We have an innate desire to be in control. We often blame God when things go wrong without praising God when things go well. Drastic, painful, and unexpected situations are often met with platitudes about a situation being in God’s will. Is it God’s will that so much suffering, violence, and mayhem occur in this world? Does watching the nightly news reveal more about man’s will or God’s will?
I believe the root of this issue is that we toss around the “God’s will” phrase as if there is only one kind. There are two components within God’s will – directive and permissive. Our omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God uses this combination of wills to accomplish His divine purpose for our lives. Through Jeremiah 29:11 God tells us “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God’s directive will is divine, perfect, and unchangeable.
Permissive will is what God allows. God’s permissive will often involves testing us so that we may grow. The Lord tests. The enemy tempts. The enemy has no new tricks. Although the Lord allows temptation to occur, He also provides a means to escape. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13
In the acclaimed devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, teacher and evangelist Oswald Chambers, explains “it is our reaction to these things allowed by His permissive will that enables us to come to the point of seeing His perfect will for us.” Through Romans 12:2, God reminds us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I once heard a preacher share a story of a father who planned to give his son a bicycle for his birthday. Over several months, the father planted seeds of suggestion by occasionally mentioning bicycles to his son. The son heard his father’s suggestions and began to earnestly want a bicycle. When his birthday arrived, the son was delighted to receive exactly what he wanted. And so it is with our need to align with God’s will.
Each time we pray, we make a choice to pray God’s will or our own. Wikipedia defines will as “the strongest desire from among the desires present.” Our prayer life often reflects our faith journey. The risk in praying our will is that it is short-sighted and often temperamental, based on our emotions at that time. By contrast, praying God’s will is an act of faith because it goes beyond our understanding of immediate situations. We cultivate faith by acknowledging our trust and desire for God to resolve every issue according to His divine plan. If you find yourself struggling to pray God’s will, begin by praying for a willingness to obey God’s will. As you progress in your spiritual journey, you will begin to desire the things of God. The chasm between your will and God’s will narrows until it is one and the same.
“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, though Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”-Hebrews 13:20-21