The other night I had the great opportunity to sit down with a few great friends of mine who were the people responsible for my going to China last year. It’s always a pleasure to talk to them, but this time was special as they were discussing some upcoming plans that they are struggling in prayer through. As we were chatting, and as they were expressing their desire for Christ’s wisdom, I began to think.
There is a Christianese statement that always comes up in conversation when people are heading in a new direction. Most people lay out their ideas, plans and desires, and then follow it up with, “But I’m just searching for God’s will in all of this.” I say most people, because there are those who absolutely order their thoughts better than this (the couple I was chatting with is among those who have the right order of thought processes).
What the sons of Joseph have to say…
One was the Messiah. The other was his humbled brother. I am speaking, of course, of Jesus and James. Both had things to say about the order of one’s thoughts, prayers and conversations with others. Let’s start with Jesus (the very best place to start).
It’s easy to remember. Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray (Matthew 6.9-13). Do you remember what the second thing that He told them was? First, He made sure they knew who was holy. Then, He said,
…your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…
Before any petition, supplication, and even before thanksgiving(!) Jesus told his disciples to seek God’s will. We very quickly lose that when we pray. Our prayers look more like us asking for permission than seeking direction. This needs to stop! Indeed, Jesus commanded that it stop.
Then there is James, Jesus’ half brother and convert to the Way. James famously says,
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”– James 4.13-15
You see, in both cases, the name of the Lord is invoked for wisdom before the prayer and/or discussion of the plans.
Is He just a side note?
That is the question I would leave you with today. When you pray, talk to people about the future, offer counsel, whatever, are you asking for Christ’s presence before? Or are you just putting Him as a side note or “co-pilot” as it were. Tomorrow, I’ll have an example of where I have failed in this area. Just as a side note, it’s never pretty to ask God’s will first; your true heart will be revealed.