Now we began a new series on the subject of prayer a few weeks back which I have entitled— “The Power and Protocol of Prayer.” And the reason I titled this series this is because while there is indeed power in prayer, the power that is contained in it is found in God’s protocol for prayer. In other words, it is not just any, old kind of prayer that gets results; it’s the kind of prayer that God lays out to us in His Word that holds great power.
So, this prayer protocol is a big part of what we are learning in this series. In short, we are learning how prayer works and we are learning how to see the answers we desire when we pray.
We started out this series by answering the question— What is prayer? Then, in part two, we essentially explained what prayer is not through a message entitled “When we pray.” These first two messages explained a lot of the nuts and bolts of prayer that, if you missed it, I would encourage you to go back and listen to those messages.
But last time, we looked at Jesus’ model prayer—known by most as the Lord’s Prayer—which answers the disciple’s question, how do we pray?
So, we learned that there is something to be said for how we organize and compartmentalize the things we pray to God. And that’s what we camped on last time.
So, let me quickly recap Jesus’ model of prayer …
Church, this is the protocol of prayer. It is the way of approaching the Father and the way of sealing the deal. In short, it is the way to pray. Amen.
ACCORDING TO HIS WILL
But again, as we learned through this model prayer, when we pray, our request needs to be for His kingdom, not our own. Our petitions need to be for His will to be done, not our own.
So, I want us to talk further today about praying the will of God because I believe praying God’s will is such an important part of our prayer lives that can either guarantee good results or disqualify our prayers. Therefore, we do not need to allow our prayers to revolve around our will, but to be according to His will. This is probably the most important thing I have ever learned about prayer—the importance of praying the will of God when I pray.
You see, a lot of people have no clue what God’s will is when they pray. They are basically praying what they desire, but give no consideration to what God desires when they pray. Many times, this is because they do not believe they can even know God’s will (we will cover this in minute). But other times, it’s simply because people only ask for things that their flesh wants and that might not exactly be what the Lord wants us seeking first. We know what He wants us seeking first—and it’s the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Let’s go over to First John 5:14-15 and see what the apostle John taught us about praying the will of God. He said, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, 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 the petitions, that we have asked of Him.”
Notice that the first thing we see him say is that this is the confidence that we have in Him: Did you know that this is the spirit of how our prayers are to be prayed—in confidence?
This word “confidence” denotes assurance, certainty, and boldness. This is a far cry from us never knowing what God is going to do or wallowing around in condemnation when we approach God.
So, as we enter into knowing God’s will when we pray, know this— God’s will is that we approach Him boldly and confidently, not sheepishly or unworthily.
Now the reason we can have this boldness and confidence is because we are “in Christ.” That’s why the apostle John said that this is the confidence we have “in Him.” We are not confident in ourselves; we are confident in who He is in us! Amen! When we are in Christ, we are standing in all that He is—His righteousness, His holiness, and His complete perfection! If we gained a revelation of this, then we would not sheepishly approach God with our petitions. We would enter into His throne room boldly and with absolute confidence.
I know there are times where everything within us feels completely unworthy to approach God boldly and confidently because of the bad things we’ve done or because of the good things we should have done, but this is when we must depend on Scriptures like this that say it is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God that I come boldly before His throne of grace to obtain the mercy and grace that I have need of. My heart might be condemning the mess out of me, but I am walking by faith and not by how I feel. This is God’s will for all of us when we pray. Amen?
Then notice how John said that “if we ask anything.” This is obviously something he picked up from His Rabbi, the Lord Jesus. Time and time again, we see Jesus saying that we have permission to ask whatever we desire, anything, etc. and He put no qualifications on those things we are asking for. This is just amazing to me that we can ask anything and still have this kind of confidence when we pray.
However, many believers have taken these verses to mean that whatever carnal, selfish desire we ask for we will receive when we ask. But the qualification is given to us in this phrase— “according to His will.” So, no, this is not just asking for whatever we want. As James said, we can ask and not receive if we ask amiss that we may spend it on our own pleasures (See James 4:3). How many of you know that is not asking “according to His will”? Sure, the Lord doesn’t mind us having things and enjoying them. But when we are more concerned about our own wants and desires than the needs of others, we are out of the will of God. It doesn’t mean we will never receive from Him if this is the case, but it does mean we cannot have the same confidence we had if we were praying according to the will of God.
So, John goes on to say that if we ask anything according to the will of God “He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions, that we have asked of Him.” This statement indicates that if we can make sure God hears us when we pray, we know that have the answers of our petitions that we’ve asked of Him. That’s awesome!
But how can we make sure our petitions are heard by God? When we ask according to His will. So, in other words, if we ask according to His desires, what He wishes, and what pleases Him, then we can be assured of the fact that He heard us, and once we know He heard us, we know we have the things we petitioned Him for. In other words, it’s a done “deal” when we pray according to His “weal”!
Now some take this praying according to His will as what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, “Nevertheless, not what I will but your will be done.”
And while in some cases, it is important for us to include this in our prayers, God doesn’t want us to use that as an excuse for ignorance. No, the Word of God is clear that God’s will is that we know His will.
