Week 3 Day 5: Desiring God’s Will

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
John 5:30

Desiring God’s Will

Sit, listen to God, with a kind of expectancy that has no expectations, and ask God, “What would you like to do today?”

-Br. Keith Nelson


From the fifth chapter of the Gospel according to John: “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just because I seek to do, not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”

So when I pray with this passage, I think immediately of some close friendships that I’ve had in my life. Perhaps you can think of your relationship with your partner or spouse or a close friend in your life, and that moment when you have free time together and one of you asks, “What would you like to do this afternoon?” And perhaps you say, “Oh it doesn’t matter to me, what would you like to do?” And there’s that back and forth where you both don’t really care what you do because what you really care about, what you really want, is simply to be with each other, just to spend time being and reveling in, celebrating, exploring the intimacy that exists between the two of you. And the activity really is secondary.

You might think of another relationship or another situation where that question is asked, “What would you like to do today?” And your first impulse, or perhaps even what you say, is “I’m so glad you asked,” and you have a list of things that you would like to do. I think we all know that that’s a different kind of feeling. One involves a kind of attentive listening, a kind of expectancy without any particular expectation about what happens. And the other kind of rushes in with a certain kind of self-will, even if it’s a very subtle self-will – there, in that instinctive moment where we fail to listen, where we fail to give space to the other, with whom we desire intimacy. That kind of instinctive self-will can really be an impediment to developing the kind of spacious intimacy that we desire, both in our human relationships as well as in our relationship, our unfolding relationship with intimacy with God.

So “I can do nothing on my own.” “I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me” requires a listening for what that will is, and a laying aside of our own self-will. So perhaps the way to pray with this might just be to sit, listen to God, with a kind of expectancy that has no expectations, and ask God, “What would you like to do today?”

We invite you to share your answer in the comments below or using #MeetingJesus


  1. Jeanne DeFazio on January 28, 2019 at 10:46

    Thanks so much. Each day in am I come before Jesus to listen to what He says. It’s always surprising that He expects from me something so different than what I expect of myself. There are times when I expect the opposite of what I hear but it is always the most wonderful thing to hear what the Holy Spirit is actually saying. It’s life changing in a way like nothing else. I always want more. More love, more mercy, more wisdom. I have to keep coming back day to day. Give us this day our daily 🍞. Don’t get a magic wand to wish away life’s challenges. Get warnings and admonitions sometimes rebukes I don’t want to hear. But always there is love that sustains me through the challenging daily events. The live that keeps me from the edge of despair and gives me the ability to walk that extra mile or to forgive myself when I mess up. Nothing like listening to Jesus. He is do awesome. Thanks for your wonderful reminder and all these great reflections.

  2. Mary Anderson on March 14, 2018 at 16:37

    Dear God, what would you like me to do today? What is your will? Guide me dear, Lord, guide me. Amen

  3. Christine Magrega on March 10, 2018 at 21:17

    Every morning when my feet touch the floor as I get up I say, “thy will be done”. Now I will ask, “what do you want to do today?” Most refreshing perspective! Thank you 🙏, Bro. Keith.

  4. Pamela Ann Quarstein on March 9, 2018 at 02:54

    E X P E C T
    E xplore your relationship with God
    E X pect surprises
    P ractice what God asks
    E xpect intimacy
    I C an do nothing on my own
    T each me to listen, hear and love. AMEN

    • John on March 15, 2018 at 17:56

      I am enjoying your writings…thank you.

  5. Jimmy on March 7, 2018 at 03:33

    In my often chaotic, hurried life I pray that I will slow down and listen for the voice of God. This needs to be a conscious effort on my part to know that God is always there and wanting my full attention to be one with me and show me His plans. God in your GREAT power lead me to the quietness I need to hear you.

  6. Peter Raynham on March 6, 2018 at 23:37

    This is a difficult one for me to reconcile:
    Intimacy means shrinking the space, coming close together, until it encompasses just the partners and their love in each other.
    Spaciousness, however, means growing the space, giving room to the other so that they have sufficient freedom of will and you can discern that will.

