Prayer and the Bible
The Diversity of God's Will
God's will concerns many things, and his power is exerted in numberless ways. It may be miracles, casting out demons, stilling the storms, or delivering the persecuted—as Daniel from the lions, the three Hebrews from the fire, Peter from prison. These are physical demonstrations of power. The spiritual and unseen operations of the Divine might are more wonderful, but little known. For instance: the will of God concerning us is our sanctification (1 Thess.4:3). We express this will in prayer, in secret, and the resulting power of the Holy Spirit comes upon us and accomplishes a sanctifying influence. We read that our heavenly Father is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him for it, than an earthly father is to give his son earthly gifts (Luke 11:13).
We know that the only work of any avail is God's work of salvation, and that prayer to be effective must be in line with this great design. How does this apply to each individual child of God? Does it not mean that many of our personal requests will not be granted? Regarding this phase of our spiritual life, the Scriptures hold out the assurance that the effectiveness of our petitions depends on the motive which inspires them, and the purpose to be served. All things are permissible if the motive is right, and if the favours we ask for are in line either directly or indirectly with our Father's gracious plan. For our Lord's invitation and promise: "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive", need not be limited (Matt.21:22).
As it is God's will that a Bride for His Son shall be selected from this sinful world, it is in order for us to pray to this end. That is, it is correct for us to pray for everything that will complete the sanctification of God's selected people. Is any sick (sin‑sick) among you? Well, remember that the prayer of faith will heal the sick. Is any in overwhelming difficulties, so that the spiritual life is endangered? Pray that God may remove these difficulties, and he will do it. How do we know? Because it is his will, as the Scriptures say: "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation (trial) also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Cor.10:13). Jesus said: "It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish" (Matt.18:14). Claim every promise of God in Christ's name, nothing wavering, and God will honour our faith and answer our prayers (Rom.4:20,21).
The realisation that the heavenly Father is ready to honour our prayers gives us a peaceful mind and heart which nothing can disturb. "In everything by prayer and supplication…, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil.4:6,7). The child of God who has at heart His Father's grand work, who desires above all else to see His will done on earth everywhere, would not think of requesting by prayer anything for selfish interests. "This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired (desire) of him" (1 John 5:14,15).
Next time—The Sacrificial Life is Misunderstood