Should we pray “If it be Your will” prayers?

A few weeks ago in a message I made a comment regarding prayers that end in “If it be your will”. Apparently there has been quite a bit of discussion about that comment so I thought it might be helpful to clarify. There is no question that we are to pray according to God’s will. In I John 5:14 we read “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we have asked of Him.” And what about the Lord’s Prayer, where  Jesus teaches us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Are we to pray according to God’s will? Absolutely! The difficulty in my mind revolves around the little word “If”. Neither of the passages I just mentioned urges us to pray “If it be your will.” Rather, the assumption is that we know God’s heart and we are praying according to that, boldly asking Him to do just that. To pray “If it be your will” implies that I have no idea what God’s will is, so I’m leaving it up to Him. At one level, that’s certainly true. God is Sovereign and He can do what He wants.

But my sense from the New Testament is that when we pray, we actually are entering into a partnership with God—and that our prayers, in some mysterious way, help cause God’s will to be done.  In light of this, we are to pray with boldness and confidence that we are partnering with God in seeing His kingdom come.

(Side note: When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane “If you are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not my will but yours be done”, He was not interceding for someone else or for God’s kingdom to come. Rather, He was wrestling with what He knew in His heart was God’s will but also knowing that obeying that will would result in tremendous personal pain. This passage is not a providing an example for us in terms of intercessory prayer)

For instance, if I am praying for a marriage relationship to be healed, should I pray—“God heal this marriage, if it be your will”?. Certainly not, because I know it is His will. It is His heart that this marriage be restored. So I can pray boldly in alignment with His heart, without any need to add “If it be your will.”

So why is it with prayers for physical healing, we feel a need to add an  “If it be your will” at the end of the prayer? I realize that we don’t know for sure if God will heal this person, but can we not say that healing is ultimately His will? Even if it doesn’t happen in this life, we know that we will not have diseases in heaven.  God at times allows sickness for His purposes but I don’t think we should say that somehow sickness  is His “will.” Sickness and death occurred as a result of the fall in Genesis 3. In God’s initial creation, these things were not present.

My point in the message two weeks ago was that, if I am sick and earnestly desiring healing, I want to be prayed for by people who are going to pray boldly for God to heal me. People who believe that God’s ultimate heart is to heal. That doesn’t mean He will heal me. This is where we face the mystery of healing and prayer. But regardless of what God chooses to do in that moment, I want people around me praying boldly for my healing—people who aren’t wondering whether or not it is God’s will to do so.

Thus Jesus repeated command to us: Ask, Seek, Knock. Pray prayers that are aligned with God’s will, and then leave the results in God’s hands.

Please comment on this if you have questions or want to push back. I would love the dialog.

  21Comments

  1. Cheryl Stewart-Douglas   •  

    I agree with your thinking that God wants us to pray prayers that are in His will….for example He does not want a single person to be “lost”….He will seek out the “lost sheep” to bring them back to the fold, and His promise is to never forsake them. So I do not have to pray “If it is your will”, when I pray for my son. God desires him to return to his faith! I pray boldly and frequently for this to happen, and will continue for as long as it takes! I ask for healing for those who send prayer requests, and for help in whatever their needs are…because this is what God wants us to do! We just don’t always understand His timetable, and it does not always coincide with our desires. So we continue to pray…. Thanks for sharing this dialogue. Cheryl

    • alankraft   •  

      Amen. Thanks Cheryl!

  2. Mark Hendricksonj   •  

    I agree. Praying “If it be your will” seems to be a faithless way of getting us off the hook if healing doesn’t come when in reality God challenges us to go out on a limb and pray with faith and not doubt. (see Mark 11:22-24) The model Jesus gives us repeatedly is to pray with faith.

    • alankraft   •  

      Great passage on prayer….it certainly challenges us to pray with boldness! Thanks Mark!

  3. Tari   •  

    I understood exactly what you meant when you said it. I think praying for healing is probably the hardest for me … for whatever reason. But I feel people do appreciate it when we pray…even if nothing happens right away. God Bless, Tari

    • alankraft   •  

      It is true. When we pray for healing with a heart of love and compassion, the worst that can happen is that the person feels loved by us. Even if they are not healed, they feel loved.

