How Should We Pray? – Part 3
- If we wonder how best to pray, God has given us the Lord’s prayer as a template. Therefore, the topics, essence, and focus of Jesus’ prayer should serve as an example for our prayer life. As such, the Lord’s prayer is the template for this study. Each point and each post in this study on prayer will be a dissection of a portion of the Lord’s Prayer.
- God expects us to pray. While this point is intellectually understood by most, it is seldom put into actual practice. Whether we are happy, sad, passionate, indifferent, healthy, sick, or any other stage, phase, or emotion of life, God expects to be our regular companion. If we hope to live the Christian life in a manner pleasing to God, and if we hope to have a relationship with God that is worthy anything, then prayer will be at the center of our lives.
- God expects our prayers to be centered on Him. While we might not always feel like thanking God, praising God, or rejoicing in God, we are still expected to. Beginning our prayers with these three things (thanksgiving, praise, and rejoicing), helps us to set the tone for our entire prayer, as God centered instead of man centered. Being obedient to this, even when we do not want to, can help us view life and all of its problems with the proper perspective. This world is finite, but God’s kingdom is infinite. With this theme guiding our prayers, then our fears become less terrifying, our sorrows less lasting, our anxiety less consuming, and our satisfaction, happiness, and hope found in the only place they will last – God and His kingdom.
With these three takeaways ingested, let us now resume our study…
The Lord’s Prayer
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Thy Will – Not My Will
If I were God for a day, there would be a lot of things done differently. Sometimes that might be okay. I’m sure I wouldn’t do everything wrong. 🙂 However, most of the time it would be a disaster. Besides being limited in intellect, I also know that I would not always execute my rule with the greatest of intentions. As an example, let me ask, have you ever wanted to get a little payback against someone for doing something bad to you? I sure have. I doubt I’m alone in thinking that bad people seem to never get what they deserve. I think we all have times when people get away with what they do to us, and we sit frustrated and helpless, believing justice will never be served! Have you had anything like that happen?
While you’re thinking about your own stories of injustice, I want to ask if have you ever done something that made someone else angry? Have you ever been the one who deserved to be scolded, punished, told off, or worse? I’ve been guilty. There have been times when I was not as nice as I should have been. There have been times when I was selfish, moody, rude, angry, etc. It’s sobering to realize that sometimes I am the one who needs mercy. We all desire for other people to be corrected, but it’s a tough pill to swallow when we are the ones who aren’t living right.
My daughter is quick to tell my wife and me when her brother won’t go to sleep at night. Sure enough, nine times out of ten, when she tells on him, we find him jumping up and down on his bed making all sorts of noise – a bed that is now broken thanks to his antics. When our daughter tells on our son, she knows that my wife and I will discipline him if we catch him – otherwise she would not call for us. Her call, then, is a call for us to discipline him. However, every so often when we enter their room at night, we find our daughter is the one keeping her brother awake. When this happens, she immediately begins to beg for my wife us to forego punishment and instead, extend her our mercy. Mercy is something that drives us crazy when it is given to people who have wronged us, but mercy is exactly what we beg for when we are the ones who need it.
This is just one of the many reasons why it is a good thing none of us are God. In demanding the justice that I so frequently desire, I have ignorantly pleaded a case against the mercy that God has so graciously and freely given to me (e.g. Rom. 5:8). I am glad that God’s will is so much wiser and and so much more loving than my own. Keep this in mind as we study the next portion of the Lord’s prayer, which is simple to understand, but not always easy to put into practice.
Our next section of the Lord’s Prayer…
“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” – Matt. 6:10
God’s Ability VS God’s Will!
Did you know that there are certain things which God cannot do? By definition of His nature, God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), and He cannot be comprised of darkness (meaning lies, evil, sin, etc., 1 John 1:5). There is even the old question which people often ask when they believe they are being far more clever than they really are, “Can God make a rock so big that He cannot lift it?”