  7. Virginia MacPherson on March 6, 2018 at 15:08

    A friend of mine several years ago told me me that one day on holiday he was on the beach with his three sons who loved to surf in the water. He did that day what he usually did which was to say to Jesus ” What are we up to today Lord ?”. He felt God say “pray against neck injuries”. So he duly did that. Later that morning his eldest son was hit in the surf by a board from another surfer who had lost control. His son was hit in the neck and needed to go to Emergency but there were no significant injuries. I have often thought since then that the question “What are we up to today Lord?” is a really good one. It is intimate, looks to Jesus, implies a willingness to do whatever He says and it lets Him lead.
    Br Keith’s reflection on intimacy reminded me of this story. Please Lord give me listening ears!

  8. David John Drew on March 5, 2018 at 22:47

    Jesus – Master of Hearts, today I understand that the actions of listening, observing and acknowledging are simultaneous events in the mind and will of the Divine – they are immediately translated and expressed in you, and from you to me. The will of the Father is absolutely engaged in this, the present moment of time – neither past nor future, not loss or regret or a pretentious, potential hope of some unknown event, but fully active here and now – Lord, I find this so completely overwhelming that I feel as if I am being submerged and drowning in your Almighty Power – as it flows through my heart. You beckon us all to be attentive, aware and alert to the sound of your voice as it echoes through our daily existence… the gentle rhythm of your sound – in all that affects us; wind, rain and sunlight, earth and sky, in the rise and fall of our own breath and heartbeat.

    Your energy is constant, and ever-flowing, a moving stream that nourishes the souls of your devotees. You are an endless cycle – the rain that becomes a path, a river from the mountain-top moving down back to the ocean.

    Through you, Lord Christ, the will of the Father becomes my guidance in life… to the actuality of life as it is, the ‘hub’ of the wheel around which everything revolves.

    I do not, cannot ‘possess’ prayer, or even act through it. Prayer is something that you perform through me… it your action on my soul. You are the thought, and the Word arising out of my heart and dancing on my lips. Your fragrance is word more intoxicating than wine, and sweeter than honey in my mouth.

    Heaven finds its true place
    Within the heart
    A harmony constantly
    Motionless in movement,
    Passive in action
    Manifest in space;
    The breath, sound, presence –
    With which I inhale,
    And exhale.
    Every moment momentous
    With life,
    Never-ending prayer
    Swift yet silent
    Dying to itself,
    Then arising
    With a tremendous roar,
    A crash of surf
    Breaking on the shore
    Retreating and advancing
    Until there is nothing more
    – Only you

    + Amen

    I pray that all will discover the course of life that runs through them – the wild, deeply passionate and incomprehensible river of life, without which we are all but empty, dry deserts of despair. Amen.

    Pax Christi – David

  9. Jaan Sass on March 3, 2018 at 09:16

    In many ways I am selfish and struggle with empathy. I need to make time for others in my life I know when I get a past my depression and confusion and think about others and put them first it helps me get the focus of myself. Lord help me focus on others and ultimately on your love.

  10. Jennifer on March 3, 2018 at 03:09

    I ask God what he would have me do (or we can do together) and most often there is a clear biblical principle to provide direction. When I am unsure I listen for Gods voice in other people or circumstances. I pray I will be sensitive to God guiding me and for power to live a life that honours Him.

  11. Paula Pryce on March 2, 2018 at 23:46

    Beautifully nuanced, dear Br. Keith. Peeling the layers of selfhood, like the petals of the lotus, to willingly bare one’s center and allow oneself and others just to be in the presence without conditions.

  12. Maria on March 2, 2018 at 19:24

    I have found this series of videos and sitting in prayer with the ideas raised very helpful so far. However, the analogy of two people asking and responding to each other “What do you want to do today?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do today?” didn’t work for me. I’ve had too many conversations like this with my university aged daughter. On the rare occasions she’s home and I have a day off, all I want to do is spend time with her doing something she would enjoy. Then we have a conversation like this, and what happens is a frustrating nothing because she won’t give me any suggestions, and I can’t seem to come up with any ideas either. Somebody has to have an idea of what they would like to do together. I suppose God doesn’t lack for ideas. And maybe God feels the way I do when God’s ideas are rejected?

