Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us how we ought to pray, which includes praying for God’s will to be done rather than ours. Luther explains this third petition in his Small Catechism:
In fact, God’s good and gracious will comes about without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come about in and among us. How does this come about? Answer: Whenever God breaks and hinders every evil scheme and will—as are present in the will of the Devil, the world, and our flesh—that would not allow us to hallow God’s name and would prevent the coming of His kingdom, and instead whenever God strengthens us steadfast in His Word and in faith until the end of our lives. This is His gracious and good will. (SC, The Lord’s Prayer, 10-11)
I think some of us pray for His will to be done in our lives but don’t recognise what that truly means. In conversations I’ve been in and overheard and in blogs I’ve read, people often say, “God answered my prayer” when He said yes. Yes, praise God for saying yes, but He still answers our prayers when He says “no,” or “wait,” and He still deserves our praise when His answer is not “yes.” We Christians become so defensive when atheists claim we believe in a magic genie in the sky, but many of us pray to God as if He is!
I think we become so focused on what we want that we never stop to think about if what we want is truly good for us. I may want to win the lottery, but is that truly good for me? By winning the lottery, will I abandon my trust in God and put my trust in my riches? I can say I won’t, but then again Peter said he wouldn’t deny Christ but he did so three times. Something else will come along to make me unhappy and then I’ll pray to God again to give me something else for my happiness. I admit I would love to have a million dollars right now (c’mon, who wouldn’t?), but God’s answer is “no” because that’s not His will for my life, so I accept it, praise Him for it, and move on.
For many years I’ve been praying for a godly girlfriend who will become my wife, but God has given me the wisdom to know it’s good I remain single for now because since I leave for seminary in the Fall of 2017, it’s unrealistic for me to expect to meet a woman who would be willing to uproot her entire life and move to be with me as I continue my pastoral studies (I’ll be moving three times in the next four years), yet I also acknowledge He could still bless me with someone in the meantime. Just because God is telling me to wait doesn’t mean He hasn’t answered my prayer. He has answered my prayer by giving me the wisdom to know right now may not be the best time.
So when you pray and ask for God’s will to be done, stop and think if that’s really what you want. Are you praying so you’ll get what you want, or so God will do whatever He sees as good in your life even if it’s not what you necessarily want? Of course, it’s okay to pray for your needs and even some wants, but also pray for wisdom and discernment, which will enable you to come to terms with God’s answer of “no” or “wait.” If God gave me everything I wanted, I would be utterly unhappy. Atheists often say they don’t believe in a magic genie in the sky. Well, neither do Christians. God does not grant our wishes and give us whatever we want. Instead, He gives us what we need according to His good and gracious will, whether or not we agree with Him. Prayer is not asking for things we want; prayer is surrendering our will to God’s will.