“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 asked of him.”
— 1 John 5:14-15 (NIV)
Is God estranged to the desires of our will? This verse above doesn’t say as much but the emphasis is on something akin to that, just flipped.
We can know that many of our prayers—in advance—will be God’s will anyway. This is why it’s always a good idea to pray for character growth and for opportunities to understand life, others, our situations better.
These types of prayers are always aligned to God’s will.
Yet, is it God’s will (ever) for us to accumulate more physical possessions? Does God take any delight in giving us more ‘stuff’? We can just imagine God bristling at our contemptuous prayers for a more comfortable life—especially if we’re already living comparatively comfortably.
Receiving God’s Blessing from Our Prayers
Should we be praying for those things we feel God will almost certainly not give us?
If God hears us—because we pray according to God’s will—whatever we ask will be done for us. So, what exactly is God’s will? And just how many of our ‘wish list’ prayers are even appropriate?
There are so many questions. There are good prayers and not-so-useful prayers.
When we pray only according to God’s will and to have the power to carry his will out, we are to be substantively blessed because of our prayers.
What Prayers, Then, Are Appropriate?
According to this passage there is only one way to pray—that is, according to God’s will.
Does this mean we shouldn’t pray prayers for healing? Not at all; we believe it is God’s will to heal people. But, does this mean everyone will be healed? This is when, at times, the theology turns sour. Not all will be ‘healed’ the way we want it this side of eternity. But, our hope (and truest prayer) is in the ultimate healing in eternity.
Perhaps the safest educated assumption we can make in the midst of this significant exhortation is to abide to the knowledge of praying in a disciplined way, according to our understanding of what God’s will is.
The good thing about this is we’re focussing more and more on our understanding of God’s will—our listening to, and learning of, God—and this can only work positively in and through us via spiritual osmosis.
And growth then becomes us—there’s nothing closer to the achievement of God’s will in that, certainly as we’re personally concerned.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgement: John Calvin (Alister McGrath & J.I. Packer [Eds]), 1, 2, 3 John – The Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1998), pp. 98-99.