  4. Sam   •  

    I agree with you that we have the opportunity to pray for each others healing. However, I think you have set your sights a bit low in making God’s will be all about our physical healing–either in this life or in the life to come. Ephesians 1 and Philippians 3 (as well as many other places) indicate that God’s will is for us to know him. For some of us, we need physical healing for us to know him; others do not need to be healed in order to know him. But God’s will in each situation is for us to know him. Perhaps that’s why Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was never removed, so that the deeper work of healing his heart and soul would be accomplished. Perhaps that’s why Paul wanted to “participate in [Christ’s] sufferings” instead of being healed or physically protected, because he wanted a deeper healing to take place. Perhaps that’s why we have the entire book of Ruth in our Bible, to show us that God’s ultimate will is not always healing, but to grow in us a deeper trust and joy in him, despite our circumstances.

    When I am sick or in need of healing, I want people to surround me to pray for my healing. However, I don’t want that to be their primary purpose because that is not God’s primary will for me. I want them to have the mind of Christ who understand God’s deeper will for my life which is to know him, trust him, and become more and more one with him. That may involve healing, which I want, but it could also involve suffering…which (as difficult as it is to say) I want, if it will bring me closer to him. To say that God wants to heal is correct. To say that “healing is ultimately his will,” however, seems to lower the bar on what God is ultimately up to in our lives.

    • alankraft   •  

      Thanks for the comment. I totally hear you regarding how God sometimes uses suffering to draw us to Himself. My own family’s experience with our special needs son is ample evidence of that. God at times uses our suffering for His glory and purposes.

      I’m not sure I’m comfortable pitting “knowing Him” against “wholeness” in terms of God’s will. Can’t we say that both of those things are His ultimate will–intimacy with Him and wholeness? Surely when He promises us “life” and “new bodies” in heaven, He is referring to a wholeness of body and soul, seeing Jesus face to face and also being free from pain. The promise of Jesus in Revelation 21 is that He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. “There will be no more death, mourning, or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” That is a glorious hope we have, and I believe that our prayers now are a reflection of that hope–that His kingdom may come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

  5. Twyla   •  

    Pastor Alan, I often struggle with praying in certain situations – not because I don’t believe that God hears or cares – but because I do so strongly believe that He is sovereign and in control. Therefore, His will is what will determine the outcome. So, I wonder, why pray? I had this very thought as I listened to the message on February 3rd. However as you spoke on “asking boldly”, my question was answered. As as thought back through the comment regarding not adding “if Your will be done” to a prayer, I used and example of a dad and daughter to help clarify it in my mind. If a child tells her dad that she desperately wants to be a teacher and asks if he could help her with tuition at an excellent, higher cost university, she will just ask bodly – she won’t add “if it is your will.” Obviously, if her dad can’t or won’t (his will) help, then she won’t get that help. However, it is the “cry of her heart” to ask as she feels so strongly about being called to be a teacher. In the same way, when we boldly ask God for help (I think this should include any kind of help, not just for physical healing,) no matter what His will is, we want Him to hear the cry of our heart. Of course, unlike the dad, God is always able to help, however He may choose not to in the way we would like. We, however, have the assurance from His word that He wants to hear the cry of our heart. So, in summary, I am in agreement with you that we need to ask boldly, without the “if it be your will” part. That is our part of the communication. From there on it is in God’s hands.

    • alankraft   •  

      Great analogy, Twyla! Thanks for posting.

  6. Eugene Lee(Singapore)   •  

    wow! I really appreciate everyone of your views. I really do not know where I stand on the subject of ‘Healing’. As far as I know that God wants us to know him intimately in whatever circumstances in our lives, there are also many references in the bible that shows that God is a compassionate God. I think God can draw us closer to him in whatever circumstances in our life and it is not just limited to physical suffering. We see instances in the bible where people worship God or rejoice in God after victory/deliverence. David knew God thru victories and also in his valleys of life.

    God is compassionate. When Jesus was on earth, he did not turn away anyone we comes to him that seeks healing. Not a single one. He healed when he saw faith and he healed even when there were unbelief. He was the exact representation of the Father. Gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love.

    Have I heard of people getting healed in this life? Yes. I have also heard that there are those that did not get healed. This is a mystery to me still, and perhaps this is where I stand….in a place call, “I Don’t Know”.

    In practice, I do pray for people when they are in need and I do appreciate others doing the same for me. Can we show love and compassion in Christlikeness to those that are suffering physically rather than approaching them as a “theologian” that only offers text-book knowledge on suffering? Thats something to think about.

