Praying is the priceless privilege of the sons and daughters of God. Yet, it’s not a “give me whatever I want” type of attitude that should characterize us when we pray, but rather an “according to your will” mindset. Just what is meant by this phrase “according to your will” and how do we practice this type of praying?
In my opinion, praying “according to your will” involves at least three things:
1. Praying in the Spirit. Since we don’t know how we should pray, at least in times of trial (Rom 8), the Spirit intercedes for us. Paul also encouraged this kind of praying in Eph 6. Who knows the will of God better than the Spirit of God? So praying in the Spirit — allowing God the Holy Spirit to intercede for us — is part of praying according to his will.
2. Praying in Jesus’ name. This is where we get any and all authority to enter God’s presence so confidently and boldly, so praying according to his will must mean, to some degree, not approaching God on our own merit. So though we come boldly, we come dependently, and humbly. We assume nothing, but only cling to Christ’s work as the basis for all our requests. If that attitude of dependence slips into an attitude of assumption, we’re not praying according to his will. It is precisely this attitude of dependence that, like Jesus, causes us to cry out in prayer, “Not my will but yours!” Anyone truly dependent upon Jesus in prayer will understand that God’s will is foremost, just as Jesus understood this in the garden. Praying in his name is not only our way of clinging to his authority, but also of modeling his attitude.
3. Praying in line with the Word. This is probably where most of our requests go awry. The Bible is filled with specific ways to pray — for our enemies, unselfishly, forgivingly, unceasingly, to name a few. Since God’s Word reveals God’s will, we can assert quite clearly that praying in a manner inconsistent with God’s Word isn’t praying according to his will. As Gary DeLashmutt, one of the teaching pastors at Xenos Christian Fellowship, says, “The more your perspective is soaked in God’s Word, the more you will pray according to its priorities, and the more you will see God answer your requests (Jn.15:7).”
My opinion? If these three are the first things we aim for in our prayer, whatever other mystery and complexity is involved in praying “according to his will” will not be a problem, for we will be so delighted by God and in God that we wouldn’t want anything other than God!