PRAYER- Part IV
IIn the fourth part of our series on P-R-A-Y-E-R, we will be searching into the significance and application of the fourth letter in the word-
One of the greatest problems that beset even the most righteous and most dedicated Christian is the issue of letting go and letting God; that inexplicable and implacable inability to “Yield” to the plan and execution of God. And it does not seem to matter how often and how desperately we try, we seem to find ourselves – rather than submitting – imposing our imaginations and leadership on God- a futile and sometimes fatal error that compromises our prayers and at the very best, retards the speed and expediency of its delivery. We pray and ask the Lord to intervene on our behalf and take control of a situation or problem. We tell him over and over again to have his way in our lives and let His will be done. Yet, when reality begins to work on us, itching and gnawing at the heart of our faith, while plucking the threads of our patience, we start to doubt, we start to panic, and we start to stand over God, breathing the hot fumes of our discontent down His back. And we do this not because we don’t trust him? No! Of course we trust God! We just don’t quite trust the manner, time and place and apparatus by which he intends on executing our request. Do you see the paradox in this? It is the issue of not allowing our words and our prayers to match our actions thereafter. It’s much like asking God to take over driving your car on this long and uncertain journey that is our lives. Yet, we don’t get in the back seat and relax. Heaven forbid. No, we want to sit right up front in the passenger’s seat, right next to him, where we can see what he sees, tell him where to turn, tell him how slow he is driving, tell him which lane to occupy, tell him when to overtake, and usually end up just grabbing the wheel from him because we think he has fallen asleep and is about to hit the car in front of you. Am I the only one or do you also perceive the disaster ahead here? Is this beginning to paint a picture? No? Perhaps this does not in any way refer to you? Well, we will see if you still have the same sentiment at the end of this article.
See, the first step in overcoming this crippling and disastrous habit is by embracing and understanding this basic truth that prayer is not God descending like a waiter at your favorite restaurant to take your order, and neither is it you at your favorite hairstylist or auto repair shop telling the stylist how you want your hair done or the mechanic what the problem is with your car. Because unlike God, not only do you tell these people what you want and how you want it done, you also tell them (especially in the case of the auto repair shop) when you would like to have your car back. And the mechanic will usually work towards meeting that deadline. If the deadline seems implausible, they negotiate an agreement for a later time with you. But both parties are in agreement and no one is left with the uncertainty of what is to be done and how soon it will be done.
God works just a little differently. He does not mind you coming to him with your problems and he does not mind coming to the shop on a Sunday to hear you out. But he will never give you a pick-up date and the last thing he wants to hear from you is how, when or where you want your car to be delivered to you. He simply wants you to let go and let him work. But he also expects a phone call everyday thanking him and praising him for the job you know he is doing. It’s a courtesy call that boosts the expediency and quality of the finished product, as has been discussed in part III of this series (please refer back if you have not already done so).
