An essay donated by "Alex. A"
An outlook on prayer and God's will
- Will: A desire, purpose, or determination, especially of one in authority; deliberate intention or wish.
- Assess: Evaluate or estimate the nature, quality, ability, extent, or significance of something.
First, we as humans must understand that God is holy, righteous, all-knowing, omnipresent, omnipotent and basically perfect in every way and humans are not. Since the beginning of existence God has created everything (mankind, earth, nature, and the rest of the universe) to co-exist in perfect balance and harmony. Everything happens according to his will by his command. In other words, God does everything for a reason and at the perfect timing. Regardless of the choices we make on this earth everything will still go according to his perfect plan because God knows what will happen and made everything so that his will is still the outcome.
I consider myself to be a very open minded follower of the Messiah. In my opinion a person cannot assess the will of God through prayer unless God directly speaks to that person. This doesn’t happen anymore because the actions of God are based on the necessity of mankind. Also, we may think we know what we need but only God truly knows the necessities of mankind. All of us who have faith in God don’t just pray for answers; we pray for mercy, guidance and as an act of worship.
However it is possible to assess God's will through scripture and experience. I believe if you read any one of the religious books (Torah, Holy Bible, Noble Qur'an) from any one of the most popular world religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), you will find that in these three religions there are many similarities. This forces me to believe that each way of life contains truth, and that in truth you find answers. There is a difference between really seeking guidance from truth in God and using your own interpretation of God (and his messages) to justify selfish desires. How can we know the difference?
Once you understand the nature of God (which is perfect and holy) you will realize our desires or intentions don’t always coincide with God’s messages. Quite often we will not understand his message or his will because our own pride and selfish desires won’t allow us to. For example, someone who is violent believes he or she can resolve certain issues with violence. If this person read, for example, the Biblical verse:
"But I tell you not to try to get even with a person who has done something to you. When someone slaps your right cheek, turn and let that person slap your other cheek” (Mathew 5:39)
that person would not understand it because it is easier to give in to pride and relieve aggravation through violence than it is to put pride to the side and use words to resolve issues.
However, if that same person read the Old Testament with its many examples of war and violence, that person would think it is OK to be violent. In the Old Testament, the way humanity lived and applied justice was very different from how we live now. God is the ultimate Judge, truly fair, and the only one who has the right to apply justice. At that time in history God applied justice in the way he saw it fit. Unfortunately, in those times -- and even now -- many people only respect violence. It is that attitude that inspires others to have this perspective.
Foolish pride and selfishness are two of the main reasons why people misinterpret God’s messages and experience negative consequence. This leads to discouragement and confusion. On the other hand those of us who do set selfish desire aside to apply faith and submit to God, usually gain wisdom and experience rewards that money can’t buy (like your soul). It is important to know that spiritual rewards are greater than physical rewards. This is a world of sin with the influence of Satan. Thus, even though a person is a follower of God, this is an unjust world and the righteous are often treated unfairly (like some Prophets). This is why (I believe) the Lord will apply justice in the end (Judgment Day) as part of his will.
The attributes we relate to God are limited to our understanding of what they are. Only God knows the full scale of what they are because he is the source of these attributes; For example: if a person believes he or she is patient, that person’s understanding of patience is only a microscopic portion of the true essence of what patience is (which God is).
This is one of the ways God made us in his image. However, this doesn’t mean we are like God because he is perfect and holy. Humans (along with everything else in existence) were created by God in perfection but when sin came into the world, everything that lives was condemned to die and mankind lost the privilege to reside in God’s glory.
That is why; no one knows the true form and essence of God. Unless, you believe Jesus the Messiah is the only one who knows (like myself) (John 3:31-43) Since no one knows God’s true essence, no one can speak for him unless he commands otherwise (in other words gives a message to relay). As I mentioned earlier, what God wants for us may not be what we want, or we may not fully understand what God wants. Many Prophets were hesitant to spread his message because of this. We can only receive certain answers through his messages and by integrating those messages to experiences of life. If the interpretations we give to these messages are incorrect then the message will seem contradictory and produce negative outcomes. However, when we interpret the messages of God correctly then the outcomes will prove the messages accurate and true. The answers are a realization of truth. Truth is inevitable and proves itself but a lie will fail and contradict. God and his words do not contradict; rather it is mankind who contradict God and his words.
I don’t use any divination techniques when I pray and I don’t expect a sign, an instant answer, or a miracle. In my opinion, when people pray for a direct answer or for personal desires, it seems selfish. The whole point of having this trial here on earth is so we can learn how to glorify God by our own free will through experiences of life. If we received everything we asked for from God (including signs or miraculous answers) we wouldn’t learn anything, and this world would be in chaos because it would run solely on our desires and intentions which are not the best.
For example, look at the stories of Moses (Exodus 14:11, 16:1-3, 17:2-3, 32:7-10), Saul (Samuel chapters 8, 15 & 31) in the Old Testament, and in Islam: Ibn 'Abbas and Anas Ibn Malik (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said:
"If a son of Adam were to own a valley full of gold, he would desire to have two. Nothing can fill his mouth except the earth (of the grave). Allah turns with mercy to him who turns to Him in repentance."
