Question

"Hey Ryan! I have a Bible question! So all throughout Matthew, he talks about having faith and trust in God, believing that He is capable of impossible things like healing the sick. Those who don't have faith, Jesus says "you of little faith, do you not see that I am the Son of God?" Or something along those lines, I think I messed up the ending. ANYWAYS, when I pray, I have faith that God can answer my prayers, but I always say "if it's your will/your plan." Is that technically doubting God?? Like I said, I understand and I have faith that He is capable of everything, but I also understand that it's up to him, and that sometimes our prayers can't be answered at the moment because we have to go through the trial. Is this okay? Hope that makes sense!"

Pastor Ryan's Answer

Hey ______! Great question, thanks for asking! 

In my personal opinion, I think you're spot on. Like I was talking about this past Sunday, 1 John 5:14-15 says, "And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him." John is telling us that one of the things that makes prayer effective is that we pray according to God's will. And if we ask according to His will, it's a guaranteed "yes".

The tricky part is distinguishing what God's will is sometimes. This is why it's important to know the Bible and what it teaches, because it tells us the will of God. For example, a prayer of confession of our sin and asking for God's forgiveness is absolutely in the will of God, and that kind of prayer is heard and answered immediately. Or a prayer for God to avenge the wrongful death of a believer. God says in the scripture that He will do that, and so to pray this kind of prayer is according to His will, and He will do it! The tricky part comes when it's things like job switches, what school we go to, who we marry, where we move, etc. The bible is mostly silent on these issues (there are parameters for the kind of place we live, people we marry, etc, but there's no verse in the Bible that told me to "marry Kimberly Yarborough"), so we take what the bible does say about the value of our church community, parents, prayer, the leading of the Holy Spirit, etc. to help us make these decisions. So in these cases, we're making decisions based on the will of God through what he has taught us about how to make these decisions. I'm not sure if I explained that very well, but I hope it makes sense.

I've slowly come to realize that faith is not a magic wand that we wave around. There are people in my life who have, in love, suggested that prayers only get answered if we have "enough faith". There is something to be said about this for sure, because Jesus spoke about it, but faith is not the end-all-be-all. It's a vehicle for assurance in Christ. I really like how the New City Catechism defines faith in Christ as acknowledging, trusting, receiving, and resting in Christ alone. 

In other words, is our faith in our ability to pray powerful prayers, or is it in Christ himself? Are we using faith as a transactional resource ("God, I stored up 5 bins of faith that I'd like to cash in for a new car!"), or as the means by which we respond to Christ's work in our lives? Are we living in a place of satisfaction and fullness of joy in the fact that God came for us to rescue us from our rebellion against God and give us eternal life? 

I'd like to suggest that praying according to the will of God is the most faith-full kind of prayer - because you're really surrendering your will in those moments, and saying as Jesus did in the garden: "not my will, but yours be done". In my life, it has taken more faith to trust God with the things that I don't know/understand, than to trust Him for things that I want. I hope this answers your question! What do you think?


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