We have continued to insist that the knowledge of God’s will is fundamental to all true praying. We have insisted that the first part of prayer should be the seeking of God’s will and when that will is known, it should then be prayed through.
Having said that, some one may ask, “Do I not have the freedom to ask God to supply my daily needs? Do I not have the freedom to ask the Lord to give me the desires of my heart?”
Our reply is that the believer has much liberty. The Lord has encouraged all who are His to ask and they would receive. For example, He says, “Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
The question remains as to whether the believer always knows what his real needs are! How many of God’s children know themselves enough to ask those things which when given would cause their joy to be full? My experience with myself and from counselling many believers is that we do not know what we need. This may seem to be startling but let me explain.
First of all, the Lord has committed Himself to supply our needs and not our wants. The exhortation of the apostle is “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Many of us present our wants to God and not our needs. We ask but do not receive because we ask wrongly to spend what we receive from asking on our passions. We must agree with the Lord that our hearts are what He says they are. The prophet confessed, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). I must confess that in the early years of my walk with God I did not come to terms with the fact that my heart was desperately corrupt and deceitful. Now I am more aware of the corruption and the deceitfulness of my heart not because my heart has become more corrupt and more deceitful (I hope not!) but because I have received more light than I received in the past. I want to confess that I am beginning to be truly afraid of what I think I know, knowing how deceitful I could be. I am beginning to be afraid of what I think I have seen, knowing how false or how confused and how dim my sight may be. These things have made me not to be too sure, on my own, as to what my needs are. They have made me see the necessity of praying often to the Father as follows: “My Lord and my God. I acknowledge the deep corruption and deceitfulness of my heart. I realise as never before the fact that I often confuse my wants with my needs. I confess the fact that often what I thought I needed one day has become different afterwards. Lord, I refuse to count on myself. I need You to show me what my true needs are. Lord, what is my true need in this area and that area and the other area? Lord,
I confess that do not know. However, Lord, let me present my thoughts to You so that You may know me. In this area I think my need is…. In that area I think my need is…and in that other area I think my need is…. Lord, ignore what I think. I am waiting on You. Lord reveal to me what my true need is. I refuse to ask You to give me what I want. I am waiting for You to reveal to me what You know to be my need. When You do that then I would ask You to supply them. Lord, deliver me from the impatience of attempting to supply my own needs by myself. Lord deliver me from the deception of confusing the voice of my own spirit for Your voice. My Father,
speak so that Your servant may make progress. Lord, do it. Lord do it.” I confess that God has often answered me and made me know what my needs were. Sometimes He has shown me that my needs were what I initially presented to Him. At other times He has shown me that my needs were very different from what I thought. At other times He has rebuked me for ever having certain desires. It has been a school. It is an ongoing school. The Holy Spirit has been the Teacher in this school of revealing God’s will to me. I confess that I am the happy student. I confess that from the time that I began to ask the Lord to show me what my needs were and began to actively refrain from aggressive and intensive prayer about anything until I have known the will of God, things have changed a great deal. I am still learning and the Holy Spirit is patiently teaching; A blessed future is ahead. Praise the Lord.
The fact that God has commanded us to ask and we shall receive does not absolve us from the responsibility to knowing the will of God and consequently asking ac- cording to His will for us. Let me illustrate this with an example from Scripture. The Bible says, “Now when Elisha had fallen side with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him, and wept before him, crying,” My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows”; so he took a bow and arrows. Then he said to the king of Israel, “Draw the bow”; and he drew it. And Elisha laid his hands upon the king’s hands. And he said, “Open the window eastward”; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot”; and he shot. And he said, “The Lord’s victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.” And he said, “Take the arrows”; and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them”; and he struck three times, and stopped. Then the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times” (2 Kings 13:14-19).
We see here that the king set limitations to how many times he would have struck Syria because he did not ask how many times he was to strike. He thought he knew and the prophet allowed the king’s thoughts to be established even though they fell short of the desired end. Had he been humble enough to have asked the prophet, “How many arrows shall I take?” He would have been told to take five or six. Later on, he would have asked, “How many times should I strike the ground with the arrows?” He would have been h*told; “five or six times.” He would have stricken the ground five or six times and that would have led him to strike down Syria until an end was made of it. We see clearly that an enemy only received partial crushing because a king took upon himself the responsibility of deciding how many arrows he was to take and how many times he was to strike the ground. I wonder how many victories we have known only in part or not known at all because we took the decision to ask God according to what we felt or wanted instead of according to what He showed us! We may think that we are exercising our freedom but O, what exercise of freedom! O that we would exercise our freedom of asking God what our real needs are and then to pray them through after He has shown us. Then we shall be truly blessed! Then we shall not limit or frustrate the designs or desires of God’s heart.
Let us take another example from human life; Many young men between twenty and thirty go to the Lord with lists of characteristics that they want in the wife they want. The list is drawn on the basis of their present knowledge of themselves and their circumstances. They are sincere but they may be sincerely mistaken. They see their circumstances only in part. They do not know the future. God on the other hand knows their circumstances in full and knows all of the future. They ought to pray and say, “Lord, You know my circumstance and the future in full. You know what I am and what I am going to be. You know what this town, nation, continent and planet is going to be in the years ahead. You know the details of all the girls now and in the future. Lord, show me the characteristics that best fit the woman who will best help me to accomplish Your call on my life. Lord, show me those characteristics so that I may ask for them of You in prayer. Lord, show me those characteristics and help me in my development to become the man that would be satisfied with them. Lord, do it.”