Let’s start out with some typical prayer requests.
- A sick child.
- An uncle who doesn’t know the Lord.
- Mrs. Smith, who suffers pain every day, that she could have the operation she needs to take away the pain.
- Mr. Jones, who lost his wallet in Walmart, that some honest soul would turn it in.
- Fred’s testimony at work.
- George, who’s an alcoholic and drug addict.
We’ve all heard these kinds of requests, and we know that God will answer prayer. He promises to answer all prayers that are according to His will—what God wants. Sometimes, it’s easy to pray according to God’s will, since He tells us what it is in the Bible. Look at the prayer requests above. Which do we know are God’s will?
The sick child and Mrs. Smith’s pain issue— Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him (James 5:14-15).
The uncle’s salvation—The Lord is … not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Mr. Jones’ wallet—Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Fred’s testimony—But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (1 Peter 1:15).
George’s addictions—Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16).
It’s absolutely right to pray for all of these situations. We’re supposed to pray for God to work in everything.
But, we don’t necessarily know His will.
We don’t know if God will heal the child or Mrs. Smith. He may heal them by making them perfectly well, in heaven. Or, He may choose to use suffering in their lives and/or the lives of others.
We don’t know whether or not He will prompt someone to be honest and turn in Mr. Jones’ wallet. Maybe, a dishonest person will keep the money and use the credit cards for himself. The wallet might have been stolen.
We don’t know if George will put in his part and become accountable to the Lord and others about his addictions.
We can be certain God wants to save the uncle, and for Fred to have a pure testimony at work. We can confidently pray for these.
So, how do we pray for the sick child, Mrs. Smith, Mr. Jones, and George? We ask God to do His will in each case. Since His will for each of these cases isn’t spelled out in the Bible, we don’t know. But, we can be sure that God will use any situation for His glory.
Do you remember Esther? She was taken into the harem of the king, then chosen to be his wife. She had no say or choice. Later, she found out about a plot to kill all the Jewish people, and she, being Jewish, risked her life to go, unbidden, before her husband. After her wise actions on behalf of her people, the Jews were saved from annihilation. Before she went to the king, her cousin Mordecai (her guardian) advised her, For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14) Esther’s reply requested prayer and fasting, but she understood the possible consequences. Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16).
Hebrew 11 tells us about people of great faith who subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect (Hebrews 11:33-40).
People suffered in the will of God. The Bible commends them, giving them a good report, saying the world wasn’t worthy of them.
Jesus always did right and always followed His Father’s will, yet He suffered the sins of all the world, the cruelest death, and God forsaking Him.
The Bible says, Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
So, what does this have to do with how we pray? Maybe we need to pray like Jesus did in His model prayer and in Gethsemane, Thy will be done (Matthew 6:10; 26:42).
We can confidently pray for God’s will to be done. Lord, accomplish Your will in this life, or this situation. And then, we joyfully accept what He does.
If God wants to take the little one or Mrs. Smith to heaven, they’ll be completely healed—forever.
God might help someone be honest with Mr. Jones’ wallet—or not. God might show Mr. Jones His faithfulness in a different way, maybe by letting him replace those things in record time. Or, maybe God wants to show Mr. Jones how He can take care of all his needs.
We can pray for everyone, knowing that God wants to meet everyone’s needs.
Prayer gives us the opportunity to intercede for others. Prayer makes a difference. But, God has infinite wisdom, and His answer might be different from what we imagine—and it’s all good.
Be careful (anxious, full of care) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving 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 (Philippians 4:6-7)