Yielding to God demands that you relinquish everything to him. It means not sitting in the front seat and barking orders and criticisms at him, but rather, taking a sit in the back seat, relaxing and allowing God, the flawless navigator, to take us to our destinations. And why is that so hard for us to do? What powers do we have in changing the course of any day? Yet, the resulting imposition of our intention and ambition upon God’s will and plan, is a prolonged period of waiting and sometimes a complete forfeiture of the expectation. It is an act of impatience and distrust that unnecessarily complicates and tangles an already messy and confused life. Imagine, if you will, that God has listened and agreed to take over because you have kept to the letter all the requirements in the first three articles. Now, God is here, ready to take over and lead you to the mouth of your happiness. You thought you could drive through this treacherous road of life besieged by darkness, disillusionment, disappointment, deception, heartache, tragedy, failure, poverty, sickness, death and of course, the Son of Sorrow himself, Satan, waiting at the crossroads to deal you a remorseless calamitous blow! And somehow, you thought you could manage all this without God. Well, as expected, you tried everything, speeding up, slowing down, driving with your fog lights and without, using your wipers and blaring your horn, and still, you ended up in a ditch you didn’t anticipate. You are stuck. There is no signal in your cell phone because you are so out of touch and out of range with God, because it has been a while since you called upon him. You cry, you rage and you wave, but no one has time to stop for you. The world continues with its own problems. But somehow, you call out to God, whispering, indeed, whimpering, hopelessly towards Him, and because he is so compassionate, he hears you, he comes to your aid anyway. Excited, you jump out of the car, you embrace Him and you tell Him how sorry you are for all you have done and how different your relationship with Him is going to be now. He looks at you- he knows you; he knows you are only a minute away from making him regret his actions, and you look at him and tell him, “I promise. You can have your way now.” Not ten minutes up the road, he is driving, and he decides to make a left. Your heart starts to beat nervously. “Where are we going?” Where is he taking me?” You were headed north and with your careful plan, you expected to be at your destination by sun-up tomorrow. But this so called driver or helper or waiter or hairdresser or God or whatever he calls himself is not only turned west, he is now bearing south! You will never get there! Not this way! “Um, hey….er, boss, Mr. Driver, do you know which way you are going?” You have done it. He knew it. But still he continues driving, smiling at you in the mirror. You are restless, anxious, sighing, waiting, peeking out and checking your map and planner and saying to yourself, “This is never going to happen. I am thirty already and every girl I know is already married! I am thirty-five, pushing forty and there is never going to be a child coming out of this womb. Look at my former classmates! Everyone is successful and made except for me. Jane’s just bought a villa in Tuscany. Jack was just made President of marketing. I can’t even find a job, much less think about promotion. I have an audition with the president of Disney for this lifetime opportunity to star in a TV show and this lame duck of a driver is taking me to Timbuktu! AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!”
You can’t take it anymore and so you leap up from your seat and grab the wheel from him. Except God does not keep his hands on the wheel and his feet on the accelerator while your anxiety, faithlessness and ignorance devour you, he lets go completely and fold his arms. And then, impact! The car is slammed into the wall, the tires are buried in a terrible ditch, there is smoke emanating from under the hood and your head is bleeding from the impact against the dashboard.
This may seem extreme, but this is what we do to our lives. You don’t know whether God stirred you a different way because he doesn’t want you arriving in your beat-up second hand car. Maybe he was going to get a brand new luxury car for you. While you thought the lines you memorized and your great acting ability was what was going to impress the head of Disney, he knew that all they needed to do was look out the window and see your car and the job would have been yours. May be while you were complaining about not having a spouse and then forcing the issue with the wrong guy, your fairytale partner was five minutes away and seeing you already occupied now, decides to move on. And maybe while you think you have chatted the best course to your destination using this word-class map, the Lord had a smoother short-cut that was no where to be found on any human map. But because you could not yield to His way, you completely brought your journey to a stop. Or at least delayed it for miles, days, months and maybe even years!
There is a concept that I have heard a number of preachers and books throw about termed the “perfect-will of God” versus the “permissive-will of God.” While the perfect-will of God succinctly denotes the occurrence of all events in one’s life how, when and where God determines, the permissive will of God suggests that while God may have other plans for you, the imposition of your ambition and the persistent advocacy of your way and will, sometimes urges Him into a position where he then allows you to have your way. The results are not always as pleasing, but His “permissive will,” while not endorsing and approving your way, condones and accepts your way. Be it for a moment. But with all due respect to all scholars and teachers of the Word, I say, absolute fallacy! If you are one of those people who subscribes, submits and seeks refuge under the façade of this term, then know today that you are not under any shelter at all- yours is the case of the man holding a basket over his head as refuge from a torrential rain.
