Summary: Praying ACCORDING TO GOD’S WILL is not an incantation to pull God to our will, but a guide to pull us to His will.
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us,” 1 John 5:14.
Praying according to God’s will is a key to effective prayer, but how do we know God’s will? It may be easier to know what is not his will.
In Raising Responsible Kids, Jay Kesler writes, “Shortly after I got my driver’s license I was driving too close to the middle of a narrow road and I sideswiped another car. The crash tore the front fender, two doors, and the rear fender from my dad’s car. After I found out everyone was okay, I stood in the ditch and prayed, ‘Dear God, I pray this didn’t happen.’
“I opened my eyes and saw that the car was still wrecked, so I closed my eyes, squinted real hard, and prayed again, ‘Dear God, it didn’t happen.’ Then I opened my eyes, but it happened anyway.” [www.sermoncentral.com]
I know how the young Jay Kesler felt. I’ve done things that I wanted to undo and said things that I wanted to “unsay.” Things have happened that I wanted to have happened differently. I suspect many people know that feeling. Otherwise, why would “The Twilight Zone” have had episodes about people going back in time trying to change things? Why would there be movies about people going back in time and changing things? “Back to the Future” even had sequels. But as I study the Bible, I have noticed nothing that says changing the past is God’s will.
Movies are not the only thing that express enticing desires that are not according to God’s will. There are fairly tales about a genie in Aladdin’s lamp or in a bottle. The latter even became a TV show in the 60's, “I Dream of Jeanie.” The idea of a powerful person giving us anything we could possibly ask for is appealing.
I’ve read that, “If you give a pig and a child everything they want you will raise a good pig and a bad child.” Giving people everything they want is not God’s will.
I haven’t heard this in some time, but some preachers and teachers in the past claimed we should not pray, “If it be thy will.” They said when we pray, “If it be thy will,” that we are trying to give God a way out for when our prayers are not answered. They said praying, “If it by thy will,” was a sign of doubt, not faith. Some even said we sin when we pray, “If it be thy will.”
I disagreed then and I still disagree. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that now we see through a glass darkly, but then we shall know. We can only see, know, or understand a little bit this side of glory. Praying, “If it be thy will” is admitting that we don’t always know God’s will, but whatever it is, we willingly submit. By the way, submission is also a key to prayer we will study.
Praying according to God’s will is a prayer key, but not an incantation for answered prayer. We can’t expect to just pray words we believe to be God’s will and ”poof” it must happen. We know God desires to save the lost, but he also gives us free will. It is not God’s will to violate the free will he gave us to force anyone to be saved.
Perhaps the best illustration I have read about this is being in a boat and throwing a boat hook to shore. Does pulling bring the shore to me, or does it bring me to the shore? Praying according to God’s will does not pull God to our will, but pulls us to God’s will.
A college student I knew abused this verse terribly. I don’t remember what we were praying about, but I remember his prayer. “Lord, in your word it says that if we ask anything according to your will that you hear us. In your word it says if two or three agree as touching anything, that it will be done. We know that this is your will. You know that we are more than two or three and we are in agreement. Now, by the authority of your word, we COMMAND you...”
I was stunned, then immediately prayed, “Not me, Lord! I’m not trying to command you to do anything!” That attempt at prayer was an abuse of 1 John 5:14. It was trying to turn prayer into an incantation.
Praying according to God’s will is a key to prayer, but how do we know God’s will?
One way God makes His will known to us through His Word, the Bible. This sounds like another prayer key, having Christ’s words abide in us. Paul asked God to fill the Colossians “with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9).