Let's sum up where I left off.
Prayer is a conversation with God, and conversation is a two-way communication. I want to ensure I am hearing God clearly before I act. Asking God for stuff is easy. People do it all the time. The key for me is to ask for the right things, in the right way.
Pastor will preach about prayer sometimes. He’ll get all fire-and-brimstone and preach how wrong it is for people to add “if it be Your Will” to their prayers, as if giving God an escape clause in case the prayer doesn’t get answered. You have to pray believing, he says, and don’t waver in that belief. Wavering is why the prayers don’t get answered.
I have a hard time with that. I almost always pray with the phrase “if it be Your Will.” Though I might not voice it, I certainly think it. I don’t pray that way because I doubt God’s ability to answer prayer. Far from it! If God didn’t have the ability to answer prayer, and infinite, unknowable, unfathomable abilities besides, then He wouldn’t be God of the Universe, and He is.
No, I add the phrase because I want to be in the center of God’s will, first and foremost. All the times in my life that I’ve tried to do my own will, direct my own life, forge my own destiny – these times have ended in disaster for me and for those around me. Life is a Hurricane, and we all know the center, the eye, of the Hurricane is peaceful. God is the Eye in the Center of Life, where we can always find peace and serenity – if we are dwelling in the Center of His will.
So I add the phrase to my prayers, just as Jesus added the phrase to His own prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Luke 22:42, King James Version (KJV).
See? Even Jesus did it. In many situations when I make fervent prayers and requests of God I wish that He would send an angel to strengthen me, as He did for Jesus. Many time he does.
The only time I don’t need to append “if it be your will” to the prayer is when I pray for wisdom, because I know that is God’s will. When I pray for something that I know is in the center of God’s will, the phrase is not needed.
As Father Cavanaugh said in the movie Rudy. “Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I'm not Him.” It probably took me that long also, but it wasn’t years of religious study. I wish it had been.
But what about…
People, especially Pastors, often quote from James 1:6-8:
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
It seems obvious that I must be a wavering man, tossed and double-minded, since I express the wish for God’s will in my prayers. Pastors and laymen alike toss this one at me (pun intended) whenever I try to explain my prayer life, which isn’t very often. I’ll grant that this verse seems to express the thought that whenever we pray for something we have to BELIEVE and it will HAPPEN. Sound suspiciously like NAME IT AND CLAIM IT to me, something I cannot abide in people’s thoughts and actions.
We must believe, but we must believe rightly. Take a closer look. There was more to the verse BEFORE that quote. Read the entire thing!
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
James is specifically talking about asking for wisdom! Of course you shouldn't doubt when you ask for wisdom! God’s perfect will for all His children is that we should have wisdom. From God’s perspective, it is even more important that we seek wisdom from Him, not from the world.
The Bible clearly states that wisdom is worth more than anything else you could possess, as evidenced in Proverbs 4:6-7. "Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding."
The entire second half of Proverbs 1 (20-33) is devoted to wisdom, specifically stating how desirable it is. God honored Solomon's request for wisdom because it pleased Him, because the request for wisdom was entirely in God's will.
“Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.”
My point is obscured, since I’m talking about prayer and God answering prayer. Asking God for something is certainly a reasonable and human thing to do. We have to remember that God isn’t ignorant of our needs, nor does He need to be reminded what we need or want.
So how can I properly pray for things I want? That's another tough question, and we'll deal with that in the next post.