In this sermon, Pastor Neil begins a two-part series on prayer– knowing what to pray for and discerning God’s will. Here are some excerpts:
[My friend Al once said,] “When I don’t know what to pray for someone, I pray the prayer Paul prayed in Colossians 1:9-14″… Paul’s prayer has two main requests, two primary petitions, which we find in verse 9 and the first part of verse 10… [The] two requests [are]:
Sometimes it may seem extremely difficult, if not impossible, to discern the will of God in particular circumstances. Sometimes the will of God is mysterious and beyond our ability to figure it out…According to Maxie Dunnam, a former pastor, seminary president, and head of the Upper Room Fellowship, “The will of God is often enshrouded in darkness, clouded in ambiguity; silence as well as speaking marks (God’s) communication with us. In prayer we struggle to discern God’s will. We talk, listen and ponder (the Scriptures).” And we wait for the Lord to reveal His will to us. We wait for His direction.
The answer comes, as Dunnam says, not according to our timetable, and not necessarily in the form we desire it, but “in God’s timing and in His way” (Dunnam, The Communicator’s Commentary, New Testament Vol. 8: Galatians to Philemon, 339).
Sometimes, as Dunnam says, God’s will is mysterious. But most of the time, in the choices, decisions, and activities of everyday life, there is nothing mysterious or ambiguous about knowing God’s will, because God has told us and shown us clearly in the Bible what His will is and how He wants us to live.
Do you want to know what God’s will is? Here is what the Bible says about it in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7: “It is God’s will that you be sanctified” – that is, that you grow in practical holiness; “that you avoid sexual immorality; that each of you learn how to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in the passion of lust, like those whodon’t know God; and that no one wrong his brother or sister, or take advantage of another in this matter … God did not call us to be impure [or promiscuous], but to live a holy life.”
…Do you want to know God’s will for your life? “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look out not just for your own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). This is God’s will for your life.
Do you want to know God’s will? “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Instead, “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). This is God’s will for your life.
Do you want to know God’s will? “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…. People who don’t know God and the way He works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how He works. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:23, 31-33, NIV and MSG). These are the words of Jesus, and this is God’s will for your life.
In terms of the way we are to live, God’s will for your life and mine is found in God’s Word. Which means there is no substitute for knowing the Word of God. There is nothing that can take the place of the Bible in your life. If you have never read the Bible, or never read it regularly, it is not too late and it is never too soon to start. If you have gotten out of the habit of reading the Bible, it is not too late and not too soon to start again… God, who inspired the Scriptures from beginning to end and invested the Bible with His authority, still speaks in and through the Bible. Unless you are God (and I’m pretty sure none of us is ☺), there is still much for you to learn from God’s Word…