For most of us, knowing our own will comes naturally. We know what we want. I’m not talking about looking at a menu at an Italian restaurant and trying to decide what to eat, it ALL looks so good it’s hard to decide. I’m talking about our will, our desires. What do you want?
Every late winter and early spring I get to have some great conversations with students about to graduate, mostly students graduating from High School, but some college grads as well. As students are nearing the goal that’s been set before them, they have lots of decisions to make. Where do I want to go to school? Do I want to go to college? What do I want to do with my life? Do I want to live in a dorm at school? Do I want to commute? What will I major in? How far from home do I want to live? Will there be a job for me after college? How much will it pay? Do I want to go to college with friends from high school? Will I make new friends? What will my life be like? The questions and the decisions that go along with the answers to those questions seem endless and for students who are followers of Christ a question often asked is, “What’s God’s will for my life?” When we are facing big life decisions, we are in a good spot to contemplate big questions
I know what my will is. I know what my wants are. I mean, sometimes I struggle to know if I want pizza or tacos or cheeseburgers. Some days we struggle to know what we want at any given moment, but I think that only proves my point. There are so many things that I want it’s hard to choose how to satisfy my appetite, but I know I want to eat. And I know that I don’t want to eat broccoli. I came running into the house on a hot summer day in Jersey. With my hands to my throat I pleaded with my mom in a raspy voice, “I’m sooooo thirsty.” My mom gave her normal answer, well have a cup of water. “Nooooo, not water, I’m thirsty for juuuuuice.” Yes, I was overly dramatic as a young boy. I might be a tad bit dramatic at times even now, but I don’t drink a lot of juice. You see, I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted juice. It’s kinda like a conversation we had the other night, some people in our family have a separate stomach for ice cream. Even after a nice dinner, some of us can still have room for ice cream even after only eating half a cheeseburger. Sometimes I have room for ice cream even after eating my whole cheeseburger. See, we know what our will is, deep down we know what we want. Some of the stuff I want is good, buuuut some of my wants are totally selfish. Most often I want things that benefit me. I want what’s best for me. I want what I want.
We are living in God’s will when we are loving God, God already loves us, we don’t need to do or not do anything to deserve or earn God’s love, God’s love is given to us as a gift, it’s grace. His relationship with us is made possible because of what Christ has done for us, not what we have done or not done.
Even Jesus prayed God’s will be done. The prayer of Jesus that impacts me and my prayer life the most is the prayer Christ prayed in the Garden the night he was arrested. After celebrating the Passover meal with his best friends, and he knows what’s gonna happen, he predicts one of them will betray him. They sing songs after dinner and walk out to the Mount of Olives and they pray. Well, Jesus prays and the disciples mostly sleep. Jesus keeps waking them up, but they keep falling asleep and Jesus keeps praying.
Jesus prays, “Father, if YOU are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but your will be done.” Even Jesus, prays “not my will but your will be done.” Jesus prays it perfectly. Luke 22:41-43 Jesus knows the suffering that is coming, Jesus knows the physical suffering of the beating, the torture, the scourging, the execution on the cross. Jesus knows the pain of rejection is coming, the very people he came to save are the ones who will put him to death shouting “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Jesus knows the pain of rejection, that even His heavily Father will have to turn his back on him as Jesus takes on himself the sin of the world. (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?) And still Jesus prays, “Not my will be done, but your will be done.”
Ever feel like the Lord isn’t answering your prayers? Feel like you’re praying and praying. Asking God for something that seems right to you, seems like it’s right to pray, seems like it’s right to ask for, but you’re not getting what you want? I’ve had conversations with friends, and some have left the faith or been tempted to ditch it all because they felt like God didn’t hear their prayers. They were convinced that God didn’t love them because He didn’t do what they prayed for. But as we see in Jesus’ prayer, God didn’t step in and change the plan of salvation just so Jesus wouldn’t have to go through all that pain. God the Father said, “No,” to the Son He loved, so that we might receive forgiveness of our sins. Jesus was allowed to suffer so that we may be forgiven.
Even when you’re praying and you feel like you’re not getting what you want, God loves you. God hears you. Are you believing in Jesus? He loves you, he’s giving you the faith to believe and the grace of forgiveness. Are you struggling with sin? Is there a sin in your life right now, something you’re saying, doing, thinking that isn’t God’s way? Confess your sin to God, he wants to forgive you. He wants to transform your thinking, he wants to transform our will so we want what He wants.
I often end my personal prayers with an inspiration from Jesus’ prayer before he was arrested. Lord, make your will my will, so I want what you want.