And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. (1John 5:14)
Too often, I fear, we give little thought to the content of our prayers. It is enough that we have taken the trouble to pray at all! And so we pray, expressing whatever happens to pop into our mind. In private our prayers may express our own desires. In public we may say what we think others expect.
The promises of God that invite us to pray call for more than this.
The promises of God attaching to prayer are extraordinary. He hears the cries of those who fear him (Psalm 145:19). We can pray with confidence because of the promises of our heavenly Father.
We are not, however, to think that we may indulge our selfish desires in prayer. The invitation of our Father to make our requests known to him (Philippians 4:6) is not a license to be careless in our prayers. Those who take the promises of God seriously will give deliberate and careful thought to what we pray for.
We are to ask “anything according to his will.” On the one hand this does not mean that we need to have knowledge God’s secret purposes in a particular situation before we can pray. On the other hand, it does not mean something so general that all we can pray in a particular circumstance is “Lord, may your will be done” (although that is always a good prayer to pray!).
If we take the promises of God seriously we will consider what we know of God’s will from the Bible, and try to pray “according to his will” in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
One of the purposes of church is to help us to pray “according to his will”. We hear God’s Word, making his will known to us. Those who lead us in prayer in church inform us of the work of God’s kingdom in different places. It is a very great privilege and joy to ask “according to his will” — and what thanks we can give as we see that he hears us.
Your brother in Christ
Acting Senior Minister