Is “…if it be Your will” a prayer escape clause?
I know just what this questioner means. I’ve heard some Christians call this prayer add-on a “faith destroying phrase,” a face-saving “escape clause” in case God doesn’t come through. Talk like this arouses a righteous anger in me because it sidesteps the sovereignty of God! It places our understanding, our will, our plans in place of God’s.
James gives us stern warning against this,
Listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes… Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 3:13-14; 4:15)
To pray otherwise is to pray presumptuously. Perhaps God’s plan for an individual includes a period of suffering in order to teach some lesson. Praying this be removed would be to pray against God’s purposes which He has not revealed to us. Or, consider the farmer praying for rain while the teacher planning a class picnic prays for sunshine. Neither has the right to tempt God by demanding their preferred outcome.
But there are occasions where prayer with great assurance and boldness is appropriate. Where the will of God is clearly known we need not, indeed ought not, pray with the caveat “…if it be Your will.”
Clearly, we need not pray “Lord, forgive my sins, if it is Your will,” or, “Father, lead us not into temptation, if You so desire.” On these God’s will is already clear to us!
Likewise, we can pray assuredly when we pray according to what God has clearly promised to all believers. Consider this prayer of Paul’s,
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:16-19)
Paul does not add any phrase asking if these requests be God’s will. God has already spoken His will through Christ, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48), or as the Amplified puts it, “…be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Interestingly this question tags on well to our discussion earlier this week about approaching God in humility yet coming “boldly to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Like a child we may ask our parent/s humbly for a special privilege, yet demand boldly that which had previously been promised.
Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.