The intention of this question, of course, is to either disprove belief in God as irrational, or to disprove an aspect of God; His omnipotence. The problem with the question is that it has an irrational fallacy as its premise. Since God is sovereign over all of creation (Rom. 11:33-36; Jer. 32:17; Matt. 19:26; Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:16-17) there cannot exist a rock so big that God cannot lift it. Since a rock like this cannot exist, it cannot rationally be created any more than a circle can become a square and still be a circle. Do you follow me? The question is irrational. Therefore, even though Christians are often afraid to admit that there might be something that God cannot do, the answer to the irrational question is unequivocally “no”. God cannot make a rock so big that He cannot lift it! Does this weaken our view of God? Only if we wish to believe in a God who is irrational and inconsistent; the God of the Bible is neither. He is the author and prime example of rationality and consistency. Therefore, this goes to show that there are certain things God cannot do, just as much as there are many things He will not do because of who He is. To state it briefly, God can only do things that are rational and consistent with His nature…but does this then follow that God WILL do everything that He CAN DO?…
In previous posts, I have been particularly harsh against the hypothetical belief that escaping a speeding ticket is an answer to prayer. In reality, I will admit that so long as something does not violate God’s nature, then He can do whatever He wants. While God cannot lie or make a rock so big that He cannot lift it, God could give us a bigger house, He could give us great health, wisdom, riches, etc., (see 1 Kings 3:1-14). Therefore, if He chooses to do so, God can even let us out of a speeding ticket. I am not advocating that God will give us any of these things, merely that He could.
However, this is where I want us to begin to shift our expectations and our understanding of God’s will, because this is not a study on what God could do, this is a study on what the focus of our prayers should be. Just because God could do something for us does not mean that our prayers should be centered on these things. Returning, then, to our example of the Lord’s Prayer, we should notice that Jesus prayed for the coming of God’s kingdom and the accomplishing of God’s will on earth. My goal in this section of our study is to help us steer our prayers away from our will and focus instead on God’s kingdom and ultimately on God’s will. Let us reflect on this: if our prayers seldom go deeper than speeding tickets, a bigger house, a better job, the removal of an inconvenience, or anything of the sort, then I ask, are we really seeking God’s will?
POINT: God will NOT do everything that He is able to do, nor should that be our focus or expectation of Him.
As the previous post taught, a God centered prayer is exactly that, it’s a prayer centered on God, and not centered on ourselves. The next practical application of this principle is realizing that not only should our attention be focused on God, but our hearts should be actively seeking His will, instead of our own.
In fairness, our prayers are often focused on ourselves for innocent reasons. God created us with limited intelligence and a limited perspective (this is not an insult to any of us, this is a reality). Try as we might, we cannot see the world through any eyes other than our own, nor can we feel pain through any receptors other than our own. We experience the world as us. That is how God created us. As such, it is reasonable to expect our tendency would be to focus on ourselves, because that is how we were created; to relate to everything – as us.
This is why it is okay to pray to God for things that are important to us (which will be covered in the next post). God knows that it is natural to come to Him in prayer and think only of ourselves. However, God has called us to be more than the natural man. God did not save us and indwell us with His Spirit so that we could merely stay the same (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 8:14-17, 26, 37; John 16:7-11). So while we often come to prayer and focus on our will more than God’s will, God expects us to actively seek to change this natural tendency toward egocentricity (self-centeredness) and move instead onto theocentricity (God-centered). To do so, there are at least two things standing in our way…
Discerning God’s True Will
When we pray, we do not focus on God’s will because we do not really understand what “God’s will” means.
Here is my argument up front – When we ask, “What is God’s will for my life?” I contend that we do not really understand what “God’s will” means, otherwise, we would not ask that question. I hope you pay close attention to this portion of the study because this is an area where a lot of Christians are confused, and I believe it is a primary reason many of us feel our prayers go unanswered.
