Spirit of Grace Ministries
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If It Be Thy Will...

prayer of a child

by Dennis Pollock

When it comes to the business of asking and receiving from God, one of the fundamental issues with which we must be grapple has to do with the will of God. Just how aggressive should we be in asking of our Father? Should we not always allow for the fact that what we are asking may not be according to His will? One of the most dramatic moments in the gospels occurs at the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prays in such agony that His sweat pours off Him "like great drops of blood." He has seen the Father answer His prayers again and again. His life has been a fountain of miracles, and heaven's endorsement has continually accompanied His prayers and words. Shrinking at the cross that lies before Him, He prays, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will." He prays the prayer of submission, making His desire known but yielding to the perfect will of His heavenly Father.

The question we must answer is this – should this always be our posture in prayer? Is it proper for us to tack on an "if it be Thy will" to every prayer and every petition we bring before the throne of grace? Is there ever a time when we can pray with a holy aggressiveness, considering the answer sure and certain from the moment the prayer leaves our lips?

The first point that must be made is that there are definitely times to pray the prayer of submission, even as Jesus did in the garden. As those who love God and follow Christ our great passion is to do the will of God. And it would be totally presumptuous for us to assume that our initial desires over any matter are always God's will. In Paul's epistle to the Romans, he writes, "I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you." Though he longs to see these believers, the great apostle isn't yet fully convinced it is within the boundaries of God's will, and so he prays that he may find a way in the will of God to come to Rome.

Knowing His Will

The Bible reveals a great deal about the will of God for us, but it certainly does not cover everything. And in matters where we do not know God's mind, we need to take the time and the prayer to discover and be convinced of that will. Here is a young man struggling with whether to become a chef or a bricklayer. He opens his Bible and begins reading the book of Genesis. Nothing there to indicate which way to go. He reads on through the chronicles and the kings of Israel, the Psalms, and the prophets. Still no word about whether chef or bricklayer is best for him. He goes on into the New Testament, reads the gospels, the epistles, and finally Revelation. After reading through the entire Bible he is as clueless as he was at the beginning. While the Bible would definitely condemn careers in bank-robbing or swindling, it says nothing about the superiority of one honest profession over another. When it comes to a career he is going to have to go straight to the Lord, and seek His mind. And when praying about getting accepted into a school for chefs it might be an excellent idea to pray, "if it be Thy will."

Or consider the young woman who attends a party and sees a handsome guy. His hair is wavy, his teeth are white, and he tells the greatest jokes. She immediately goes home and begins to talk with God. "Father, in the name of Jesus I claim this man for my husband. Your word tells me if I ask I will receive, and therefore I am asking, no, I'm insisting that you give me this man as a husband. I didn't get to talk to him, I don't know his name, but you know who he is – the guy with the white teeth who tells such great jokes!" Such an approach to prayer would be incredibly stupid. That lady's prayer needs to have a huge, neon "if it be Thy will" stamped all over it!

Prayer of Faith

All of this having been said, we must understand that the prayer of submission is not the only prayer. If the only prayers you ever pray have an "if it be Thy will" tacked on at the end, something is wrong with your prayer life. Jesus certainly did pray "if it be Thy will" but that was not His normal practice. Indeed we only read of it in the Garden of Gethsemane. As He ministered to the sick, calmed the Sea of Galilee, cast out demons, and multiplied bread and fish to feed the multitudes, we never hear Him praying thus. Can you imagine Him on the lake when that violent storm threatened to drown Him and His disciples, praying: "Father, if it be Thy will, please make this storm to calm down. But of course it may not be Thy will. So if it be Your will to allow the storm to continue for several days, then please help us endure it. Or it may be Your will to allow our boat to be swamped and all of us to drown, and if that's what You want, then help us to die bravely." No you couldn't imagine that and neither could I! Jesus didn't seem to require a lot of time to figure out God's will in the situation. Upon being awakened by His disciples, He sat up, told the storm to shut up, and all was calm. Oh, and one other thing – He rebuked His disciples for their little faith.