In Colossians 1:9, when the apostle Paul began praying for this body of believers, he asked God that they would be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” That is why the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 5:17— “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” So, it is clear that God’s will is for us to not just know His will, but to be filled with the knowledge and understanding of it. Amen?
I know there is a large group of Christians out there who believe otherwise, citing things like, “who can know the mind of God. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.” But what the New Testament teaches us is that all of those things that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has even entered into the heart of man, have been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit (See First Corinthians 2:9-10). Jesus said to His disciples that it was for them to know the mysteries of God. He went on to say that those who keep His commandments are His friends and He will make known to us what He is doing (John 15:14-15). I am reminded now of how the Lord did this with Abraham: After He came to visit Abraham and was about to go to Sodom, He said amongst Himself— “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing …” (Genesis 18:17).
You see, saints, we have a similar covenant with God that Abraham had! We are His disciples and friends today! Therefore, ought we not know the will of God? I believe God wants us to know His will and also pray His will.
So again, this does not mean that we need to tack on this phrase to all of our prayers. There are many things that we can absolutely know what God’s will is when we pray such as, we know it is God’s will to save everyone. He makes this crystal clear in His Word—that He desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Yes, He is not willing that anyone should perish but that all come to repentance.
So, we definitely are not to pray for the Lord to save someone and then say, “But not my will, Lord. Your will be done.” His Word makes it clear that it is His will to save that person.
But let me take this opportunity to make the point that it is also not best to pray that God save a person. For example, when we bring someone before the Lord in prayer, we don’t need to say to the Father— “God, please save them. I’m asking you to save them.” To pray that way implies God isn’t willing to save them and we are trying to get God to do what we will for Him to do.
No, a better way to pray for them is like so— “Father, I know it is your will to save them. You said in Your Word that you are not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance and come to the knowledge of the truth. But I know that they have a will too, and You in your graciousness, have given all men a free will to either choose or reject You. So, what I’m asking is that You open their eyes to see the truth. Lord, grant them light that they be not deceived any longer. Remove that veil from them that they can see the light of the glorious gospel and send those laborers across their path that will share that gospel to them …”
So, let’s now move into some questions: What is the will of God, and how can we know it? Because it seems that we need to discover what God’s will is so that we can get these kinds of results when we pray. Amen?
WHAT IS GOD’S WILL?
Now when we talk about God’s will, what this is specifically referring to is His desires, wishes, and what pleases Him.
So, what are God’s desires? What does He wish? And what is pleasing to Him? Well, there are obviously the things that the Holy Spirit leads us to do and the specific guidance that we get from Him. Those are obviously important things that are “according to His will.” But if we want to be more general about it, God’s Word is His will. Amen. That means we can find in the Bible everything we need to know about what God desires, what pleases Him, and what His wishes are. Yes, His Word reveals to us His general will for all people. And we need not forget that the Holy Spirit is not going to lead us do things contrary to the Word of God either.
Now we could spend weeks and even months talking about everything that His Word reveals to us is His will, but I believe John 15:7 puts it in a nutshell perfectly:
In this verse, Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
Notice that the first qualification for having the things we desire being done for us is that we abide in Jesus. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not referring to being in Christ or in Him like the apostle Paul refers to. This is remaining, staying, living and dwelling in Christ that the disciples were being exhorted to do. I see it as Jesus exhorting His disciples that even though He would be leaving them, for them not to leave Him. In other words, learn to keep their awareness of His presence in their lives even though He would not be physically present any longer. So, this shows that first having an abiding personal relationship with Jesus is important to having the rest of this verse working for us.
So, first of all, we can see that His will is that you and I enter into a vibrant, intimate, and personal relationship with the Godhead. That we love Him in this respect, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This has been His will from the beginning, and Jesus came to restore this fellowship between us and God. And along these lines, the Scriptures also teach us that His will is also that you and I love one another as He has loved us. That we esteem others better than ourselves. That we love mercy, show compassion, and lay down our lives that we might bless others. So, as Paul said to Timothy in First Timothy 1:5—the entire purpose of the commandment is love. On it, hangs all the law and the prophets. Amen?
To me, this parallels the truth we see in Psalm 37:4 when we are told that if we delight ourselves in the Lord that He will give us the desires of our heart. This verse is saying essentially the same thing at John 15:7—that if we make the Lord the object of our desires, we will “abide” in Him. And as Psalm 37:4 is teaching us, when we delight ourselves in Him, then our desires will be in line with His desires. This is when the desires of our heart will be according to His will.
But as John 15:7 also says, there is another way to pray according to God’s will, and that is when His word abides in us. You see, spending time in the Word of God is a major key to praying according to His will and, as a result, is a major key to receiving the answers to our prayers. And why? Again, it is because the Word of God is the will of God!
