Yesterday we saw that we can have confidence in our eternal life - if we believe in the entirety of the gospel message.
Today we see the confidence that we can have in prayer. The key, of course, to that verse is "according to his will". And really, that is the essence of prayer - aligning our will with His. Prayer is not so much to move the hand of God (though it does that as well) but to change the heart of man.
I loved both Driscoll's and MacArthur's sermons on this passage.
Now what many of us like to do is sin, and then, “God, fix it!” And that’s our prayer life. Right? That, well, we were not in his will. Right? “God, I know I’m not supposed to be sleeping with him and living with him, but he said he loves me and he plays guitar and I just couldn’t help myself, and – Save him! Make him Billy Graham’s assistant, please!” You know? No. That’s not his will. You’re not in his will. You’re out of his will. You can’t pray for God to come in and bless the sin. God’s will has to be lived in, not just something that we manipulate God to jump in and save the day when we keep self-destructing our own lives. So we got to pray according to his will..... You know the line. “Duh! I didn’t want to hear that! I thought prayer is where I get my will done!” No. That’s where God’s will gets done. And so sometimes prayer is about us speaking to God and him responding, but oftentimes it’s about him speaking and us just listening. And sometimes prayer’s whole purpose is not to move the hand of God, but to change the heart of people. How many of you have prayed and found that God didn’t do anything but change you?...
See, ‘cause what we want is we want our will to be done. “I’m king, sovereign and lord. Here’s my little throne. Ta da da da dah! God, now execute my plan!” God says, “No, no, no, no, no. I’m God. Off the throne. Now let’s talk about my will, read your Bible. Spend some time with me. Cultivate the relationship, you’ll know what my will is, and then when you pray you can pray in accordance with my will, not so that you’ll move my hand, but so that you won’t resist me and you’ll work my plan with me.” See, we have a perfunctory relationship with God where we want to use him to get our will. He wants a loving relationship with us where we are in harmony with him.
Prayer isn’t just about using God. Prayer is sometimes just about loving God and sharing his heart
We have to be in His will. I can't have premarital sex and then pray that God will prevent me from getting pregnant. I'm not in His will and therefore, He is under absolutely no obligation to answer that prayer. He might choose to answer it anyway, but He is under no obligation to.
And we have to ask for something that is in His will. Even if I'm living for God, I can't ask Him to let me marry a hot guy and expect that prayer to be answered. He may answer it (I did get a hot husband! ;), but He is under no obligation to answer it.
But, when we ask according to His will, we have a blank cheque. He will hear and He will answer, according to His will.
There is an exception clause in here though. V16-17 are rather confusing and there are a few interpretations of it.
Driscoll adds this thought as well...
I believe what he’s saying is with such people, you pray, you love, you intercede, you speak, you try, and then at some point you just let go. You let go.
I believe this is important for a few reasons. One, if you don’t, you will take it personally. It is really not between you and them; it is between them and God. But as long as you insert yourself between them and God, you will start to take it personally, like they are rejecting you. They’re ignoring you. They’re disobeying you. The truth is, they are rejecting, disobeying, and ignoring God. Part of this, as well, is some of you just need to protect yourself emotionally. Some of you can’t handle it. Some of you lose sleep. Some of you are seeing the condition of your overall health or physical health, the overall condition of your life start to slip and to disintegrate because you are so worried about someone who doesn’t care about themselves. At some point we need to get ourself out of the middle and stop telling God what to do. Stop saying, “God, do this. God, do that. God, do this. God, do that. God, I prayed. God, I sang. God, I tithed. God, I pleaded. God, I fasted. God, I’m trying to move your hand. God, please do this.” We need to just back up and pray Jesus’ prayer. “Your will be done.” And say no more. Just leave it there.
Here’s the cold, hard, reality. Not everyone you know is going to heaven. Not everyone you love will love God. Not everyone that you care about will change. Not everyone that you want to fix will be straightened out.
I don’t think I learned this until about a year ago. And emotionally, I would just bleed out all the time, thinking that I had to save and fix everyone. And then it dawned on me that I’m not God; that I can’t change a heart; that I can’t save a person; that I can’t forgive a sin; that I can’t transform a life; that I can love people and point to Jesus; and I can walk with him and show the benefits in hopes that others would seek to walk with him, too, but I can’t save or change anyone. And I believe that’s what he’s talking about. Pray. Intercede. Speak your piece. Do all you can. But when you hit the point where someone is just going to do what they’re going to do, then let them go, just as Jesus told Judas, what you’re going to do, go do it. It doesn’t mean that it’s right. It doesn’t mean that you condone it. It doesn’t mean that you bless it. It doesn’t mean that you support it. It just means that you’re not God and you can’t stop it. So you let ‘em go.
Now in this, this isn’t a fatalism, and this isn’t a hatred, and this isn’t giving up. Okay? This is a declaration to God, “God, it’s out of my hands.” And some of you are so worried to let certain people and certain things out of your hands because you fear what might happen to them, and my good encouragement to you is this: Just because it’s out of your hands or my hands does not mean it’s out of the hand of God. That as we pull our hands back, we leave room for God to work. We let God’s will be done. And we see what God will do. He will save some, not all. He will change some, not all. Some people don’t want God. They don’t want heaven. They don’t want Jesus. They don’t want worship. They don’t want holiness. They don’t want prayer. They don’t want Bible. If that’s not what they want, then we need to accept that and still love them. And our heart’s desire can be that they would change, but ultimately that’s between them and God.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: 1 John 5:18-21