24 May 2021
“If we ask anything according to His will He hears us” (1 John 5:14)
The Apostle John’s statement on prayer and petition reveals what we need to appreciate as we ask God to meet our requests.
As believers, we often ask God to meet observed needs: for instance, protection from illness, provision for our financial needs and obligations etc. When we have told God what we would most like to see happen, some degree of uncertainty must remain as to whether we prayed according to His will. What to do then?
Firstly, we should lay before God, as part of our prayer, the reasons why we think that what we ask for is the best thing. Secondly, we should tell Him that if He wills and desires something different, we know it will be better and that is what we really want Him to do.
As Packer puts it,
“Giving God reasons shows the boldness of humility; embracing God’s will shows the submissiveness of humility. In the former, faith engages with God’s wisdom; in the latter, it bows to His authority. What that means is most tellingly shown us by the account of Jesus praying in Gethsemane, as He said, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will’ (Matt. 26:39). We walk in the footsteps of our Saviour when we tell Him and the Father that however much we find ourselves longing for something else, the Father’s will has priority for us; we do not want to receive what is not part of that will; we want our Father’s will and only His will, whether or not at the moment we know how much it involves”.
Consider this: the Father’s will for Jesus is for Him to go to the cross, to be our substitute, to die for our sins, to destroy the work of the devil, to break the power of sin over us and to allow God to justly forgive us our sin by making Jesus “who knows no sin to be sin on our behalf”.
The Father’s will for Jesus (in line with the will of the Triune God before the creation of the world) must mean intense physical sufferings for the Son; all the cosmic evil would be unleashed and met by the Son at the cross; He had to endure the agonising separation from the eternal Father with whom He has fellowship from all eternity when He carried the filth, the darkness and gruesome sins of the human race upon HImself at that moment when he cried ‘My God, my God why have you have forsaken Me’.
The Father’s will for the Son must mean all these and Jesus knows this when He asked whether it be possible for the cup to pass from HIm, and when He put the will of His Father as HIs priority.
As we ponder over the response of our Lord Jesus at the garden of Gethsemane in HIs petition to the Father, are we willing to walk in the footsteps of our Saviour even though God’s will for us as we request our prayer to Him might mean a great deal of involvement that is not only unpleasant but painful and agonising? God’s answer to our petition may not be what we requested, but we can trust our perfect Creator to give us what we need and indeed, what we really want, if we can see what God sees in His plan for our lives as His beloved people. What God sees and desires is better even though for the moment we cannot fully understand and appreciate it.