Today it's my privilege to share some thoughts from my new friend and fellow writer, Sue Schlesman. Sue and I shared a room recently at the Asheville Christian Writers Conference. We immediately connected on a subject that is near and dear to our hearts--prayer. I know you'll be challenged and inspired by her words.
"Dear God, if it's Your will, please . . ."
That's the spiritual way to pray, right? For God's will. And then we proceed to tell Him what His will should be.
In Hebrews 12, you can read about a whole list of people who spoke with God and heard His response. They heard God's will, about moving to a new land, shaking off slavery, conquering kingdoms, enduring persecution. They prayed for God's will (a plan), they submitted to God's will (their obedience), and then God led them in His will (their destiny). God's will can mean all 3 things. So what and how should we pray for God's will?
Accept an unknown outcome.
Here are two curious aspects of God's will--He often doesn't tell us the details first, and He doesn't even promise we'll know why something happened. He just expects blind obedience to His written Word. Heb. 11:39 says, "These were all commended of their faith yet none of them received what had been promised." None of them received what was promised! The faith walk is not about understanding what God is doing--it's about joining what He is doing. You may see the fruit of your obedience, but you may not. The outcome shouldn't matter.
Expect hardship in doing God's will.
Since following God's will is an act of faith, it makes sense that part of the faith-building exercise is to follow God without knowing exactly where He's leading or what following Him will entail. He has already given us some clues about this in Scripture:
Jn. 16:33--"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Mtt. 5:10--"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of their righteousness, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven."
1 Thes. 5:18--"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
Why are we surprised when following God is hard? He told us it would be hard. It's the enduring of hardship that points people to Christ. Jesus is the answer for all of life's difficulties.
Embrace suffering for doing God's will
It is God's will for you to experience suffering.
In Phil. 1:29, Paul says "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also suffer for him." In Greek, the word grant carries the concept of giving a gift or a privilege. God gives us suffering because He knows it will improve our character and our relationship with Him! Although it may seem like an oxymoron, we should embrace suffering, knowing that God is perfecting us and making us more like Jesus.
Be faithful in following God's will.
So let's not pray for God's will to remove something difficult from our lives. Let's pray for strength and courage to be faithful to our calling. Maybe we should pray through suffering more than we pray against suffering. Gal. 6:9 reminds us, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
Lord, not my will, but Yours be done!
www.susanwalleyschlesman.com and www.7prayersthatwork.com.