December 7 - LD 49, Day 5: Praying Without Doubting
by Rev. Martyn McGeown
1 John 5:14 “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.”
Some object to the third petition because it seems to express doubt. Such people would argue that we should ask boldly and confidently, and therefore we must not add to our prayers “if it be Thy will…” That, they say, neutralizes the prayer—it adds an element of doubt, as if we are not sure whether God will give us what we ask.
However, this is a grave misunderstanding. It is entirely fitting and appropriate for us to add “if it be Thy will” to our petitions, simply because we do not know what God’s will is.
There are some things for which we do not need to add this petition: “Father, forgive my sins.” We who have faith in Jesus Christ know that God has promised to forgive our sins. “Father, gather, defend and preserve Thy church.” We know that God has promised to save His church. “Father, destroy the kingdom of darkness.” We know that God has promised to do that also.
But there are other more specific petitions for which we have no promise. Perhaps we are praying for the conversion of a friend. We do not know what God’s will is, so it is fitting we add “if it be Thy will” to our prayer. Perhaps we are at the sickbed of a loved one. Through tears, we beseech God to heal our dear one, but we add “if it be Thy will” to our prayer. We do not know the number of the days determined by God for our loved one. What we do know is that God’s will for us, even when He takes a loved one in sickness and death, is good.
There is a world of difference between asking in childlike humility and demanding that God give us what we want. Certainly, we come boldly, with confidence, into the very presence of God, but we come to God. We cannot demand anything of Him; we cannot manipulate Him; we cannot by much speaking persuade Him to give us what He is not pleased to give.
Another great evil in prayer is to pray for something which God has revealed He will not give. That is to tempt God. Our prayers must be according to God’s will in this sense too—we must pray for those things which please God. For example, we should pray for grace and the Holy Spirit, but we should not pray that God give us good examination results when we cheat or do not study or that He prosper us when we steal. Furthermore, we should avoid the pious-sounding sham, “I have been praying about it, and I feel that…” or “Let me pray about that…” When God has revealed that something is not His will, we should not pray about it—except for grace to resist the way of disobedience. We must never use prayer as an excuse not to obey a clear command of Scripture—that is to mock God in a most shameful manner.
We should make it our business to discover God’s will from the Bible, and having discovered it, we obey. If we struggle with obedience, we pray, “Lord, incline my stubborn, foolish, rebellious, sinful will to obey Thy commandments. Thy will be done!”
- Date: December 7
Rev. Martyn McGeown (Larisa)
Pastorates: Missionary-pastor in Limerick, Ireland for the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland - 2010; Providence PRC (Hudsonville, MI), Sept. 2021Website: www.prca.org/current/news/churches/usa-canada/providence-prc-hudsonville-mi
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