The problem with seeking God’s will

Posted on: May 2nd, 2014 by mattpapa 22 Comments


 “God knows what is better for us. Let us seek only that our heart be free from sin.” – Augustine

I have spent too much of my life, and my prayer life, asking for God to lead me into His “perfect will”.  “God lead me”.  “Guide me”.  “Use me”.  “Bless me”.  While I know that God is a gracious, condescending God who meets us wherever we are, I something wonder if God has been up there saying….

“Um…yeah.  I’m Your Shepherd.  That’s what I do.”

So there’s a problem revealed here.  If I really believed that God was good….that He was my dad who was all powerful and all knowing and all loving….then I wouldn’t be repeatedly begging him to lead me with this certain twinge of anxiety.  I would relax.  Dad’s got me.  Chill.

But I don’t believe it, obviously.  And yet the problem goes deeper still.  If the pulse of my prayer life is set on my future (“God lead me guide me help me”), and not on God Himself (“Our Father who art in heaven”) then this has revealed that there is really a rival god in the mix.  An idol.  “Success” or perhaps “Comfort” or “Control”.  I want my best life now, not Jesus.  Really what I have been asking is….”God make my life go perfectly”.  “Make it exceptional.”  “Make my life epic.”

Now….there’s nothing inherently wrong with seeking God’s guidance.  But ask yourself this….”If the world could read my prayer journal….all in all…..would God look more like a genie or a treasure?”

Why are we so obsessed with “it” (God’s will) unless knowing “it” is more desirable to us than knowing “Him”?

Maybe God doesn’t want your life to be epic.  Maybe He wants it to be normal.  Maybe He wants your heart to be epic.  And the path to seeing this accomplished is….your heart made more like his….will actually not come through the achievement of your plans but through their mutilation.  God, for His children, will patiently and lovingly deny them of their desires until what they desire is Him.

“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”

What are you seeking?  God or something He can give you.  Your happiness is at stake.  Your soul is at stake.

Writing that you might want Him,



  • Chuck McKnight

    Interesting perspective. When I pray for God to show me his will, it’s a matter of surrendering my own. I’m asking God to help me follow him—as opposed to following my own inclinations. It has to be a deliberate choice though. If I just relaxed and stopped asking God to guide me, I would fall back into the trap of trying to live life on my own.

  • Mia Koehne

    Thank you, thank you for sharing more of this…this has been a struggle (deep struggle) in our house the last few weeks…to the point of tears. And Matt, my friend, you words have brought a lot of clarity. “Maybe He wants your heart to be epic. And the path to seeing this accomplished is….your heart made more like his….will actually not come through the achievement of your plans but through their mutilation.” #OUCH #Iambroke

  • Mandy

    Great post. Quick question! Did you intend to use the word “condescending” to describe God? If so, can you clarify what you mean by that? To me, it means snooty, aloof, and rude. Thanks!

    • J.Michael

      Jesus condescended to the earth so that we might become blameless, so that we might learn to live. The most high became a pauper among his people. In Matt’s usage of the word he is likely indicating that. Phillipians 2:5-8

    • Stephen

      Christians speak of God “condescending” to man, in several ways. Two big ones: He condescends to speak to us in the understandable words of Scripture, because we could never understand his thoughts. As J.Michael said, he also condescended physically in the form of Jesus Christ, so that Christ could be our savior and our priest having endured temptation and condemnation for our sake. “Condescend” literally means “go down with.” Parents condescend to young children and teachers condescend to students so that they might understand. It does not have to have a negative connotation.

  • Elldee

    This is crazy timing…my prayer this morning was a realization that I need to stop asking God for direction but to TRUST that He is directing me and OBEY his leading. I realized my prayers have been asking God for something He already promises to do (lead, guide, direct) and that it is MY responsibility to trust that He is doing just that. And that led to a heartfelt confession of how hard it is for me to let go and trust His leading instead of telling Him what I want and hoping He’ll bless my wishes. Yep, like you said, more like a genie than a treasure!

  • Lew Ayotte

    How does this jive with Jesus’ example prayer in Matthew 6:9-13?

    • Lynn Rutledge

      Also there are several examples in the Psalms of prayers asking God for guidance. I think Matt is trying emphasize the motivation behind praying for God to lead us. Are we doing it for selfish reasons, or because we are seeking him? We should be praying like Ps. 61:2, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

  • Out in the Cold

    So, how do your ideas balance with David Murray’s recent post ’7 Lessons I Learned from My Failure’?