I remember one time when I was working at a Christian bookstore early in my Christian walk and a lady came in that asked, “Do you have any books on the will of God?” And immediately I responded, “Yeah, we have a whole wall of them over there!” as I pointed at the Bible section. I was not trying to be a smart aleck, it just kind of came out without me even thinking. But I believe what I said was the truth! You see, so many Christians would rather read a book on the will of God than The Book of the will of God! They would rather have someone else tell them what God’s will is than spending time in the Word of God which is the will of God.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that every scripture is God’s perfect will. If that were the case, then we might read one verse that says, “And Judas went and hung himself” and then combine it together with another verse that says, “Go and do likewise,” and conclude that it is God’s will that we go hang ourselves. No, obviously not everything we read in the Bible shows us God’s perfect will, but when we rightly divide the truth, we can see what God’s perfect will is for all people for all time. Therefore, God’s Word is the road map to understanding the will of God!
HOW TO PRAY GOD’S WILL
So, we take the truths from God’s Word as being His will, and we pray according to His will. But what does this look like? Practically, how do we do this? I’ll tell you how I do it—I pray God’s Word! Yes, my prayers are laced with “It is written, It is written, It is written.”
So say, I have a friend who has a financial need in their life. If this person is a believer, then I might pray like so— “Father, I bring so and so’s financial need before you. You are Jehovah Jireh—the Lord our Provider, and You have promised to meet our financial needs and, therefore, have instructed us to not worry or give any thought. So, as the apostle Paul declared, I say today, that my God will supply all of so and so’s need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. It is written, and God is able to make all grace abound toward them, that they, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed they have sown and increase the fruits of their righteousness. Amen.”
Now, of course, when we pray this for our friend, we need to also be very open to being the vessel that the Lord would use to help meet that need. We have a lot of Scriptural precedence for this—that it’s not just us saying “I’ll pray for you” without considering that we might be the one to help them.
This is a good example when it comes to praying for someone with a physical need in their body: While there certainly are times where we are to pray to God for someone to be healed from a distance, there are also a lot more Scriptural examples of us being the person to heal them and not just asking God to do it. Jesus said that the works He did, we will do and even greater works than this because He has gone to the Father. He goes on to say that those that believe will lay hands on the sick and see them recover. There are actually not too many examples of us praying for God to heal someone. We are told to heal them in His name.
So, I just say this to say that sometimes we are praying for things that God didn’t tell us to pray about. Rather, He told us to do something about it ourselves. Like I said, there are times where we certainly can and should pray about these things, but my point is that we need to let the Word of God reveal to us how we pray according to God’s will. Amen?
But when it comes to simply praying the will of God, I like to pray what the Word says because I believe that the Lord loves to hear His Word quoted back to Him. He said, “Put Me in remembrance …” (Isaiah 43:26). He also said that He hastens over His Word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12). This means that He stays ready to perform His Word. Not only that, but Psalm 103:20 says that His angels do His word, heeding the voice of His Word. So, when you and I pray and declare God’s Word, God is ready to perform it and so are His angels.
Man, how important it is that we give them something to work with through our prayer life!?! I just envision many of the Lord’s angels lounging around believers, just wishing that they would start praying God’s will so that they could get busy on their behalf. But these believers are praying their own will, many times griping, murmuring, and complaining while doing it.
RECEIVING THE WILL OF GOD
And again, the glorious promise is that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. Notice that John didn’t say that God answers our prayers when we pray according to His will; he just says that God hears us. Why is this so significant? It is because it shows us that the real determining factor to us getting answers to our prayers is if God is hearing those prayers or not. In other words, it is not a matter of if God says yes or no to our petitions. No, according to this verse, He does not reject one request and then answer the other. God is so good that He answers all the prayers that He hears! The key is if He is hearing our prayers or not! If He hears them, He will answer them!
In fact, the apostle John did not say He will answer them; he said that “we have the petitions.” This means that we ought to know that we have (presently, right now!) the petitions we made to Him. This does not necessarily mean that we will see, hear, or feel them. It just means that those petitions are presently ours in the mind of God, and we are to receive them by faith in order to possess them in this physical realm.
This is where the truths that Jesus taught us in Mark 11:24 come into play: In this verse, Jesus told us— “Therefore, I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
In this verse, we can assume that Jesus was referring to us praying according to the will of God when we compare Scriptures with Scriptures. So, according to Jesus, when we pray God’s will and believe we receive when we pray, we will have the things we’ve asked.
Now there are some parts to this that I have seen so many believers fail to understand: Again, Jesus said that whatever things you ask (or, desire) when you pray “believe you receive them.” So, when are we to believe we receive them? When we see the answers to our prayers? When we get the manifestation of the thing we’ve asked Him for? No, according to Jesus, we believe we receive when we pray. That means that we believe we’ve got it during the time we’ve asked for it. How few people actually do this!?! And Jesus promises us that when we believe we receive the things we’ve prayed for we “will have them.” That doesn’t mean that it will happen right away every time, but it does mean that we can be confident that we will have it at some point. This is the prayer of faith! Amen!
Church, this is where we have confidence when we pray—when we know we are praying according to His will. And this confidence can roll over into receiving our petitions because we know we’ve prayed according to God’s wishes.
This is how to pray, saints—the way God desires for us too! Amen!
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