"If It Be Your Will...When It's Right to Pray These Words and When It's Wrong."Aug 30, 2022
The Bible teaches us that God has plans for our lives, and that one of the privileges of our position in Christ is to release those plans through our prayers. Consider what Jesus said about the will of God,
He taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:10
Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work." John 4:34
"Father, if you are willing, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done." Luke 22:42
"Again for the 2nd time he went away and prayed, "Father, if this cannot pass until I drink it, Your will be done." Matthew 26:42
What does it mean to pray, "If It Be Your Will...?" To pray according to the will of God is to immerse your request in the sovereign knowledge, discernment and wisdom of God. It is to beseech God to respond to your prayer as He sees fit, even if that is far different than what you had hoped for or imagined.
When is it right to pray, "If it be Your Will...?"
The biblical basis of this phrase comes primarily from Jesus' prayer when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane preparing to face the cross. Understandably Jesus was under tremendous strain as He knew full well what He was about to do. The plan of salvation had been in place from the beginning of time. When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden Jesus was there with Him. He knew then that they would sin, that the wages of sin is death, and that He would pay those wages to redeem their offspring.
God foretold the coming of the cross in Genesis 3:15 when He said to Satan (in the form of a serpent),
“And I will put enmity (open hostility)
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed (offspring) and her [a]Seed;
He shall [fatally] bruise your head,
And you shall [only] bruise His heel.”
Some call Genesis 3:15 the 1st gospel--for way back in the beginning, God explained what was to come. While Satan would certainly inflict pain and suffering on Jesus (bruise His heal), Jesus would defeat him and destroy his power forever (crush his head).
So, what was Jesus hoping to accomplish in the Garden of Gethsemane by praying, "If it be Your will, take this cup from me?"
Perhaps He was hoping for a last minute change of plans.
Perhaps He was expressing His deep anguish in realizing the time had come.
Perhaps He was simply being honest as He poured His heart out to God in full transparency and desperate dependency.
Consider what He could've prayed, "Take this cup from me!" Jesus could've shaken His fist heavenward and declared, "You're asking far too much of me!"
PRAISE GOD HE DIDN'T DO THAT!
Instead, Jesus qualified His heart's deep and desperate desire with, "If it be Your will."
I love the Matthew 26:42 account, "Again for the 2nd time he went away and prayed, "Father, if this cannot pass until I drink it, Your will be done." Matthew 26:42
"Not my will, but Yours be done."
We pray right when we echo, not only the words of Jesus, but His heart. Let's consider what Jesus' heart was not doing:
Jesus' heart was not wrestling with believing in God's power to get Him out of this ordeal. His prayer was not one of desperate uncertainty barely holding on to diminishing hope as things went from bad to worse.
Jesus knew God was able!
He'd already proven that He believed God was able to do impossible things. For 3 years He'd demonstrated His faith in God by healing those who were sick, saving those who were lost, bringing peace to those in torment, multiplying resources, calming storms, and even returning dead people to life!
Jesus also knew God was willing.
Jesus was not wrestling with God's willingness to work on His behalf, or even in response to His prayers. He'd experienced the love of God on countless occasions--God had given Jesus a tangible expression of His love through the descent of a dove at his baptism. Many times Jesus went away by himself to spend time with His Father. We can only imagine what those devotional times might have been like as He received encouragement, direction, strengthening and deep inner peace from His Father.
Jesus knew God was both willing and able. That is why He took full advantage of the opportunity that was available to Him to enter the throne room of God boldly and present His request there.
In a way, Jesus was showing us what we could do when faced with similar situations. Because He was headed to the cross to take on Himself the full retribution of sin, He knew, even then, that His sacrifice would pave the way for us to do what He was doing.
Thank God for Jesus' desperate request! Now we know, that when the odds are stacked against us...when we can't hardly crawl another step...when we don't know how we're going to make it one more day...we too can cry out like Jesus and beg for God to make it stop!
"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 11:6
It's always right to pray, "If it by Your will" when we are praying it as an expression of complete surrender to whatever pain we're enduring because we are invested completely in God's higher thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).
When it's wrong to pray, "If it Be Your Will..."
Now let's talk about what the devil has done to diminish our prayers and profane God's Name by enticing us to misconstrue the use of this powerful prayer.
When we pray, "It it be Your will..." as an act of complete trust and utter surrender we are praying with power. But when we pray, "it it be Your will..." as a safety net, or 'out' just in case God doesn't come through on our behalf, we've desecrated the phrase completely.
In his book, The Promising God, Richard Bucher says this, "If all the reasons for doubting were ranked, I have 'no doubt' that number one on the list would be doubting because of God's will."
Most of us grow in our prayer lives to understand God in this progression of faith...
1. God is able to do anything!
2. God wants me to exercise faith.
3. Faith is being certain that God hears me when I pray.
But this is where we get stuck. From this point forward we create our understanding of how prayer works like this,
4. God loves me very much and wants what is best for me.
5. I can pray, and ask God to give me what I want but only God knows if that's what's best for me, so the best I can do is hope He will respond in a way that is good, and that I can trust His answer even if it isn't what I really want.
In other words, "I will pray for that mountain to be moved and if it be God's will He will move it. If not, well, at least I feel better about dealing with it because now I can accept that it's a mountain God wants me to face."
6. Thank God for prayer because I find great comfort in sharing my concerns with Him.
While all of these steps lead to surrender, they also lead away from expecting God to do anything more than nothing! See how much not-faith can be wrapped up in faith?! We acquiesce to prayer being no more than a spiritual sedative for our difficult lives!
I don't know about you, but I want to thank God for prayer BECAUSE HE HEARS AND ANSWERS US WHEN WE PRAY! Not because He makes living in this shadowland of unanswered prayer a bit more bearable.
Bucher suggests that we often use the phrase "if it be Your will" as a glorified way of saying, "I don't have a clue whether or not you're going to answer this prayer." Here's how he said this,
"If it be Your will" sounds good, but it "is just an expression of abject doubt clothed in pious-sounding language. It is nothing more than saying 'I have no idea whether what I've asked is actually going to be given or happen,' which is nothing more than doubt. Doubt wrapped up in false humility. False humility that says, 'Oh God, how can I, an infinitesimally tiny creature, a wretched little sinner, possibly know whether what I'm asking is Your will?"
He goes on to say that "the notion that Christians can't ever know whether something they ask God is his will or not is not a biblical teaching."
Take a look at I John 5:14. Bucher's point is that anytime we tack the phrase, "if it be Your will" on a prayer as a "get out of answered prayer" free card, we are doubting.
Of course God sometimes says "no" to us. Sometimes we don't pray according to God's will, and if we hang with Him along the way, He might show us where we've got it all wrong. There are certainly times when terrible no-good, very bad things happen in spite of our sincere prayers. When this happens we are left with the hard task of working out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12-13) We can talk about that on another day.
But for now, know this...
God will do what He purposes in His heart to-do, when you pray believing.
God will answer your prayer according to His promises. If God's given you a promise, consider His Word a precious treasure and use it with confidence as you plead your case boldly before His throne of grace. Afterall, Jesus embraced the cross (after He begged God to remove it) so that you could do just this!
Sincerely surrender your understanding, your preference, and your will to His (over and over again, as often as you need to) with the words of Jesus, "not my will, but Thine be done."
And wait in confident hope that God will indeed fulfill His promise to you. Sure, He will comfort you along the way, but there's nothing better than a miracle from heaven to really settle your soul, and that, my friend, is what God's eager to do for you!
If you enjoyed this article and would like to hear me teach it, check out the Prayer Clinic podcast.
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