When you don’t know God’s exact will in prayer about a situation, you should pray with a focus on what the Bible says about His attributes and desires. This can make up for what you don’t know about the situation you’re praying about.
Most of us live far beneath our potential in Christ. In part, this occurs because we don’t know how to pray effectively. Effective prayer links us with the infinite God and unlimited power and possibilities.
I’m going to briefly share with you a critical element of effective prayer. First, however, my disclaimer: I’m like you. I’m still learning. No way in the world am I pretending to know all I should about prayer.
It’s just that I have learned and experienced a lot of successes (and failures!) in my 44 years of walking with God. You can learn from them.
Are You Praying God’s Will?
Check out these Scriptures:
“And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”
1 John 5:14-15
I offer this with the understanding that you do not embrace a lifestyle of sin. That is, you’re not making provision to sin, and you’re not making excuses for this behavior.
True saints of God can and sometimes do uncharacteristically commit sins. But they are quick to genuinely repent and seek for ways not to repeat sinful behavior.
This needs to be said because it’s a waste of time to seek God’s assistance while we are in rebellion. In that case, all He wants to hear you say is, “I’ve sinned. I repent. Please forgive me.”
Okay, now that we know sin is not blocking our prayers, let’s look at this concept of praying in God’s will.
We Can Be Bold In Faith If We Know We Are Praying In God’s Will
The promise is we can have confidence “if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us…” Here is how we know His will: We search His word to discover how He feels about the issue. Then we pray in accordance with His perspective.
Here’s the tricky part: The Bible has over 31,000 Scriptures. So this may take some reading and studying.
Which do we apply to our situation? “Lord, should I accept this job offer or not?” “Should I go into business with this person or not?” “Which college major should I choose?”
“What…?” “Which…?” “How…?” “When…” “Where…?” “Who…?”
We could ask a million questions that aren’t directly addressed in the Bible. It’s not like, “Lord, my boss wants me to lie to our customer. What do I do?” God has explicitly and consistently stated His hatred of lies and lying tongues. So no need to pray and fast over this one.
But what of the gray areas?
You Will Not Always Know What To Pray For
My experience and opinion is it’s 100% impossible to pray with absolute certainty in every situation. What I mean is you will not always know the explicit path God wants you to take.
So how do you pray in confidence that something should happen or not happen when you don’t have enough knowledge to know whether it should or shouldn’t happen?
Some of my Charismatic brothers and sisters assume this knowledge. But quite often their assumptions prove to be presumptions. Depending on the situation, this can be disastrous.
Don’t Tempt God With A Deliberate Crisis
I suggest you never mistake as faith grabbing a Scripture and jumping into a deep, dark hole unless you can handle the landing.
Your self-induced crisis will not obligate God to catch you at the bottom of the hole. What did Jesus tell the devil when he tried to get Him to jump off the temple to prove He is God? (Matthew 4:5-7)
Satan even used Psalm 91:11-12 in a crazy attempt to convince Jesus that angels were obligated to catch Him if he jumped.
Jesus answered, “Again it is written, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” The Eric M Hill version is, “Fool, you must be crazy!”
Perfect Knowledge Not Necessary to Pray Effectively
Hopefully, after much searching the Word, you discover a prayer path you believe God will honor. But let’s deal with a hard truth. You’ve done all that and you still are unsure of God’s will.
This is where you pray by principle rather than knowledge. What I mean is you don’t know enough facts about…well, the situation or God’s perspective on the situation to pray in confidence.
Here’s the first thing you do.
Understand It’s Normal Not To Know Everything When You Pray
Understand that murkiness is part of being human. Lack of knowledge is built into our walk with God. So don’t look at it as odd or as an unexpected deficiency. Paul explained it this way:
“For we know in part and we prophesy in part…now I know in part, but then [when we see Christ] I shall know just as I also am known.”
(1 Corinthians 13:9, 12).
We know everything in part. This often includes prayer. But not knowing everything about a situation doesn’t mean you can’t pray about it effectively.
In business theory, this is called sufficing. It’s when a manager makes the best decision with the best available knowledge, even though it’s not all knowledge.
You can’t wait for perfect circumstances, and you can’t be paralyzed by lack of knowledge.
But I Don’t Want To Make A Presumptuous Mistake In Prayer
Won’t I run the risk of being presumptuous if I make a decision without having all knowledge? Well, honestly, we seldom have all knowledge when we make decisions. Right?
It’s the same with prayer. There’s a lot we don’t know. But when we pray according to righteousness, we’re praying about what we do know—with absolute certainty.
