Have you ever gotten tired trying to figure out God’s will for your life because you’re worried that there’s too much of your desires mixed in with all your feelings? If so, check out these thoughts from Elisabeth Elliot’s book God’s Guidance:
When I was young I had the idea (I am sure I must have heard sermons on this) that I would somehow have to annihilate my own will before I could properly pray to God for his. ‘You must have absolutely no will of your own in the matter,’ someone had said. This sounded all right to me and I spent a lot of time and energy trying to follow this advice.
Finally I saw that no such thing was required.
The struggle Jesus had in the Garden of Gethsemane showed me this. A conflict was taking place – not to annihilate his own will, but to accept the will of the Father which was other than his. It did not end with Jesus’ saying ‘My will is now thine’ but with ‘Not my will but thine be done.’ The act of praying, far from divesting us of human desires, enables us to lay them before God as very real and pressing, and say to him ‘Not these, Lord. Yours.’ (If we had got rid of them there would be nothing to lay down.)
There is something terribly down-to-earth about this. They are my own requests that I am supposed to ‘make known’ to God. They are things I feel strongly about. They may be sinful. If they are, making them known to God may make plain to me their true nature. But I start by making them known. I pray for what I want, as a child asks its father for whatever it wants. This is faith’s legitimate activity.
Later in the book she adds this interesting example about how our desires and God’s make mix:
‘If a pagan asks you to dinner,’ wrote that severely disciplined saint, Paul, ‘and you want to go, feel free to eat whatever is set before you.’
Imagine! ‘If you want to, if you feel like going, go.’ That shocked me at first.
An invitation to a pagan feast would be the sort of thing I would not have dreamed of accepting without praying long and earnestly. God might want me to go, all right, but not – heaven forbid – because it would be fun. He might want me to go for some exalted reason such as to ‘witness’ to those present (which – heaven help me – would not be fun). So I would have had to inquire very carefully in order to separate my own desires from his.
Paul took the whole thing very casually.
It could happen any day, and, like crossing the street, it might be dangerous. But Paul was writing to Christians, and he assumes that if they went, they went with God. It was nothing to pray and fast over.