    • alankraft   •  

      Thanks Eugene. This whole area truly is a mystery. We live in the tension of the Now and the Not Yet. I totally agree that compassion is a critical part of this whole discussion. We pray for healing out of a heart of compassion, and if people are not healed, we extend compassion, loving them and empathize with them.

  7. Sam   •  

    Of course, I agree with you that God’s ultimate will is both intimacy with him and wholeness. I must have misunderstood you because when you say “healing is ultimately His will,” it sounds like you are making it about one thing, while I was trying to make it about “first and second things,” to put it in C.S. Lewis vernacular.

    What makes me uncomfortable is that praying boldly in knowing God’s will can easily become a demand that God fulfill OUR will in OUR timeframe. God wants to heal me, yes, either now or when I’m with him (and on a sidenote, I’m not sure I want someone praying that boldly for healing that it ends with God “healing” me through death) but I don’t know which he will do. However, what I can pray for sure now is for Christ to be formed in me no matter if I’m healed or not. That is definitely God’s will and I can pray for that with boldness because scripture is very clear about that being God’s will now, while it is not very clear about being physically healed now. And my point is, while still praying for healing, maybe we should be making it a priority to be praying for what we do know God’s will is for us now. Praying for my heart to be transformed in the midst of suffering is certainly not as sexy or as glamorous a prayer to pray as is healing, but, as Paul says, perhaps we should strive less for the miraculous and more for love.

    • alankraft   •  

      Thanks Sam. As I’ve stated in other comments, I think we are simply wrestling with a very real tension between the Now and the Not Yet of the kingdom–and each of us is looking at the tension from the other side. I’m concerned that we tend to accept too easily our circumstances (the not yet), and you are concerned that we are focusing too much on healing (the now) that we miss what God may want to teach us. I believe both of us are correct. We are just viewing the issue from a different vantage point.

  8. Laura Hoch   •  

    Sam, I tend to agree with your comments (and I can see Alan’s points too). God’s ultimate purpose for leaving us here on earth is to learn to love Him and others and to glorify Him. Heaven is for perfection. I think I tend to pray too much from experience though. I have a severely autistic son who is 13 years old. I have been praying for him since his diagnosis at age 2, for complete healing. I’ve taken him to healing rooms, I’ve taken him to church groups, elders have come to my home and anointed him and prayed, prayer partners have prayed for him, etc etc etc, but still no healing. So, I’m assuming it’s not God’s will to heal him until heaven and I’m kind of giving up. I keep thinking of Paul’s thorn in the flesh. He prayed a whopping THREE times for healing and then quit. But, then I remember that he got a clear word from the Lord that he would not be healed, so that’s why he accepted his thorn and stopped praying for healing. I haven’t gotten that word yet about my son, just a feeling that it’s not going to happen based on experience. So, when do we accept and rejoice in who my son is and how God created him and just relax and enjoy him the way he is? Is that giving up?

    • alankraft   •  

      It is a tension we live in. Raylene and I long for our son Joshua to be healed and we pray for this everyday. And yet we also have tried more recently to live in a state of contentment, acknowledging that for whatever reason, God has chosen not to do so. So we rest in Christ in our current circumstances and yet we also pray for Josh to be able to speak. I guess it is the kingdom tension of the “Now and the Not Yet”. We see glimpses of the kingdom now and we pray “God’s kingdom come now”, and yet we also realize that the kingdom will not fully be here until Christ returns. The danger we all face is leaning too far to one side or the other–either emphasizing the “now” of the kingdom (ie God’s desire to heal) or emphasizing the “not yet” (ie accepting our circumstances too easily). The New Testament would charge us to tenaciously uphold both.

  9. Emilie Daniels   •  

    This makes much more sense now. Thank you for clarifying!

  10. Cheryl Stewart-Douglas   •  

    I have prayed for Joshua to be healed as well, because I have a son who also could not speak for a long time (he was in Speech-Language therapy all through elementary, middle, and high school). My son (now an adult) was healed after a long period of therapy, but again, we do not know God’s timetable! I feel that God is using Joshua to reach out to others; as you have given examples in sermons about how he loves to hug people! His innocent gestures of love for people may be life-changing for those people! I worked with many special needs children in my 25 years in the public school, and in many ways I learned more from them than I taught them! We should never stop praying just because we don’t see a response in our time frame…and I will continue to pray for Joshua.

    • alankraft   •  

      This is so encouraging. Thanks Cheryl!

