Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4.
I return to this passage of Scripture time and again to remind myself of God’s will. I know I’ve used this in a devotional before but it struck me this morning that most of our problems with God’s answers to prayer stem from a misunderstanding of His will.
So, what prayers will God answer?
This is the confidence that we have 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. 1 John 5:14, 15.
Okay, that’s confusing. It sounds like I can “name and claim it,” but is this what it’s saying?
Look at our verse from Psalms. The first word is “delight” which means we enjoy God, take great pleasure in Him.
So what does that mean?
Who is God? What does He want? What does He like?
Before we can conclude what God’s will is, we have to know Who He is and what He wants. In other words, asking God to give me the lottery might not be within His desires for my life.
But I thought God wanted to give me good things. Look at Job, God made him rich after he lost everything. Look at the prayer of Jabez.
These are true. But the parameters of service have changed, for Jesus told us through a parable, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:21. The warning couldn’t be more clear: Worldly wealth is not the issue for God, since He owns all things. It isn’t His first priority for us either. What did Jesus tell the rich young ruler to do before the dude could follow Him? (Luke 18:22.)
If we delight ourselves in the Lord, which means take great pleasure, be charmed by Him, He will give us the desires of our heart. What is the desires of our heart if God is our greatest delight?
Again, if we ask anything according to His will, we know we have what we have asked of Him.
Hmmm…sounds like we must get to know His will before we can be certain of our prayers. Well, then, where do we start?
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1, 2.
Ah ha! I knew there was a catch! Before I can actually pray in confidence of an answer from God, I have to change the way I think. He’s asking me to reject the pattern of this world for His pattern of thought and action. Whew! what is the pattern of the world?
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:16-18.
Okay, so now we know that the two natures in us war against each other, but what has that got to do with prayer?
We have to know the Word very well to know God. Look at the stories in the Bible and we see God letting His servants suffer horrendous loss, pain, sadness and doubt. Elijah felt alone and afraid–partly due to exhaustion and partly because he was immersed in a pity party for himself–Job complained to God about not being justly treated, David, Moses, the prophets and a host of others saw their worlds crumble around them though they served the Almighty. Jesus promised certain things to His disciples if they followed Him, yet I know a movement in the church today that denies His words were for us. In other words, we pervert the Word of God for the sake of our temporary comfort. Jesus promised rejection, pain, loss, persecution and in some cases martyrdom for those who follow Him, but there are those who quote Paul’s statement of God’s promise to negate our having to go through such things.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9.
While I certainly don’t object to this Scripture nor doubt its validity, I also take it into context with the whole of Paul’s teaching on spiritual truth. He never tells us we will become wealthy or even well off. To the contrary, several places in his letters he warns against seeking wealth. He never condemns it, never tells us it is a sin to be rich in possessions, rather he warns of covetousness and greed. If we are to be transformed from worldly thinking to heavenly attitudes, then our change must come in the way we view wealth, possessions and comfortable living.
Jesus promised in John 15-17 that those who followed Him would suffer as He did. He specifically warned us, “If they treat the Master of the house this way, how will they treat His servants?” Paul tells the Galatians not to seek wealth or riches for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
Okay, now we know what we cannot pray for, what do we pray about then?
Provision so that we might serve our Master, love His people and reach out to a world blinded by selfish ambition, dissension, factions, sexual immorality, hate, cruelty, and the list could go on. Our new heart conforms to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We know Jesus’ mission was to seek and save that which was lost; His great commission was that we go into all the world and preach the gospel and make disciples. We also know that He would rather we live quiet lives, mind our own business and work with our hands. Our witness is to be one of contrast in both lifestyle and attitude, not just religious affiliation. God isn’t interested in Christian suburbs or Christian manicured businesses with a fish emblem on them. His desire for our lives is that we live in the world without being part of its darkness.
Where is a candle the most effective in a lighted room or a dark corner?
Just by dent of the light of Jesus living in us we will witness. Our testimony doesn’t have to be with eloquent words or hell-fire sermons if we live out the light constantly and allow Him to shine from our hearts openly. This is God’s desire for His people. If this is His will for us, then how should we pray?
“Our heavenly Daddy, You are set apart as sacred and special to us. Bring Your kingdom, Your will on earth just like it happens in heaven. Please provide our daily bread both spiritually and physically so we can be strong to serve You, and forgive us of our great debt toward You as we forgive those with smaller debts toward us, for we know without the latter, we cannot expect the former. Lead us away from situations where we might be tempted to fall and deliver us from the enemy of our souls.”
Jesus gave us the model in Himself as to what our daily existence was to be, then showed us what kind of prayer the Father hears. God longs to trust us with good things, good gifts, wealth beyond our imagination to think of, but He must be able to trust us with the little we have–that we won’t be selfish, greedy or idolatrous–before He will trust us with much. His desire for the church is that it be one, unified in Him and for us to love each other as a witness to the world of His miraculous power over the heart. He desires that we have peace of mind through Him, a unity with God and other believers that transcends understanding.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11.