Knowing God’s Will
When You Pray About a Mountain
“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him,
that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask,
we know that we have the petitions
that we have asked of Him.”
1 John 5:14, 15
I heard the sigh of frustration. That’s one of the problems, isn’t it? Often we don’t know the will of God; so how can we pray in confidence, especially if the answer is delayed? Good news! God didn’t give you the promises above to tease or frustrate you. He wants your prayers answered.
How to Pray According to the Will of God
Let’s begin with what’s not mysterious. There are innumerable Scriptures which tell us what to do and not do. For instance, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything [in, not for] give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
You don’t have to search for Scriptures like these; they’re everywhere. So are the others which don’t have “this is the will of God” in them, but nonetheless are as clear and directive as those that do. So it is entirely possible that the answer you’re searching for in prayer has already been revealed in the Bible. You may be able to cut down your prayer time considerably (at least for the object you’re presently praying) by aggressively searching the Scriptures. I suggest starting by carefully reading through Proverbs.
However, you won’t find a Scripture that says, “Marry Blake. He’ll make a great husband and father, and you’ll never regret your decision.” Sure, you will find a ton of Scriptures about relationships and marriage and commitment and so forth, but none of them will mention Blake. This is where things start feeling like a dangerous coin toss. Thank God, there’s a better way!
Is Your Prayer Paralyzed Because You Don’t Know What God Wants?
Christians are often paralyzed in place, afraid to go left or right, for fear of missing God. Now waiting on God before big decisions is good, but when taken to an extreme, it works against our prayers. I’ve talked to Christians who purported to be so spiritual that literally everything about them was “Spirit led.” Sounds awesome; actually awful.
This one real example represents what I’m speaking of. A woman told me she was so led of the Spirit that she didn’t even dress herself until she was sure of the exact clothing God wanted her to wear. To me this is cringe worthy because my understanding of the Scriptures leads me to believe God gets glory from our growth in Him, and from the decisions that arise from that growth.
God gets no glory from a daughter of God sitting in the closet waiting for Him to tell her what clothes to wear. This example may appear silly and a waste of space in a book this size; it’s not. It’s directly related to praying in the will of God.
Imagine the prayer life of a person who thinks like this. If she can complicate something as simple as what clothes to wear, prayer must be an exceeding complicated task for her. I know she’s an extreme case. And in all honesty, I’ve only dealt with a few people who go this far. Yet many Christians who would never ride the bus as far as this lady does, are in fact on her bus. And in my over thirty-five years of serving Christ, I’ve talked to bunches of Christians like this.
To illustrate, I read an article about mental illness. It discussed the different levels of mental illness. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say on a scale of one to ten, ten qualifies as the level where a person’s life is functionally disrupted and perhaps noticeable to others. The article went on to say that tens of millions of people are at levels that don’t reach the severity of ten, but are at high enough levels that they possess extremes in their emotions, judgment, and perspective. Functionally normal, but compromised.
Similarly, many otherwise outstanding Christians who don’t wait for God to tell them what clothes to wear each day do possess a milder version of this paralysis. They go about their lives routinely making hundreds of decisions, some of them quite important, based upon common sense, academic or specialized knowledge, Scriptural encouragement or prohibitions, growth in Christ and experience with God, among other things.
Nonetheless, often when it comes to seeking God for specific things in prayer that aren’t clearly spelled out in Scripture, they wipe the board clean and promptly forget everything they’ve been doing to this point.
They default to “I don’t know how to pray in this situation because I don’t know what God wants here.” And since they don’t know exactly what God wants, they can’t pray with the confidence spoken of our Scriptures, 1 John 5:14, 15.
I understand. Trust me. There are some situations that are so complicated and time critical and potentially far reaching in their effects that we don’t want to flip a spiritual coin and hope for the best. So I’m not blasting you for hesitating to thump the coin into the air. What I want you to see is you don’t have to call heads or tails. God has a better way. And it’s one hundred percent His will—always!
What Did Paul Do When He Didn’t Know Exactly What God Wanted?
I don’t believe we need to know exactly what God wants for us to do exactly what He wants. The apostle Paul wrote two-thirds of the New Testament and was, according to the Holy Spirit, the greatest of the apostles. He certainly knew what we call the great commission: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
Yet we see him going about his missionary journeys in Acts 16:6-10 making what we might call mistakes or presumptuous decisions in his attempt to obey God. He tried to go into Asia (not our geographical Asia) and “they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel in Asia.” So they went to a place called Mysia and “tried to go into Bithynia, but the Holy Spirit did not permit them.”
