A recent article by John Piper highlights the questions that many Christians may have when it comes to praying for specific things to happen. Sometimes, it can feel as if God isn’t listening or isn’t attentive to our prayers. This is especially true when we go to pray. It can feel like a waste of time if we aren’t sure that God even cares about our problems.
However, Piper encourages readers to remember, “God never ignores His children. He is never too busy. Never lacking in resources. Never confused…It always pays to pray. Always.” However, Piper points out that this doesn’t make prayer easy to understand or accessible to our human brains. When we are confused about prayer, it helps to turn back to the scriptures and see what God has to say about prayer.
Piper uses the passage 1 John 5:14-18 to answer the question of “What does it mean to ask God for things ‘according to His will?’”
There are two different ways to define what God’s “will” is.
- The first is called His “will of decree,” which is written about in Ephesians 1:11, when Paul writes, “[God] works all things according to the counsel of His will.” This refers to God’s control over things that happen in the world.
- The other type of God’s “will” is His “will of command,” which “refers to what God commands as right for us to do.”
Some might come to the conclusion that it seems meaningless to pray. Doesn’t God just do what He wants anyway? John Piper’s response to this is that “God wills that events be caused by prayer.” In other words, He wills for us to be a part of the process, for us to partner with Him. Who are we to question the ways in which God wants certain things to be carried out? Piper goes on:
“And careful Biblical thinking would also see that, just as God decrees effects, He also decrees the causes of those effects. As He decrees ends, so He decrees means. As He decrees that a straying saint repent and return, so He decrees the prayers that bring him back.”
When we pray for God’s will to be done, we are humbling ourselves before Him. This is a direct instruction to us as believers. 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.” When we submit to what His will is, we allow Him to have complete control over our lives. This can be difficult to do through the practice of prayer, but it allows us to enter into a relationship with God knowing that our way is not better than His. This is an ultimately liberating concept and one that will sustain us through the trials of life.