Most of us struggle with two things: either not knowing God’s will or assuming it is the same as our own.
I remember when I was a kid I used to pray for superpowers. I ran through the typical formula that I learned as a kid, “Now I lay me, down to sleep, I pray the Lord, my soul to keep” and then I would get to the place where I got to ask God for things, and so I made my desires known. I wanted telekinesis specifically. I had heard you could read people’s minds, control things with your own, and so it seemed like I got all the best things (super strength, power of flight) all in one. And even though I asked God for this over and over, and I promised I would use it to point people to him, he never said yes. A pretty silly request, but as I grew the principle of this pretty much remained the same. I kept asking God for things, but it was mostly about my desires, not his. Luckily, as a famous preacher once put it, God answers our prayers in the way we would have asked, had we known what he knows.
God’s will is constantly at work, and our prayer life is less about us trying to rub the lamp so the genie will grant our wishes, and more about us aligning our hearts with what God is already doing. The book of Jonah is a great case study for this. Jonah struggled with joining God’s will. In this case, Jonah knew exactly what God willed, and he was running. When he was finally swallowed by a fish, he remembered the God he was running from and started running back. He wanted to be in the temple once more, enjoying his presence, sacrificing to him, praising him, and he came to the end of himself as he ended his prayer, “salvation comes from the Lord”.
When the fish spit Jonah back on to the land, he aligned his life with God’s will, and in doing so saw some amazing things happen. An entire people group who had never known Jonah’s God had repented and sought after him. Jonah was able to see by his own life, and those God was working on, that salvation belongs to the LORD.
Most of us struggle with two things: either not knowing God’s will or assuming it is the same as our own. In light of this we either struggle with knowing what to do or becoming disappointed when it seems like God doesn’t act. The truth is God’s will can be known, he is acting, and he wants us involved. He is constantly accomplishing amazing things, and our ability to align our hearts with God will not only make it possible to witness what God is doing but enjoy it. And those vain prayers we once prayed will be transformed into deep longings for the working of God.