Teaching my Boy to grow in faith, relationship and Christian disciplines has made me question so many area of the way I do life – in action and speech. Not big questions, like ‘is the Bible true?’ or ‘is ‘God the one, true God?’, but other stuff that I give no attention to and I do anyway out of habit. It’s important to know what God says, but it’s equally or more important to understand what he says. As my Boy grows and starts thinking and questioning why we ask him to do ‘such and such’, I’m forced to ask myself, “Why do I do that, and why should I teach my Boy to do it too?”
Ever since I read “Using God’s Favorite Word” by Jon Acuff I’ve been conscious about the language of prayer. (Click on the link and be prepared for prayer to never be the same for you again; plus you’ll laugh because you know you can relate.) Last week I wrote part 1 of a 2-part post questioning the validity of using the common prayer addendum, ‘If it be your will...” In the post I suggested it was either arrogant or ignorant to pray those words.
Jesus taught us to pray by using two teaching methods. Teaching by example is a great way to learn, and we have numerous examples of Jesus’ prayers to model. He also explicitly taught us to pray in Matthew 6:9-13. Modelling is fantastic but I favour the direct approach because I prefer no ambiguity or loose interpretation. In v.10, we are instructed to pray for God’s will to be done on earth, as it was [already] in heaven. It seems easy and straightforward, until you actually try to do it so we like to add one little, two-letter word, ‘if’. As a conjunction, if indicates there is a condition for which the action to be executed and as a noun, if indicates an uncertain possibility. By adding the word ‘if’ we throw all certainty out the window and we demonstrate, by our words, we are simply guessing. In other words, it is ignorant to pray, “if it be your will...”
Jesus instructed us to pray a specific way because he expected it to be possible. Jesus was fully man; when he said and did what he saw the Father saying and doing, he did so as a man and thereby giving us an example, a model, in which to follow. I imagine Jesus to be a ‘man’s man’. His father would have taught him the carpentry trade so he probably had rough, working-man’s hands, he palled around with his buddies and he enjoyed a fermented drink when the occasion called but in all his manly attributes, none of them allowed him to know the Father’s will, except by the Holy Spirit so we are also without excuse.
I used to take comfort in Biblical examples of uncertainty because it validated my lack of knowing and took the onus of responsibility from me until I realized all of my examples were found in the old testament (1 Samuel 14:6, Esther 4:16, Daniel 3:27 to name a few) but the new testament changes it. In Jeremiah 31:34, Jeremiah prophesied the new covenant, and how we would no longer need teachers but everyone could know God personally and individually. We are given the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). The gift of the Holy Spirit takes away uncertainty, even to the point where Paul could go confidently to Jerusalem even knowing it would end in his capture.
Multiple times Jesus spoke to the disciples saying the mysteries [of heaven] were given to them to know. Paul reiterated it in Ephesians 1:9, saying God made known the mystery of his will. How? In Christ (who is the word of God), and by the Holy Spirit who also testifies and confirms the truth (Hebrews 10:15, 1 John 5:6, John 15:26). Paul also exhorts us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, be transformed in our minds. Why? So we can know the will of God – the good, and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2).
Is anyone moved by this revelation? I’m excited all by myself, and I’m writing myself happy; the Holy Spirit is witnessing to and I feel the crescendo in my spirit. Truly this is good news. It is fantastical (made up word) to imagine we could know the will of the Creator of the universe.
Let it sink in.
God, the Infinite One, the One who is complete in himself, makes his will known to mankind. And not just broad, all-encompassing knowledge, but his intimate and definable will for our lives. It’s incredible, and if that doesn’t bring you to your knees in worship then I have just one word: repent (change your thinking).
Last week I wrote about the arrogance of prayer; I see and hear it from some Christians but by and large the greatest reason people use the phrase, “If it be your will...” is because we don’t know what God’s will is. If it applies to you (it does to me, in many areas), spend time with God, develop intimacy because intimacy is where secrets and mysteries are shared and may you, and may I never, never use the word ‘if’ where God’s will is concerned because may we always, forever and ever know it.