People often talk about the will of God like it is a mystical unknowable thing. We tend to view God’s will as if we were searching for a precise path that God has mapped out for our lives; almost as if we believe God has hidden it from us and will only allow us to find it if we are spiritual enough. Since we think this way, we pray for God to reveal His will to us so that He might help us with decisions like selecting the right job for our career, or to pick the perfect house so that we might live by the right neighbors. We talk about these things as if they are the will of God, and when God does not provide a specific answer or specific guidance to these types of concerns, then we assume we have missed out on God’s will. I cannot tell you how many people have emailed me, text me, or called me with this exact problem. Uncertain of what the next step in their life should be, they become frustrated because they believe they have missed the answer to their question, “What is God’s will for my life?”
I tell you boldly and confidently, that God’s will is neither mystical or unknowable, nor is it revealed to only the most “spiritual” of Christians. In fact, I want you to know that God has already given us His will for our lives. You might follow up this statement by again asking, “Well then, what is God’s will for my life?” You might not appreciate this answer right away, but in the end I hope you will see how liberating the truth is because God really does want us to know His will. He does not want us to become frustrated in prayer, wondering what He wants us to do with our lives.
And so, the answer to the question “What is God’s will for my life?” is that God has the same will for your life that He does for all of humanity. Scripture teaches that God created us for one purpose – we are created to bring glory to God (Isaiah 43:7; 1 Cor. 1:31). This is a high level view of God’s will; meaning, if you took all other things away and drove right down to the root cause of why you exist, it is for this reason – to bring God glory. If you are reading this post and wondering why God filled your lungs with breath and continues to allow your heart to beat; if you have ever contemplated the age-old question of “What is the meaning of life?”, then look no further. Scripture teaches that you were created and you exist primarily to bring God glory.
God’s will is not unknowable or mysterious. His will, and our purpose in life, is to bring Him glory (cf. Isaiah 43:7; 1 Cor. 1:31)
If this is a new concept to you, then you will rightly wonder how do you do this? How do you bring glory to God with your life? Well, let me give you a few ways…
NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list – I might easily add hundreds of other Christian practices and disciplines that bring God glory. To know all the ways to bring God glory I can only refer you to one place – the Bible.
So what is God’s will for your life? To do these things! All of the topics and scriptures I have listed above, and a lot more – faith, love, hope, purity, diligence in the study of scripture, a dedicated prayer life, kindness, mercy, selflessness, etc. – this is God’s will for our life. He wants us to be obedient in these things (and the plethora of things I’ve left out). God wants us to worship Him, serve Him, tell others about Him, help other Christians grow in Him, to nurture our own faith, and to share His love with others. These things and more ARE the revealed WILL of God.
Don’t believe me?
Check out these verses…
John 14:13-14 – “13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”
These are exciting verses because they come with a promise that God will hear our prayers and even answer them. However, while people might use them to teach that we can pray for anything and God will do it, let’s think about what they actually say. The first thing we should notice is that our prayers must be “in my [Jesus’] name.” You might say, “no problem, I always end my prayers ‘In Jesus name’, or some variation (e.g. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, etc.).” However, I hope we all realize that praying in the name of Jesus should be more than simply a phrase at the end of a sentence or prayer. Doing something or praying something in the name of Jesus means that it is FOR Him; for His status, for His glory, for His purposes…for His will. Saying that we are doing something in the name of Jesus means we represent His goals and aspirations. Fortunately, this verse tells us what Jesus’ goal is. His goals and aspirations are to bring glory to God the Father (sound familiar?). So, how does God receive glory? Through getting us out of speeding tickets??? No! Speeding tickets are all about us and our will, not God and His will! However, does God get glory…
- Through study? “God, help me have the discipline to study your word, so that I might be ready always, to give an answer to any man that asks me a reason for the hope that is in me (1 Pet. 3:15).”
- Through evangelism? “God, I have a friend at work who is really resistant to the gospel. They seem to be angry at Christianity and closed off to the truth of your message. Soften their heart and give me an opportunity and the boldness to witness to them.”
- Through loving others? “God, my neighbor just lost His job. I pray He find another job to support His family. In the mean time, help me and my church do our best to support them, show them love, and meet whatever needs we can. May you be glorified and your love be seen through this.”
