Ask most people when they pray, and they will probably say that it is when they have a specific request. Even people who pray regularly often spend a considerable amount of time listing the things that they want or need. This isn’t hard to explain. It is easy to recognize when things aren’t as we wished they were. It is more difficult to recognize how God wants things to be.
Perhaps it is because of this that so often I hear people praying that “God would reveal His will.” Usually this petition comes because the individual has a decision to make and wants to know which path they should choose. When we don’t know where God is leading, we hope that He will provide some sign or inclination that will tell us where we should go.
The interesting thing about this request is that there is no implied commitment on behalf of the petitioner to follow God’s path once it is revealed. People reveal things all the time which don’t prompt us to act. A commercial may reveal a great deal; a friend may reveal her future ambition. In either of these instances, and many more, we may listen and then do nothing. Similarly, when we ask God to reveal His will it may be that we are asking for clarity, but without it, we are unwilling to commit to obey.
Maybe this is why David put the request a little differently. He wrote:
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. – Psalm 25:4-5
Do you see the difference? David asks God to:
- “Make me know your ways” – He doesn’t just want God to reveal His path; David wants it to deeply resonate within him.
- “Teach me your paths” – David humbly acknowledges that it is his place to learn what God desires; he could no more demand God’s revelation than he could insist that God make him king
- “Lead me in your truth” – David expectantly commits to follow where God directs.
And then concludes by stating:
- “For you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long” – David recognizes that his own timetable is not what’s important; it is God’s timetable that matters. David resolves to wait for God – not asserting his preferences regarding when things will happen, but dedicated to patience as God plans unfold.
The differences may seem subtle, but they are important. Asking God to reveal His will seems to place the focus on how doing so might benefit me. Asking God to “make me know your ways” places the emphasis on God, where it rightly should be.
So the next time we are inclined to ask God to reveal His plans for our life, perhaps instead we should follow the pattern of David and ask God that would make us know His way. In doing so may we recognize that it should be our ambition to know what is important to Him, to pursue wholeheartedly after it, and to commit to follow Him as He, in His good timing, teaches us His path and leads us in His ways.