There is no such thing as the “permissive will of God.” It simply does not exist. It is a phrase that has been coined by somebody somewhere as an alternate solution to a problem that will never yield to any other solution but the original. Indeed to state that there exists such a term as the permissive will of God proclaims therefore that God has embraced a liberalism that recognizes that while his laws and demands are just and irrevocable, the nature and times of our society usurp an amendment of sorts, creating an amicable loophole where Christianity may exist without fear of consequence, somewhere warm and safe, between the rigid authoritarian that is God and the inconsistent dynamism that is man. To suggest that there exists a “perfect-will of God” and a “permissive-will of God” suggests duplicity and a double-mindedness that defies everything the Good Book confesses and testifies to be God. Because if God has his perfect-will, his perfect plan, and on the other hand, being mindful of the fragility of human nature, offers and allows a less stringent and less demanding state of Grace we have called his permissive will, then God comes across to be as one who cannot seem to make up his mind. Or at least as one who knows his mind and his desire, but plays to the crowd for the sake of popularity. That, brethren in Christ, is not my God, but a politician. The God I know is not in this for a popularity contest. He is not here to seduce your vote by playing to your weaknesses, and he has never changed his mind since the inception of time.
I will, therefore, suggest, not the perfect-will of God versus the permissive, but rather the Perfect-will of God versus the Poisoned-will of man:
Consider the story of Abraham, a popular story also borrowed by the advocates of the “permissive will of God” to support their theory. Abraham and his wife, Sarah, had spent the better part of their lives looking unto the Lord for a child. In Genesis 12, the Lord appeared to Abram (as he was known then), at the age of seventy-five and Sarai, sixty-five, and made a covenant with them that he would give them a child. Years of yielding patiently to the will of God went by, and then finally, at the age of seventy-six, eleven years later for Sarai, she grew impatient. God’s work ethic was no longer working for her time table. What she expected to receive a while back, was clearly eluding her. So
Genesis 16: 1-6 1 Now Sar'ai, Abram's wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar; 2 and Sar'ai said to Abram, "Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my maid; it may be that I shall obtain children by her." And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sar'ai. 3 So, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, Sar'ai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. 4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. 5 And Sar'ai said to Abram, "May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my maid to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!" 6 But Abram said to Sar'ai, "Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her as you please." Then Sar'ai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her…
If you observe the details in the thought process and action of Sarai in the second verse, a second phrase comes to mind- the
“Pronounced-will of God” versus the “Perceived-will of God.” –
The pronounced-will of God was that she, Sarai, would have a child. But when the itching, challenges and logic of human reasoning came to prevail upon her, suddenly what the Lord had pronounced for her seemed completely absurd. So consequently, her actions no longer relied exclusively on the exact pronouncements of God, but rather on human perception and logic. Self-doubt began to invade her faith, consequently pushing her to lose faith in God’s promise for her. Like Sarai, you also have a promise from God concerning your life-
Jeremiah 29 :11 For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future.
Psalms 84:11 - For the LORD God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Psalms 34:19 - Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
If you consider the verses above, it is inarguably clear that the Lord’s plan for you is perfect! It lacks nothing. As the second verse reads, “No good thing does the Lord withhold from you.” So, if what you are praying for and seeking earnestly is good for you, be it husband, wife, child, promotion, health, wealth, deliverance, peace, rest or whatever it may be, why would you, then, think the Lord intends to hold it back from you?
The pronouncement of God upon your life, upon my life, upon Sarai’s life, was that the good thing she sought (her own child in this case) would be given to her. But the moment we, like Sarai, begin to subject the pronouncement of God to mortal or logical scrutiny, our perception of his intention changes, and we begin to employ our own intelligence, thereby creating greater anguish, complications and delays in our lives.