- Through purity? “God, I struggle with a secret sin. I love you, but it has had a hold on me. God, give me the strength to overcome it. Give me the wisdom to run from it. Give me the integrity to have someone hold me accountable and to confess it and apologize to anyone I have wronged. I want my life to bring glory to you, and I know this sin is an obstacle in the way of that. Give me help God.”
Yes to all. We can pray about job decisions, spouses, houses, cars, and other things, but God cares far less about these things than He does about the type of Christians we are, no matter where life takes us.
Now, someone might disagree with me on this. They might say, “wait a minute, if my life has been blessed by God through material gain, such as a new car, great job, etc., then those things absolutely bring glory to God.” You might have a point…except for the fact that God led John to give us more details in the very next chapter.
John 15:7-8 – “7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit…“
In verse 8, notice what follows the phrase “Herein is my Father glorified“; it says, “that ye bear much fruit.” It doesn’t say that God is glorified by answering our prayers to get out of a speeding ticket. It says that as we abide in Christ, our prayers produce fruit, which in turn brings God glory. Since Jesus is teaching that the result of our prayers is fruit, then that must mean the subjects of our prayers are focused on things that are fruit producing – not on shallow earthly things.
So, what is fruit? It could be one of two things (and I think it’s both). Jesus could have been talking about the fruit of the Spirit – “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23). In other words, Jesus could be talking about the characteristics that mark the life of a mature Christian. Are these things in your life? Or Jesus could have been referring to the ultimate fruit…winning a lost soul to Christ. I think he was referring to both, but either way, the lesson is clear: Fruit in our life will bring glory to God.
So, how do we get fruit in our life?
Fruit comes through praying for and acting on the revealed will of God; i.e. through study of Scripture, prayer, evangelism, etc…
Therefore, if the purpose of life is to bring God glory (which it is, Isaiah 43:7; 1 Cor. 1:31), and the manner in which God receives glory is through Christians bearing fruit (which it is, John 14:13-14 and John 15:7-8), and fruit is developed through the exercise of spiritual disciplines such as prayer, study, service, evangelism, etc., then the only conclusion I can make is that our prayers and our actions should be focused on cultivating the fruit in our lives, as well as the pursuit of those practices and disciplines that produce this fruit, which will in turn give God glory, thereby fulfilling the very purpose of our lives and the will of God.
Is the will of God clear yet?
You see, when life presents us with doors of opportunity – a new job, a new house, etc., I believe that God cares FAR more about the spiritual health of the man going through the door than He does the actual door. Are there times when God might urge you in one direction or prevent you from going another? There could be. It did happen to the Apostle Paul (Acts 16:6-10). While Paul wandered freely through most of his three missionary journey’s, in Acts 16, the Holy Spirit prevented Paul from traveling to two different places and supernaturally called him to spread the Gospel to what is now modern Greece. As such, God very well might want you to make a specific decision in a specific instance. However, no matter what decision you make, God would prefer that you arrive at the decision in a manner that is honoring to Him.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. When I was finishing seminary and searching for what would become my first church, I had two main locations that were interested: a church in Maryland and the church in Kentucky where I’m currently serving. We have a lot of reasons to believe that God led us to Kentucky. But let me ask you this – if I had arrived at either location and was not seeking to be the man that God would have me be, then would the geographic location have really mattered? If I were not reading God’s word, preparing my heart to teach others, or perhaps if I were living in sin, such as being unfaithful to my wife, then would the choice of church really matter? No! I would be the wrong man for either job. This is what I mean when I say that God cares more about the man walking through the door than He will ever care about the door itself. Doors of opportunity will come and go, and the creator of the universe can easily generate another opportunity for us. But if we are not ready to walk through the door, if we have not focused on God’s revealed will, then the door itself does not really matter, because we are not ready to walk through it.
