“Too much existing Bible teaching happens to passive groups of Christians, many of whom are not involved in any kind of risky missional activity.” -Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch (The Shaping of Things to Come)
“Prayer is an alignment of the soul.”
What’s The Formula?
My oldest son is 13 years old. A teenager coming into his own is discovering and learning new things about himself, the world around him, and how to move from thinking in concrete terms towards a more conceptual way of thinking. Things that were once very black and white, begin to turn grey in his eyes.
Take for example the way he’s learning. There is a difference between working to get a grade and actually working so you can gain an understanding of something. I see it often in the way he does his homework. He will speed through just to answer the questions, but not take the time to learn the content of what it is he’s being taught. The “concrete thinking” is just answer the questions, complete the formula, do the work. The “concept thinking” is learn the material, gain understanding, become knowledgeable for life.
In essence, the temptation for a 13 year old student is often, “Just give me the formula so I can spit out the acceptable grade.”
How We Pray To God
If we are honest, I think that is how we approach God far too often when we pray. One of the most popular questions among people of faith as they enter into a real relationship with God is “What is God’s will for my life?”
Of course there is nothing inherently wrong with this question. But the motive behind this question is what should concern all of us. Why do we want to know God’s will? Are we looking for a formula to make our lives turn out right? Are we viewing God as the Almighty Teacher in the sky with the Great Red Pen waiting to mark our answers wrong on the test? Is God just interested in us completing our duty, getting our work done and checking all the right boxes on our spiritual gift inventory?
Jesus gave us a model prayer to follow, not as a formula to complete so that we win some kind of brownie points with God. He gave it to show us that God desires something more from us than spitting out “acceptable” lives.
The Will of God
Let’s take a closer look at the term “will“.
The word “will” actually means desire, pleasure, wish, or inclination. To pray for the will of God is to ask for His desires to be accomplished, not ours.
Interestingly enough, when we approach God, it is usually with the background noise of our desires, our pleasures, our wishes, and our inclinations. We don’t approach God with an actual willingness to lay our will down and pick His will up.
This is a major problem for many of us who call ourselves Christians.
This is why Christians in America (especially the church) have really struggled to gain any kind of traction in the area of advancing Kingdom purposes…because we are too busy coming to God on our own terms. We approach his throne with our agendas, our lists of wants, our desire for greatness and celebrity… and we, if we are honest, don’t really care about what God wants.
Jesus really wants us to turn our hearts back to a place where we want the will of God done here.
“Your Will… May it be done.”
When we truly come before God in humility, as a community, with an understanding of His rule and reign over us and all the world, then we can truly pray “Thy Will Be Done.”
So…what is the will of God?
What does He want?
Jesus made it very clear at the end of his earthly ministry what He desired. His commissioning words were to be about the business of making apprentices (disciples) of Him, teaching them the ways of His kingdom, and how to identify themselves as His followers so the world would know that He is God and that He is returning one day.
One well respected statement of faith that has arisen out of the 2000 year history of the Church (a.k.a. the followers of Jesus) tells us that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
While this may seem like a simple thing relegated to pastors and clergymen… I assure you it is not. Making apprentices of Jesus is risky business.
Why The Bible Matters
We glorify God by listening to His words and doing what He says.
I have often found myself wondering what I ought to do with my life at times. Here are a few brief thoughts.
- Do the next right thing. When I don’t know exactly what the next step in my life should be, I try to remember to simply do the next right thing. By simply doing the right that I know I should do, I am doing what God wants me to do. But…
- Align your life with the Bible. The problem, of course happens when I am living outside of relationship with God. If I do what I think is right, but it falls outside the lines of what Scriptures teach is right, then I can be assured that I am probably not in the will of God.
- Learn Christ. This is why we must realize what a gift the Bible is to us. This ancient book of stories, wisdom, songs, letters, histories, prophecies, and gospels is the base line for understanding the will of God. If we think we can understand His desires for us outside of what the Bible teaches us, then we are truly lost. But if we choose to submit our hearts to learning the ways of Jesus and His Kingdom as revealed in the Scriptures, we will know and understand the heart of God.
The Missio Dei
I opened today’s thoughts with a quote from “The Shaping of Things to Come” for a reason. I believe that the will of God is tied directly to the mission of God. God is a missionary God. This simply means He is a “sent” God. As the children of a sending Father, we too are sent.
What this means is that we have to re-orient our lives in such a way that we can be in proximity to and in the spaces where Jesus found himself. We will talk more about this in coming posts after we are done with this series on prayer.
But I believe that this is extremely important for all of us to understand: Doing God’s “will” will send you on God’s mission. If we pray His will be done, then we have to be willing to do what He wants, even if it means our discomfort.
Prayer is an alignment of the soul. It is a crucible through which God transforms our hearts to look more like His.
How does this make you feel today? Were you challenged by this thought? How can you re-align your life to be able to actually pray “Your Will Be Done” with a clear conscience and a willing heart?