This is clearly a good prayer to pray. God’s will is good. God is good all the time and all the time God is good. BUT it is not a tame prayer to pray because God is not ‘a tame lion’ and much of what he wills is beyond our knowledge and understanding and grasp.
I have learnt recently about two aspects of God’s will and have found the distinction really helpful.
Firstly there is God’s DECREETED will. God is sovereignly in control of his universe and nothing happens unless God decrees it. Therefore in any given situation, big or small, we can be confident that God is doing what he wants, what pleases him. It is God’s DECREETED will. Being sure that God’s will is being done, however, is not the same as knowing what God’s will is.
So if we are praying for God’s will to be done in the midst of a global conflict, an election, a friend’s illness or infertility there is an element of blindness in our prayer. We don’t know exactly what we are asking for, because we’re not God!
What we do know is who we are asking. His word is full of his purposes and plans, his loves and desires, and his promises to his people. In other words we do know his PRECEPTIVE WILL. There is much of God’s will that is plainly revealed to us – here we can pray with full sight.
I was listening to a sermon online today in which the preacher pointed out that so often our prayers are focused around situations in which we don’t know God’s will. We either try and guess God’s will or even worse tell God what he should be doing. While it is totally right to bring all our cares and anxieties to the Lord the preacher argued that the majority of our prayer lives should be spent in the realm of God’s revealed, PRECEPTIVE will. So often we spend more time stumbling around in the dark in our prayer lives rather than praying with open bibles reflecting God’s promises back to him. The preacher looked at the prayer life of George Muller. Muller would not pray anything unless he could clearly reflect God’s revealed will in his prayers. If he felt prompted to pray for something he would first diligently search his bible in order to faithfully pray God’s will.
I love the way that Paul Miller looks at Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane in his book ‘A Praying Life’. Jesus pours out his heart to his loving Father. “If you are willing take this cup from me; yet not my will, but your be done.” Luke 22:42.
Jesus neither pretends he is without care –
(care is too weak a word, oh the staggering suffering he faced for us – thank you Lord Jesus)
– nor demands that his care be placed above his Father’s will. Jesus both loves his Father’s will, trusts that it is good and perfect, desires above all that it is done AND he honestly cries out that it is hard. He encircles his deeply felt troubles with his desire for his Father’s will to be done, rather than covering them over and hiding them underneath it.
I think we are more likely to pray ‘your will be done’ with our lips than with our hearts. Do we ever pray “Your will be done”, but really mean “I give up, don’t mind me God, have it your own way” which basically translates as “How dare you not mind me, you’ve got it wrong”?
I’ve recently read ‘A loving Life’ by Paul Miller and was struck by his comments on lament. We are so much better at grumbling like Israel in the desert than lamenting with open, submissive, trusting hearts.
So let’s know God better. He is good. Let’s study his PRECEPTIVE WILL so that our prayers can act as mirrors, reflecting his will back to him; still pools of God’s promises that we can immerse ourselves in as we pray. And let’s thank God that we can splash and lament within the safety of those promises and the goodness of his will.
God’s will is that his people would love and trust his will. That we would love and trust it and eagerly ask for it whether it is in plain sight (his PRECEPTIVE will) or undisclosed (his DECREETED will). So let’s pray that his will be done!