We received the following question:
I just had a question....just something Im confused about. Within the last two days I have heard three different people say that when we pray we should not pray for what we want but that God's will will be done. If we are supposed to pray that God's will be done, then we could just say "I pray that God's will be done in everything, Amen." Is there no point to praying that someone will get better or that we will have strength and energy during a hard week...instead just pray that God's will be done? Just something I have been wondering about.
I will try to respond, but it will likely be the Reader's Digest condensed version.The subject is so simple yet so deep at the same time.
Prayer is communication with God. Our prayer life often reveals the level of our spiritual maturity, or our current spiritual condition. When we only pray to ask things for ourselves, we treat God like santa claus rather than like the God of the universe. It often reveals our self-centeredness.
There are also some seeming paradoxes regarding this subject - I will try to point out a few.
In the model prayer that Jesus taught His disciples, He instructs them to pray for their daily bread. Yet Matthew records Jesus' words that we should not worry over food because our heavenly Father knows that we have need of it. It seems that God requires that we acknowledge our dependency upon Him - while at the same time He will not abandon one of His children. So it is not truly a paradox - we just need to see both sides.
In prayer, we express OUR understanding of spiritual things. Often we are either immature in our understanding or simply mistaken about something.
We are to "let your requests be made known unto God". So, yes, we can and should do so when we pray. Jesus even gave some parables regarding importunity in prayer - i.e. perseverance, not just a one-time prayer, but caring about something so much that it is continually a matter of prayer.
Ultimately, we reach a place in our growth where we no longer simply say "this is what I want" or "this is what I think is needed", etc. but we have a realization that because we do not know all that God knows, what WE think may be best may not ultimately be best - God knows best. So we ultimately pray like Jesus "nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done". This is NOT the same as Calvinistic thinking where "whatever is going to happen is going to happen" - so prayer would make no sense at all from the standpoint of making our requests to God.
In prayer we ARE acknowledging that apart from God we can do nothing, that we are dependent upon Him,AND that HE can do the impossible - He is all mighty, all powerful - He can heal the sick and raise the dead. Therein lies the premise and basis for our praying. But having said that, there are times God will answer our request in a way other than the way we asked - and in those times we must realize that God knew best and had a bigger purpose in mind, etc, for answering the way He did. But we must not stop making our requests known to Him, sharing our thoughts and hearts with Him and allowing Him to shape our thinking and our requests - maturing them over time.
You asked specifically regarding the elections. There are times where an election may be like a game in sports. I think it is wrong to pray that a certain team will win - which is tantamount to praying that a certain team will lose - why should we pray for the defeat of someone in a "game". Some elections are like that. However, at other times, like our times, there are Biblical issues and principles involved - abortion, same-sex marriages, etc. If our prayer is based on our horror at these sins, then we pray that God will use a man to turn the tide of these terrible sins - and why vote for a man who condones and supports such practices ? We can and should pray for our "king", for our nation that there would be a returning to righteousness. Ultimately this must happen by salvation of sinners and revival of believers, but a "king" can make a difference. Just look at the history of the Kings in the Old Testament. When a king got right with God and tore down the places of idol worship, God blessed - and healed their land.
p.s. Saying that we should simply pray that God's will be done can be sidestepping some significant issues. God HAS revealed His will regarding MANY things - in the Bible. All too often we "pray" for God's will, when He has already revealed it, and it is up to us to accept it and DO it. Jesus once said "... if ye know these things, happy [blessed] are ye if ye do them"
Another question regarding prayer was received:
I just read the following statement in my text book:
"It is appropriate to direct prayer to the Holy Spirit, just as to the Father and the Son, as well as to the Triune God. In such prayers we will thank him for and especially ask Him to continue the unique work that he does in us."
This was a new thought for me. I can't say that I have "directed" my prayers to the Holy Spirit. I know in the OT David prayed to his God concerning the Holy Spirit (Ps. 51), therefore the latter part of the statement makes sense, but I guess I can't think of many instances where I have heard people direct their prayers to the Holy Spirit specifically. Is this said because of the fact that He intercedes for us? I guess I should look into it more. Any thoughts?
All 3 persons of the trinity are equally God, that is true, but they are not identical in their function and ministry.
The Holy Spirit intercedes FOR us - TO Whom does He intercede?,
The Son advocates FOR us when we sin - TO Whom does He advocate?
If there were not distinctiveness within the tri-unity, it would seem that all such language in the Bible is rather senseless.
Jesus said that no man comes to the Father but by Him (Jesus). The objective appears to be reconciliation with the FATHER - all three have an active, yet different, role in accomplishing that reconciliation.
Jesus taught the model prayer to be directed to our Father in heaven
Jesus said that because we have no merit of our own upon which to ask ANYTHING of the Father, we are to ask the FATHER in the name of the Son
Let me jump to my conclusion and hope that the bridge between the thesis and the conclusion is not without a middle support,
I don't see any problem thanking Jesus or the Holy Spirit for their ministry, their accomplishments, their working in our lives (so long as the Father is not neglected).
However, I am inclined to direct requests to my Father.
In Psalm 51 David prayed that God would not take His Holy Spirit from David. Since Pentecost, no believer need EVER pray such a prayer. Jesus promised to send the Comforter and thru His Spirit will NEVER leave us nor forsake us - He indwells us, he abides with/in us, etc.
Accordingly, the Holy Spirit will never discontinue His work just because we fail to ask Him to continue. His presence and power are always there - it is for us to yield to Him.