Study 8 THE PRAYER FOR GOD’S WILL TO BE DONE
GREAT PRAYERS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Reference: Psalm 143: 10
What a beautiful prayer this is - “Teach me to do your will”! It occurs in the last of the seven penitential psalms and it is the heart-cry of the psalmist for grace to know and to do God’s will. The late Dr G. Campbell Morgan says in his book ”God’s Perfect Will”, that “there is no phrase more often in use among Christians than that of the will of God”, and he closes the same book with the words, ”There is but one thing that matters, knowing and doing God’s will.” This was the important thing in the life of the Lord Jesus - look up and compare Psalm 40:7-8; Matthew 26:39; John 4:34; John 17:4. What does David’s prayer - “Teach me to do your will” - tell us?
1. It states the first heart-cry and longing of the truly born again soul.
Before we become a Christian we are not particularly interested in God’s will because we’re concerned only to go our own way (Isaiah 53:6). But what happens when God steps into our life and when we can say, ”You are my God” (Psalm 143:10)? Then we find ourselves praying the prayer, ”Teach me to do your will”. This was so in the case of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:6). When we pray in this way it is a sure sign that there has been a real work of grace in our hearts. If we do not pray this prayer we ought to ask: Are we, in fact, the Lord’s?
2. It declares that God has a purpose and plan for our lives.
The fact that God has a plan for each one of us is declared throughout the Bible, and it is proved in the individual experience of God’s people. Read through the Book of Psalms with this thought in mind, and look up Colossians 1:9 and Colossians 4:12, and then read the biographies of people such as Wesley, Whitefield, F. B. Meyer, Mary Slessor and Amy Carmichael. Who can doubt that these Christians moved along in the plan and purpose of God?
3. It affirms that God is ready and willing to reveal His will to us.
Christians are often perplexed and say, ‘How can I know God’s will?’ Let us always remember that God is far more willing to guide us than we are to be guided. He wants the very best for us. It is important for us to distinguish between the directive and the permissive will of God. His directive will means that which is His highest and most gracious purpose; but His permissive will indicates what He may allow and yet not really approve. He may permit that which He may not desire. We may choose the will of God for our life, and that choosing will bring great pleasure to Him, great blessing to us, but on the other hand it is possible for us to make our own plans and insist on our own choice. God will still love us, but we must be the losers - look up Psalm 106:15.
4. It indicates the conditions to be met if we are to know and do His will.
What are these conditions? Are they complicated? Notice three things:-
- (1) We must have a teachable attitude. Notice how David prays, “Teach me to do your will”. He obviously had a child-like spirit and acknowledges his need to be taught (Jeremiah 10:23; Matthew 18:3-4).
- (2) We must have an intense desire to know God’s will. David’s prayer reveals this, and the Bible is full of specific promises to stimulate our desire - look up Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 3:6; Proverbs 16:3 and James 1:5. Have you an intense desire to know God’s will?
- (3) We must have a willingness to do His will whatever it involves. David prayed, “Teach me to do your will”, not only to know it but to do it; and when we pray this prayer we must have that willingness, whether it seems to us pleasing or painful and whether it harmonises with what we would like or with something that we had not expected at all - look up John 7:17.
5. It provokes the question: How does the Lord teach us His will?
The answer to this practical question is very clear. He does it in three ways:-
- (1) By the teaching of His Word. In the Bible we have a declaration of God’s will in general terms. Most of the guidance God gives in His Word is through certain clearly stated principles, and we can learn immediately from the Bible the answer to the following questions: Will it glorify God? Will it honour the Holy Spirit? Does it conflict with any clear command? We must be careful not to use the Bible as a magic book. God guides us by the teaching of His Word, where He reveals His will in general terms. But there are some occasions when we need not general guidance but particular guidance. How does He guide then?
- (2) By the promptings of His Spirit. In Psalm 143 the work of the Holy Spirit is especially referred to in verse 10 - look up and compare Romans 8:14. When God requires us to take a certain step He leads us according to the principles of His Word and the burden which the Holy Spirit places on our hearts. No ’supposed’ guidance of the Holy Spirit is really the Holy Spirit’s guidance if it is contrary to the clear teaching of the Word of God.
- (3) By the overruling of His providence. This means that God guides us through what we call “the circumstances of life”. He opens and closes doors - look up Revelation 3:8. He leads us by the wise counsel of Christian friends and loved ones.
When it is God’s will for us to take a certain step He will lead us by the teaching of His Word, by the prompting of His Spirit and by the overruling of His providence, and the three ways will harmonise to confirm to us that the step we are about to take is God’s will for us. Notice the promise in 1 John 2:17.
- “LORD, TEACH ME TO DO YOUR WILL.”