“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” ~ 1 John 5:14-15
Our text seems to be a long forgotten Scripture verse. There is a lot of focus in the modern church on prayer, God’s blessings and prosperity. Popular theology sees prayer as a tool by which Believers can obtain/leverage God’s blessings. And God’s blessings are often seen as anything that produces comfort or material prosperity.
Because this way of thinking has taken root in the church, many Christians, many of us, wonder why God hasn’t answered our prayers in the affirmative. Indeed, many of us share the following frustrating experience:
“I need ____ and so I prayed earnestly for ____ so I am waiting for when God will give me ____”
However, when ____ does not arrive it leaves many of us perplexed. And so we start thinking:
“Maybe, I didn’t pray hard/long enough… maybe there is a sin in my life… maybe I didn’t ‘bind the devil’… maybe I just need to wait longer… etc… “
Our text, however, shows prayer in a different light. And, thereby, corrects our understanding of prayer and of God’s Blessings.
Specifically, our text states that the only prayers guaranteed to be HEARD by God are those that conform to His Will: “if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us“. That is the awesome truth on which our prayer life rests: To be HEARD by God, for God to consider our prayers, they must first conform to His will.
We can readily appreciate, then, why many of our prayers go unanswered: they weren’t even heard (considered) because they never fit into God’s will for our lives. So, before we begin praying, the key question we must answer is whether our prayer requests, our petitions, match up with God’s will… otherwise, we will just end up spouting words that are going nowhere.
It is important to note that Jesus didn’t heal every sick person in Israel. His healing ministry, as great as it was, was limited to those the Father willed for him to heal. And Jesus never sought to operate outside of the will of God (John 5:30) even as God’s will led Him to death on The Cross (Luke 22:42).
Similarly, Paul, a great man of God, a man through whom God did marvelous miracles, did not have his own infirmity taken away from him, because it was not God’s will (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Once Paul understood the will of God regarding his problem, he stopped praying about it. Instead he rejoiced in having the problem because in it was part of God’s will and, therefore, a blessing for him.
But how can we know God’s will, so that we can pray correctly? Scripture gives us this answer:
“…be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” ~ Romans 12:2b
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” ~ John 14:26
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:14-16
In other words, we will be able to prove (authenticate/discern) the will of God when our minds are renewed (Romans 12:2). And our minds are renewed by the work of the Holy Spirit in us, teaching us the truths of the Scriptures we read (John 14:26). This renewal produces within us the “mind of Christ”, which enables us to know the very will of God (1 Corinthians 2:14-16).
Combining these truths shows us that our prayer life depends on our devotional/Bible-study life:
As we read God’s word, we get to know Him better. As we know God more, we know His will more. As we know God’s will more, we better know how to pray according to His will. And, as our text makes clear, when we pray according to God’s will, our prayers are heard and answered affirmatively:
“…if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” ~ 1 John 5:14b-15
“…The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” ~ James 5:16b
Prayer. One inescapable conclusion from our text is that prayer is not about what we want, it is about what God wants. God has already designed a perfect plan for our lives and indeed, for the life of every individual. Therefore, praying is really about seeking God’s will and in submission asking God to put in effect His will for our lives: “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10).
In addition, it is not acceptable to just pray “…IF it is Your will…”. No, God challenges us to actually discover what His will is. And to prove His will and to submit to His will in prayer.
God’s Blessings. Another vital conclusion from our text is that God’s Blessings (because they come out of His will) are defined by Him, not by us. We might want a house, or a car, or a job, or a spouse or whatever, but if it is not in God’s will, then He won’t provide it.
Moreover, the house/car/job/spouse/whatever God provides might not be the one we were lusting for; God wants to give us not just the best in our eyes, but what is best in His eyes, in His will… that is the best for us.
Prosperity. Prosperity = living in the Will of God. Prosperity ≠ living in the lusts of man/self.
Therefore, instead of seeing prayer as a tool by which we can obtain/leverage God’s blessings, which we often think of as personal comfort and material prosperity. Our new view, as our text shows us, is that prayer is God’s tool that He uses to help us conform to His will, which is His blessing to us and the way we gain Spiritual prosperity.