Want to learn more about building a life of prayer? Me too. Meet me here on Wednesdays for an ongoing series exploring prayer using Dr. Andrew Murray's book, With Christ in the School of Prayer. I'm honored to learn alongside you.
In this chapter we deal with the most common hindrance to prayer: knowing the will of God and asking accordingly. Throughout this book, Dr. Murray makes it seem so simple: just ask according to God's will and all is yours! But when it comes down to it, knowing the will of God seems like unraveling a gordian knot (without the sword). Here's what Dr. Murray has to say about that:
ONE of the greatest hindrances to believing prayer is with many undoubtedly this: they know not if what they ask is according to the will of God. As long as they are in doubt on this point, they cannot have the boldness to ask in the assurance that they certainly shall receive. And they soon begin to think that, if once they have made known their requests, and receive no answer, it is best to leave it to God to do according to His good pleasure. The words of John, ‘If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us,’ as they understand them, make certainty as to answer to prayer impossible, because they cannot be sure of what really may be the will of God. They think of God’s will as His hidden counsel—how should man be able to fathom what really may be the purpose of the all-wise God.
This is the very opposite of what John aimed at in writing thus. He wished to rouse us to boldness, to confidence, to full assurance of faith in prayer. He says, ‘This is the boldness which we have toward Him,’ that we can say: Father! Thou knowest and I know that I ask according to Thy will: I know Thou hearest me. ‘This is the boldness, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.’
But HOW? I can agree with the idea, even believe that it is true, and still be at a loss when I come before the Father.
Through the word. There is a secret will of God, with which we often fear that our prayers may be at variance. It is not with this will of God, but His will as revealed in His word, that we have to do in prayer. Our notions of what the secret will may have decreed, and of how it might render the answers to our prayers impossible, are mostly very erroneous. Childlike faith as to what He is willing to do for His children, simply keeps to the Father’s assurance, that it is His will to hear prayer and to do what faith in His word desires and accepts. In the word the Father has revealed in general promises the great principles of His will with His people. The child has to take the promise and apply it to the special circumstances in His life to which it has reference. Whatever he asks within the limits of that revealed will, he can know to be according to the will of God, and he may confidently expect. In His word, God has given us the revelation of His will and plans with us, with His people, and with the world, with the most precious promises of the grace and power with which through His people He will carry out His plans and do His work. As faith becomes strong and bold enough to claim the fulfilment of the general promise in the special case, we may have the assurance that our prayers are heard: they are according to God’s will. Take the words of John in the verse following our text as an illustration: ‘If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask and God will give him life.’ Such is the general promise; and the believer who pleads on the ground of this promise, prays according to the will of God, and John would give him boldness to know that he has the petition which he asks.
What I hear Dr. Murray saying here is that we may not know the answer for a specific situation, but we can know the promises of God for that situation. In sorrow we can have comfort, in confusion we can find direction, in fear we can find peace and on through Scripture. But he goes on to make an important statement:
The personal application of the general promises of the word to our special personal needs—it is for this that the leading of the Holy Spirit is given us. It is this union of the teaching of the word and Spirit that many do not understand, and so there is a twofold difficulty in knowing what God’s will may be. Some seek the will of God in an inner feeling or conviction, and would have the Spirit lead them without the word. Others seek it in the word, without the living leading of the Holy Spirit. The two must be united: only in the word, only in the Spirit, but in these most surely, can we know the will of God, and learn to pray according to it. In the heart the word and the Spirit must meet: it is only by indwelling that we can experience their teaching.
This union of Spirit to spirit instructs and leads us through our prayers. This kind of Spirit-and-Word-directed praying leads to discipleship.
God’s word tells us that the great reason of unanswered prayer is that we do not pray aright: ‘Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss.’ In not granting an answer, the Father tells us that there is something wrong in our praying. He wants to teach us to find it out and confess it, and so to educate us to true believing and prevailing prayer. He can only attain His object when He brings us to see that we are to blame for the withholding of the answer; our aim, or our faith, or our life is not what it should be. But this purpose of God is frustrated as long as we are content to say: It is perhaps because my prayer is not according to His will that He does not hear me. O let us no longer throw the blame of our unanswered prayers on the secret will of God, but on our praying amiss. Let that word, ‘Ye receive not because ye ask amiss,’ be as the lantern of the Lord, searching heart and life to prove that we are indeed such as those to whom Christ gave His promises of certain answers.
Prayer becomes not only our ministry, but a means to growth. What a beautiful economy.
Let's pray together. Today I want to quote Dr. Murray's prayer for us:
Blessed Master! With my whole heart I thank Thee for this blessed lesson, that the path to a life full of answers to prayer is through the will of God. Lord! Teach me to know this blessed will by living it, loving it, and always doing it. So shall I learn to offer prayers according to that will, and to find in their harmony with God’s blessed will, my boldness in prayer and my confidence in accepting the answer.
Father! it is Thy will that Thy child should enjoy Thy presence and blessing. It is Thy will that everything in the life of Thy child should be in accordance with Thy will, and that the Holy Spirit should work this in Him. It is Thy will that Thy child should live in the daily experience of distinct answers to prayer, so as to enjoy living and direct fellowship with Thyself. It is Thy will that Thy Name should be glorified in and through Thy children, and that it will be in those who trust Thee. O my Father! let this Thy will be my confidence in all I ask.
Blessed Saviour! Teach me to believe in the glory of this will. That will is the eternal love, which with Divine power works out its purpose in each human will that yields itself to it. Lord! Teach me this. Thou canst make me see how every promise and every command of the word is indeed the will of God, and that its fulfilment is secured to me by God Himself. Let thus the will of God become to me the sure rock on which my prayer and my assurance of an answer ever rest. Amen.
Next I'll be sharing my thoughts from Lesson Thirty: ‘An Holy Priesthood’ Or, The Ministry of Intercession. I hope you'll join us.
Previous entries in this series can be found here: Wednesday Prayer Series