 Jesus possessed a radical faith that brought heaven's response time and time again. As we look to His teachings about faith and prayer we find He encouraged His followers to have a similar bold faith. His instructions to have faith and believe would be meaningless if prayer were merely a wish-list, concluded always with "if it be Thy will." He tells us, for example, that when we pray we should believe that we receive what we ask, and we will have it. There is no way you could possibly "believe that you receive" if you are still wrestling with the idea of whether what you are asking is something God wants you to have. Boldness and confidence in prayer, which is the essence of faith, is only possible if the issue of God's will has already been settled. Andrew Murray, a great writer and minister of the 1800s, wrote an excellent book on prayer, titled, "With Christ in the School of Prayer." He writes, "There is one kind of prayer in which we make known our request in everything… This is the prayer of trust. It makes reference to the countless desires of daily life which we cannot find out if God will give. We leave it to Him to decide whether or not to give, as He knows best. But the prayer of faith, of which Jesus speaks is something higher and different. Nothing honors the Father like the faith that is assured that He will do what He has said in giving us whatever we ask. Such faith takes its stand on the promise delivered by the Spirit. It knows most certainly that it receives exactly what it asks…"

Reason for Confidence

If we could ever be certain that our requests mesh perfectly with God's desire for our lives, we could pray with absolute confidence and faith. But can we ever be certain? I remember when I was a young school teacher, I was talking with one of the other teachers, a lady whose husband was a pastor. She made a statement which shocked me, saying, "Of course we can never really know the will of God." I wasn't very far along spiritually in those days, but I knew that couldn't be right. In truth there are a great many things of which we may be sure are God's will, if we believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God. Imagine hearing someone praying thus to receive salvation through Christ, "Dear Lord Jesus, I pray that you would save me, that you would forgive my sins and come into my heart, if it be Thy will." What would you do if you heard such a prayer? I don't know about you, but I would stop that person in their tracks and show them from the Scriptures that it is the will of God for them to be saved. The Bible tells us that God is not willing that any should perish, that He would have all men to be saved, that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, and that those who come to Jesus, He will in no wise cast out. There is no reason whatsoever to pray "if it be Thy will" when you are asking for something that God has declared over and over is His will.

Every evangelical would agree with this. Is there anything else in the Bible that God has spoken with certainty about concerning us, giving us the grounds to pray with faith? There are a great many things. Open your Bible and start to read and you will discover them! In Psalms we read, "Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." I love to remind the Lord about the lions. They may suffer lack and hunger, but those who seek the Lord will never come up short in the good thing department! When I was single and praying for a wife, I knew I was on solid Biblical grounds, for the Bible tells us that he who finds a wife finds a good thing. When we pray for the fullness of the Spirit, when we ask for clothes to wear, food to eat, a place to live, or a job we do not have to wonder whether God wants to answer us. He already has it on record that He is committed to providing these things for His children. In fact God has gone further than this; He has even provided a blank-check promise for those who will abide in Jesus. Our Lord tells us, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." He knows He is safe in making such a promise, because those who abide in Christ would never pray for unreasonable, carnal, or foolish things. Their priorities will always revolve around God's kingdom and purposes. As we abide in Jesus and determine that we are asking in accordance with God's will, we have the right to pray with aggressive faith that will not accept anything less than the answer it seeks.

Dealing with Delay

God's children are often robbed of great blessing because they do not know how to handle delay. Their approach to prayer is that if the answer does not come within a short time, it must be God's way of saying no. Delay does not equal denial. Instant answers to prayer are indeed wonderful but they are not the norm. The Bible tells us that it is through faith and patience that we inherit God's promises – not merely faith, but faith and patience! Jesus told the parable of the woman who kept coming back again and again to the judge for justice. Though the judge "did not fear God nor regard man" yet because of the woman's perseverance she was finally given exactly what she asked. Andrew Murray writes, "O what a deep heavenly mystery this is of perseverance in prayer. The God who has promised… whose fixed purpose it is to give the blessing, holds it back. It is to Him a matter of such deep importance that His friends on earth should know and fully trust their rich Friend in heaven, that He trains them, in the school of answer delayed, to find out how their perseverance really does prevail, and what the mighty power is they can wield in heaven, if they do but set themselves to it."

Child of God, you can prevail in prayer! Open your Bibles, discover the good things your God has promised you in Christ Jesus, and look to Him with faith and patience to fulfill His word. Come boldly before the throne of grace that you may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need, in the name and through the righteousness of Jesus Christ our Savior.

 


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