  13. Michael on March 2, 2018 at 08:22

    In my own efforts to connect with God, I find myself constantly drawn back to the formulation in the eleventh step of AA, to pray “for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.” In his reflections, Brother Keith gives us a tremendously humane way of conceptualizing our effort to discern God’s direction in our lives. There is a gentleness in the idea of meeting God as a friend with a free afternoon to share that may make it easier for me to approach God in prayer as I try to understand the path I should be following.

  14. Mary Naumann on March 2, 2018 at 03:46

    I seem to have gone to a much different place. I find it very playful. I can see two children holding hands as they approach the playground equipment. They are laughing. I can hear one say, “What do you want to do?” And then the other replying,”Well, what do you want to do?” Then they say, “Let’s do them all!” Hand-in-hand, moving through life, with joy!

    • Bryan Cook on March 2, 2018 at 18:48

      Thanks Mary for that message of joy!!! B

    • Helen on March 3, 2018 at 15:14

      Love this ♥️

  15. arvwendy@gmail.com on March 1, 2018 at 21:17

    As a Daughter of the King, When I put on my cross in the morning I say this prayer which is our Motto
    I am but one,
    But E am one.

    I cannot do everything,
    But I can do something.

    What I can do,
    I ought to do.

    What I ought to do,
    By the grace of God I will do.

    Lord, what will YOU have me do?

    • Anita on March 2, 2018 at 01:34

      A simple but profound thought. Thank you. I am but one, but I am one…..

    • Ruth West on March 6, 2018 at 10:23

      arvwendy, I love the motto of The Daughters of the King. I belonged many years ago. It is such a perfect reply to Br. Keith’s sermon. I so enjoy all the comments each day. Ruth West

  16. James on March 1, 2018 at 21:06

    Let Go Let God. I remember the first time I saw that phrase. It was on a T-Shirt being worn by a young man hurriedly making his way through a throng of people at a sporting event. “What a simple and profound message”, I thought as I made my way to my seat. What an unlikely venue to see a message like this. It must mean something. It means I now no longer need to take upon the responsibility for my own life, or to sit in judgement of my fellow man. Phew, I can now concentrate on what really matters; an intimate relationship with my Lord and Saviour. Thank-you Jesus, from now on when I need counselling and guidance, or feel the need to judge another, I will go to You in prayer. Amen!

  17. Maureen on March 1, 2018 at 20:37

    What a relief to release the burden of self-will that always results in life’s hard lessons.
    Thank you for the reminder to abide the still place of the heart, listening for, hearing the directive Word of the Father, trusting that it brings only good as His will is accomplished in my world. Today should be an adventure in discovery!

  18. Maureen on March 1, 2018 at 19:50

    Thank you Br. Keith for providing just the guidance I need today. It is very hard to be patient

  19. Delores on March 1, 2018 at 19:47

    Five years ago, I had a heart attack and stroke. Through the grace of God, I carry on a very full life today. The experience changed how I pray. Now, if I wake up in the morning, it’s a good day! And I ask God to help me do as much good as possible and as little harm. None of us knows if we’ll have another chance tomorrow to ‘get it right’.

  20. Bryan Cook on March 1, 2018 at 18:49

    I have enjoyed 46 years of deep intimacy with my partner. That intimacy abides eventhough at times we have both succumbed to addictions, depression and the isolating drive to succeed at all costs. It is hard but worthwhile work to nurture that intimacy which in tough times has been suppressed….generally speaking one of us is doing that work while the other in succumbing. God is supremely intimate, I am the one who has to do the hardwork with his help. His Son died on a Cross so my sins will be constantly absolved, but that is no excuse for not keeping up my side of the relationship and giving in to my own pride and selfwill just because I am saved! His son rose again to gift all of us with hope, love, peace and charity….gifts which I daily pray that I embrace with all my being.

