BOUNDARIES IN PRAYER – 3
TRUE PRAYER SUBMITS TO GOD’S WILL
Expressing true faith in the one true God, true prayer does not ‘lord it over’ God. Because true prayer has God’s honour, kingdom and will as its primary concern it will always submit and subject its requests to that primary concern, that dominant desire. It knows nothing of the ‘blab it and grab it’ ‘name it and claim it’ mentality that characterizes much of current thought about prayer. True prayer is not demanding. True prayer does not assume that it will be automatically granted. Rather, as we have seen in previous meditations, it is characterized by humility.
In addition, true prayer also acknowledges the superiority of God’s infinite knowledge and eternal purposes and perspective over its own finite understanding and earthbound plans and desires.
This attitude of submission to God’s will leaves not only the decision, but also the timing and the manner of God’s response, in his hands. In the Bible we find that God’s will is prioritized, over and above human comfort, human plans and human wishes:
Jesus instructed us to pray ‘… your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ - Matthew 6:10.
Jesus himself prayed ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’ - Matthew 26:39 etc.
Jesus put aside his own well-being for the greater and eternal purpose of God: ‘Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’ - Matthew 26:53.
Jesus put the will of God above the demands and expectations of human beings: ‘… they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come”’ - Mark 1:36-38.
Jesus defined his over-riding purpose: ‘I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me’ - John 6:38
For Jesus, God’s will was more important than personal comfort and safety: ‘Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!’ - John 12:27.
Our understanding of what we ought to pray for is limited: ’In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will’ - Romans 8:26.
Paul’s prayer for personal safety was secondary to his commitment to God’s will: ‘Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea … so that by God’s will I may come to you …’ Romans 15:31,32.
He knew that his plans and desires could be over-ridden by God’s will: ‘… I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits ...’ 1Corinthians 16:7.
And he accepted God’s will even when it meant a ‘no’ answer to his prayers: ‘Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”’ - 2 Corinthians 12:8.9.
Therefore, we should live with the constant awareness that God might well intervene in our lives: ‘… you ought to say “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that”’ - James 4:15.
If our dominant desire is that God’s will be done, if we modify our requests with ‘if it be your will’ so that his will is what we desire over and above our personal preferences, then his promise holds:
‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that is we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him’ -1John 5:14,15.
© Rosemary Bardsley 2017