Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if 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 the petitions that we have asked of Him. — 1 John 5:14-15
Here it is again in the Amplified Version:
And this is the confidence (the assurance, the privilege of boldness) which we have in Him: [we are sure] that if we ask anything (make any request) according to His will (in agreement with His own plan), He listens to and hears us. And if (since) we [positively] know that He listens to us in whatever we ask, we also know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted us as our present possessions] the requests made of Him. — 1 John 5:14-15 (Amplified)
One of the biggest fears concerning prayer among the spiritually immature or scripturally untaught is a question that goes something along the lines of, “What if I pray for something that isn’t Gods will?” The obvious answer, of course, is a corollary of the verse we’ve just read: God is not going to answer prayers that are not in agreement with his will. That is a given.
However, I feel that this is the wrong question in the first place. Why? Because 1) it is a question borne of fear rather than faith, and; 2) it is a dead-end, leaving us with no path to move forward on.
Personally, I believe the real question is the following: “How can I pray prayers that are in agreement with the will of God, thus greatly enhancing the likelihood that I will indeed receive what I am praying for?”
God’s Word is His Will
This is not rocket surgery: if you can find something that God has promised in His Word, that is His will, period, end of story. Whenever we pray in agreement with His Word — or better yet: actually integrate His Word into our prayers — we will always, at all times, in all places, and under all circumstances be praying the will of God.
One of my favorite quotes is one from the late missionary evangelist T. L. Osbourne. You can find it in the far-left-hand column of this page, but I will quote it here again:
“It is impossible to boldly claim by faith a blessing which we are not sure God offers, because the blessings of God can be claimed only where the will of God is known, trusted, and acted upon.”
This is a massively profound statement, so let’s unpack it a bit: The first half simply states that for us to “boldly come to the throne of grace,” we need to know — not guess, not kinda-sorta-maybe think, not hope something our pastor/parents/etc. taught us years ago, but know — with certainty that God has promised what we are about to pray for.
This is why I described the process of how to know the will of God for healing in a previous article, though the principles I taught there are applicable to any other area of our Christian lives.
The second half explains why: the will of God has to be: 1) known; 2) trusted, and; 3) acted upon. So before we can boldly come before the throne of grace concerning an issue, we need to do the following:
- Find our what God’s Word says on the matter
- Develop our faith in those verses
- Incorporate them into our prayers
- Act upon what we find in them
If you attended one of our weekly prayer meetings whenever I am present, you would hear me quoting God’s Word extensively as I was praying for people and even the parts where I wasn’t directly quoting Scripture would have a solid biblical foundation. This ensures that what I am praying is indeed in agreement with God’s will without question.
God’s Universal Will
This is God’s will for everyone who has submitted to the lordship of Christ.For example, it is always His will to:
- Save us when we receive Jesus as Lord.
- Forgive our sins when we confess them to Him
- Redeem our mistakes, though we may suffer natural consequences for our actions.
- Redeem the mistakes and sins against us by other people
- Give us His peace that surpasses our human comprehension
- Baptize us with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues
- Speak to us by the Holy Spirit though His Word and the gifts of the Spirit
- Give us His wisdom when we lack it and ask for it
- Mold us into Christ-likeness through the renewing of our minds
- Have constant fellowship with us
- Give us abundance of grace
- Bless us whenever we obey Him
- Receive our worship, praise, and thanksgiving
- Heal our bodies from sickness and disease
- Heal our minds from the aftermath of trauma caused by abuse, neglect, and tragedy
- Restore our broken relationships.
- Deliver us from the temptations and schemes of the devil.
- Provide for our financial needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
- Reveal His will to us concerning things not specifically covered in His Word
- Use us to minister life to the broken, hurting, and lost.
- And the list goes on and on and one…
You may consider some of the previous list a bit controversial, especially the item concerning healing, finances, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. But there are numerous verses that, when taken in context, specifically promise those things to us. Though you can read about healing and the baptism of the Holy Spirit elsewhere on this site, don’t take my word for it — look them up for yourself, letting the Word interpret itself without consulting other books, commentaries, or denominational traditions.
One of the interesting observations I’ve made is that all born-again Christians will emphatically believe and proclaim that at all times, in all places, and without exception, it is God’s will for a sinner to repent, receive Jesus as Lord, and thereby become “born from above.” You could ask them why, and they would with equal authority declare, “Because God’s Word says so, God promises it!” Yet many of these selfsame believers will hedge when it comes to divine healing or the baptism in the Holy Spirit, both of which are also clearly promised in Scripture. I’ve covered this issue in far more detail in a previous article on God’s promises, so I’m not going to delve into that again here — you can read the article if you want a more in-depth discussion on the matter .
