10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
1901 ASV Translation:
10 making request, if by any means now at length I may be prospered by the will of God to come unto you.
There is one textual variant in this verse. The NA26 separates the combination word "if by any means" into its two parts. The end result is that nothing is changed except the spacing between words. There is no "meaning" change created by this variation. In terms of translation, however, neither the AV nor the ASV translations follow the verse divisions that are given in the Greek texts. Both of them put "always in my prayers" into verse 9 whereas the Greek texts have them in verse 10.
1. Paul raises the issue of "requests" and "the will of God". What is the linkage between that "will of God" that will not come to pass if "request" is not made [James 4:2 and compare it to 2 Samuel 12:8] and that "will of God" that will come to pass even if request is not made [Ephesians 1:11] and that "will of God" that will come to pass by request [1 John 5:14-15]?
a. The most obvious "remedy" to this difficulty is to see the "will" of God as having two fundamental elements.
1) There is a base line "will of God" that is completely governed by "predestination" and the "determinate counsel". There is no variation or change in this "will" of God. It is upon this "will" that all prophecy rests, for once God tells us that a thing will occur in our history, it is bound by His integrity to come to pass in our history without exception or fail. It is upon this "will" that all things determined "from the foundation of the world" rest, for the determination of God is backed by His omnipotence and cannot be thwarted. The vast majority of this "will", as revealed by prophetic utterance, is "untimed". That is to say, only a few prophecies come with any kind of specific "timing" attached so that there is no "failure" by reason of long periods of time that pass without fulfillment.
2) There is the slop in the gears "will of God" that allows for multiple options within the determined boundaries. Every mechanic knows that "gears" do their very best in performance over time if the "tolerances" between the gears is maintained. Every mechanic also knows that "gears" can be significantly "out of tolerance" and still drive the shafts to which they are attached. There will be a lot more "stress" and "whining" and "wear and tear" when things are out of tolerance, but the gear shafts will still turn.
a) The "all" in Ephesians 1:11 ["...who works all things by the counsel of His will..."] needs to be properly understood. Many of the "heavy" predestinarians have bought into the view of the world as "machine" and cannot see anything that could be outside of the "all" of Paul's statement. However, if we understand the world as machine we need to understand what it teaches us: there is such a thing as allowable slop in the gears. My point is that the "all" in Ephesians 1:11 does not, by the context, or by reason, or by any other argument, of necessity indicate all-inclusivity. The "all" is context-defined to relate to those things that are within the "counsel" of the "will" of God. The word translated "counsel" is a word that means 'a determination that is backed by the power of the one making it'. Thus, since the power of God is omnipotence, anything that He "determines" will, of necessity, come to pass. Thus, Paul, rather than saying that "all" is included in the determinate counsel, is simply saying that "all" that is included in the determinate counsel will come to pass. In other words, one can believe in every statement of "determinism" in the Bible without becoming a full blown fatalist / mechanicalist / materialist / impersonalist.
b) The "allowable tolerances" are where man's requests and lack thereof fall. In simple terms, if a man makes a request that is rooted in the love of God, and it can be done without sending the "predeterminate will" spinning off into never never land, it will be done. On the other hand, if a man refuses to make a request, God will, if it does not send the "predeterminant will" spinning off into never never land, restrain Himself from providing what was not requested.
b. The most obvious difficulty that this raises is that man, by reason and logic, can never tell whether the "thing" he requested "will" be done.
1) The mysteries of where and how the "determinant" will of God and the "slop in the gears" will of God interplay are too great for man's intelligence, so it will never be that man will be able by reason and logic to know whether his request will be fulfilled or not.
2) However, the Scriptures do not allow us to take the "agnostic" route to prayer. They speak too often of a person being confident by a confidence gendered by God Himself that his prayers have been heard unto his receiving of his petition [I John 5:14-15]. In counter balance, however, those same Scriptures also speak of the magnitude of man's ignorance and the lack of divine solution to the ignorance so that many of man's requests are "blind". They even say that man's ignorance is so great that, at times, he will not even know what to pray.
3) This means that God, on occasion, opens man's understanding of His "will" so that man can "confidently pray" and "receive what he has requested". This "opening" of man's understanding can only be accomplished by the internal ministry of the Spirit of God as He "connects" man's various thoughts together unto the building of "faith" so that man, as a result, "knows" that he is going to receive that for which he asked. Paul gives some evidence of this in multiple places, of which Philippians 1:25 is one example.
a) The difficulties here are legion. The Scriptures do not tell us that man can ascertain when the Spirit will generate this "faith" in his regard and when He will not. The Scriptures tell us to commit everything to God in prayer ("...in all thy ways acknowledge Him..."). They tell us to seek "His will" ("...nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done..." and "...Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth..." etc.) without telling us what that "will" is with precision ("...the secret things belong to the Lord our God..." and "...how unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out..."). They tell us to be on guard against the deceitfulness of sin and that must fundamentally mean the elevation of our "will" over His. Thus, men pray "blind" much of the time. And that is no problem except to a "control freak" who simply cannot let Someone else be in control without "knowing" the details of the game plan.
b) But the difficulties do not unseat the fact that God does, very often, do exactly what His children ask Him to do. This is in the face of the fact that they seldom have any "faith" that He is going to do so. He also does, occasionally, impart the "faith" ahead of time so that His child "knows" he will receive what he has petitioned Him for.
c) The bottom line seems to be this: there is, and always will be, enough ambiguity that no one can set up a "pattern" that is more than a generalized overview, but there also is, and always will be, enough clarity that believers can be "in the know" about the legitimacy of their walk with God.