What were the others thinking? “Wow, I’m trusting this guy with my life, and he has no idea what he’s doing. Why, he’s just flipping a coin!” Just when the board was about to call a secret meeting to discuss Paul’s inability to hear from God, Paul had a vision directing them to go to Macedonia.
How does this relate to you praying in confidence when you don’t know the exact will of God? Look at Paul. If we conclude that him knowing the exact will of God meant knowing which direction and destination to go, then he clearly didn’t know. Yet in the end, he arrived exactly where God wanted him. What happened for him can and will happen for you.
Paul didn’t know the exact details of what God wanted. So he started with the clear will of God: Go, preach the gospel in all the world. He took this general command and chose a way he could practically implement it. Yes, I’m sure he prayed first, but we know from the record that Paul’s prayers didn’t exempt him from having to forge ahead without customized directions.
He spent time, money, emotions, and work doing by principle what had not yet been revealed to him by revelation. Or in other words, sometimes you don’t get the big unmistakable, “Whoa, that was awesome!” confirmation that you were in God’s will until after you have tried to go into Asia and Bithynia.
Your Asia and Bithynia may be taking a timid step toward what you think may be God’s will. What if you’re wrong? So, what if you are wrong? Was Paul wrong for taking a step toward Bithynia and later Asia?
Did God reprimand him for using his initiative in the absence of customized instructions? No. He blessed him as long as he followed His general will. And when Paul’s initiative, which was in submission to God, brought him to a place God didn’t want him, God spoke clearly.
God is a fantastic communicator. If you get to a place where you are about to make a so-called wrong decision, whether it stems from your humanity or sinfulness, He’ll talk to you, too.
God Doesn’t Expect You to Know Everything When You Pray
Here is something that has helped me and others hugely in our prayers. Paul was wrong only in the sense that he was human, and humans don’t know everything. Please hear and never forget this: God doesn’t expect you to know everything—even as you pray.
I like to tell people that failure is built into the system, and it doesn’t bother God one bit. I get this concept from the entire Bible, but specifically from 1 Corinthians 13:9, 12. Here it says we see through a glass, darkly, and we have only partial knowledge and partial effectiveness in spiritual gifts. Call it what you will, but this sounds like the perfect recipe for a bunch of mistakes and a bunch of unanswered questions.
Don’t worry about this context of imperfection we’re in. It’s just the way it is. It’ll be this way until the Lord returns. Drop to your knees. Submit yourself to God in humility. Tell Him you don’t have all the facts you’d like to have, but you’re going to use what you do have to make your petition.
You know that God is holy, righteous, just, loving, kind, and forgiving. You know that for some reason He has this crazy, irrational love for you. You know that the Scripture says, “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry,” (Psalm 34:15). You know that He has told you to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
God has set this thing up so that His glory and power is manifested through imperfect and often bumbling misfits who dare to trust Him to do the impossible. Soon you’ll be able to say with the psalmist, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
Come on, son or daughter of God. You can do it!
Lesson One. The answer to my prayer may already be revealed in the Bible.
Lesson Two. Prayer paralysis is often caused by forgetting to use some of the principles we successfully use every day as we make decisions.
Lesson Three. If I don’t know the exact will of God, I can confidently follow the general will of God and what I know about Him until He chooses to reveal more details. My confidence in prayer is not in knowing exact details, but in knowing God.
Lesson Four. God doesn’t hold my humanity against me as I pray. I can boldly go to the throne of grace to get help even when I don’t know as much as I’d like to know about the situation or the exact details in God’s heart.
Pray out loud: “Lord, I don’t know as much as I’d like to know about this situation, but I now know You don’t expect me to know everything. Though I offer You my prayers with imperfect knowledge, I have faith that You hear me. As I pray, I’m watching and listening for any further light from You. Until I receive more, I will pray in faith with what I have.”
If you found this post helpful, please use the buttons below to share it with others. Also, try one of my other articles on prayer by clicking here
If you want to grow in spiritual warfare and supernatural ministry, read about Eric’s School of Spiritual Warfare and Supernatural Ministry at ericmhillauthor.com. The school’s main forum is Facebook.com/groups/ericmhillauthor.
Click on image below to get more information about my books!