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A View from the Altar / Why would you care to know his will?
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Why would you care to know his will?

We… do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.  Colossians 1:9-10

We should normally be very cynical in assessing our own motives for asking about God’s will.  Don’t we ask about it so we can make up our minds about whether to follow it?  We pray, but God doesn’t answer because he refuses to serve up his will for human approval.  A certain kind of faith is demanded up front, something like the half shekel required of the Jews. (Ex 30:15)  Jesus indicated that willingness precedes knowledge (John 7:17), a truth confirmed after only a moment’s reflection.  We don’t really listen to directions until we’re ready to get on the highway.

The problem with our prayers concerning God’s will is that we tend to compose a list of options acceptable to ourselves, then present the options to God with the question, “Which one?”  Hence the prayers that never make it to the ceiling:  Should I buy this house or that one?  Should I attend this college or that one?  Should I marry this guy or that one?  Should I demand a raise or just quit my job?  A game of celestial spin-the-bottle dishonors God by cordoning off a section of life where we tolerate his operation.  There’s a boundary outside of which is off limits to him.

Paul prayed for the Colossians to know God’s will so they could do it, not in the sense of selecting from among options already previewed and approved by man, but in the sense of casting away all prior conditions, holding back nothing.  Paul found this humility in his blindness, “Lord, what will you have me to do?”  (Acts 9:6)

Paul’s answer in that instance was no big deal: Go to Damascus, meet a man, get baptized, and there receive further instructions.  The further instructions were grim and would have scared off most people, but it didn’t deter Paul because, by then, he was already totally committed.  Jesus told Ananias concerning Paul, “I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”  (Acts 9:16)  I must be willing to follow the Lord who took up his cross.  Shall I not take up mine?

Of course, only the final judgment will reveal what any particular Christian could have been had he submitted himself unreservedly to the will of God.  Still, if you’re thinking and praying about the will of God, it’s important not to think of it as asking him to select from among your own top three picks.  You’re bought with a price, and the Master is within his rights to ask anything, and for love’s sake, we ought to rejoice to please him.

Paul prayed for the Colossians to know God’s will so they could walk in it — whatever that meant.  These were not empty words like a ceremonial prayer said over an offering plate.  Paul wanted their hearts and minds equipped so their feet could go and their hands could do.  If it never turned into action, what good was it?  So pray for his will indeed, but pray wisely, and pray obediently, willing to perform his bidding no matter what it is.

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