It is ironic, though, that most of us spend our prayer time searching for that once in a while instance when God gives us special directions for our lives (which may never come), instead of pursuing the will of God that has already been revealed to us through Scripture. It’s almost as if we feel like the revealed will of God is not good enough. We would rather receive a specific map of where our life is heading instead of working on making ourselves pleasing to God. When we talk about God’s will, what we really mean is, “Who should we marry, God?”, “What is the next step in my career, God?”, “Should I take this new job, God?”…and so on, and so on…
We want to know God’s plan for our life and we call it “God’s will“. This is a misnomer. When we are like this, we are not really seeking God’s will, we are seeking a fortune teller. In addition to not being our personal genie, God is not our own personal fortune teller. Yet this is how we treat him when we ignore the revealed will of God, and focus instead on a mystical plan for our lives that may or may not exist.
As I frequently say to people who are looking for the plan that God has for their life – are you actively pursuing the will of God that has already been revealed in His word (all the stuff I listed above, prayer, witnessing, etc.)? If so, then don’t stress out. If the creator of the universe wants you to know the exact next step to take with your life, I think He’ll be able to get the message to you.
Don’t you think that is true? Does Acts 16:6-10 show the Apostle Paul straining at night, screaming into the stars, frustrated as he tried and failed to hear the next location God would have him go? No, it doesn’t! It shows a man who was faithfully serving God with all of His heart. It shows a man who was not concerned with some mystical plan for his life because he was already carrying out the very clear plan God had given for his life – to share the good news of Jesus Christ to the world (Matt. 28:19-20). While the life of Paul reads as more mystical than most of our lives ever will, and his calling was certainly a specific ministry calling (Acts 26:12-18), we should still realize that his majestic calling is ultimately similar to what God’s will is for the rest of us – God wants us to share the gospel with people who had never heard it before. God wants us to use our lives pursuing a deeper relationship with Him, and serving Him no matter where we are.
Therefore, while Acts 16:6-10 does indeed show that God prevented Paul from going some places and guiding him to others, this was never Paul’s focus. Where to go and where not to go were a simple course correction along the path of God’s true will for Paul’s life. Paul was focused on carrying out the true revealed will of God, and when God wanted Paul to do something that had not yet been revealed to Paul, guess what God did…He revealed it to Paul. Imagine that! The God who created all things is able to deliver a message to someone!
While we are so busy straining our spiritual ears, hoping to hear the un-revealed will of God, we leave the revealed will of God undone. Paul did it the opposite way. He purposed his life toward doing what God had clearly told him to do. And so, when God had something new to say, Paul did not have to try very hard to hear it, because Paul’s life was already right with God. In other words, God could have presented any door of opportunity to Paul, and Paul would have been ready to walk through it, because Paul was already focusing on being the man that God wanted Him to be.
Are you focused on that? We become so concentrated on the things that are important to us, that we forget what is important to God. We get so focused on what God might never tell us, that we forget to pursue what He has already clearly told us. And so, when we think about the focus of our prayers, let us ask if a new car, a speeding ticket, a new job, or the many other trivial things in our life have anything to do with the mission of bringing glory to God?
Generally the answer will be “no”!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we cannot pray about our wants and needs. This is what the next post will be about. If I do not have a job to support my family, then certainly that is a prayer to lift up to God. If I am single and hope to be married someday, then praying for God to provide a godly spouse is a great prayer. We should certainly pray for wisdom as we discern our different decisions in life, so that we might always choose things that honor God. I am also not claiming that God will never guide us to making specific choices (something like a new job is important, after all). I merely want our understanding of God’s will to be accurate, and being accurate, I want the overall focus of our prayers to begin to shift to His will, instead of our own.
View the man as more important than the door? “God, I have an opportunity for a new job. It will require me to move my family, it will mean longer hours, and it will mean a stressful environment. Give me wisdom to make the choice that honors you and is fair to my family. If the decision I make turns out to be a poor decision, give me the strength of character to admit that I am wrong and lead my family right again. Whatever I choose, help me to have the energy and patience to be the husband and father I need to be. Help me have the discipline to make time to grow in you, even when my days are filled with activities. And God, if you have a preference, if you really would lead to a specific decision, then make it clear, God, and help my heart to be ready to accept your will, no matter what it might be.”
