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Our Attitude in Prayer

Categories Theology Systematic Theology

Praying according to God’s will often requires humility on our part, for it requires that we pray not simply for what we desire but instead for what God desires. Sometimes it is easy to know what God’s will is and, therefore, to pray in accordance with his will. For example, if we pray in line with a direct command or declaration of his will in Scripture, then we will be asking God to do what he desires to do and asking for things that please him. In fact, Jesus encourages us to have God’s very words within us as we pray: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).

There are, however, many situations where it isn’t abundantly clear what God’s will is. At these times, we should pray in line with the general principles of Scripture, asking God to work on our behalf and telling him the requests that seem best to us as far as we understand them. We should do so with a humble attitude, realizing that we are asking God to work only if it is in line with his will. Sometimes God will grant what we ask. At other times, he will deepen our understanding of the situation so that our hearts are moved to ask for something else. And at other times, he will seem to be silent. At those difficult times, we should be content to know that God’s will in this situation is even better than receiving what we have asked.

Even so, Jesus encourages us to pray in such a way that we believe we have already received (that is, God has already decided to give us) what we ask for (Mark 11:24). This kind of faith is not something we can create or force if we don’t really believe; it is a gift from God that he often gives in the midst of prayer. This “assurance of things hoped for” and “conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1) comes from a belief that God exists and “that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6).

In light of God’s work on our behalf, we should ask for things with a humble attitude, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). This means, in part, that we realize we will not always ask for things as we ought or in accordance with God’s will. And therefore, sometimes our prayers won’t be answered as we desire them to be answered.

When our prayers aren’t answered, we join the company of men like Jesus and Paul whose prayers were not answered. Even Jesus, before he was crucified, asked his Father to “remove this cup” from him. But his humility and submission to God’s will are evident in the second part of his prayer: “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

“Three times,” Paul “pleaded with the Lord” to take away his affliction; the Lord did not do so, but instead told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:8 – 9). These unanswered prayers did not deter either Jesus’ or Paul’s trust in a God who works “all things...together for good” (Rom. 8:28). God still promises us today, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Therefore, regardless of the situation, we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:6).

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