Anyway, the point here is that we need to be digging into the Word and discovering for ourselves what God has accomplished in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, what He has imparted to us at the moment of salvation when we surrendered our lives to Him, and what He has promised us as believers under the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood. The ongoing renewal of our minds by the Word of God is crucial to an effective prayer life!
The Specific Will of God for Each of Us
There are numerous issues we face in life where we do not have specific revelation in God’s Word concerning a matter. For example, should we:
- Accept a job opportunity offered to us
- Marry a specific someone we are attracted to
- Relocate to a new community for whatever reason
- Change churches
- Buy a house, car, or other major purchase
- Make a financial investment of some kind
- Have a baby or foster/adopt a child
- Any other major life decision
- Are unsure of God’s timing for any of Items 1-8 above
- And so on…
It is only in such cases where we should ever utter the words, “Lord, if it be your will.” This is what James is talking about in his epistle when he admonishes:
Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. — James 4:13-16
This passage is admonishing people for indulging in self-lordship. Who are we to be determining our own courses of action without consulting the Lord and asking His guidance and wisdom? Whenever we face these situations — and indeed we will — what we need to be doing is seeking God’s will about them, asking the Holy Spirit guide and direct us by His wisdom. Then, after He reveals His will concerning a situation, we can strongly pray in agreement with it.
Where God Guides, He Provides
God never leads us in a given direction and then leaves us hanging without the means, financial and otherwise, to get the job done. For example, as we take our desire to move into bigger living quarters to Him, we pray that God will lead us to the right place in the right location at the right price at the right time. We then begin looking, avoiding hardening of the categories and allowing God to direct us in His path. Once we discover where He is leading us, we then pray fervently in agreement with that will.
You know how we ended up buying a house in the high desert of Northern Arizona? My wife and I started out by looking for a larger apartment in the city where we were already living: Tucson, a good 5-hour drive south of here.
When we began, we thought all we could do was rent. As we walked out the search process, we discovered to our delight that we actually could buy instead. After we looked for houses to buy in Tucson to no avail, the Lord led us to visit our current town, and on the 3rd look, we found a really nice house for an amount we could afford — a place that was far newer and in a much nicer neighborhood than any of the houses we looked at in Tucson for a comparable price.
We then prayed for our offer to be accepted. It was. We also prayed for favor with the mortgage company, that God would reveal any problems with the new place through the various inspections, that the closing would go without a hitch, and that we would have a smooth, incident-free move to our new digs. All were answered, but one: the mortgage broker missed the closing date by a day, so it caused us come minor personal and financial inconveniences. But everything else went perfectly!
The Religious Escape Clause
I have grown heartily fed up hearing well-meaning, but scripturally ignorant, Christians pray for someone’s needs, such as healing or financial provision, and somewhere along the line throw in what I call The Religious Escape Clause: “Lord, if it be your will.”
Some of you might be bristling a bit at this point because you have tacked this phrase onto your own prayers for someone on one or more occasions and I’ve just described you as “scripturally ignorant.” Please cool your jets — I said ignorant, not “stupid!” Ignorance simply means you haven’t been taught something and you might be surprised to find out that this phrase appears only twice in the Bible.
The first instance is in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is praying to the Father concerning His imminent trial, torture, and execution. Remember the types of prayer I described in the 2nd article in this series? What we find here is a prayer of consecration where Jesus is submitting His future to the will of the Father. At no time during this event, as recorded in any of the gospels, is Jesus praying for someone or something, which — were it to have happened — would then be classified as a prayer of intercession or supplication, respectively.
The second instance is the one in James that I just discussed a few paragraphs ago. And even then, since prayer is involved in our submission to God and seeking His will, we can stand upon His promises to guide and direct us and provide us with His wisdom.
So other than when we are determining God’s specific will for our lives concerning something that is not clearly spelled out in the Word or used in the process of consecrating oneself to God, the phrase “if it be God’s will” is not only not applicable, it’s totally unscriptural.
Honestly, it is a manifestation of personal unbelief, whether conscious or subconscious. In other words, the person saying it cannot bring him- or herself to believe something clearly promised in Scripture for whatever reason, shifting the blame to God in advance if it doesn’t come to pass. Selah!
So that about wraps up our discussion of praying according to God’s Will.
Thanks for reading!