How to Pray in God's Will
The Bible tells us that if we ask anything according to God’s will, He will hear and answer such prayers. “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). But how can we know that our prayer requests are in God’s will?
First, God’s Word is an expression of His will, so when you pray in accordance to the things He has promised or declared in the Bible, you can be assured that you’re praying in His will. The late Christian painter, Thomas Kinkade, once wrote,“The power of prayer is like turning on a light as it illuminates God’s purpose for our lives. There is no greater connection to knowing His will other than the Word.”1
On the other hand, there are other specific or personal matters that are not directly addressed in scripture. For instance, while we know that it’s the Lord will to meet your needs and provide you a job, what if you find yourself with a variety of career options? How can you tell which one is the Lord’s will for your life? Which career path do you pray for?
In this or similar cases, you can pray and trust Him to lead and guide you toward decisions that most closely identify with God’s character or desires (as shown in the Bible). Obviously, it will not be the Lord’s will to follow a path that will lead you away from Him, or require for you to be dishonest, immoral or sinful. But we can’t always forecast such pitfalls for every option that comes before us. This is why we must trust in His unseen guidance, even when it doesn’t make sense to us. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
It would be an easy thing to make all decisions if God would just speak to us in an audible voice and tell us His will, but that doesn’t always happen. To seek out His will, open the Word of God and pray, ask Him to lead and guide you “according to His will.” Sometimes His guidance will come as an “inclination” or perhaps a “still small voice.” At other times, we may need to take steps forward by faith, trusting God to give us the right choice when the time comes. “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing” (Psalms 143:10 NLT).
There are also moments when we are simply at a loss of what to pray, and yet the Holy Spirit can intervene and help us, by interceding through us according to the will of God. “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will” (Romans 8:26-27 NLT).
The most important thing is to yield your will to God’s, to be willing to follow His will and path regardless of what or where that takes you. That may sometimes be challenging, but be assured that God’s plan always works out better than your own. Even Jesus, who knew His purpose and the will of the Heavenly Father, wrestled with His flesh that was hesitant to follow that path of suffering and death. But had He not yielded His will to His Father’s, the miracle of His resurrection would have never happened. On the night before His trial and crucifixion, Jesus prayed in the garden, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).
The struggle to submit our will to God’s will is always the great challenge to our prayers. In fact, this is one of the most frequent reasons why some prayers go unanswered, in that persons often seek their own self-willed wants, lusts and desires, rather than God’s. As James wrote, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3).
Despite anyone’s intensity or devotion to prayer, God’s will can never be manipulated to bless anything that He considers to be unacceptable. The object of prayer is not merely what you want, but what “God” wants for you. Prayer is not calling on the Genie of a magic lamp, nor is it making a wish upon a star. Prayer is coming into harmony with the will of your Heavenly Father, and asking Him to fulfill His desires for your life.
1 Keep Me and Keep All, Robert W. Smith, 2011