“The Spirit intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will” – Romans 8.27From David King:
Don’t you hate small print? Often we associate it with an offer that seems too good to be true and turns out to be exactly that! The technicality which allows the seller to squirm out of their offer – like the person who bought a sofa on Ebay for a tremendously low price, only to receive through the post a sofa from a doll’s house. It was the sofa which the seller had pictured, but with the dimensions carefully omitted!
Prayer in the Bible can sometimes feel like this. Great promises, but with a catch. So in our passage from last Sunday, we are told that the Spirit will help us in our prayer – hooray! – but only according to God’s will. Or Jesus promises us that “whatever you ask of the Father… He will give it to you”, but then qualifies it with “in my name” John 14.13. But I want to suggest that praying according to the Father’s will is not a catch, but the crowning glory of the promise and that it frees us up in our prayer.
The reason why it is such good news comes down to God’s love, his goodness, his grace and his power: God loves us more deeply than we can possibly imagine; his goodness will mean that he will not allow anything harmful or evil to overcome us; his grace means that his constant and determined attitude to us is to give us more and more; and his power means that nothing will stop him. All of these we see displayed in the cross.
And yet, there is that experience of wrestling we have. We are so sure that a particular thing is what we really need: a healing, a relationship, a career, a possession, that we cannot imagine our happiness without it. On those occasions, “according to God’s will” feels disappointing, frustrating, even unreasonable. What do we do? Can I suggest the following?
- Start our prayer with the prayer that we would have a deeper knowledge and conviction of God’s love, goodness, grace and power – that we would truly trust him – then thank him for the cross.
- Pray that his will be done.
- Pour out our hearts – don’t worry if we don’t know whether what you want is according to God’s will, he does not want us to pretend in prayer. After all, Jesus prayed what was on his heart – that the cup would be taken away from him. The Spirit will remould your prayers.
- Thank him that his will is good.
“Father, you know how much I want this. Please give it to me. But Lord I thank you that you love me with unbounded love – even dying on the cross for me. I know that you are wise and will not give me something that would harm me, however much I want it. I know that you are good, don’t let me be drawn away from you by desires for what is not good. And I thank you that you are gracious and have unlimited joys in store for me. If now is not the time, please give me the childlike faith to trust in your love, goodness and grace towards me – even when I cannot see why. Amen”