Tag Archives: God’s will

What we need most


“What the world needs now is love, sweet love.
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”

Or so go the lyrics of Dionne Warwick’s famous oldie.


Who would argue that we need more love in a world filled with hatred, greed, malice, and selfishness? Indeed, Jesus summed up the whole teaching of the bible in just two “love commands”: Love God fully and love others as he loved you.


On the one hand it seems simple enough. Be loving in what you do. But it’s not so easy in application is it? It took me decades to realize you can’t make someone love you in the way you want to be loved. Someone confided in me that they’ve spent decades learning how to love someone.


We need more than love. We need understanding of how to love. We need understanding to know how to love and respect each other and to live with each other in peace and in an understanding way. We need understanding on how to love our children. A child says to their parent, “If you love me you will give me what I want.” The parent responds, “BECAUSE I love you so much, the answer is No.” (Have you ever considered that God answers us with the same parental love?)


We need understanding to know God’s will and how to avoid being fooled and taken captive by smooth-talkers and vain philosophies. In the second chapter of Colossians, Paul writes to people he loves saying,

“I want you to know how much I am struggling for you… and for all who have not met me. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, SO THAT they may have the full riches of complete understanding in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you through fine-sounding arguments.” (Colossians 2:1-4)


Understanding, wisdom, knowledge…the world offers it’s version of these. Have you ever wondered how much these versions of “truth” have influenced your thoughts and ambitions? Complete understanding is only revealed by God. Jesus, who bears the exact representation of God (Hebrews 1:3), bears his full authority and power and wisdom in the lives of those fully devoted to him. Want wisdom? Turn to him. We can seek understanding and power in legalistic rules and rituals but they aren’t found there. We can search the philosophies of great thinkers but their wisdom is limited at best and powerless to transform us to live as we were meant to be. Smooth-sounding arguments, political promises, and advertisements may tickle our ears, but only God reveals to us the treasures of his wisdom.


Imagine a world needing not just love, but the understanding of God’s will and purpose. Not a world with more rules of “do’s and don’ts” – they will never free us from our slavery to selfish and destructive indulgences. What we need is an understanding of God’s wisdom in our lives. And he offers it for free to anyone who will ask him, “Lord help me to understand more of who you are, your will, and your purpose. Let me see myself and others through your eyes. Grant me wisdom, strength, and faith to love you and live with others in an understanding way.”




A more powerful way to pray


What do you pray when you pray for others?


Everywhere you turn people are hurting. Wherever you look people need the Lord. We all need the touch of his grace and blessing in our life. We bring specific requests to him just as he invites us: for healing, for reconciliation, and for meeting us in a certain need. And we’re assured that God hears our specific prayers and answers them according to his magnificent will and nature, even when it remains a mystery to us.


But there’s even more power in a different prayer. Consider Paul’s example in Colossians 1. He really loves the people to whom he is writing this letter. So much so, that he NEVER stops praying for them! And this is what he prays for them, that they would:


  • Know God’s will
  • Be filled with his wisdom and understanding
  • Live a life worthy of the Lord
  • Bear fruit through good works
  • Grow in the knowledge of God
  • Be strengthened by his power
  • Endure trials with patience and joyful thanks


Why does Paul pray this way and why should we pray this way for ourselves, our friends and loved ones…even our enemies? Because God is the one who rescued us from darkness. Because he is the one who holds all things together, even when to us it appears that life is spinning out of control. Because he has reconciled us, through his Son Jesus, who lives in the lives of those who are fully devoted to him. Because Christ in us is our hope of glory. Because God is enough! All this is possible because of the penetrating work of the gospel to transform lives that are receptive to him.


Our best prayers for others extend beyond the request to fulfill a specific need. Our best prayers are for others to be so filled with God’s truth and grace that they overflow with victory in the face of difficulty, joy in the presence of sorrow, and confidence in the face of fear.


Don’t hesitate to pray for specific needs when praying for yourself and others. But also pray a potentially much more powerful prayer… That we would be filled with knowing God’s will, his wisdom, and understanding so that we can live faithful lives worthy of him, by the power of his Spirit.


That’s my prayer for myself and that’s my prayer for each of you.





How should I pray?


You’re probably familiar with the phrase, “What Would Jesus Do?,” The WWJD movement  was spurred by the fictional story, “In His Steps.” It tells of people who loved Jesus enough to invite him into their daily decision making, asking, “What would Jesus do in this situation?” If in fact we want to follow Jesus, we need to respond to that question ourselves. We might not intuitively know how Jesus would respond to a current dilemma we face, but scripture reveals his nature to us, and that shines a light on the path we should take.


There’s another question we should ask that maybe you’ve never heard asked before:

“How would Jesus pray?”


Marcia and I were discussing this during a recent devotion time: What does it actually mean to pray . . . “in the name of Jesus?” More than an automatic “goodbye” signal at the end of a conversation, praying in the name of Jesus means to pray as he would pray.  We’re praying that my immune system will fully recover so I can get travel vaccinations needed to pursue our call to the Bolivian mission field. We all pray for what we want and what we think best from our perspective. But is that how Jesus prayed?


Jesus did pray for specific results as he healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and raised Lazarus from the grave. But in all these he sought his Father’s will. Submitting to God’s will is dramatically illustrated in “The Lord’s Prayer” and as Jesus later prayed specifically, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)


Isn’t this the model for all our prayers? Father, if you are willing, if it pleases you, if it advances your gospel (let *this* be done). Nevertheless not my will but yours be done. If you are willing, bring healing. If it pleases you most, let me delivered from this trial. Nevertheless, if suffering draws me closer to you, if my loss is used for your gain, let your will be done. Because your will is best.