    • Bishop Hollywood on March 1, 2018 at 19:27

      Leaning and depending on the Spirit of God is an amazing thing. When we allow the Spirit to lead us, we don’t in the natural sense know what’s going to happen but whatever does happen, we know that the outcome is going to be blessed and complete. That doesn’t mean the road will be easy, but it does mean whatever we have to go through,the same Spirit will give us the strength to endure to the end.

  21. Elizab eth on March 1, 2018 at 18:43

    Sometimes we are afraid to suggest what we would like to do because we fear rejection or denial or ridicule. I wonder if sometimes we are afraid to ask God for things for the same reason…and are afraid to ask him what he would like us to do because we don’t have enough confidence in our ability to work in partnership with him to accomplish it.

  22. Susan on March 1, 2018 at 18:31

    What a wonderful and freeing lesson. Many times, especially since the onset of this illness, I have thought to myself, what would I do if I could do anything? I always come up blank. Now I see that I was asking the wrong question of the wrong person. I need to ask Jesus, what would you do with me? I know he can do everything. Thank you Lord for healing and for good helpers.

  23. Suzanne Haraburd on March 1, 2018 at 18:28

    My to-do list most days is long. I don’t see much space for spontaniety. Could I be missing opportunities because I am so focused on getting things done? Lord, what would you like to do today? Help me be open to your suggestions.

  24. Anya on March 1, 2018 at 18:04

    What a lovely way of looking at this thought. I was raised in church traditions that were much more focused on the idea of doing FOR God rather than WITH God. This idea of With-ness is inviting, comforting, and carries an aura of loving excitement to see where the day will lead you both.

    Perhaps this will help me make a shift from focusing on my Doing List rather than just Being with God and knowing that is what He really would prefer anyway. 😊

    • Kay Simpson on March 1, 2018 at 19:15

      Absolutely perfect for me at this point in my life. THANK YOU for sharing this with us today

    • Dave on March 1, 2018 at 20:05

      Thank you Anya! Reading your comment about “busyness” made me realize that I, too, am “too busy”!! Being raised in a time of “Do for others”& “show me what you have done” does help others and the church, but this lesson with Br. Nelson has shown me that in doing ONLY those things, I have neglected myself! I am just now realizing that I have not approached Jesus as a friend with whom I may be intimate and share BOTH positive as well as negative! And more importantly, that taking some quiet time out of a day just for God & me is something I NEED to do and do without guilt! Thank you all for sharing your time with me!

  25. Michael Joseph on March 1, 2018 at 17:59

    For me, it’s being aware of the opportunities in front of me. But, which one? That usually plays itself out = God’s plan. 🙂

  26. Bev Cone on March 1, 2018 at 17:16

    Marta, I can relate to what you said about letting go and NOT being in charge. I am also in my late 70’s, and am trying to listen really carefully to God’s will for me at this time.

  27. marta engdahl on March 1, 2018 at 17:08

    It sounds refreshing to be able to “let go” that much and not need to be in control. Now in my late 70’s, is is a release to not be in charge, to “let God” be in charge. I wish that I had learned this earlier, though it was not an easy lesson. There are still days when I try to step forward, but it is easier to remember now.

  28. Marynelle Losin on March 1, 2018 at 16:31

    Thank you, Brother Keith, for your insight into this passage. What a relief it is as I begin my day, to give the day back to the Lord. Bless you!

  29. John David Spangler on March 1, 2018 at 15:30

    Using the Lord’s Prayer, we say “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Brother Keith’s simple yet brilliant insight reminds us to do just that, to ask God what He wants to do, what is His will. I will try to do that rather than selfishly praying about what I want to do.

  30. Keith Aldred on March 1, 2018 at 12:23

    Give your children the patience to wait for you Lord today and do what you want us to do. Amen.
    Let us remember those who are housebound in the UK during this period of extreme cold weather. keep them safe Lord.

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