God really laid this blog post on my heart in a roundabout way. Over the past month, every time I saw or heard the words “according to” in the Bible, the Holy Spirit would just poke me. When I looked up the meaning of the word κατά in the Greek, it’s simply a preposition that occurs 482 times in the Bible. No wonder I was seeing it a lot – it’s all over the place! Then I finally realized it was God simply giving me the prayer topic on which I was supposed to write next. Praying according to God's will and not our own. Thank you Lord!
Last time, we discussed our heart’s motivation behind what we are asking for during prayer, and we’ve started focusing our prayers so God may be glorified and honored instead of wanting our own selves to be glorified, comfortable, or our desires fulfilled. Now, to take that a step further, after we ask God for help and bring our petitions to Him, we then must yield to God with the confidence that He will answer our prayers according to His will and not our will.
“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
Did you hear that? God hears us when we ask ANYTHING according to His will – big or small – ANYTHING – as long as we ask according to His will. We have total confidence that, if our prayer is according to His will, then what we asked for will be done! But what about our prayers we consider unanswered?
First of all, are you sure it’s not answered? Maybe God has answered it…according to His will and not yours. Maybe He is answering it in His perfect timing, and His timing hasn’t come yet. Or, finally, maybe your prayer request was not in His will. Are you ok with it going unanswered? Is the Garth Brook’s voice singing “sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers” twanging in your head yet?
In a conversation about prayer with my beautiful Aunt Sue last week, she said something so profound, and I’ve just been chewing on it all week. She said that so many times she catches herself giving God her problems AND a solution versus just the problem. I mean, think about that – does God need our solutions? No way. His perspective is so much greater than ours.
Of course, we can look to Jesus as our primary example. He Himself prayed when His soul was extremely sorrowful in the Garden of Gethsemane before His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. Both Matthew and Mark recall that Jesus said the following prayer three times. In fact, the gospel of Luke says Jesus, being in agony, prayed more earnestly, and then His sweat became like great drops of blood. Here was Jesus’s prayer:
“Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” Mark 14:36
From Jesus’s mouth and a promise to us in His word – for God, all things are possible. He could answer your prayer according to your will right now if He wanted to…He is absolutely capable. Sit for a minute, and think about this prayer. Jesus, God’s own son, dripping drops of blood, in agony, extremely sorrowful, and praying earnestly asked for the pain of crucifixion to be taken from Him, and God could have said “ok.” Thank God, Jesus yielded to His Father’s will and said: “nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” God’s plan was accomplished, and our salvation was made possible through the painful, horrific sacrifice that was ahead of Jesus in that very moment. Wow! And we are so quick to give God our solutions! Shouldn’t we all add: “nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” to each one of our prayers?
Secondly, Jesus taught His disciples to yield to God’s will when He showed them how to pray by example in The Model Prayer (remember, it isn’t The Lord’s Prayer, it’s Jesus’s example of how we should pray):
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10
I love the way Chuck Smith put it: “Prayer was never intended as a vehicle by which I can get my will done on the earth. Prayer is the vehicle by which I cooperate with God in order to get His will done.”
Rejoice in the confidence you have that when you pray God’s will, HE HEARS YOU, and your prayers WILL BE ANSWERED. When we pray with this confidence, it gives us rest and turns our eyes back on Him and His eternal purpose and sovereignty and away from ourselves and our circumstances. It's how we live by faith - trusting that His will is what's best and giving Him the reigns. Don't forget to give yourselves some grace too...you may have to pray the same prayer many more times than Jesus’s three times as our eyes so easily turn back to our own selves and away from God.