Somewhere in a dusty filing cabinet is a document, prepared by a lawyer and signed by me and Betty, declaring our desires in the event of our deaths. It is a simple document setting out our will for the worldly goods left behind and who will see those desires through. In formal terms it is our “Last Will and Testament” And how will those desires come to light? Someone will ask to see the will.
Our third “what” to pray as we go about our day, our trail mix prayers, is all about asking and listening. Jesus connects “your kingdom come” (which we covered in our last article) with “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10 Much of what we examined about praying for God’s kingdom also applies to praying for God’s will. So instead of rehashing the same ideas lets look at a related promise concerning God’s will, prayer, and receiving answers to our prayers.
The Apostle John wrote in the first of his letters, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” (1 John 5:14–15, NASB95) The key phrase “If we ask anything according to His will” brings us to a huge question – what is God’s will? If we know God’s desires we can confidently pray according to those desires knowing that God will answer.
Let’s all be honest for a few moments. Most of the time our prayers are more about our desires than God’s. We have physical, emotional, and spiritual needs that are very real. We want God to fix those things in our lives that are broken. Say that we have a co-worker that is a real pain the neck. So we pray for them, that God would fix them, that they would learn to love or at least learn to be considerate. In reality our prayers are for ourselves. Instead of a heart of compassion we simply want our lives to be peaceful. So even though it looks like we are praying God’s will we are often motivated by our own desires. The trap that we easily fall into is praying for the answers we want. Prayers like that seek to control God and are closer to witchcraft than following the way of Christ. God’s desire is that our will would become aligned with His will and not the other way around. Therefore, in order to pray according to His will we need to know His will.
The first place we discover God’s will is in the Bible. For instance, we know that God desires everyone to accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9, NASB95) Therefore we can always pray accordingly. That is just one example among many.
The second place we discover God’s will is through prayer. One thing I’ve learned to avoid is praying my desire and then tacking on a “if it be your will” for good measure. When confronted with a need or a request to pray I try to always ask God for His will first and listen. In other words I pray so that I can pray according to God’s will. “Lord, what’s your will here?” “What does this person really need from you?” “How do you want me to pray for…?” Jesus invites us to ask, seek and knock – “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7–8, NASB95) And promises “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;” (John 10:27, NASB95) I’ve also learned that God reveals His will to folks in many ways; promptings of the heart, impressions on the mind, verses that seem to pop up from nowhere, mental images like those of the ancient prophets are just a few examples. But not everything that pops into our head is from God. Like a lamb learning the voice of the shepherd it takes time and practice to discern the “voices” we hear.
After we’ve prayed for God’s will and paused to listen sometimes the way still seems cloudy and we can’t see through the fog of our own issues. In those times we can still pray according to God’s will by simply lifting up the need and trusting that God will answer as a father. Right after Jesus’ invitation to ask, seek and knock He observes, “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9–11, NASB95) Basically, when the way is clouded lift up the need trusting God to answer in the way that is best instead of trying to get the answer from God that we desire.
Trail mix prayer, praying on the go as our day unfolds, thrives on our asking and listening conversation with God. All of the different types of prayers are important but in my opinion this is the most important. As Paul said, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15–17, NASB95) By asking to hear God’s will we are declaring His lordship over our hearts and circumstances. Instead of trying to get something from God we are seeking to join what He is already doing. As we knock and listen we are asking to be allowed in instead of using a battering ram to get our own way.