This is my last post on the topic of “Can Prayer Change God’s Mind”. W.Bingham Hunter* has some excellent pieces of advice for all who try to pray in God’s will. He says that praying in the will of God is not a special magical formula as much as it is an attitude: “the petitioner’s willingness to admit that the Father’s knowledge is more complete than His children’s. It expresses the child’s wish to learn to want what God gives” [Hunter, 62]. If you have not seen this main point emerge in recent posts, here it is again: “God hears us (grants our petitions) only when we ask according to His will” [Hunter,63].
You may wonder now [and Hunter anticipates your questions] how can I know the will of God?
This is a piece of advice that tells you what not to do to know God’s will. Pay attention to the media. In our country, we are constantly being sold products which are designed to transform our lives. Buy this car and you will have the image of success. Purchase this watch to look rich or wear this sports coat to look like you have “fashion consciousness.” We are persuaded into desiring things and God is not impressed with our materialistic desires. James 4:3 addresses praying for wrong motives and the desire for pleasures. God won’t respond.
A positive move is to read your Bible. The more you do it, the more God’s words remain in you. The Bible can lead all of us to a greater knowledge of God and prayer. James 15:7 “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” The Bible can indeed be your gateway to better prayer.
Commit yourself to doing God’s will. We are talking about Christian obedience here, the kind of obedience that is reflected in the words found in Romans 12:1-2: “ Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Remember that every one of us is unique. We don’t need to think we can determine God’s will by looking at others. We all have positive Christian role models around us, but the best resource is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will guide your thoughts, goals and aspirations. When we turn to others, we can think we are “further along” with our Christian walk or we are “way behind.” Our society is horrible about constantly trying to establish who is “on top”; don’t fall into that trap.
If you do seek help from others, seek help from mature Christians who have gone through things. I am an intercessor at my church and there is another intercessor who exhibits the strength of a woman of faith. She not only prays in God’s will; she prays as if the victory is won. She knows that God will triumph and she prays that way. I have listened to her prayers and talked to her about praying. Needless to say, she is not a “baby” Christian; her life has been full of trial and tribulation and yet she still stands. She stands strong for herself and many others.
Learn to pray for others and ask others to pray for you. When we ask for prayer from others, give them enough detail about the concern and the time you need for them to pray. Don’t just say “pray for me” and leave them. In the past few months, I have learned to pray for others and I have learned to ask others to pray for me. I know it helps. In fact, I have had so many people praying for me that I have been overwhelmed.
All this advice can give you a posture toward prayer that can be so helpful but the most helpful thing to have is the right attitude. God may not give you your petition. Instead of getting disappointed, crushed or even grieved, pray again. Hunter states “Prayer problems are usually not intellectual but volitional. In praying effectively, the submission of your will is directly linked to finding God’s will. Prayer which God answers is always offered with an attitude of submission” [Hunter, 65].
The close of the chapter on “Can Prayer Change God’s Mind” is too good not to repeat here…
“Are you willing to say when God’s response to your own urgent prayer is not the one you wanted: ‘have thine own way Lord.’”
*author of The God Who Hears