Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington
telling God what to do

Telling God What to Do


Is it biblical to tell God what to do?

I used to think the answer was an unequivocal “No!” But that was before I read Psalm 119.

Psalm 119 focuses on the benefits of God’s law. The psalmist uses a variety of words to refer to the law of God, including precepts, statutes, testimonies, commandments, judgments, and ordinances.

But what I found especially interesting is how the psalmist made bold requests of God that were framed as directives. Consider this sampling of verses:

  • 17 – Be good to your servant while I live, that I may obey your word.
  • 18 – Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
  • 27 – Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
  • 29 – Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me and teach me your law.
  • 33 – Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end.
  • 34 – Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
  • 38 – Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared.
  • 134 – Redeem me from human oppression, that I may obey your precepts.

In each case—and in so many more besides these—the psalmist’s requests are fearlessly stated as instructions to God. He didn’t say, “Lord, I’m asking You to be good to me.” He said, “Be good to your servant.” He didn’t ask for understanding, he instructed God to give him the understanding he needed.

Such boldness might be viewed as arrogance. Yet a better explanation is that these bold requests are made, not arrogantly, but confidently. A confidence based on the knowledge of God’s character and His ways. A surrender to the sovereignty of God. An assurance that everything he requested is anchored in God’s Word. These requests flowed from the certainty that they were in the center of God’s will.

Do we approach our heavenly Father with the same confidence and surrender? Do we know His character and His ways so well that our requests can be statements instead of questions—bold directives because they are actually God’s will for each of us?

May you and I be so intimately related to our heavenly Father that our prayer requests are similarly aligned to His character, His will, His ways, and His Word!



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  1. Barb Winters

    Interesting take. Thanks for your insight. . . . Psalm 119 is one of my favorite passages.

  2. Yvonne Anzolone

    For a few weeks now I have been praying the Prayer of Jabez. I love the first line, “Bless me indeed.” There are only four lines and I was able to commit it to memory by writing it a few times. God wants us to know that He is rich and generous in more ways than we can imagine. Why have I been limiting all the possibilities with my miserly thinking?

  3. Linda

    Very true. But we also must be careful not to stray into the area of false feelings of entitlement like spoiled children!

  4. Melinda Viergever Inman

    What an excellent post, Ava! There are times we can pray like this and times when we must humbly bring our requests. You detailed the whys, which help the reader to see the difference. I remember when I began praying for my children by NOT telling God what to do and how to do it, as I had prayed previously as a younger believer with a house full of children. It was a matter of faith to realize that after I am dead, God will care for my children without needing input from me.

  5. Jessica Brodie

    Great post, and I KNOW God can handle our questions, our demands, everything. He knows that WE know He’s bigger and greater than we are, so we don’t ever have to worry (in my opinion) about phrasing things in “just the right way.” He knows us perfectly.

  6. Yvonne Morgan

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I love Psalms 119 too. Good post Ava.

  7. Karen Friday

    This is interesting, Ava. It seems the Psalmist requests are usually connected to the desire to obey God’s laws and commands…to obey Him.

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