For instance, there is a girl I know whose sister, brother and friends have all been married. She has reached that calamitous age of thirty and she is beginning to feel desperately abandoned by God and out of place in society. So, she is beginning to consider marrying a guy who has proposed to her – though she neither loves him nor desires him – because she feels her expectations of the right partner will no longer be met. “Maybe not everyone is meant to find true love. Maybe this is God’s will for me.” Hello! Is it me or is she beginning to sound like Sarai? Her Perceived-will of God is beginning to subjugate God’s pronounced-will in her life. And perceived-will is so dangerous because it is neither the voice nor will of God, but rather the devil, hidden in the details of our misguided and misapplied will, taking the pitch and sound of God. And he succeeds because we invite and embrace him by going to people who we know will always reinforce our wrong views and by allowing our doubts to convince our minds that this is as good as it gets. So we start to put words in God’s mouth. We start to interpret his immitigable words in a manner that fits our own ambitions, and that can only spell disaster! God did not tell Sarai or Abram that he would give them a child by their maid; rather, while Abram was submitting to his perceived-will or his false (poisoned) perception of God’s will for him that perhaps a servant in his house was to be his heir, God reaffirmed in Genesis 15, verse 4, that the child would come from his (Abram’s) body, not a servant’s! And since Sarai was Abram’s wife, she was therefore the flesh of his flesh; the “two had become one.” So, the Lord was consequently assuring Abram that the son would come from his and Sarai’s body, not a servant’s. And yet, despite this express and pronounced-will of God, Abram still could not disregard his wife’s suggestion and encourage her to wait on the Lord’s pronouncement, but instead allowed this same perceived-will cajole him into agreeing to the terrible and ungodly proposal offered him by his wife, Sarai, to go in and sleep with her maid. Clearly everything concerning this indecent proposal spelled trouble. Even in those days. It was impossible for Sarai not to feel jealous, wretched and insulted when her husband was lying with her servant. Nothing could have been well in that household that night and matters only got mush worse thereafter. She claimed the maidservant began to insult and disrespect her after she conceived, but the true insult began the moment she proposed the sordid act to her eager and willing husband, regardless of the desperation that may have pushed her to such measures. And that perceived-will became a poisoned-will and the poison pill the moment it was committed to action.
And make no mistake, any diversion from the will of God even to the slightest degree is complete diversion from the will of God, and consequently, total disobedience to the will of God. And that is why and where the concept of permissive will becomes disproved. There is no such thing as partial obedience or partial disobedience by man, just as much as there is no such thing as partial acceptance by God. There is only total obedience or total disobedience. Revelation 3:16 – “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” God is not man that he should change his mind. He means what he says and he says exactly what he means. It is our inability to submit totally and entirely to his plan, purpose and delivery, that pushes us into seeking fancy terminologies to embrace and approve our disobedience. But God cannot be mocked. When we seek after our own imaginations, we simply set ourselves up for regret, disappointment and disaster, as Sarai discovered for a while herself.
Consider the example of Saul. The Lord gave him strict instructions in 1 Samuel 15 to “completely destroy the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them,” sparing nothing and no one. Of course, Saul spared Agag the king and also the sheep and cattle. After being confronted by God through Samuel, he defended his position vigorously, claiming he did obey God and destroyed everything and everyone. And the animals he spared so he could sacrifice them unto the Lord. Again, as we do today, believing that his partial or near-total obedience would be considered by God. If such a thing as permissive will existed in the courts of God, then Saul should have be applauded for his 90% obedience to God. But instead consider the reply of the Lord:
1 Samuel 15 22 And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king."
The pronounced and perfect-will of God was for him to go and destroy everything and every one of the Amalekites. The Perceived and Poisoned-will of man according to his own ambition was to do otherwise, or skew to a degree, the instructions of God. Wrong move. Regrettable. Irrevocable. Lamentable. Consequently Saul was rejected as king before the Lord from that day. And it was calamity after calamity thereafter in Saul’s life till the very day of his tragic death. Just as the household of Abraham knew no peace after they placed their will and ambition over the Lord’s.
Genesis 21: 1-3- 1 The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. 2 And Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.
