Nothing Lies Beyond The Reach of Prayer
except that which lies outside the will of God.
Phillips Brooks was a clergyman and author who lived in the 1800’s. He said, “Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God.” Was he correct? Is anything beyond the reach of prayer except those things that lie outside of God’s will for us? In other words, will God violate His will to answer our prayers?
We know from the Bible that nothing is too hard or too difficult for God.
Jeremiah 32:27 says: “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (NIV)
And the Bible says in Matthew 19:6, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (NIV)
It is true that we can pray about everything and the Bible encourages us to do so as in Philippians 4:6-7. But at the same time, God is not obligated to answer any and every prayer, as some people believe. This error is partially due to the “health, wealth and prosperity gospel” teaching that we can somehow force God to do what we want.
While it is true that Jesus said “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”(Matthew 21:22) This verse is teaching that we need to have faith to receive answers to our prayers.
We must consider other verses about prayer and the will of God that give us more insight. The Bible says that praying according to God’s will is the only way that we can be sure that He even hears us. In 1 John 5:14 we read, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” (NIV)
Jesus had strong words about doing the will of God.
In Mark 3:35 “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (NIV) We also have His example of prayer that He prayed prior to His betrayal and arrest, in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Additionally, He taught His own disciples in the Lord’s Prayer to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10 ESV)
We do have free will to make choices. But we shouldn’t confuse this with thinking we can impose our desires upon God and force His hand. We certainly can make our preferences known to Him.
However, when it comes to asking God to do something we can know that He will not answer any prayer that contradicts His will. Christians should follow the example of Jesus and pray, “Father, not my will but Yours’ be done” instead of praying, “Father, not Your will, but mine be done.”
How then can we know the will of God?
The answer is by reading the Bible where there are many verses that reveal His will to us. For example, the following verses are clear indications of His will for us.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV)
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;” (1 Thessalonians 4:3 NIV)
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:15-20 NIV)
If you are still unsure of the will of God for you, after prayer and searching the Scriptures, then speak to a Christian Pastor and obtain wise counsel from mature Christians.
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Additional resources about related subjects on this site:
Podcast: Why Aren’t My Prayers Answered?
Podcast: How should I pray when suffering?