Have you ever wanted something so badly that you prayed for it, day-in and day-out; couldn't stop thinking about it or talking about it? Then, you had a thought: "What if this is not what God wants me to have?" You want to live in God's presence and His grace, but you know that means staying in His will. You start to grapple with the fact that if God does not will this thing you so desperately want, then you might not get it... and that could be devastating for you! Still, you wonder "how do I pray 'thy will be done' and really mean it, when the personal stakes are so high?" We have all been here. Let's just be honest, the heart wants what it wants... and a lot of times, we have pretty good reasons for wanting the things we do! That's why confidently praying for God's will can be so difficult! Will God come through? Can God come through?
The first thing we must understand and really lean into, is that Jesus can ALWAYS get the job done (even when others can't). There is a story in Matthew 17:14-20 that goes like this (this is the NLT version):
At the foot of the mountain, a large crowd was waiting for them. A man came and knelt before Jesus and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.”
Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well. Afterward the disciples asked Jesus privately, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?”
“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”
I love this story from the father's perspective, which I don't think gets enough discussion. When the father comes to Jesus, he has not accepted that this job couldn’t be done. Not at all! In fact he essentially says, “these other guys couldn’t get the job done, but Jesus can." He does what we often do: he goes to the manager, and he is persistent which is what we all should be. The father's point of view really shows us that we should know God is capable of anything and even if we need something or want something desperately and no one else can help us get it done, we can go directly to God and petition to Him. It isn’t like back in the Old Testament days when they went to the High Priests who gave sacrifices and petitioned on their behalf, we have a direct line because of Jesus. This is the exact foundational knowledge that we need to have first when we are building a trust in God's will as we pray for the things we most desire and need. So the question now is, how do we cultivate the balance between praying for anything while also desiring God's will?
We want to start by really working toward the true understanding and head-knowledge that we can pray to God for anything. Matthew 21:22 says, "You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it." God cares about all things, big and small and there is no right or wrong formula to pray so we really want to go to God day in and day out just as we would a friend. Something I want you to really understand is that God is safe, He hears, and He cares which is so important to trust because in this world, we don't encounter many people that truly care about us enough to want us to have all that we desire, if it is good for us to have.
In understanding that we can go to God for anything, there is a process which occurs. This process revolves around our trust in Him. If He has that, He can then lead us into what He thinks and desires for us. God knows all, but because He is so good, He allows us in on the conversation. That's part of the deal. He wants us to trust Him, but in that, not sacrifice our own thoughts and desires; so, He communicates. Then we communicate. Back and forth we go, and as we do we learn; and as we learn we start to understand; and as we start to understand, our knowledge and wisdom brings us closer and closer to God's knowledge and wisdom. Then, amazingly, we start to desire the things He desires for us! We start to think the way He thinks and we come into alignment with His will. This is because faith is not a tool to move God in a desired way.
There's a popular fairytale idea of faith which tells us that we can have so much faith, we can get anything you desire, regardless of what that is. It’s fun to think like that, but we don’t want to get the wrong idea and start to believe that God is somehow a wish granting machine. If we think this, we start to make God a force that we control and put ourselves essentially above God in that we pull all the strings and have say as if we ourselves are the creators, not Him. I don't want to discourage the idea that we control our destinies to an extent, because we absolutely do! We are so blessed with free will to shape our lives. In faith, however, we are really working on opening up to becoming more in like with God's will and this brings us into harmony with God. So although we get to choose many of the things we desire, we want to trust that the things He desires for us are good and right and He will not hold back good things from us; if they are right for that time and right for our lives.
It's important to remember that not all prayers will be answered, because God’s will isn’t necessarily what we want all the time (again, that is because He has more wisdom about how those things can and will affect us than we do). It can be, and it’s really cool when it is; but when God wants something different (and always better) for us it can make us feel at times that He has just said "no." I don’t want to discourage you from praying, but just to understand that God wants us to have the best and He is all knowing so He knows whether or not that thing is right for us at a specific time or even at all. This is why a clear understanding of why we are praying for something is really important. You might be, let's say, praying for a new ca. You really want that new car, but why do you want it? Do you want it because it will make you seem more desirable? Or do you want it because it will help you excel in your job; will help you do God's work on a larger scale; will it help you to be more accessible and helpful to your family? Perspective and understanding why we are desiring something is always really important first. Let me also clarify, you can have things just because you want them, that's okay too, but if it is something that you will not be able to financially, mentally, physically, or emotionally handle, it is probably not something God will intend for you at such time... and that's okay! It does not mean that you are never going to get that thing or that you have prayed wrong in anyway; it might simply mean you might not be ready for it yet.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to not go to the cross. He knew it would be painful, exhausting, and really was not something anyone should have to bear. But, when He prayed, he said "if this cup cannot be taken from me, Your will be done." (Matthew 26:39 and 42) Jesus shows us here that we all have things we will desire and we can take them to God, always. The most important thing to remember is that God is good and God loves you and He will never hold back from you what is best in any situation. So pray confidently, and trust the Lord to make it happen!I promise, you won't lose a thing that was meant for you!
Are you looking for a good reading plan and just don't know where to start? Join me in reading all about the Bible's teachings on Thanksgiving throughout the whole month of November! Check out our November reading plan below and don't forget to stop by our Instagram Live (@whitneygibbsministries) each evening to discuss the day's readings!