When we pray, how do we pray according to the will of God?
We must pray having the attitude of Jesus: “Not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). When we pray according to His will we can expect to receive with full confidence—that what He has declared in Scripture—He will do. We pray with complete assurance that we will obtain that which is promised:
“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” (1 John 5:14-15).
However, as we live daily in this fallen world we seldom know or understand God’s will as it relates to our lives. So we pray for Him to reveal His will to us, without the knowledge of what we ask. Because of our limited knowledge we pray in simple faith for Him to reveal His will as He promised:
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26, 27).
Our prayers must be rooted in the spiritual wisdom we can only gain from a life that has trusted in Christ alone as Lord and Savior—from a life centered in Christ. Think about one of the prayers the apostle Paul prayed in a letter to one of the churches:
“Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:15-21).
The place where our prayers must start is in how we live our lives for the Lord. Prayer without a life of godly reflection and a Christ-centered lifestyle would be somewhat empty. Yes, we would be speaking to God, but of what? If we are not living each day seeking His will, seeking His face, showing the mind of Christ and the love of Christ to those around us, what would our prayers consist of?
Either we are going deep into the Word of God through our reading and study of the Bible, either we are getting deep into modeling Christ in our lives by ministering to others, or our prayers are likely to skim along the surface of a relationship with God or go glancing off into nothing.
The prayers of our Lord resonated deep within Him and His Father because of Christ’s obedience to His Father’s will, because He and the Father are One. The more obedient we are in our relationship, the easier it becomes to pray and to know what to pray for. It often feels as if prayer cannot be taught but must be learned. Yes, you can study and read on prayer, both in the Bible and in many excellent books written in an explanatory or devotional manner.
In that sense, you can be taught. But the best way to learn to pray is to…pray. Time alone with God, searching your heart and speaking to Him, and Him alone, is probably the best teacher of prayer. We would not say practice makes perfect, for as in all things relating to God, we are only perfected in Christ Jesus and only when we are glorified in Him at His Second Coming.
But the practice of prayer, regularly and in a faithful and obedient manner, helps draw us closer to Christ, which in turn causes us to grow in Christ, and thus time spent before the Lord helps sanctify us to His Name and His will.
Over time, the Holy Spirit will continue to intercede for us, the groanings which cannot be uttered will be offered up on our behalf. But we will begin to pray ceaselessly ourselves (1 Thessalonians 5:16). By praying always, it is not meant that we neglect the duties and commitments of our everyday lives.
But the souls who have come into intimate and repeated contact with God should never again be out of conscious touch with God; our hearts always going out to Him. And when the mind is no longer engaged, it should return to God, as in the words of E.M. Bounds, “As naturally as a bird to its nest.”
Seek out the Lord and let Him lead you to prayer. Experience the joy of seeking out and learning His will for your life, by learning through your prayer life in Him. As you read the Word, pray for understanding. Pray for His Holy Spirit to teach you His will in the Word. Pray for His presence and leading continually in your life. Learn to be like a bird returning to the nest. Remember that in Matthew 6:26, Jesus spoke of how the Father feeds them.
Dr. Tuck Whitaker and Andy Coticchio