Now this is the confidence we have before Him: whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. —1 John 5:14
This verse and the next offer one of the Bible’s best definitions of prayer. It’s easy to memorize when you notice how the verses unfold and expand. The meaning and marvel of prayer grows deeper and more practical as phrase builds upon phrase. Prayer is…
Writing near the end of the Bible and at the end of the apostolic age, the apostle John wanted us to know something about the biblical promises related to prayer. They are all conditioned by God’s will. In his Gospel, for example, John quoted Jesus as saying, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14 NIV). Anything is a huge word, and perhaps some of John’s readers had taken it a bit too literally. So in 1 John 5:14, he reminds us that the promise of answered prayer is dependent on the phrase “according to His will.”
From the perspective of infinity, our God knows what’s best from beginning to end. He sees the outcomes of every chain reaction in life. He knows how the dominoes fall and how the cookies crumble. His perfect, providential oversight makes no mistakes and always results in the best for His children.
Our vantage point is as limited as a person who’s fallen into a hole and can only see a circle of sky above him. We don’t always know the landscape, and we can’t see distant vistas. So we pray earnestly and ask God for our needs, our wants, our wishes, and our desires. But we always pray with the attitude, “if it be Your will.” In that we can have total confidence.
Sometimes when I purchase roses or plants from a nursery catalog, there’s a little box on the order form saying, “If we are out of the item you want, may we substitute one of equal or greater value?” I always say no, because I don’t think the workers in the warehouse know what’s best for my garden. But with the Lord we should always say, “Yes, Lord! You may substitute. You may grant an alternative answer of equal or greater value. I trust You with substitutions.”
The purpose of prayer is to get God’s will done…. The greatest prayer any one can offer is “Thy will be done.” It will be offered in a thousand different forms, with a thousand details, as needs arise daily. But every true prayer comes under those four words. —S. D. Gordon
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