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
When we teach on prayer, we often use these verses as references. Regardless of the audience to whom we are speaking, almost everyone is familiar with these verses. In the gospels, Jesus tells us to “ask” for things. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” A few chapters later, Jesus says, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22) When you study the gospels, you will notice that Jesus makes it clear that asking and believing go hand in hand. In other words: when we pray, we need to pray (or ask) in faith. John gives us a clearer picture of that faith by using the word “confidence” in how we approach God in prayer.
At a recent seminar on how to use a prayer journal, we discussed this word “confidence.” How many of us come to the Lord in confidence? It opened an enlightening discussion about what confidence before the Lord really looks like and how can we have it. One of the many areas discussed was how confused we get over praying “according to his will.” Many people feel that if they are not praying God’s will, then they cannot approach Him in confidence. They try to figure out what God wants them to pray before they come to Him in prayer. That approach is confusing and can lead to misguided, fruitless prayers.
Then what does it mean to pray “according to his will?” How can we ever truly know God’s will? Let’s not put the cart before the horse; start with the basics of prayer. Start with asking. Go to the Lord in honesty and humility and tell Him where your heart is. Tell Him that you are not sure what His will may be for you but that you want to know. Tell Him that you are not sure what to pray but these are the things on your heart. Ask the Lord to help you pray in confidence and to approach His throne of grace with boldness (Hebrews 4:16). The Lord already knows your wants, needs and desires. He just wants you to come and fellowship with Him. Open your heart to Him honestly; do not try to package things before coming to Him. Just ask, and allow His Spirit to do the rest.