I have not resolved this issue fully in my own mind. If God is sovereign, his “good, pleasing and perfect will” must be done (Romans 12:2). If God intends us to have freedom of choice, he must honor the decisions we make even when they are counter to his perfect will. It seems to me that resolving this conflict in either direction creates a greater problem than we solve. If God’s will controls our own, our mistakes and sins are ultimately his fault (violating James 1:13-15). If our will controls God’s, he cannot fulfill his purposes for his creation (violating Jesus’ claim that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” Matthew 28:18).
So I am ready to accept both sides of the paradox. God is three and one; Jesus is fully God and fully man; and Scripture is divinely inspired and humanly written. In the same way, God will accomplish his perfect will without violating my freedom. There are times when we are like Joseph, sold into slavery by our brothers’ misused free will. At the end of the story we will be able to say to them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20). His love prevails.
How to pray
We are to pray with urgency.
Charles Spurgeon, the greatest of all Baptist preachers, warned us: “He who prays without fervency does not pray at all. We cannot commune with God, who is a consuming fire, if there is no fire in our prayers.” Maltbie Babcock agreed: “Our prayers must mean something to us if they are to mean anything to God.”
Hear Spurgeon again: “The sacred promises, though in themselves most sure and precious, are of no avail for the comfort and sustenance of the soul unless you grasp them by faith, plead them in prayer, expect them by hope, and receive them with gratitude.” He added, “Do not reckon you have prayed unless you have pleaded, for pleading is the very marrow of prayer.”
We are to pray urgently and continually. Jesus’ words are in the present tense: pray and keep on praying. Our Lord prayed before light, after dark, all night long, continually. His word commands the same of us: “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5.17).
George Mueller, the great minister and man of faith, prayed patiently for five personal friends who did not know the Lord. After five years, one came to Christ. In ten more years, two more were saved. After 25 years, the fourth friend came to Christ. He kept praying for the last friend for 52 years, then died. The fifth friend came to know Jesus a few months afterward. Keep praying.
How do we pray with continual urgency?
Begin. Make an appointment to meet with God. I read this week about a man who put on his calendar each day, 7-7:30, prayer. But he kept missing it. Then he changed it to say 7-7:30, God. That’s a harder meeting to neglect.
In Jesus’ name: “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14). Do you believe that you deserve to be heard, or do you pray on the basis of Jesus’ death for you?
According to God’s will: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15). He will give us what we ask, or something better.
For God’s glory: “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father” (Jn. 14:13). Do you seek your glory or his?
With a clean heart: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my prayer” (Psalm 66:18-19).
If God seems silent, check yourself by these biblical standards. But know that your Father wants to hear you even more than you want to be heard. And pray. Let nothing stop you. Do it today.
Now, where does this subject come home to you? Do you pray much at all? Continually? With urgency? Is there a need you’ve abandoned, a request on which you’ve given up? A place in your life where God seems silent?
Perhaps this man’s experience will help. An anonymous Confederate soldier wrote,
“I asked God for strength that I might achieve; I was made weak, that I might learn to serve. I asked for health, that I might do great things; I was given infirmity, that I might do better things. I asked for wealth, that I might be happy; I was given poverty, that I might be wise. I asked for power, that I might earn the praise of men; I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life; I was given life, that I might enjoy all things. I got nothing I asked for, but all I hoped for. Despite myself, my prayers were answered. And I am, among all men, most richly blessed.”
So can we be. This is the promise of God.