19. What if what I’m praying for is not God’s Will or plan for me? What do I do? Like the Israelites begging for and getting meat (Numbers 11), could I end up getting what I ask for as sort of a punishment?
I wondered about this one, too. If I was asking and asking for something that God didn’t want to give me, would He end up giving it to me because I begged so much, but then there would be a punishment attached to it? That’s how I felt as I pleaded with God for a house. I mean, that’s like what happened to the Israelites, right? Or is it?
As I thought about this one, I realized that there is a difference between hardening your heart and rejecting His care for you, and desperately seeking His “Will” in prayer and bringing a request to Him over and over again. Even if I did sin by being anxious and depressed and focusing on getting a certain answer, I was (at the very least) bringing all this to God. I was pleading with Him. I was hurting before Him. And I was, ultimately, desperate to know what He wanted, and my heart was turned toward Him.
This is different than what the Israelites got punished for. The Israelites had rejected God’s care for them. They refused to believe that He was a good God capable of caring for them. And they didn’t draw near to God through the trials; they pulled away and rebelled, complaining to others instead of going to God in prayer.
And so I would have to say that even if what you are asking for is not in line with God’s Will, keep praying with a soft heart. Keep bringing these petitions before God, and being transparent before Him. And as long as you are soft-hearted and sensitive to Him and drawing near in the pain, God will eventually transform your desires and your will to be in line with His. Usually by revealing things that you didn’t even know you needed to work on. And sometimes, through the pain.
But be willing to go with Him where He leads and to let Him make these kinds of changes, and He’ll guide you in the way you should go. And you’ll eventually be desiring what He wants for you. It’s hard-hearted rebellion that gets punished. But soft-hearted seeking (even if we do it wrong at times) gets God’s tender, loving mercy and care.
(On a practical note, when I have to choose between different options – such as doing something vs. not doing it, or Option A vs. Option B - there is a “test” that I try to run the options through to help me try to discern if it is the Lord or myself leading. What I do is run each option through this question: If I was to choose this one, what would my reason be? And then I search my heart for what is fueling the desire to choose that path: pride, fear, boredom, frustration, greed, anger, bitterness, selfish desire, impatience, etc.?
And generally, there will be one option that will make me answer something like this, “The only real reason that I would choose this one is because I feel like this is the one God is telling me to choose.” And this helps me know which one is the right one, until God brings further guidance. And, interestingly, it’s usually the one that seems the most unreasonable or difficult or scary or impossible. God does His best work with “the impossible.” It’s like when I was wondering if I should continue waiting for God to bring us a house or if I should just go out and find one. When I asked myself, Why would I keep waiting?, the only answer that I could come up with is, Because I feel that’s what God is telling me to do. And that reason had to be good enough for me!)
Posts in this "Understanding God's Will" series:
3: His Will Is A Verb 4: Taking It Seriously 5: Prayer Matters 6: But God Can Read Minds 7: But God Knows Our Needs 8a: Pray Specifics? 8b: Three Keys For Next Step 8c: About Smaller Decisions 9a: Name It Claim It 9b: Help
9c: Verses 9d: Idolatry 9e: Unanswered 9f: Not Listening 9g: More Verses 9h: Effective Prayer 9i: Still Waiting 10: Bad Things Happen 11a: Happens For A Reason? 11b: Marriage Trouble 11c: Deliberate Ignorance 11d: Bad Things Beyond Us 12: God Works Good 13: Limiting God? 14/15: God Forcing Things? 16: Change God's Mind? 17: But God Can't Change? 18: Our Responsibilities