Only God's intensions and desires are the best. In Biblical times, there was a lot of Paganism so God chose those who believed in him and showed favor towards them by displaying miracles, giving them his messages, making covenants, and providing for them so that others who prayed to false gods could see the magnificence of the one true God. He would give the "chosen people" instructions and laws by which the people had to live and promise to obey. God in return would make promises to them; like an agreement. This was called a covenant but covenants weren’t just promises made to the "chosen people", they were "promises" or prophesies for the entire world of the future.
Sometimes when these "chosen people" would disobey, or violate their promises, God would break the promises which allowed the "chosen people" certain privileges, while keeping the ones which coincided with his plan. After breaking a covenant, God would then distance himself away from the people for a period of time or make a new covenant while still fulfilling certain promises from the old covenant. Each time God made a new covenant it was a sign of mercy towards the "chosen people" and mankind. When Jesus arrived, He sealed the last covenant but his work is not done.
Personally when I pray, I pray for mercy so I can have the opportunity to serve and glorify God. I pray for strength and protection against Satan and I pray for guidance. I don’t ask for much because I believe God already knows what my desires and my needs are (Matthew 6:7-8). I don’t expect instant answers or “signs” when praying for guidance because in our day and age we have more than enough information and resources to find the answers we seek. When I ask for guidance, it is because I know nothing is done unless by God’s command. Even Satan is required to seek permission from God before he attempts anything. Thus, I’m actually asking God to either allow me to clearly understand and interpret his message without interference from Satan or to give me the will power to resist Satan so I can do God’s will.
Satan despises us because we were granted mercy from God. Even though Satan knows God created him, he is still envious and proud. Satan is envious of God because he wants to be God. Satan’s pride won’t allow him to seek mercy from God and even if he did, God would not grant it to him. That is because, at one time, Satan resided with God, God highly regarded him until he rebelled against God, inspired other Angels to rebel, and inspired Adam and Eve to disobey God. Thus, God will not have mercy on him because he willfully opposes God. Satan is envious of us (humans) because God made us special and loved us enough to offer mercy and eternal life. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned for the first time it wasn’t because they were malicious and wanted to rebel. As matter of fact, Adam and Eve were perfect and without sin until Satan lied to them and encouraged them to disobey God. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they first became conscious of the difference between right and wrong.
God had gave them free will; God allowed them to live life in order to experience sin and righteousness so that mankind may willingly submit to and glorify God. God gave mankind free will but he uses our conscience to either convict us or tempt us. I believe Adam and Eve developed a conscience after becoming aware of right and wrong.
Sometimes it is necessary for God to allow Satan to tempt us because just like in the story of Adam and Eve, mankind needs to experience a negative in order to realize a positive or vise-versa. Also, when Satan tempts us, it is a test of will, faith, and strength -- a test allowed by God to prove not only to ourselves that we are capable of resisting temptation, but to prove to him too.
God wouldn’t allow Satan to do anything to us (humans) that God knows we can’t handle. When God doesn’t permit Satan to interfere in our affairs or we resist Satan from interfering in our affairs, it is easier to hear the voice of God when he calls. We would be able to understand his messages clearer if the temptations of Satan didn’t cloud our judgment. God through his messages tries to speak to us. It is a lot harder to hear if we have someone else always trying to clog up our ears with lies, or if we choose to cover up our own ears.
Sometimes theses situations are necessary in order to have us experience failure and build up resistance towards Satan. When we (humans) make a mistake we will usually try to correct it or try to avoid making the same mistake again. Sometimes people learn the hard way and sometimes people learn the easy way. Sometimes we learn through examples of other people and sometimes we learn through our own.
Also, since God knows all the actions we will take, he designed every situation according to his will, while still allowing us to have free will and make choices in life. For example: suppose one day a person is reading scripture, is having a hard time understanding it, and prays to God for guidance. God already knew that this person would pray so he designed a situation to where that person can eventually come to an understanding of that scripture; either by allowing Satan to tempt and inspire that person or by not allowing him; depending on which situation will result in God’s will. Remember, time doesn’t apply to God; it only exists for us.
Certain galaxies and their stars are tens of billions of light years away. So if that much time to traverse the universe, then imagine what time means to something or someone outside of our universe. For example, it takes about 4.2 years for the light rays from Proxima Centauri -- the star closest to Earth with the exception of our own sun -- to actually reach us. By the time we experience the effects of that star's rays, they are already over four years old (just something to think about).
In conclusion, I believe there is a difference between assessing, evaluating or estimating God’s intentions and assessing, evaluating or estimating God’s desires. God is holy and refuses to associate himself with anything otherwise. Since we are not holy, live in a world of sin, under the influence of Satan, it is impossible to fully understand God. This is why faith is important.
This life is a trial. Therefore we must use our interpretation of God’s message and integrate it into our lives so we can discover if our interpretation is correct and true. We can educate ourselves to learn about God’s ultimate plan. We can anticipate what he intends to do or what is intended to happen, so that we may have an indication of what to expect and how to handle it. Aside from that, in order to distinguish what God desires or wants of us, we must first learn about his nature, plan, and message. Then we can better identify what pleases and what displeases God. I’m sure God wants everyone to turn to him and have eternal life but he knows that many people won’t. It is up to us to find God (Matthew 7:7-8 and Luke 11:9-10). Like I mentioned in the beginning, our choices in life don’t affect God’s plan. His will, plan, intensions, and desires will all be fulfilled no matter what!!
Originally posted: 2012-AUG-08
Latest update: 2012-AUG-08
Author: "Adam A"