"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VI No.XII Pg.4,15
July 1944

Asking According To God's Will

W. Curtis Porter

God, in His word, has promised to answer prayer. However, He has not promised to answer the prayers of all men; neither has He promised to answer every prayer of any man. There are certain men upon whom God has called to pray and whose prayers He has promised to answer. But even these have certain conditions to meet if they would have their requests granted by the heavenly Father. God's children, those who are endeavoring to serve Him, are required to pray. But the Lord has specified a number of things for them to keep in mind and to observe when they pray. For example, they must ask in faith, they must pray in the name of Jesus Christ, they must ask in sincerity, and they must pray in humility, if they would have their prayers answered. But in addition to all of this, they must ask according to the will of God. They might observe all other requirements God makes of men who pray, but if they fail to observe this, God will not hear them. The language of the apostle John is very specific and plain. Listen to his statement: "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him." (I John 5:14,15.) Thus John expressed his confidence in God and in His willingness to answer prayer. But that confidence was based upon strict adherence to the condition mentioned "if we ask anything according to his will." The passage certainly means that we cannot expect God to answer our prayers if we do not ask according to His will.

Even Jesus, our Lord and Master, the world's Redeemer and the Savior of men, kept this point in mind when He prayed. In the garden of Gethsemane, just a short time before He suffered on the cross, knowing that soon the time would come when He was to taste the cup of death for every man, Jesus prayed to the Father. He said: "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42.) He did not pray for the Father to ignore His will and answer the prayer; but he prayed for the cup of death to be removed if it would be according to God's will. Jesus always recognized this principle, for He tells us that He came down from heaven not to do His own will but the will of the Father who sent him.

God's will for us has been revealed in His word. If we desire to know what the will of God is, we must read His word to find out. In no other way can we know the will of God. When we are told, therefore, to ask according to His will, it means we must ask in harmony with His word. A prayer could not be contrary to His word and yet in harmony with His will. His will is made known in His word, and when we go according to that word in our prayers and in our living, we go according to His will; but when we ignore His word, we likewise ignore His will. It is certainly possible for a man to pray contrary to the will of God or we would never have been taught the importance of asking according to it.

That we may discover the fact that God will refuse to answer prayers that are contrary to His word let us study a prayer offered one time by that great servant of God, Moses, the leader of Israel. The greatness of this man, and his willingness to sacrifice and suffer for the cause of Jehovah, along with his great faith in God, are all revealed to us in Heb. 11: 24-26. Concerning him the inspired writer of the book of Hebrews said: "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward." This is the description of a great character. His humility in the service of God was so great that he was said to be the meekest man "upon the face of the earth." (Num. 12:3.) Moses was the kind of man that God has promised to hear. Peter said: "The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil." (I Pet. 3:12.) Moses was a righteous man; he was a man of faith; he was the kind of man unto whom the ears of the Lord are open. In fact, God had often heard and answered his prayers. His prayers to God had saved Israel from destruction when God's anger had waxed hot against them because of their rebellion. But even a man like this might pray contrary to God's will.

That wretched disease called leprosy was often found among the children of Israel in those days. The person who was afflicted with leprosy was regarded as unclean, and God had a law to govern such cases. His will was made known in a specific commandment regarding leprosy. In Num. 5:1,2, we read this language: "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper." Again in Lev. 13:46 these words are found: "All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be." These, with many other Old Testament statements, reveal to us God's law concerning leprosy. When leprosy appeared on a person the person must be put out of the camp for seven days. And if the leprosy continued to exist and develop, the person must be declared unclean and put out of the camp as long as the leprosy remained.

On a certain occasion the brother and sister of Moses, Aaron and Miriam, spoke against him. They felt that Moses had assumed too much authority, that God had spoken by them as well as by Moses. The Lord was displeased with them because of this, called them to the door of the tabernacle, rebuked them for their arrogancy, and allowed his anger to become kindled against them. When he departed and the cloud from the tabernacle vanished, "Behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous." (Num. 12:10.) This led Aaron to confess before Moses his act of foolishness, his sin, and to plead with Moses for her. At once Moses went to God in prayer about it. To some extent we can understand the anxiety of Moses. His sister that had stood watch over him when he was a babe cast on the river Nile and secured a nurse, his own mother, to assist Pharoah's daughter in caring for him, is now smitten with leprosy, a disease that is terrible and wretched. His heart is touched with her sad condition, and he prays to God in these words: "Heal her now, 0 God, I beseech thee." (Num. 12:13.) I have never read on the pages of any book, nor heard fall from the lips of any man, a prayer that seemed more sincere and earnest than this prayer of Moses. He is the kind of man who could pray to God an acceptable prayer; he approaches God with deep sincerity and earnest anxiety to heal his sister; he displays a humility that ought to characterize all men who pray. He was eager for immediate results; he prayed: "Heal her now, 0 God, I beseech thee." Can you for a moment's time doubt the sincerity of that prayer? Yet, as strange as it may at first seem, God did not answer that prayer. Although it was a petition of earnestness from the heart of the meekest man upon the earth, God did not answer. Do you wonder why? Simply this: It was a prayer that was contrary to God's will. To answer that prayer would be to set aside God's revealed law. Through Moses He had revealed His will to the people, that if any one developed leprosy, that person must be put out of the camp seven days. Although Moses knew that law, he prayed for God to ignore His will and "heal Miriam, and heal her now." But God said to Moses: "Let her be shut out of the camp seven days." (Num. 12:14.) Then, regardless of how good the man who prays may be, God will not answer his prayer unless he asks according to the will of God. God will not set aside His plainly revealed law to answer the prayer of any man who prays contrary to it.

And that principle still holds true today. With respect to the salvation of lost men God has revealed His will in His word. He has told sinners plainly what to do to be saved. Jesus, in the language of the great commission, said: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16.) He has never promised salvation to men upon faith alone. It is not merely "he that believeth" but "he that believeth and is baptized" that is promised salvation. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, said: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." (Acts 2:38.) Thus the will of God concerning sin is just as plainly revealed in the New Testament as His will concerning leprosy was revealed in the Old Testament. Suppose I should ignore that will, just as Moses did, and pray to God for sinners as men do today, would the Lord answer my prayer? He has commanded sinners to repent and be baptized, but suppose I go to

God and pray like this: "Save them now, 0 God, I beseech thee." That would be parallel to the prayer of Moses. He said: "Heal her now, 0 God, I beseech thee." I say: "Save them now, 0 God, I beseech thee." So the prayers are similar. To answer Moses' prayer, would be to set aside His law on leprosy; to answer my prayer would be to set aside His law concerning sin and salvation. And God would no more answer my prayer than he would answer the prayer of Moses. Both are contrary to His will. It would have been perfectly all right for Moses to pray for his sister, but to pray for God to heal her while they were disobeying His law was not right. It is all right for me to pray for sinners, but for me to pray for God to save them now while in disobedience to His commandments for them is rebellion against the will of God. Paul prayed that his brethren, the Israelites, might be saved. (Rom. 10:1-3.) But he did not pray for God to save them while they were refusing to submit to the righteousness of God and were going about to establish their own righteousness. Paul's prayer involved their giving up their own way and submitting to God's way. And so it must be with me when I pray for sinners. Let us pray that they may submit to the will of God, for in no other way can they ever be saved. But let us not ask contrary to the will of God and beseech Him to save them in their rebellion against Him. Remember that John said: "If we ask anything according to his will he heareth us." But do not expect an answer if you ask out of harmony with His will.