lord, Father and Creator; I hope that these posts are helping you as well.
This week, I want to address an important and complex aspect of prayer: praying for God’s will to be done.
Praying for God’s will to be done is important for 2 reasons: – we show God that we recognize and respect His wisdom and planning – we train ourselves to put everything into His care and keeping.
Praying for God’s will seems complex because we want a specific, step-by-step path for our lives and it is not laid out in black and white from start to finish–it is a mystery that we unfold day by day.
To begin with, what stumps many people is the question, “How can I know God’s will for my life?” We want specific answers to specific questions. We want everything neatly laid out as far as we can see. We seem to think that the unknown makes it impossible to pray for God’s will to be done.
My friends, God leads us through life one step at a time, one day at a time. Only God holds the knowledge of our individual path and how it will intersect with and affect other lives and paths. He is an amazing coordinator, able to bring governments, peoples, and earthly patterns to intersection at the exact moment He desires. He can do it in spite of poor human choices and the evil of mankind. He is amazing.
Consider, if you will, the Israelites during the Exodus. They travelled through the wilderness without GPS, compass or map. They were lead with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They didn’t know exactly how long the journey would take nor what obstacles they might encounter along the way. They were cognizant of two things: 1) God was always present 2) They were heading for “the promised land” or “a land flowing with milk and honey.” God’s will for them was obedience, holiness and habitation of the land God had promised to their forefathers. He had beautiful plans for them and their descendants. Unfortunately, they chose to complain, rebel and be consumed by fear. The result of these 3 choices was death in the wilderness. Their children inhabited the land instead. God’s will was still accomplished, but the people who refused to follow the first two parts of God’s will, did not get to the third part of his will–inhabiting the promised land.
Much like the Israelites, we are journeying through this wilderness of life. We don’t know what awaits us over the next hill or even around the next bend. We don’t know if we’ll face cancer or health, war or peace, poverty or riches, persecution or freedom, joy or sorrow. Like the Israelites, we see God making provision for our basic needs: I would assume that most of us reading this blog have food, clothing, shoes and shelter. God dwells with us day and night. Unlike the Israelites we have the Bible. The Bible tells us what God’s will is in a big-picture fashion. I looked for passages that specifically use the phrase “God’s will” and I do believe that the following give a very good summary of God’s will for each of our lives:
- Eternal life (salvation) through Christ. John 6.40 – “And this is the will of Him [God] who sent Me [Jesus], that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise Him up at the last day.” [NKJV, parentheses mine]
- Silence the ignorance of the foolish by righteous living. 1 Pet 2.15 – “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” [ESV]
- Give thanks, rejoice always & pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18 – “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” [NJKV, emphasis mine]
- That all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3.9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” [NKJV]
- Sanctification (Being holy, pure. Set apart from the world. Not consumed by worldly passions and lusts) 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 – “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality… For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” [NKJV, read all verses in the bible for full context]
Note: I would strongly encourage you to read the surrounding context of each verse as it gives more depth to what is shown here. I am aiming for brevity, but I always believe that one should read surrounding context to ensure that a passage is not being misused.
I’m going to risk being long-winded to add two more things:
Praying for God’s will to be done is given to us by example. Jesus, in his example prayer in Matthew 6 prayed, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” [Matthew 6.10] It is not the only example we have of Jesus praying for God’s will to be done. In the garden of Gesthemane, before He was arrested, Jesus prayed that God would allow the cup of suffering to pass from Him; and yet, even as he laid out His sorrow before His Father, His very next utterance was, “nevertheless, not as I will, but Your will be done.” [Matthew 26.39] The second time he prayed, he said “If this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” [Matthew 26.42] The text goes on to say that he prayed a third time using these same words. If Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done, we ought to be praying and seeking the same thing, don’t you think?
Do not be discouraged if you don’t know God’s specific plan for your life at this moment in time. I am fairly confident that Joseph had no idea that his excellent management skills and integrity would make him second in command to the most powerful ruler of his day. It took about 20 years from the time God gave him a dream about his brothers bowing before Him to the time He stood before Pharaoh. (He probably wondered how God’s will could be fulfilled while he sat in a pit, or when he was being hauled off by slave traders or while he was in a jail cell taking care of prisoners. It’s pure speculation on my part, but I would guess that he felt a little bewildered at times). Sarah never intended to remain barren until she was old. She bore the shame of childlessness (for in her day, it was a shame for a woman not to bear children) for decades in order that God’s miraculous promise could be fulfilled through Isaac. Ruth never knew that by caring for her mother-in-law she would be part of the lineage of Christ.
My point is that our daily struggles may mask the big picture; we are often unaware of how diligence in our appointed tasks will lead to good for someone else. Wiping runny noses, teaching delinquint kids, caring for the elderly, going to a difficult job everyday just to make ends meet–whatever struggle you are pressing through, pray for God’s will to be fulfilled through it. Trust that God can work all things to His good purpose (see numbered list above). His good purpose may not include riches and honor or glory on this earth. Keep an eternal perspective in spite of the mundaneness of life. Pray that he will use the blessings and trials of your life to carry out His good purpose. We may not see it until we are on the other side with Christ, but if we remain faithful to the end, God will reveal to us His beautiful handiwork.
So, in addition to regular prayer and reverence to God in your prayers, work on praying for “God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It doesn’t have to be that specific line, but strive to pray for God’s will. If you are doing a prayer journal, write down that numbered list above and pray that those things be fulfilled in your life. Pray for those you love to have those things fulfilled to God’s good purpose as well.
In our next post, we’ll talk about giving thanks in our prayers.
Stay strong in the Lord my friends!