Since I came back to the Lord, praying to be in the center of His will has been a constant desire. Ok, well, maybe not constant. It took a few months (or more) to kick in. I had to figure out my usual way of doing things wasn’t going to match up with what God had for me. But once I got on God’s page, this prayer clicked with me, and I have never let it go.
I want to follow as close to God as I can. In the words of author Margaret Feinberg, I want to have my nose stuck into Jesus’ shoulder blades. However, doing God’s will and understanding God’s will are two totally different things.
Isaiah 55:8 echoes this point when God says, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, and my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” (NLT) This is so obviously the truth of my life. The way my prayers are answered are never what I specifically ask for, but rarely would my way have been better than God’s. His answers are always much deeper and more encompassing of all of my needs, not just the one thing I asked for. Yet, His answers come in ways I could never conceive.
Trying to guess what the Lord is up to an interesting challenge. In some cases it is simple equation: do what will bring Him the most glory = the most good for you and others. But in more complicated scenarios like marriage, ministry, career changes, major financial purchases or school decisions, knowing what God wants before we make a move is a major component of spiritual maturity.
It gets even trickier when God is seemingly quiet about your choice. Could that be because He is pleased with any or all of the choices or because He wants us to keep looking? In times of uncertainty, prayer can feel repetitive and unproductive: like losing a million dollar game show on the easiest question.
The Book of Colossians, thought to be written by the Apostle Paul during one of his four prison stints, provides insight when we are praying for God’s will and it might not be so straightforward. In chapter 1, verses 9-14, Paul spends a lot of time describing how he and his companions of Timothy and Epaphras are praying for the church in Colosse. He uses words like full, fill and all, asking the Lord to make their knowledge, wisdom and understanding of His will complete.
Paul makes the distinction between these three words: knowledge, wisdom and understanding. When looking at the Greek and English definitions, they have similar and related meanings, but are definitely not the same.
Here are the summarized definitions:
• Knowledge: Correct and precise knowledge of those things ethical and divine, as well as experience in such matters.
• Wisdom: Accumulation of knowledge of how the world works and God’s Word.
• Understanding: A flowing together, capacity or ability to apply what you have learned and experienced to the fullest extent.
This trinity of ingredients allows us to grasp how the Lord would have us pray; like a three-legged stool, only stable when all three supports are there.
Paul continues to elaborate on how we go about acquiring these pieces to the puzzle: regular reading of God’s Word and being open to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. We must have a relationship with the One who will give us the ability to understand what Jesus has done for us to correctly apply what we know and learn about Him.
If you are struggling with an answer to prayer, take a look at what might be missing:
• Do you have enough time in God’s Word? (2 Tim 3:16)
• Is your heart teachable? (Luke 18:17)
• Have you asked the Holy Spirit to reveal the wisdom you need in a way you can apply it? (1 Cor 2:13-14)
• Have you looked into your past for how the Lord has answered questions like this before? (Psalm 55:17)
Seek the answer and He will give it to you. Pursue knowledge, wisdom and understanding and the Holy Spirit will meet you in that place. It might not always makes sense at the time, but His answers to prayer always come out better in the wash then if we do it ourselves.