Discipline and Maturity through Prayer
Question: It is my understanding that Christians should pray “according to God’s will.” Why doesn’t God just do His will without being advised how to do it? And if He knows everything, why does He need anyone to tell Him what needs to be done? If God “cares for His own,” as I have so often heard preached, then why do “His own” ever have to cry to Him to supply their needs?
Response: No one who truly understands prayer believes that, by this means, one advises God of anything He doesn’t already know or of how or when to do His will. Prayer is the expression of our desire to God, but true prayer is not an insistence upon that desire. Nor would anyone who knows God want to persuade Him to do anything that is contrary to His will even if such persuasion were possible. After all, God is wiser than we are. To express in prayer as Christ did as a man, “Not my will, but thine be done” (Luke:22:42), is to acknowledge one’s finite understanding and to surrender one’s desires to God’s infinite wisdom and love, knowing that His way is best.
Then why pray at all? Let’s look at a specific example. Suppose a person is seriously ill. Prayer for that person’s healing is an expression of one’s love and concern. It is also an admission that healing is in God’s hands and a confession of utter dependence upon Him. Suppose the person recovers so miraculously that there can be no doubt that God intervened. Would God have healed the person without prayer? Inasmuch as full recovery was clearly God’s will, we may be certain it would have occurred without prayer but perhaps not in an obviously miraculous manner.
So what was the point of prayer, if basically the same effect could have occurred without it? All prayer that is not self-centered is an opportunity to express to God one’s love and concern for others and at the same time to obediently submit to His will. Prayer can have a powerful effect in molding one’s character and bringing one closer to God. The godly person’s prayers begin to reflect more and more the will of God as He changes the character and thoughts and deeds of the one praying to conform to His will and plan in all things. God’s Spirit moves us to pray for the very thing that He is going to do. Thus the petitioner becomes God’s partner in the working out of His will on earth.
As for why those who are His own and for whom God cares should ever have any needs, there are several reasons. First of all, as any wise parent on earth would do for his children, our heavenly Father may be teaching patience and molding character by delaying answers to prayers for certain needs. There also may be conditions that must be met in one’s life before God sees fit to meet some need.
A child will never learn self-control and self-discipline and the other essential lessons in life if the parents instantly give him everything he wants. Knowing this and being confident of God’s love and care, one does not despair when prayers are not answered but seeks to learn what God is teaching. Of course, there is also the difference between what we may think are real needs and those things that God, in His wisdom, considers to be unnecessary or even harmful desires. Thankfully, we wait in vain for Him to provide those for us.