    On one hand we are told to “never give up” and then on the other hand that God’s will might be our plan’s annihilation. Because the world does not have the category for “God’s will” there is no adversity that is interpreted as them needing to ‘die to self’ or to change course, they just keep trying … and with talent and a good attitude and work ethic success is always just a matter of time when someone refuses to quit.

    As a Christian, is there a point where we quit amidst constant failure, or like the world, do we ‘never give up’? How do we interpret career related adversity as just the normal way of life or God frustrating our plans? If it’s the latter then the “never give up” mantra is a platitude.

    However, the way of life is just hard, apart from God’s discipline, and requires perseverance for Christian and pagan alike. The Christian is filtering every hardship through God’s discipline and making life-altering decisions based upon a subjective ‘message from God’ through the circumstance, the pagan is filtering every hardship through “hey, that’s life” and they refuse to give up. It too often seems that the latter perspective ends in a better result than the former.

    TL;DR At what point in constant failure should a Christian give up following their dreams, in a world that says “never give up”?

    • Juli

      I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I am reading a comment of yours again. We seem to be struggling with the same thing. Why shouldn’t we act like pagans? But giving up, or hanging on are not our only options. Dying to self is not like giving up. It’s one of the basic practices of Christianity. We pick up our crosses and follow Him. It’s not a popular idea. It’s hard. Calling it tenacity, we’d rather angrily hang on to what we know. We don’t know what is on the other side of the death of our dreams. He may give us our dreams back. He may not. It just puts Him in the position of sovereignty, instead of us.

      • Out in the Cold

        Well said.

      • David

        Good reply

    • David

      Good question that most of us can relate to

  • Maxine Hackerson

    Great article. When we give up our need for control and let God be in control and seek only after Him life becomes meaningful. This is one of the hardest things we have to learn. We can take it to God but we have the hardest time leaving it there. The older I get the more I find myself giving it to God and walking away with assurance that he has my life and what He desires will become my desire too. I’m finally learning to stop worrying about it and feel peace.It only took me 61years and I still have to scold myself from time to time. I am so looking forward to a garden stroll through Heaven with Jesus, but until then I will enjoy what He has for me here.

    • Rachel Monger

      Thinking the same thing … when things are out of our control it is an opportunity to see things are in God’s control! Seek ye first the Kingdom of God … Thank you.

    • CAT

      Thanks for the encouragement. I am still in the process myself of learning to stop worrying and have peace. It’s good to know that it doesn’t just happen overnight. It certainly would be better if it could, though :)

  • woodybailey

    Some really good perspective here.

  • John Gresh

    Seeking God’s will for our lives is to align ourselves, our desires, with the the desires of God. Psalm 37:4 -”Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” That occurs through Salvation, Submission, Sanctification,Spirit Filled, Suffering in His Name, Thanksgiving to Him. Then the desires of your being come into alignment with God’s desires, & you live your life doing God’s will. however, it’s a never ending process.

  • EWF

    “You have been asking God what He is going to do
    (what His will is for your life), God isn’t going to show you what He is going
    to do, He wants you to know Him.” Oswald

  • Carey Green

    My wife and I were just talking about the prayers we pray that are what she called, “Duh!” prayers. So many times we pray, “God, be with me,” “Lord, bless him,” etc. and don’t stop to think how sill it is. God is doing those things. Already. Promised. Secure. I appreciate the confirmation here, Matt. BTW, your music hits me deeply. I love it. God is God. Worthy of our praise and trust.

  • Mike

    “Maybe God doesn’t want your life to be epic.
    Maybe He wants it to be normal.
    Maybe He wants your heart to be epic. And the path to seeing this accomplished is….your heart made more like his….will actually not come through the achievement of your plans but through their mutilation. ” … Yes and amen. Look at what the apostles endured to the death… Why has God’s name been expunged from the scriptures? It has been replaced with LORD over 6,000 times in the scripture… Think about it. In Hebrew, Yoshua’s name (Jesus) contains the name of God! The scriptures connect the two names in the Hebrew language, but in the translations the connection is LOST! Why?1

  • Angela Sackett

    Ah, yes, this is SO the cry of my heart, as I dig deeper into His nature and His work in my life… realizing with every step more of my own broken tendency to make the things of my Maker my idols… to want His success more than Him. thank you for sharing, Matt!