If God never says another thing to humanity until Christ returns, then Christians can still confidently know that God has a will for their lives. As my dad says, “God wants to see souls saved and saved souls serve.” This is a nice summary of God’s will. God wants you to know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, because this is the first step to bringing Him glory. If you are not saved, then your life does not yet bring Him glory. But once you are saved through the blood of Christ, then it is God’s will for you to live for Him. This means witnessing to others, this means helping other Christians grow in their faith, this means studying scripture, this means prayer, and this means pursuing obedience to every other portion of God’s will that He has revealed to us in scripture. This is His will.
I hope you realize now that when Jesus prayed, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven…” He was not praying for a mystical thing. He was praying that God the Father be glorified on earth through the saving of souls, the service of Christians, and ultimately, the growth of God’s kingdom. This is God’s will.
When we pray, we do not focus on God’s will because we do not really care about it.
Now that you know what God’s will really means, I must ask, how often do your prayers focus on it being accomplished? I don’t mean just the general prayer of “Thy will be done“. I mean your specific role in the fulfillment of God’s will. Do you realize that there are people in your life that you are in a unique position with to reach with the Gospel? God cares about reaching each and every soul, and while we are not pursuing God’s will, then some people are missing out on hearing about the Gospel. Did you know that the growth of your faith, your understanding of scripture, and your spiritual walk all matter to God? Did you know that there are Christians who will come across your path in life that will have the opportunity to benefit and grow because of their relationship with you? These are doors of opportunity that will present themselves to you. Are you ready to get to work so that you are prepared to walk through them?
You are a unique creation in God’s kingdom. No one else who ever existed will walk the exact same path as you and have the same influence over others that you do. Since you are uniquely placed in this world, do you pray for the accomplishment of God’s will as you walk along your path? If you have not prayed for these things in the past, I hope that will begin to pray for these things in the future. Do you pray for your own personal growth? Do you know people in your life that need to know Jesus? Do you pray that God will give you the words and the confidence to reach them? Do you know other Christians who struggle and could use your encouragement? Pray for these things, pursue these things. This is God’s will for you!
Let’s be honest, if we do not leave this study and begin praying for God’s will to be done in our life, it will no longer be because we do not understand what God’s will for our life is. If we do not leave here praying for God’s will to be accomplished in our life, it will only be because of the second thing that is standing in our way…we simply do not care.
You were made to bring glory to God. God receives glory through the fruit in our lives. The fruit in our lives is grown, first through our salvation, and then through the exercise of spiritual disciplines in our life such as learning scripture, prayer, etc. So the only question that remains, is do you care for this purpose for which you were created? This is God’s will…Do you care for it? You see, I think we pray more for the new house, the new car, the new job, the speeding ticket, the medical bills, the utility bills – all of these things – than we pray about the work of God’s kingdom for one main reason…we simply care more about the physical things of this world than we do the true will of God.
If we truly viewed our lives as an extension of God’s will, then our prayers would look a lot different.
This second part is where we need to being reflection. Ask yourself: Do my prayers reflect God’s will, or my will? Are they focused on the things I want, or the things God wants? Forgive me if is sound cynical, but I believe we fool ourselves into thinking that God has some secret motive behind doing something like getting us out of a speeding ticket. No offense, but I believe God cares about much more important things. He cares about things such as our neighbors who do not know Him, and are therefore condemned to die apart from Him. We all know what that means. It means that in their current state, they are destined for Hell. When we put it that way, a speeding ticket sounds a lot more meaningless, doesn’t it? God’s will is so much more important than ours, because souls are more important than our jobs, a new car, a new house, a speeding ticket, or anything of the sort, and bringing glory to God is most important of all.
Practical advice for what we have learned in this post…
So how should we pray?