Perhaps it is because the Lord still gave them their expectation that some feel there must be a “permissive will” of God. However let’s not confuse God’s mercy with permission; there is no grace permitting us to disobey, and if you consider very carefully the story of Sarah and Abraham, you will see that their decision to disobey was not without consequence- the emotional war that almost destroyed his house and the woes that would come to revisit the House of Abraham through Ishmael much later in life as was proclaimed by the angel to Hagar. And are the House of Isaac and Ishmael still not at war to this very day? And who knows, perhaps the child, Isaac, may have been born sooner had they not taken it upon themselves to execute God’s plan for him; or if nothing else without the incident of discord in his house, even pushing Sarai to sin against God by mistreating Hagar. Certainly all these bore consequences and indelible marks of negativity upon their lives; complexities that would otherwise not exist if only they were willing to Yield completely to the will of God.
What consequences do you think await this friend of mine who is thinking about getting married because she feels the perfect-will and time of God is too imperfect and slow for her? She may end up having an affair to compensate the emotional bareness that inevitably awaits her in this marriage. He may resort to the same or worse, some terrible jealous rage upon discovering her infidelity that may prove fatal and final in that household. And if not that, then certainly divorce, or worse, a life spent in perpetual inconsequence, and children who are already damned to a life of misery and confusion even long before they are conceived; and all this because of one person’s inability to yield completely to the will of God.
1 John 5:14 - And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
As this verse indicates, the only litmus test is to ask ourselves “Is this God’s will for me?” before we even pray for it. And you will know. Because you can always base your request or perception on God’s standard and quality. Will God really offer you something, someone or a situation that is detrimental to your emotional, spiritual and physical welfare? No, he wouldn’t. Yet, if out of selfish desire and ambition you continue to pray and ask for something in antagonism to God’s will and purpose for you, then you can be certain that your prayer will never return with any reward whatsoever.
Take our Lord, Jesus Christ, at the Mount of Olives.
Matthew 26:42 - Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cup cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done.
Tormented by the trial and persecution he was about to face, the anxiety of the flesh began to taunt him. And concerned for a moment, Jesus said, “if this cup cannot pass unless I drink it,” meaning, I prefer not to go through this terrible affliction I am about to suffer at the hands of this people. And for a quick second, his agenda, his will, his desire to avail himself of this trial, was about to overcome God’s perfect-will for him; which, sadly, is often the case with us. He was in fact telling the Father that “I wish you would take this cup of affliction away from me. Yet, instantly, the Spirit overcame the flesh and he continued, “thy will be done.” And at that moment he yielded everything completely to the will of God. The poisoned-will and pill that is the devil, was quickly silenced by God’s perfect-will. So the scripture can now be restated as “Father, I really would prefer not to endure this trial. But your will is perfect. Therefore let your will and not mine be done.”
If only we would all submit as Christ did, not to the poisoned perception and will of the flesh already enslaved to the enemy, but to the perfect pronouncement of the Spirit, that lives only by God and for God, how pleasant and perfect our lives would be.
Genesis 18:14 - Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, in the spring, and Sarah shall have a son."
Psalms 40:1 - To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
Isaiah 60:22 - The least one shall become a clan, and the smallest one a mighty nation; I am the LORD; in its time I will hasten it (I will do it swiftly!).
In conclusion, understand that there is a time perfected for everything under heaven. For that position, for that spouse, for that child….a day, a place and a time has been set. And nothing you do can expedite that time. But everything you do can delay, frustrate or even completely disqualify you for that prize. Don’t think yourself more intelligent than God, don’t device answers and voices that do not belong to God. The consequences will fall short of his name and you only succeed in bringing disrepute to his glory; and that he meets with a terrible repercussion. Pray. Then, yield it all to this will, his time, his pace, his method and his purpose and see how pleasantly the end justifies the means.
Finally, there is one essential move required of you to complete this phase and to ensure you are at the right place at the right time to receive that desired reward; it is one element upon which rests the success of this entire design and the manifestation of the Lord’s architecture concerning your life-
See part V.
- Damilola Olorunnisola, the Humble Servant of God.
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