(I’ll explain what it means to pray according to righteousness in just a bit.)
The presumptuous person, however, speaks, prays, and proclaims with an absolute certainty that he created through formulaic thinking (some might call it self-delusion).
Or in other words, “If I do A, God must do B?” This causes her to make decisions as though she’s just had a face-to-face talk with the Almighty.
For instance, “I’m a tither. God must get me out of this financial mess.” Or, “I gave the man of God my bill money. My miracle is guaranteed.” Or, “I confessed this Scripture 700 times. The miracle’s on the way.”
This is the presumptuous person’s way of dealing with uncertainty. They just create their own reality!
If I believe it strong enough, that’ll make it true.
Where does self-delusion in prayer lead?
That SPLAT!!! sound you hear? A bug of self-delusion on the windshield of reality, my friend. But that is NOT going to be you because even though you don’t know enough to pray precisely, you’re going to pray according to righteousness.
How To Pray According To Righteousness
The concept of praying according to righteousness means you pray in such a way that God covers you whether you go to the left or right. It is taken from Galatians 5:22-23:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
Those last six words. They provide us an absolute certainty.
What they mean is if you commit to the fruit of the Spirit, you will please God no matter what you decide. I know. Pleasing God is good, but what does it have to do with your need of direction. Right?
I get you. Here it is.
Getting Rid of Mental Pollution Helps You Hear God in Prayer
When pleasing God is your number one priority, and when you commit to making your decision within the framework of walking in the Spirit, this will lead you away from the pull of your flesh and usher you into the wisdom of God.
It will provide clarity of thought. It will take the rush out of the process. It will help you see short-term vs. long-term benefits—and dangers. It will provide a calmness to your soul that will help you decide for your eternal good.
Okay, so now you’re not being pushed around by your flesh or the lure or urgency of the situation. Now what?
Two Possible Paths in Prayer
You have two possible paths.
- You wait in this uncompromised state for God to speak or act more definitively. We know from Scripture examples that He often uses delays to test our reactions (e.g., King Saul; 1 Samuel 13:1-15).
- You make a decision, yes or no, because the situation itself has a deadline that requires you to act. But before you do, you cry out to God as though your life depends on it! You let Him know with tears and pleadings that you want His will and not your own.
If you do option two, commit as little as possible. Go in with your eyes wide open, and be aware of the guy running the red traffic light. Since you did not definitively hear from God, you must be careful!
Take any precaution you can to lessen the damage in case the decision turns badly.
This is not lack of faith; this is wisdom. I mean, you don’t know whether God wants you to go this way or that way. Right? Okay, then.
“The prudent sees danger and takes cover, but the simple keeps going and suffers the consequences.”
(Proverbs 22:3; BSB)
Where’s the Guarantee That I’m Praying According to the Will of God?
On a purely human level, option two leaves you making either the right or wrong decision. Yep. I know. Where’s the guaranteed right decision? The guarantee that you’re praying the will of God?
Dude or dudette, the right decision is to please God in the decision-making process. That’s what you must pursue.
There are many people who make what we would consider good decisions. However, because they never yielded the process to God, they are on their own.
On that great day of judgment, much of what we applauded in others will be rejected by God because these were not decisions according to righteousness:
For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.Luke 16:15 NKJV
But you are a true son or daughter of the Most High. You walk in the Spirit. Many of your decisions will look foolish by worldly standards today. Yet God will celebrate you as wise on that great Day.
This is because you are looking at the eternal consequences of your actions and not simply short-term results that may bring immediate gratification or what the world considers success.
What Happens When You Pray According To Righteousness?
When you pray according to righteousness it is still possible to be thrown into the lions’ den, as was the prophet Daniel (Daniel 6). And it is still possible to be hung on a cross, as was our Lord Jesus.
You may be delivered out of the lions’ den. Or you may be delivered after the crucifixion. There is no formula to determine which it will be.
But if you bring God into your prayer-decision process, God guarantees to act in your behalf whether or not you figured out the right path.
“The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds Him with His hand.”
You see, that’s what I’m talking about. This man walks with God, has his steps ordered by God, AND SOMEHOW STILL FALLS! How is this possible?
It’s because—go back to the beginning—we see through a glass, darkly. We have partial knowledge. Mistakes are part of the program. Nonetheless…
“Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholds Him with His hand.”
You’re going to be alright!
- Can I Pray for the Same Thing More Than Once?
- Why God Didn’t Answer Your Prayer: Overlooked Reasons
- Can the Devil Hear and Stop My Prayers?
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