Summary: We can pray with confidence when we know we’re praying “according to His will”? How do we know we're doing that? This message proposes four questions for processing that issue.
Our text today is 1 John 5:14-15, . “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”i
Our goal is to enjoy this confidence the Apostle John is talking about in this verse. We are searching the scriptures to understand more fully how to prevail in prayer. We want to be a people who pray, who pray in such a way that God hears and answers our prayers. Is it possible for common people like you and me to be mighty in prayer? Is it possible for us to be people who shake the world around us with the power of God? Yes, God is calling us to that. Elijah was a man of like passions. He was just as human as we are. Yet he prayed and turned a whole nation around.ii
But why do some prayers get answers and others do not? Does anyone here have an unanswered prayer? What have you asked God to do that has not happened? I suspect that every one of us can identify at least one pressing need that we have brought to the Lord in prayer and not received the answer. You may be praying for a loved one’s salvation. You may be praying for someone’s deliverance or perhaps a healing. Why isn’t the answer coming? What can be done about unanswered prayer? How do we deal with that?
We have already found in previous studies that our relationship with God is very important. We have learned from the Lord’s Prayer that we need to approach God with a certain mindset. The way we think about God; the way we think about other people; the way we think about sin—all of this affects our prayer life. “When you pray” (Jesus said) “say, ‘Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven” (Luke 11:2). The Lord’s Prayer defines the attitude of heart that positions us before God to receive answers. An essential element is this posture is “Your kingdom come. Your will be done.…” That’s an all-out commitment to the will of God—not just for the specific request but for everything. It is a mindset based on absolute confidence in the goodness of God.iii No outcome could be better than the one He chooses. I may think something needs to happen; but I always remember that His wisdom is way above my level of understanding. So I want His will for my life and for everyone else. And I understand that prayer is an important factor in that happening.
Let me read the text in the Amplified version, “Now this is the confidence (the assurance, the privilege of boldness) which we have in Him,[we are sure] that if we ask anything(make any request) according to His will (in agreement with His own plan), He listens to and hears us. 15 And if (since) we [positively] know that He listens to us in whatever we ask, we also know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted us as our present possessions] the requests made of Him.”
Of course, the “we” in these verses is people who believe in and follow Christ. This is not a promise to any and everybody; it is a promise to God-followers.
The key phrase is “according to His will.” The promise of God to answer the prayer is very certain; but the kind of prayer that carries this promise is one that lines up with the will of God. “…if we ask anything according to His will….”
So how do we know that our prayer qualifies? How do we know that this prayer is “according to His will”? How do we enter into the confidence that the Apostle John expresses here? That’s our focus this morning and I want to address the subject with four questions. If my prayer is not being answered I want to process these four questions.
I. Is this request clearly the will of God according to Scripture?
There are some things that are unquestionable the will of God. The Bible specifically tells us they are “according to His will.” Let me give you a few examples.
1 Thess 4:3 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification….” The Greek word translated sanctification mean purity or consecration to God. Paul specifically addresses sexual purity in this passage and integrity in our treatment of others. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification….” So any prayer for sanctification is without question “according to His will.” If you are asking God to deliver you from any sin, any habit, anything that is contrary to your consecration to Him—you don’t have to add the words “if it be according to Your will.” The Bible has already told you that your request is “according to His will!” Let’s say someone has a problem with gossip. And this person is convicted by the Holy Spirit and in humility begins to ask the Lord for deliverance from that problem. God is 100% behind that prayer. You may not get an easy, immediate answer; but you certainly don’t have to wonder whether your prayer is on target. You can say with the Apostle John, “Now this is the confidence that we have….” I am asking You God for something that I know You want to do—that gives me holy boldness in my prayer.