Some of our toughest prayers have been for our children, praying *whatever* it takes to draw them closer to God. Even if it means earthly calamity…keep them faithful. It’s a hard prayer, isn’t it? Jesus agonized over such a prayer to the point of sweating blood.


From our human perspective it seems unbearable to consider an answer to prayer that includes pain or sorrow. I think about how most of the apostles died and how they prayed in their time of suffering and dying. And praying in Jesus’ name doesn’t seem to get easier over time. I think about an older friend who spoke to me when I visited him in the hospital, telling me he is “learning how to die” in a manner that honors God.


Praying God’s will is hard. It flies against our nature to pray what doesn’t *seem* best for us. Yet our only real hope is to come to Jesus, day by day and moment by moment, seeking his will, not ours.


Charles Stanley reminds us, “Praying in the name of Jesus signifies agreement with His will. You are asking the Father to grant your need or desire as Jesus would, were He in your position. When you pray with this attitude, God is going to reveal His will because you want nothing less than what He wants. This is the kind of prayer that changes the world.


Lord, guide me and strengthen me in your power to stand firm in the battle and remain faithful, in the name of Jesus.


Do not be afraid or discouraged. The battle is not yours, but God’s.
2 Chronicles 20:15


Setting limits for God


When you pray, do you set limits for God?


A youth pastor confided in me years ago that he needed to replace his old car. It was just costing him too much to keep running. So in attempt to be a good steward and ‘count the cost’ he researched available used cars. Narrowing his search to just two, he asked God, “should I buy the blue one or the red one?” He prayed this for several days seeking God’s discernment. After pursuing God further on the matter he concluded that he was asking the wrong question of God. It wasn’t “Which of these two cars” but “What is your will Lord?”


Sometimes we set limits for God. We pray for what we want or what we think will be the best solution to our problems. Then we add a condition on the prayer saying, if you will do this for me, then I will do that for you. We set limits on God when we say “If – Then” prayers:

IF you get me out of this mess THEN I will serve you.

IF I can live at a certain standard of living THEN I will give my life to missions.

IF you grant me my request THEN I will thank you.

IF you change my circumstance THEN I will be joyful.

IF you give me more (of whatever) THEN I will be content.

IF you heal me, keep my children safe, and give me a life of comfort, THEN I will trust you.


Instead of praying “If – Then”, try praying “YET STILL”:

I have nothing except your forgiveness, YET STILL I will praise you.

I don’t feel you are close God, YET STILL I will trust you.

I feel alone and abandoned, YET STILL I will seek you.

This person annoys me, YET STILL I will love them.

My world seems meaningless, YET still I will believe in your purpose.

I am anxious and afraid, YET STILL I will rest in your peace.

I am depressed, YET STILL I will find joy in the hope of your promise.

(What other ‘Yet Still’ prayers come to your mind?)


God’s power is not limited by our prayers. Often he grants us even what we don’t ask for. In fact, every moment he grants us a new breath and every day a new opportunity that we don’t even seek, even in our suffering. We don’t ask for cancer, or pain, or loneliness, or poverty. But even in these situations he offers us unexpected blessings and purpose that we didn’t ask. Why? Because his best for us exceeds what we think is best for us. Our plans and dreams are interrupted and sometimes shred to pieces…YET STILL his purpose and plan exceeds our ambitions. YET STILL he is ready to reveal unexpected blessings that grow our faith, our hope, and our love.


Practice praying “YET STILL” to God in the face of your trouble and experience a purpose and a path of his joy for you.

Knowing God’s will



The question came up in a recent conversation:


“How do you know God’s will?”


What a great question!  It seems we are all so busy surviving and making a living that it is easy to lose sight of our purpose in life – and God’s purpose too.


So often, we ask the wrong question. Instead of asking “What is God’s will for my life,” try asking, “What is God’s will?” Focus on the nature of God and the revelation of His consistent plan. God created perfect life. He created you. He saw what a mess we were in and sent His son Jesus so that whoever believed in Him would find ‘the way, the truth, and the (abundant) life.’ He sent us His very Spirit to indwell us so we would never have to be alone or confused, knowing He will always guide us – if we only draw near and listen.


God has plans for our major life decisions. But while you are pursuing big life goals, did you know that God’s will is about what you do today?


Part of God’s will is that we enjoy the peace and joy of remaining in His presence. He knows that you will become stressed over money, quarrels, work, and endless problems. He knows there will be days when your ‘get up and go’ just ‘got up and went’. He knows you will lose your joy and be oppressed by all sorts of circumstances. He knows there will be times when you come to the end of your rope. Have hope: He invites you to enter His presence, not just in your ‘quiet time’ but in the busyness of your day. Learn to take one minute breaks to seek His presence and ask Him to reveal His purpose for your next steps. It is His will that you remain dependent on Him, not on your own understanding.  “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 path.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6)


God’s will is not just for you; it’s for those around you. Evangelist John Lavender stated “To do God’s will is to minister to the person who is closest to you at the moment.” The person you just let go ahead of you in line at the store, the man at the intersection with the sign reading ‘Hungry.’ The person interrupting you. The janitor. You might say, “Wait a minute. I didn’t ask about God’s plan for others. I want to know God’s plan for me!”   God’s plan for you often involves the people in your vicinity. Jesus  said if you want to do God’s will you should “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” Then He added, “Love your neighbor (those in your vicinity) as yourself.”


Want to do God’s will? Come close to Him and bring others close to Him, in Jesus’ name.