A Prayer for When God Doesn’t Do What I Want
By Rev. Kyle Norman
“Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
A church I was once involved with spent years discerning whether to engage in a multi-million dollar building project. The project would involve the complete destruction of the current building, the dislocation of the congregation, and a complicated rebuild of an impressive worship structure. The congregation had taken years to set this vision, develop the plan, and prepare for their soon-to-be exodus. But more than anything, the congregation prayed. They prayed that they might know the will of God for them and that they receive the spiritual capacity to follow that will. They prayed for insight, courage, and discernment.
Then, on the cusp of this grand plan beginning, everything began falling apart. Despite the initial conviction that this new building project was the way forward, some began to question whether this was the way to go. Others began to raise questions about funding and whether the plan was fiscally responsible. And then the big one hit: the architectural firm they were working with got into legal trouble. Eventually, the congregation had to walk away from their plan. They put the project on hold and disbanded the project building committee. There was palatable sadness in the congregation when this took place.
Have you ever experienced something that you felt was divinely inspired not to take place? Have you ever prayed for God to do something, only to see the opposite occur? It can be hard and frustrating when this happens. When God doesn’t do what we would like our natural inclination is to believe that some sort of judgment is at play. Are we being punished? Did we anger God? Did we not pray enough?
Underneath these thoughts and feelings is the unfortunate belief that somehow, God’s will depends on us. It is as if we assume that God’s will is equivalent to the wants and wishes of our own lives, and we needs simply wrap our self-defined plans in prayer to see them take flight. But this is not how God works. Even Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
While it can be frustrating when God doesn’t do what we want, this actually testifies that the Holy Spirit is present and working. Rather than pointing to a lack of prayer, we see the effective working of our prayers. After all, the congregation above earnestly prayed that their building efforts conform to God’s will and that God be in charge of their future plans. The fact that it turned out contrary to their original planning is immaterial. God answered their prayer! God did take charge; God did lead.
If we truly pray, “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” we should not be surprised when this prayer is realized! Praying the prayer demands that we lay ourselves before the Lord in raw humility. After all, we want the Spirit to move. We want God to take control. And so when these times come upon us, we are to meet them with rejoicing. Even if God doesn’t do what we want it is still God who is at work in our lives.
Thus, we should never assume the abdication of God’s will simply because things turn out differently than we would expect or imagine. God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s thoughts are beyond our own (Isaiah 55:8). Furthermore, God works as much through causing things not to happen as much as allowing them to happen. We never force God’s will, nor do we control it. If we are to be people who resolutely pray to follow God’s will, we must be prepared to walk in ways we would not have chosen.
This is what Jesus was teaching Nicodemus when he says, “The wind blows where it chooses, you hear it sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). Like gusts of wind moving across the prairies, we never manage God’s will in our lives. We do not wield it or manifest it. Instead, we respond to it. In the end, God’s will happens to us. The question is not whether God’s will is blowing in the direction we would choose, but will we follow in the way the Spirit leads?
Let us pray:
Lord, sometimes I get in my own way. As much as I pray for your will to be done in my life, I know that I often rest upon my own power and strength. I pray to follow your will, but then I set up my own plans and directions, and I follow the wishes and whims of my heart and not yours. But I do pray for your will honestly. I do want your will to be revealed in me and through me.
I am sorry, Lord, for the times when I have responded to your will with frustration or annoyance. I am sorry for assuming that your will must conform to my plans. I am sorry for the times when I have failed to rejoice in your will.
Father, open my eyes to see the path that you ask me to walk. Open my ears to hear your voice above that of my own desires or wishes. Open my heart to accept your will for my life. And, Father, when I enter those times where you don’t do what I what, may you open my mouth so that I may rejoice that your will is done, and not my own.
Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus/yokeetod
The Reverend Dr. Kyle Norman is the Rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral, located in Kamloops BC, Canada. He holds a doctorate in Spiritual formation and is a sought-after writer, speaker, and retreat leader. His writing can be found at Christianity.com, crosswalk.com, ibelieve.com, Renovare Canada, and many others. He also maintains his own blog revkylenorman.ca. He has 20 years of pastoral experience, and his ministry focuses on helping people overcome times of spiritual discouragement.
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