  11. Nicole   •  

    I love this. I’ve always been bugged by people praying “if it be your will”, because it is usually because they are afraid the person will not be healed and they will look silly. I love that people think we will offend God if we pray boldly for healing, but let’s consider the way Jesus “prayed” for healing: “Be healed.” I call that boldness! 🙂 The followers of Christ in the new testament prayed in a similar way, such as Peter at the gate, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6) He sounds very confident of God’s will in this situation, not only that but he says “what I *have* I give you” which implies healing is ours to give, in a sense. Healing is in many ways mysterious to us, but the Bible is clear that it is God’s will and we are to pray for it, and to pray boldly. Also, remember the story of the widow and the unjust judge in Luke 18, Jesus says, “When the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Not only should we pray boldly in faith, but persistently. It honors God that we continue to trust Him for healing and deliverance even when it seems so unrealistic. I had a really bad neck injury from a car accident a while back, I had been in so much pain, having an intense headache/neck ache almost every day for two years. I had prayed and been prayed for so many times that I had given up on healing. One night at a prayer conference I stood up for prayer, but admitted to God I had no faith to be healed and asked for a sign. The speaker was praying from the platform while the congregation prayed for each other “hands on”, he said into the microphone “someone’s neck is being healed right now” I was amazed, then he said, “check your body and see if the pain is gone.” I turned my neck to the aside and it popped, *loud*, the pain was immediately gone and has been fine ever since, that was about two years ago. I told everyone about my healing, in fact, it seemed no one had heard him say “neck” but me so I checked on the DVD and sure enough he did say it! I have told that story so many times to encourage people, so I believe God was faithful to his word to work all things for good (Romans 8:28). I believe we should always be content in every circumstance (Philippians 4:11-13), but still firmly believing the Word and holding onto God’s promises, when all else fails we can pray that God will be glorified through the situation!

    I also wanted to mention I agree with what you said about Jesus’ prayer in the garden, this is an example of how we should pray about God’s plan for our lives, such as a job we want, or what college to go to, etc. Your will, not mine, be done. This clearly shows that the person praying has a preference for the outcome that may not line up with God’s will, hence the “not mine”, in this case Jesus was admitting He did not want to go through this suffering, but also that he was willing. When we pray for someone who is sick, I certainly hope our preference, or “will”, would be that the person be healed, since we are to be transformed into the image of Christ and he always had compassion on the sick, desiring that they be healed. (Side note, Acts 4:16 “pray with confidence”).

  12. David E Turnage   •  

    6/14WHERE DOES “YOUR FAITH” COME FROM10/16

    Mark 6:5,6b And he could there do no mighty works, save he laid hands on a few sick folk and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief …

    Many years ago I was involved in a Bible study in which the teacher used this verse to teach the reason many people are not healed is that they do not have the faith to believe for their healing. Another believer asked if this is true whose faith raises a dead person? The teacher replied for him not to question things he knew nothing about. This believer then stated the people in this verse believed that Jesus could heal and read Mark 6:2, 3… many hearing him were astonished saying from whence hath this man these things? And what wisdom is this that is given unto him, “*that such mighty works are done by his hands” but they rejected the person of Jesus, and because they were “offended in Him (Jesus)” they could not receive the faith that is in Jesus, of Jesus and from the Lord Jesus Christ.* These people recognized the mighty works done by his hands/they believed he could heal! He then read the following verses in Mark Chapter 6 to support his statements:

    Mark 6:2,3; & 5,6b And when the Sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished saying, from whence hath this man these things? And what wisdom is this that is given unto him, “that such mighty works are done by his hands”? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda and Simon? And are not his sisters with us? “And they were offended at him”. … And he could there do no mighty works; save he laid hands on a few sick folk and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief … (In context we can see that their unbelief was not in healing, they recognized the mighty works done by the hands of Jesus, but their unbelief was in Jesus because they were offended in him and thus could not receive the faith that is in and from Him! Also see Matthew 13:54-58)

    Below are two of the many scriptures teaching that true faith is the faith of Jesus Christ, the faith which in him and by him.

    Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Both our salvation and the Godly faith that pleases God are to be in Christ, from Christ and of Jesus Christ!)

    Acts 3:16 And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith, which is by him, hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. (Our faith is to be in his name and by/from him!)

    All through the four Gospels we see Jesus say things like “Your faith has made you whole” (5 times) or
    “Your faith has saved you” (2 times) but where does the Bible say this faith that Jesus calls “your faith” come from? In Hebrews Jesus is called the author/originator and finisher of our faith.

    Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author (originator/source) and finisher (completer) of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Jesus is the originator/source of “our faith”!)

    In me is no good thing, faith that pleases God is either a gift of the Spirit or a fruit of the Spirit so that we should not boast in ourselves but give glory to God! Faith in God and from God pleases God; faith in ourselves and in our human faith (presumption) never pleases God. Our faith must be in God, of God and from God. Below are scriptures stating faith comes from God and not as some are teaching from a human, metaphysical mindset.

    Ephesians 2:8,9 For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast. (Faith is a gift of God from God.)

    Rev. 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and “the faith of Jesus”.

    Romans 3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

    Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (God gives every man the measure of faith.)(God gives

    Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (We live by the faith that comes from the Lord Jesus Christ!)

    Galatians 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

    Mark 12:22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.

    I Corinthian 2:51 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

    1 Peter 1:21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. (Faith and hope in God, not what we believe but whom!)

    Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

    2 Timothy 3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

    Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

    Romans 3:3 For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? (Both salvation and Godly faith are things that we must choose to receive from God!)

    The 14 verses on faith stated above may seem redundant but because there has been so much false teaching in this area it was felt it was important to share a few of the numerous scriptures available to clarify what God’s scriptures actually teach. From the above scriptures we should recognize that we should not be wasting our time trying to believe for our healing but focusing on God and seeking to have faith in Him, from Him and of Him for all our needs including healing!

    In Matthew 17:14-21 when the disciples asked why they could not cast out the demons from the lunatic child Jesus answered “because of your unbelief”. Neither Jesus nor his disciples blamed the lack of faith on the one being prayed for as is so common among the deceived religious hirelings and their pseudo faith being taught in the church today. Jesus stated it was a lack of faith on His disciples’ part (the one’s praying) that hindered the boy from being healed by God!

    Matthew 17:19.20 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could we not cast him (the demon) out? And Jesus said unto them, because of “your” unbelief because verily I say unto you if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place and it shall remove: and nothing shall be impossible for you.

    James 5:13-15 Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing songs. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith (faith of the one’s praying) shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he hath committed sins they shall be forgiven him. (The Lord shall raise the sick up as we are obedient to call for mature believers to anoint us with oil in the name of Jesus, and faithfully pray with faith in Jesus, from Jesus and of Jesus for our healing! Note: these verses focus on the “prayer of faith” that the people praying have from God, and not the faith of the one being prayed for. Our faith and hope should be in God, not what we believe but trusting in the one we believe in! We are to trust, hope and believe in God.)

    Because Jesus had told his disciples 5 different times that they had “little faith” they asked him to increase their faith. Jesus pointed out to them that if they had faith as small as a mustard seed they could cast a sycamore tree into the sea (Luke 17:5-6) or remove a mountain from its place (Matthew 17:20). He stated this because the answer was not increasing their faith but surrendering/exchanging their weak human faith for the powerful faith in God and from God. Only the faith of almighty God has the power to heal and deliver us from our infirmities.

    Exodus 15:26 And said, if thou will diligently hearken to the voice of thy God, and do that which is right in his sight, and will give ear to his commandments, and keep all of his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that heals thee. (God is the one that heals and He desires to give us His faith to enable us to be healed. We are to lay down our faith and seek Him that we might receive His faith!)

    Matthew 8:16,17 When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, himself took our infirmities, bare our sicknesses. (We can be healed from our infirmities, forgiven for our sins, and delivered from demons because Jesus paid the price for the captives to be set free! Note: Jesus had not died for our sins and infirmities at this time but God was healing as though he had.)

    As we recognize that our faith should be in God, from God and of God we should be seeking Him for His faith to believe in Him and through Him for our healing. When we seek God for faith to be healed it may be given to one or all of those that are praying for the healing, the one in need of healing or any combination thereof. It is Gods’ decision.

    James 5:13-15 Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing songs. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith (faith of the one’s praying) shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he hath committed sins they shall be forgiven him. (The Lord shall raise the sick up as we are obedient to call for mature believers to anoint us with oil in the name of Jesus, and faithfully pray with faith in Jesus, from Jesus and of Jesus for our healing! Note: these verses focus on the “prayer of faith” that the people praying have from God, and not the faith of the one being prayed for. Our faith and hope should be in God, not what we believe but trusting in the one we believe in! We are to trust, hope and bel

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