At one time or another, we have probably heard it said that to pray effectively is to pray the will of God. If we regard God as our Source, as well as we should, James tells us there are two reasons we do not have the things we want or need: “You do not have because you do not ask [it of God]. You ask [God for something] and do not receive it, because you ask with wrong motives [out of selfishness or with an unrighteous agenda], so that [when you get what you want] you may spend it on your [hedonistic] desires” (James 4:2b-3, AMP). In the King James translation, it reads, “Ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” 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.” Interesting perspective, isn’t it? Some of us end our prayers with the words of a dying Jesus, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42b, KJV). But just exactly does that mean? Do we really mean it?
The life of Jesus, while He was on earth, was a pattern of doing 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 4:34). 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 was aligned with that purpose. Even when facing death by what was then the cruelest of methods, crucifixion, He yielded Himself to the will of the Father. Fast forward over two thousand years later and here we are in prayer with our laundry list of petitions of things we really want and/or need. Do you and I trust our own judgment or do we trust God that what He wants for us transcends anything that we could ask or imagine for ourselves (Ephesians 3:20)? It is not easy to yield our will to that of the Father. Just ask Jesus. His Gethsemane struggle was such that “there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as [if] 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). Satisfying our flesh is easy; striving to do the will of God takes much effort and purposefulness. 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 put 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 that prayer and praying the will of God for our lives was and is primarily about us and our needs.
“Not my will, but thine, be done.” Seven important words we need to bear in mind and understand the next time we come to our Lord in prayer. It is a real challenge because we know what we want, yet we must remain open to the fact that if we ask God to direct our steps, He will often realign what we ask for to keep it consistent with His divine will for our lives. His answers may not come to us in the way we expect them to because while He can work all things for our good (Romans 8:28-29), it is and never is about us. It is and must always be about Him. His will done His way in our lives and for His glory. And to that, we should say, “Amen!”