Praying God’s Will
3 Simple Insights on How to Do It
By Jonathan Graf
We know from the Scriptures, that to receive an answer to prayer we are supposed to be praying God’s will. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 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 what we asked of him” (emphasis added). (1 John 5:14-15). This passage is one of the most wonderful promises in the Bible. Yet it comes with a very important catch—what we ask according to His will will be answered.
While a short article might not do justice to the subject, here are some insights I can offer on how to make sure you are praying “according to God’s will” in a given situation.
Lee Brase, former prayer director of The Navigators, has years of insight into prayer. Frequently, says Lee, our prayers are “preprayer,” especially in group settings. When we pray alone, it is not uncommon to talk very honestly with God about a subject. (For me, phrases such as “Lord, I don’t know what to pray in this situation,” fall from my lips more when I am alone than when I pray in groups.) But when we participate in group prayer, we usually do one of two things. We either pray the obvious—exactly what the requester wants us to pray for (healing, a job, whatever). Or we corporately make sure all the bases are covered.
In the case of an illness, someone prays for healing, another prays for strength to endure the illness (just in case God doesn’t heal), another prays that God would receive glory in the situation. “Often we believe that our list of possibilities gives God a safety net,” says my assistant, Sandie. “If He doesn’t accomplish something one way, we give our permission for Him to do it in another way that makes sense to us.”1 The hope is that God’s will in the situation is covered, and an answer will come.
Our prayers do not have to be like that. I firmly believe that in any situation God will reveal His will so we can focus on praying it, or there are things we know are His will that we can pray. So how do we pray His will?
Get right with God. The first step to discerning God’s will in prayer is to make sure your heart is pure before Him. Has anything come between you and God to block the line of communication? (See “Removing Hindrances to Prayer.”) God will not reveal His will and purposes to people who are not living godly lives.
Ask the Holy Spirit. The next step in seeking God’s will is simple: ask. If, as the Lord’s Prayer states, we are to pray: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” (Matthew 6:10), then wouldn’t it stand to reason that He should often reveal what it is so we can pray it?
I believe that in many cases the Holy Spirit will reveal how we should pray. But this likely could take some time. In a fast-paced society that demands “fast everything,” waiting to discern God’s will is difficult. Too often we pray the first thing that pops into our head for a situation—and that’s wrong. We need to seek God for what He wants to do in that situation. As you seek, begin to take note of what you become burdened to pray about. And don’t worry if it seems a little unusual. Remember, even if you aren’t right on target, the Holy Spirit is interceding on your behalf.
Read His Word. Spend extra time in Scripture as you pray. Look for a verse to claim, or pay attention to a passage that God seems to want you to meditate on. Listen for His voice. Start praying Scriptures over the situation. Look for verses that seem to pop out at you. Remember, the truth of Scripture is God’s will. You can never go wrong praying scriptural truth over a situation.
George Mueller, a famous nineteenth-century Christian who ran orphanages in England, was well known for his faith in God to provide. Story after story is told of times when an orphanage was out of food, Mueller prayed, and the next morning food would be on the doorstep. Mueller was a mighty man of prayer. He had a six-step plan for seeking God’s will.
- I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to the given matter.
- Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If I do so, I make myself liable to great delusions.
- I seek the will of the Spirit through, or in connection with, the Word of God.
- Next, I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God’s will in connection with His Word and Spirit.
- I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me aright.
- 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.2
“True prayer,” said J. Oswald Sanders, “is not asking God for what we want but for what He wants. . . . Prayer is not a convenient method of getting one’s own way or of bending God to one’s desires. Prayer is the means by which our desires can be redirected and aligned with the will of God.”3 That’s what happened with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His arrest. While He struggled, His heart came into alignment with God’s will. As you grow in your ability to pray God’s will, that same sense of relinquishment—giving up your will and desires—will become easier.
1. Sandie Higley, “As It Is in Heaven,” Pray! 11, March/April 1999, p. 25.
2. Dick Eastman, “George Mueller’s Six-Step Plan for Seeking God’s Will,” Pray! 13, July/August 1999, p.17.
3. J. Oswald Sanders, Prayer Power Unlimited (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1977), p. 52.
–Jonathan Graf. Taken from “Prayer and God’s Will” in The Power of Personal Prayer by Jonathan Graf. Use code love2pray at checkout at prayershop.org to take an additional $2.00 off this book.
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