Our anxieties about prayer usually spring from the same question. It is not a question of what God can do. It is a question of what God will do. The fear that God will ignore us is at the heart of most of our concerns about prayer. We do not want to be ignored or our desires to be dismissed. We are afraid that in the end, despite what Jesus told us, God will indeed prove to be like the unjust judge of the parable (Luke 18:1–9).
In contrast to this fear, John makes two astonishing and related promises in today’s passage. John says that God hears us if we ask anything that agrees with His will. If God hears us, our request will be granted (v. 14). This confidence motivates us to approach God boldly in prayer. Yet we know from experience that this cannot be a guarantee that we will always get what we want when we pray. “Prayer is not a machine,” C. S. Lewis observed. “It is not magic. It is not advice offered to God.”
The key to whether or not God grants our requests does not lie in the form of words we use or even the degree of confidence we have that He can do what we ask. The determining factor has to do with God’s own plan. The fundamental aim of prayer is not to get God to agree with us and follow our agenda. Instead, the goal of prayer is to subdue our hearts to the point where we agree with God. It is the spirit reflected in the words of Christ when He prayed, “yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
>> These words are easier to pray than to mean them. We will only be able to pray them genuinely when we believe the promise of 1 John 5:14 that God truly hears us. He knows what we need. We can trust His answer.
Father, do in the world and in our lives what You have purposed to do. Please conform our values and desires to Your will, so that our prayers may be in tune with what You desire. Nurture our trust in You and Your will.