At one time or another we have probably heard it: to pray effectively is to pray in the will of God. If we regard God as our Source of the good and necessary things in life, as well as we should, James tells us there are two reasons we do not have the things we need: “Ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:2b-3, KJV). Bible Expositor John Gill states that to ask amiss is to ask “not in the faith of a divine promise; nor with thankfulness for past mercies; nor with submission to the will of God; nor with a right end, to do good to others, and to make use of what might be bestowed, for the honour of God, and the interest of Christ.” To that end, some of us end our prayers with the words of Jesus, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42b). But just exactly does that mean?
The life of Jesus, while He was on earth, was a pattern of wanting to do only what God wanted to be done. To His disciples He affirmed, “My meat [purpose] is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work” (John 4:32). In other words, His sole purpose was to do the will of God (see also Hebrews 10:5-10), and everything about Him and His life lined up with that purpose. Even when facing death by what was then the most cruel of methods, crucifixion, He yielded Himself to the will of the Father. Fast forward over two thousand years later and there you are in prayer. You have a laundry list of petitions of things you really want and/or need. Do you trust your own judgement or do you trust God that what He wants for you transcends anything that you could ask or imagine for yourself (Ephesians 3:20)? It is not easy to yield our will to that of the Father; just ask Jesus. His Gethsename struggle was of such that “there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:43-44). Yet for those who desire to be in the nucleus of God’s will, is there really any other way to pray? The flesh that seeks to satisfy itself is constantly at war with the Spirit that strives to do the will of God (Galatians 5:17).
Some of God’s finest statesmen of our times have said much on the issue of praying in the will of God. Pastor and author A.W.Tozer puts it this way, “To pray effectively we must want what God wants-that and that only is to pray in the will of God.” Gonville ffrench-Beytagh, the late Anglican dean of Johannesburg, reminds us, “You are not drawn to God primarily for your own benefit but for His.” Evangelist R.A.Torrey states, “The chief purpose of prayer is that God may be glorified in the answer.” And here we are thinking it is primarily about us and our needs.
“Not my will, but thine, be done.” Seven important words we need to bear in mind the next time we come to our Lord in prayer. While He can work all things for our good (Romans 8:28-29), it is never is about us. It is and must always be about Him; His will done His way in our lives.