1 John 5:14 – “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.”
So how do we make our prayers look more like Christ’s? How can we make ourselves care? How can God’s will become the focus of our prayers – because let’s be honest, sometimes we just really do care more about our stuff. When I’m worried about losing my job, it’s hard for me to care about the salvation status of the guy sitting in the cube next to me. When a Christian at church is gossiping about me, it’s hard for me to care about their spiritual growth, and even harder for me to show them love when they might need it.
If my care for God’s will does not really go much further than an intellectual level, how can I make myself care more? Is caring about God’s will something that can only be accomplished by the often envied, yet always fictitious “super-Christians”? Of course it isn’t. As I’ve said before, the Christian walk is a practical one. There are two parties involved in your relationship with God; God and you. If God saved you from your sins, then you are indwelt with His Holy Spirit. God, therefore, sits waiting to work in your life.
However, just as I believe God will not make a lost person choose to accept His salvation, I also believe God will generally not force a Christian to obey His teachings (there are certain obvious exceptions such as Jonah and the great fish). If we so desire, I believe that God will allow us to sit our lives on the sidelines, never cracking open scripture, never praying for anything more than our career or family health concerns, and never sharing the Gospel with a soul. God is sovereign, and He could make us do whatever He wants us to. However, I believe that in God’s sovereignty, He has given us freedom of choice. We can choose to obey His will or to be disobedient.
Once thing is certain, though, God’s will is clear. He wants us to be saved by Him, and once we are saved, He wants us to live for Him. But being obedient to God’s will requires effort and discipline. Proper prayers that are focused on God’s will are not going to happen accidentally. It is not likely that we will magically wake up and care for our lost neighbors.
But if you choose to open God’s word daily, if you study (not just read, but study) God’s Word, if His words begin to convict your heart through the work of the Holy Spirit, if you choose to begin to allow that conviction to shape the way you view the world, then THIS could be the beginning of caring about God’s will. Perhaps you are feeling convicted right now. Perhaps you realize that your Bible has sat on your shelf collecting dust instead of being opened and ingested so that it might transform your heart and your life. Perhaps you have read this study and you are thinking about a neighbor, a family member, or a co-worker that God has laid on your heart, but up until now you have been content to ignore their need for the Gospel. Perhaps you are just now realizing how desperately those people need your prayers. Perhaps you are beginning to realize that your church is filled with Christians who could use your help in their spiritual growth, or perhaps you realize that you are not ready to help anyone, because although you are a Christian, you have never made it a point to grow. Now is the time to act!
Choose to pray for and act on these types of things daily because these are the types of things that God cares about, but no one is going to make you do them.
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” It’s a simple statement with a heavy message. God’s will for your life is to bring Him glory. It’s the same for everyone, but it will be lived out on a unique path, which means that your life will be able to reach into the world in a way that no one else’s will. Or, in failing to act, the world will be deprived of the unique work that God was going to do through you. Entire souls might miss out on eternity simply because we never cared enough to pursue God’s will. I hope today you will make a decision to begin to be obedient to God’s will in your life. I hope you will take seriously the truth that God cares more about the man than He does the decision. I hope you will realize that the doors of opportunity in life will not matter at all if you are not walking right with God at the time. Be purposeful with the unique life that God has given you, choose to use it for His glory, and make it a point to center your prayers and actions on the types of things that matter to Him and will therefore transform you. When we do this, our lives begin to bring Him glory and we begin to be changed by His grace and power. There is no worthier goal for a Christian to work towards than striving to bring God glory because this is His will for our lives.
So pray for the reason you were created, pray for the reason you are sustained, pray for the only purpose that can give lasting meaning to any of our lives, and pray for the only work that we will do that will produce fruit beyond this lifetime. Pray as Jesus did. Pray, “not MY will, but THY will be done.”
To Be Continued…
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Posted on March 8, 2014, in Practical Christianity and tagged Belief, Bible, Christ, Christian, Christian theology, Christianity, Faith, God, God's Will, Grace, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Responsibility, Spiritual, Spiritual Birth, Spiritual Walk, Spirituality, Victory in Jesus, Work. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.