Dallas Willard

Seeking God’s Kingdom and Organic Decision Making

Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine, Calvin all have similar stories of becoming ministers. They all desired a contemplative and devotional life. They all sought to spend their lives seeking truth for truth’s sake. And all of them were called (dragged, more like it) against their will. Yet, all of them, in that very context, made incalculable contributions to the church, even intellectually. A couple observations can be drawn from this.

First, this is a practical application of Jesus’ insight, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” These men weren’t seeking prominent ministries; they were seeking God. Yet, God chose his men as he saw fit. As Dallas Willard has said,

People are constantly looking for methods…God is looking for men. Methods are often temporary, but what God is looking for is a life. God is far less interested in your results than the person you are becoming.

I quote this to say that, the most important thing that you can do to find God’s will for your life is seek to become the kind of person that God wants you to be. This is very similar to the kind of thing that Paul was saying in Romans “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (12:2).

The second thing is that the greatest contribution from these men did not come from their distanced thought life, but from their thought life applied. It pastoral concerns that brought us The City of God and the Institutes of the Christian Religion.

A similar story is found in the life of Karl Barth. He was a scholar, trained in the Liberal German schools of thought. When he took up the pulpit, he found that what he learned wouldn’t preach. So, he sought to preach the Word of God while honoring the God of the Word. Thus, his famous commentary on Romans was borne.

It isn’t the pragmatists that seem to make the most timely and important impact. It’s those who seek God, and through seeking, organically find his will. And it is in the midst of his will that their most important work is done. For some, this work will change the world in obvious ways. For others, it will be inconspicuous to man. But none of it will be inconspicuous to God.

How to Pray

We know we should pray, but most of us, if we are honest, don’t really know how.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has determined to spend some time in prayer and found my thoughts wandering to things that I would never have been interested to think about otherwise. Honestly, when I hear stories about people praying for hours-on-end regularly, I don’t understand it. When I think about Jesus fasting in the wilderness for 40 day or praying throughout the night, one of my first thoughts it, “what did he say?” I can’t talk to a person for that long. What do I say to God?

The disciples seemed to feel this same tension. In Luke 11, they say, “Lord, teach us how to pray.”

Jesus answers them with what has come to be called “The Lord’s Prayer” (Lk. 11:2-4; cf. Mat. 6:9-13).

Sometimes, we despair over what we lack because we don’t use what we’ve been given. If we want to know how to pray and Jesus says “pray like this” (Mat. 6:9), we should pay attention.

But what did Jesus mean for us to do with the Lord’s Prayer? It seems obvious enough that he didn’t intend for us to merely recite these words when we pray. There are plenty of other prayers in Scripture and Jesus doesn’t even present the prayer in the same way every time it’s used (cf. Mat. 6:9-13; Lk. 11:2-4).

It seems that this is meant to be a type of guideline for the kind of things that our prayers should include. If we are struggling in prayer, we can’t go wrong by letting the Lord’s prayer be an example.

In light of “hallowed be your name,” we can be reminded that to praise and revere God. In light of “Your kingdom come and your will be done,” we can think of specific ways for God’s will to be done.

I have found Dallas Willard’s book The Divine Conspiracy to be a helpful guide in this regard.

“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes on our behalf with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts know what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” -Rom. 8:26-27