Prayers to an idol were often an exercise in fear and bargaining. How could they convince the “god” to do what they want? Maybe if they promised more sacrifices, or gave a costly gift, they would get their wish. The “god” wouldn’t deliver the goods unless he got something out of the deal.
When believers approach God’s throne of grace, by contrast, it’s nothing like that. We can come to our Father with confident, faith-filled prayers, knowing that He loves us and will say “yes” to any prayer asked “according to his will” (vv. 14–15; see Phil. 4:6–7). Our status with Him is not in doubt. We’re members of His family, as our own love and obedience show, and as the Holy Spirit testifies. The principle at work here is that we have a loving Father who enjoys giving good gifts to those who ask (Matt. 7:7–11).
The phrase “according to his will” indicates that we need to align our wills with God’s. This is likely one of the main purposes of prayer! John recorded similar statements of Christ in his Gospel, such as: “Whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you” (John 15:16). “In my name” is functionally equivalent to “according to his will.” When God says “no” to a prayer, we can understand it was not in line with His will.
Verse 13 is often identified as the main purpose statement of this letter—”so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Knowledge of eternal life, or assurance of salvation, is a recurring theme in 1 John. The phrase “this is how we know” occurs eight times, and forms of the verb “know” occur 42 times!
>> Are we praying for the right things? How much time do we spend praying for temporal versus eternal matters? God cares about every detail of our lives, but no doubt, He doesn’t want to hear prayers only about the details.
Align our wills to Yours, all-knowing Father. Shape our desires according to what You in Your wisdom and goodness have purposed. Give us grace in letting go of the things You choose not to bestow. We want to trust and obey.