Your Will Be Done!
“Just pray that God’s will be done,” someone once advised me as I was struggling over how to voice my prayers to God over a pressing issue. Though I had read through the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-15) many times and had memorized it as a child, the thought struck me afresh that day. It was a wonderful relief to put away all of my concerns, hang them under the banner of this familiar prayer, and move on to something less stressful.
But as I traveled through the weeks ahead, I sensed a build up of frustration over uncommunicated thoughts and ideas. I went before the Lord, brought up this issue and without much thought just said, “And may Your will be done,” like it was of no real concern to me. The problem was that internally I had my own idea of how I hoped things would turn out. I also had an equal set of fears over what might happen if God didn’t answer like I thought He should. Instead of dealing with these nagging concerns, I determined that God was calling me to be more spiritual about my struggles, quit talking about them, and move on.
I began to wonder: Why does God even want us to ask Him for specific needs and desires? Since He already knows everything, He certainly doesn’t need us to inform Him. And if His will is going to prevail anyway, what is the point of stretching my brain over prayers that may indeed run contrary to what He has determined? As I wrestled with these questions, God began to show me that He delights in His children talking with Him, asking questions, and even missing the mark in their prayers, if it means they are seeking His face in the process.
I also began to see a pattern in Scripture - that God often waits until we ask Him for specific needs before He answers. Remember the Canaanite woman who asked for healing for her demonized daughter? Jesus tested her rather doggedly to see if she would boldly persist in looking to Him for help. In fact, most of Jesus’ healings were in response to specific requests. Of course, He didn’t need them to ask in order to heal them; He already knew their heart’s cry. He allowed them to ask, even plead, so that in their desperation they would recognize Him as the source of not only physical healing but of true salvation.
The same is true for us. If our prayer only consists of the plea - Your will be done - we are not sharing the deepest dreams and longings of our hearts. Certainly it is good and right to desire God’s will to be done, but God is interested in the condition of our hearts. If deep inside we feel resentful, fearful, or angry about how He might handle our situation and we try to hide that by reciting a generic prayer, He is certainly not pleased. He doesn’t need our sacrifices; He wants our hearts. If the very Son of God felt the pull of His own heart from the path of suffering, though sanctioned by his own Father, how much more will we struggle? It is sin to pretend that we don’t have conflicting desires and to appear resolute before others to accept whatever God ordains in life, if we haven’t first wrestled in prayer and yielded our hearts to Him.
Wrestling in prayer with God is not just normal, it’s essential to having a healthy relationship with Him. This is the kind of prayer where we put aside all pretensions and pour our hearts out like water before Him, holding nothing back. It’s the gut-wrenching, emotion-gripping prayer that enables us to come to a place of release before God so that we can, with a yielded, trusting heart cry, “Your will be done.”
David prayed this way in the Psalms when he was worn down from being pursued by his enemies and needed God’s help desperately. Abraham pleaded with God on behalf of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and especially for his nephew, Lot. Job poured out his heart to God when his life was torn apart and God seemed to have disappeared. Hannah went into the temple to plead for an open womb and was so overcome with emotion the priest mistook her for a drunken fool. Elijah held nothing back when he communicated with God his despair over Jezebel’s pursuit of him. Jonah didn’t try to gloss over the ugliness of his heart condition when fully admitting to God in prayer that he simply didn’t like the Ninevites and was angry that God intended to save them. Jehosaphat went unreservedly before God when told of the advancing armies coming to destroy Israel. He pleaded with God for deliverance, reminding Him of their obedience to Him in the past, and of God’s promise to take care of them.
We see each of these men and women (not super saints, just regular people like you and me) responding to the trials and crises of life with passionate, heart-rending prayer. They loved God and were called by Him in service. It was precisely because of this love that they were able to pour their hearts out to the Father.
The prayer “Your will be done” is certainly the right prayer to offer up to God. It’s just not complete without the giving of the heart. As we share our deepest desires and fears, God’s Word serves as a lamp post to illumine our path, revealing His will to us. His Spirit then penetrates our hearts, enabling us to take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, giving us grace and strength to walk by faith and to submit to His perfect will.
The Apostle Paul pleaded with the Lord three times for the thorn in his flesh to be removed. We don’t know over what period of time these petitions evolved. We only know that after the third request he received an answer from the Lord and was able to embrace His will for Him. Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, offered up three sets of petitions to the Father, praying each time, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39).
Habakkuk was perplexed over God’s seeming injustice in allowing wickedness to prevail among the Israelites, and he told Him so. The Lord graciously answered him, but Habakkuk was still in a stupor over God’s providence and uttered a second complaint. Again, the Lord replied with more details of how He planned to deal with the rebellious people. Upon hearing God’s wisdom, Habakkuk was humbled and came to a place of acceptance and full submission to God’s plan.
He said, “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones and my legs trembled [he was terrified over God’s impending justice]. Yet, I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us… yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Hab. 3:16, 18).
This amazing response came from the same man who chapters earlier was complaining against God’s seemingly skewed providence. Though he was horrified of what God had said would take place, a major change had occurred in his heart.
David struggled in prayer to accept God’s will for his life. He received news from the prophet Nathan that because of his adultery his son would die. Yet when his son became ill, “David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground…and he would not eat any food” (2 Sam. 12:16-17). This went on for six days. David could have responded with vain resignation upon hearing of his impending discipline, but his heart was filled with such sorrow and longing that he had to communicate with God. When he learned from his servants that the boy had died, he was able to submit to God’s will. This acceptance was demonstrated by his actions as he got up from mourning, washed and changed his clothes, and went to the temple to worship God.
I am challenged by his boldness and trust in God. I’m convinced that God is calling us to freedom; we need to take our burdens to Him and release whatever desire, disappointment, or loss we are holding on to Him. There is no quick, easy formula for releasing those burdens to Him. But the joy that awaits us on the other side, as we yield our hearts to His perfect will, far outweighs the struggle.