Recently, I was leading a devotional/Bible study at a boarding house I’m very familiar with. We found ourselves talking about prayer. It was my intention to use the Lord’s Prayer as a model for prayer that Jesus taught. I, also, intended to talk about the will of God.
As we moved from discussing prayer to knowing the will of God when it comes to prayer, I asked if it was possible to know the will of God. It surprised me that a couple dominant voices in the room to this point were quick to answer, “No, we don’t know the will of God.” Usually, that would be followed by a statement like, “That’s why we pray, ‘If it be your will.’” That wasn’t added in this case, but it did surprise me they spoke so candidly about not knowing the will of God. It’s remarkable that many Christians say that the will of God is unknowable, and they, obviously, take comfort in that.
We’d just talked about the Lord’s Prayer. In the Lord’s Prayer, we know what the will of God is. I quickly referred again to the prayer to show God’s will ABOUT SOMETHING!
“Give us this day our daily bread.” It’s God’s will that no one starve.
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive . . .” It’s God’s will that we seek forgiveness and be quick to forgive others.
“Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” It’s God’s will that we not fall into the clutches of temptation and evil.
The will of God is not a mystery. It sounds rather religious (I gave up religion a couple of seasons of Lent ago) to not say we know the will of God or to say God’s will is God’s business. Being religious is more of a curse than a help when it comes to stuff like this. In fact, when it comes to anything, religion is boring and cruel (a quote from Bill Johnson, lead pastor, Bethel Church, Redding, CA).
It’s pretty remarkable, if we’re honest with ourselves, how much of the will of God we already know. In Mark 1, a man with leprosy comes to Jesus and says, “If you’re WILLING (If it’s your will), you can make me clean.” Jesus said in response, “I am willing. Be clean!” Immediately he was cured.
I’m about to be controversial. It’s taken me several paragraphs to get here. It’s God’s will to heal. How come more aren’t healed? How come hospitals are full? Someone may actually say about me that I’m boring and cruel. One of my answers to this is, “I don’t know, for sure.” Another answer from me is, “Many Christians constructed doctrines to discourage other Christians to believe in healing when a couple people died after prayer, anyway.” Seriously, in order not to be cruel and criticize unbelief, these doctrines were constructed (“It was the will of God.”) and encouraged so that members are not lost to other churches.
Knowing what the will of God is doesn’t mean it’s always fulfilled. The King James Version of 2 Peter 3:9 reads, “He is patient, willing that none should perish, but all come to repentance.” Its God’s will that no one perish, but all repent, but souls perish everyday.
Libraries are full of theology explaining the will of God in all circumstances. I’m actually comfortable with divine mysteries. I’m, also, comfortable with seeking and finding the will of God and doing my best to participate in the divine will in given circumstances. I believe that’s what contemporary disciples are called to do – seek and find the will of God and do it. He’s looking for partners in doing his will in the earth. Simply saying and believing that the will of God is unknowable is what drives me crazy.