There are certainly times when it is foolish not to pray "if it be Thy will" because there are many circumstances where we simply don't know what is best. But there are other times when it is a sin to pray that way. Why?
If God has already given us his will in a matter, it is the height of presumption to go back to him and pray "if it be Thy will." What do I mean?
God's written Word is God's revealed will. It is blasphemous to pray the following petitions that go against the Ten Commandments:
"Lord, if it be Thy will, grant that I might be successful in stealing from my employer."
"Lord, if it be Thy will, please help me to commit adultery with ____ and not hurt my spouse or children."
But it is also sinful to pray "if it be Thy will" when God has clearly told us to do something or pray a certain way.
"Lord, if it be Thy will, please bring my Muslim neighbor to be open to the message of Christ."
"Lord, if it be Thy will, grant me the ability to share my faith in Christ effectively with others."
While we would be wise to inquire as to the method God might use regarding how those two petitions would be answered, we do not need to inquire as to whether or not evangelism is God's will. God has already told us his will in the matter: we are all called to tell others about the Lord Jesus. We know that evangelistic speaking and praying are his will because he has said that he is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) We must always pray according to the revealed will of God and not be concerned about God's eternal decree -- that is a secret thing and belongs only to the Lord himself. (Deuteronomy 29:29)
However, when Scripture does not give us clear direction in a matter, we must beg God for wisdom; going ahead without the Lord's direction can be disastrous. The book of Judges is full of such disasters. The incident recorded in Judges 19, 20 tells the sad saga of Israel's presumption before God. It is amazing how these people decided to go to war without first seeking God's will in the matter. Only after full mobilization of their military, did they seek God's blessing and God's will. But what follows is even more incredible: God actually encouraged them to go into battle, not because he wanted them to win, but because he was setting them up to be massacred. We should beware of going forward before we have repented of our presumption.
'Now the sons of Israel arose, went up to Bethel, and inquired of God, and said, "Who shall go up first for us to battle against the sons of Benjamin?"
'Then the LORD said, "Judah shall go up first."' (Judges 20:18)
"Then the sons of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and felled to the ground on that day 22,000 men of Israel." (Judges 20:21)
After this massacre, Israel again prays to God, and again God answers them with an answer that leads to a further staggering defeat:
'And the sons of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until evening, and inquired of the LORD, saying, "Shall we again draw near for battle against the sons of my brother Benjamin?"
'And the LORD said, "Go up against him."' (Judges 20:23)
"And Benjamin went out against them from Gibeah the second day and felled to the ground again 18,000 men of the sons of Israel; all these drew the sword." (Judges 20:25)
What kind of God does something like this to people who pray and ask for his guidance? The same kind of God who told Balaam to go with the men of Moab and then got angry with him for going. (Numbers 22:20, 22) Balaam had been told earlier what the will of God was, (Numbers 22:12) but when a bigger salary package was offered with a larger sphere of influence, Balaam prayed "if it be thy will," and God told him to go, setting him up for his untimely death. (Numbers 31:8)
What kind of God does something like this to people who pray and ask for his guidance? The same kind of God who sent a lion to kill the man of God from Judah who listened to a lying preacher who pandered to his flesh. (1 Kings 13:1-32, especially verses 9, 10, 18, 20-24)
When God has given us his Word, it is wicked to believe that his will has changed. But religion is the easiest con game to work in the world, and our flesh is always open to a path that offers us an escape from taking up our cross. When we are tempted to go against what God has told us, we need to beware lest God give us over to self-deception. When people refuse "to love the truth," they may find that God sends them "a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie." (2 Thessalonians 2:10, 11) And as with Balaam and the presumptuous tribes of Judges 20, we may discover that our request for God's further guidance is met with God giving us over to deception, even sending a lying spirit as he did to Ahab's religious advisors. (1 Kings 22:22, 23; 2 Chronicles 18:21, 22)
America is now a house divided. Our Lord Jesus Christ told us that such cannot stand: "If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand." (Mark 3:25; cf. Matthew 12:25; Luke 11:17)
America is a house divided because America has officially divided herself from God. When we ban Bible reading and public prayer from our public institutions, God curses those institutions. America is being given over to deception and delusion, and like the leaders of Judges 20, we vainly presume that God is on our side. Like Balaam we read the signs of pleasant circumstances as confirmation that we will not fall under the judgment of God. But Balaam only discovered the end result of doing his own will when it was too late to repent.
There are people who have presumed that it was God's will to go through with their divorces because their marriages had become loveless and their lives empty. They prayed for a sign of confirmation that it was God's will that they marry the person with whom they had now "fallen in love," and God gave them a sign. But such a sign is not a blessing from God; it is a curse, just as God gave Israel the go ahead in Judges 20:18, 23, only to lead them to a place where some forty thousand of their soldiers would be massacred. (Judges 20:21, 25)
What kind of God does something like this to people who pray and ask for his guidance? A God who is as ferociously vengeful as hell, somebody we don't want to trifle with, the God who created a place of eternal torment where maggots chew on you and never die, where the fire burns you and is never put out, a God who says do as I say and not always as I do: 'Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "vengeance is mine, I will repay," says the Lord.' (Romans 12:19)
Yet this same God shows himself merciful and kind to those who truly repent and come to him in utter humility by way of bloody atonement:
'Then all the sons of Israel and all the people went up and came to Bethel and wept; thus they remained there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening. And they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD. And the sons of Israel inquired of the LORD . . . And the LORD said, "Go up, for tomorrow I will deliver them into your hand." (Judges 20:26-28)
The God who never lies did what he told Israel he would do: "And the LORD struck Benjamin before Israel, so that the sons of Israel destroyed 25,100 men of Benjamin that day, all who draw the sword." (Judges 20:35)
Whenever we find ourselves in a bad place because of our foolish choices, we need to humble ourselves before God. We need to repent and cast ourselves on God's mercy in Christ. When the leaders of Israel led their soldiers in repentance and atonement, God put them on the path to victory.
When we find ourselves on the wrong path, we need to remember that it is later than we think. Our sins always give us over to delusion, and we can never objectively evaluate the gravity of our situation or the imminence of our impending destruction. What should we do? Repent and come to Jesus. People who are broken at the foot of the Cross are washed in the blood of the Lamb and restored to the place of blessing.
Would it not be truly amazing if all the branches of our government called a press conference and confessed that we have played the fool and then they called on the American people to cry out for God to have mercy on us? Someone will say, "That's ridiculous. They'd never do that. That would never happen." Okay, then I would say we better get prepared for a series of disasters to fall on this nation. I learned a long time ago not to mess with the Lord God. My comfort is that this God of incredible fury and wrath is a God propitiated by the blood of the Cross and that propitiation secures God's blessings for me and my house even if we are living in a nation under the judgment of God. I have God's own promise: "In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty." (Psalm 37:19)
But we do not look to the government to secure the blessings of God. The churches of America must lead the way, and we lead the way by repenting of our failure to declare the whole counsel of God. We must repent of our allowing our members to sin with a high hand and still come to the Lord's Table apart from repentance. Our members must repent of the folly of their past sinful choices, even when those choices appeared to be blessed of God initially. There is no sin that cannot be forgiven, from unbiblical divorce and adulterous remarriage, to stealing and lying and even committing murder. Sin that is not confessed will leave us in the place of deceptive peace right up until God's judgment falls. True repentance secures the blessing of God in spite of the seriousness of our past sinful choices: "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." (Romans 5:20)