James tells us that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (v 5:16). We discussed a couple of weeks ago the types of prayers that Jesus and Paul prayed. When Jesus was praying for others, He prayed for their faith (Luke 22:32), He prayed against temptation in their lives (Luke 22:40), He prayed for their unity (John 17:11), and He prayed for their sanctification (John 17:17).
Paul prayed for the salvation of the lost (Romans 10:1); he prayed that the brothers would stay on the right path (2 Corinthians 13:7); he prayed that believers would be strengthened by the Spirit, rooted and grounded in love, able to comprehend God’s love, and filled with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14–19).
I don’t know about you, but even when I say the words, “Lord, your will not mine”, I mean it. But I also think I know perhaps how the prayer will be answered, or how I think it should be answered. I’ll tell you a “secret”, the Holy Spirit brings me back to this verse over and over again: “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Is. 55:8-9)
The truth is, that we don’t know God’s plans, so to attempt to usurp what He is doing behind the scenes is not “trust[ing] in the Lord with all your heart and lean[ing] not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). He gives us His plan in the next verse: “in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight” (v 6). We are to submit to Him, to what He is doing, and then He will make our paths straight as we trust in Him with all our hearts.
I saw something posted by a friend on Facebook in the last couple of weeks that I want to share with you. This is a bullet point (more or less) that illustrates the truth that we don’t know what’s best to pray for. Our “job” is to trust in Him who does!
- I would have pulled Joseph out. Out of that pit. Out of that prison. Out of that pain. And I would have cheated nations out of the one God would use to deliver them from famine.
- I would have pulled David out. Out of Saul’s spear-throwing presence. Out of the caves he hid away in. Out of the pain of rejection. And I would have cheated Israel out of a God-hearted king.
- I would have pulled Esther out. Out of being snatched from her only family. Out of being placed in a position she never asked for. Out of the path of a vicious, power hungry foe. And I would have cheated a people out of the woman God would use to save their very lives.
- And I would have pulled Jesus off. Off of the cross. Off of the road that led to suffering and pain. Off of the path that would mean nakedness and beatings, nails and thorns. And I would have cheated the entire world out of a Savior. Out of salvation. Out of an eternity filled with no more suffering and no more pain.
- And oh friend. I want to pull you out. I want to change your path. I want to stop your pain. But right now I know I would be wrong. I would be out of line. I would be cheating you and cheating the world out of so much good. Because God knows. He knows the good this pain will produce. He knows the beauty this hard will grow. He’s watching over you and keeping you even in the midst of this. And He’s promising you that you can trust Him. Even when it all feels like more than you can bear.
So instead of trying to pull you out, I’m lifting you up. I’m kneeling before the Father and I’m asking Him to give you strength. To give you hope. I’m asking Him to protect you and to move you when the time is right. I’m asking Him to help you stay prayerful and discerning. And I’m believing He’s going to use your life in powerful and beautiful ways. Ways that will leave your heart grateful and humbly thankful for this road you’ve been on.
-Written by Kimberly Henderson of Prov. 31 Ministries