“And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” 1 John 5:15
One of the reasons people give for turning away from God is unanswered prayer. It usually comes down to a specific prayer that seemed to go unheard or unanswered. As a result, they quit talking to God completely. So, how do we know that God hears our prayers? And if He hears us, how can we know God will answer our prayers? Well, the apostle John shows us two ways to pray with confidence.
First, we can pray boldly by maintaining a clear conscience, which comes by living to please the Lord (3:21-22). So, the starting point to having our requests granted is obedience. Our motive for obeying is extremely important. We should want to please Him because we love Him (1 John 5:3), not because we’re trying to manipulate Him.
Secondly, our requests should be consistent with God’s will (5:14). We sometimes approach God’s will like medicine. We know it’s good for us but we’re somewhat apprehensive about how it’s going to taste! In reality, God’s will is what we would choose for ourselves if we knew what He knows. That’s why Jesus both taught and followed this principle (Matthew 6:10, Luke 22:42).
When we think about God’s will, we tend to focus on His plan for our individual lives. In other words, our requests often deal with our own comfort or happiness. The scope of God’s will, however, spans every generation (Psalm 33:11). The prayer of a believer should be consistent with God’s eternal purposes, which cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2; Isaiah 14:27).
If God’s will can’t be altered, why pray at all? C.S. Lewis said it best, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” That’s the key! Praying in agreement with God’s will changes us profoundly. We’re surrendering our will to His; yielding the details of our lives in order to take part in His overarching plan.
So, how can we know God will answer our prayers? As we live to please the Lord we carry out His will. In prayer, we have the freedom of an obedient child, secure in a parent’s love. The answer to our request is sometimes, “Not right now;” and sometimes it’s just, “No.” So, when we say, “God didn’t answer my prayer,” what we really mean is that God didn’t do what we wanted Him to do. Our confidence is in trusting His loving plan. “…how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).