This is the season when most people make lists of gifts they would like to receive. As a child, I gave my parents an extensive Christmas wish list that often included catalog page numbers, just so it was very clear exactly what I wanted. Have you watched a kid sitting on Santa’s lap? They are usually very specific when asked by Santa what they would like for Christmas. As adults we often make lists that are just general ideas for the ones buying the gifts. We sometimes get what we ask for, other times to gift-giver surprises us with something they picked out. Hopefully, either way, you are pleased with the gift.
Why is it that we are not shy about asking each other for specific things, but when it comes to asking God, we either don’t ask Him at all, or we are hesitant to ask for what we really want? We often lack boldness and expectancy when taking our petitions to God.
We read these words in 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And we know if he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”
There is a lot packed into those two verses. First, what this does not mean is that we can ask God for anything under the sun and shazam, we get it. Just as I did not get everything I asked for on that childhood wish list.
What these verses tell us is we can have confidence that God hears us. And “hearing” does not mean simply to be listened to but to be heard favorably. This confidence of being heard is linked to the qualifying clause “if we ask according to his will.” This lines up with how Jesus taught us to pray when He said “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be you name, your kingdom come, you will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mt 6:9-10)
So, what does all this mean? It is not just any prayer that is answered but rather it is the confident prayer of a person who is in fellowship with the Father (1 Jn 1:3) who asks in Jesus’ name (Jn 14:13; 15:16), who remains attached to Jesus (Jn 15:7), and who obeys His commands (1 Jn 3:22). These kinds of prayers are not just a time of “asking” but of yielding our lives to the will and work of God.
Psalm 37:4 says the same thing, using different words – “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
New Bern, North Carolina