For many believers, prayer is often confusing and frustrating. We pray earnestly, with as much faith as we can muster up, and many times the answer to our heartfelt prayer is no, or worse, silence. And if we have this experience with prayer and faith repeatedly, eventually, for most believers, we rely less on prayer and more on our own efforts to make things happen our way. Now, instead of praying, “Your will be done,” we pray, “Lord, please bless the works of my hands,” whether or not it is God’s will.
See the dilemma?
Then, when seeking confidence in our prayers, we stumble across 1 John 5:14-15 which seems, at least on the surface, to be the silver bullet we were looking for. Uh, until we look at the passage closer. Then we see the condition that unlocks the promise of confidence.
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.
And quickly, we see the linear promise and corresponding conditions in this passage.
Confidence in Him (our goal) – We Ask – His Will (condition) – He Hears – We Receive
We can have the confidence to know that if we ask, and here is the stickler, anything “according to His will,” that He hears us and will grant what we ask. But what we pray for must be “according to His will.” If we ask what He wants, He will naturally grant our request. But if we ask something selfish, something “amiss” (James 4:3), God is under no obligation to answer our prayer the way we want.
So the emphasis in our prayer life should not be on changing God’s mind to match our wants. It is to first find out the will of God and then pray accordingly. We are to have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), and not the other way around.
So how is that done? How can we discover the will of God in our prayer life? And once I discover it, how can I know for certain I am praying “according to His will”? How can I make sure I am not self-deluded into thinking what I want is what God wants? And finally, when I pray, how can I tell the difference between His will and mine?
As we shared last time, there are two ways to be successful in almost every area of life, both physical and spiritual. One, find someone who is successful and do exactly what they did to become successful. Or two, find a dismal failure, someone you would never want to be like, and do the exact opposite of what they did to get where they are. This principle works in both the natural life and the spiritual life.
We looked at the life of George Muller last time to discover some of his secrets of faith in his relationship with the Lord. If you have yet to listen to that episode, I would suggest you do that before reading any further.
George Muller is our example of both faith and prayer, but especially of praying “according to His will.” And he has not left us in the dark regarding this matter. George Muller published a small paper which outlined the six steps he went through with each prayer request to make sure he was praying God’s will, and not his own. And these six principles can help us today learn how to discover the will of God in our prayer life, before we come to Him in prayer.
So in the words of George Muller, let me share them with you.
One, I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine tenths of the trouble with people is just here. Nine tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.
Two, having done this, I do not leave the result to feelings or simple impression. If I do so, I make myself liable to great delusions.
Three, I seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the Holy Spirit guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.
Four, I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God’s will in connection with His Word and Spirit.
Five, I ask God in prayer to specifically reveal His will to me. (According to Muller, the key to getting specific answers to prayer is to ask God to specifically reveal His will to you.)
Six, thus, through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment, according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly.
Join us as we learn about faith and the confidence we need in our prayer life from George Muller as we move forward in embracing the Higher Christian Life.