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Confidence in Prayer

Sometimes we can treat Jesus like a genie at our disposal.

“if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14) 

I read a comic recently where a boy found a brass lamp on the beach. He brushed the sand off and tried to rub off the grime. Out emerged a genie. The genie told him he had three wishes, anything he wanted. The boy’s first wish was for a thousand more wishes. 

Sometimes we can treat Jesus like that, a genie at our disposal, particularly when we read passages like this: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, 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 the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14–15). John wrote something similar earlier in his letter, “whatever we ask we receive from Him” (3:22). 

Is that what John is offering us, a carte blanche for whatever our heart desires? It is natural for us to think along those lines, particularly when we are so prone to seek first our own kingdom. But that is not what John is offering us. 

John is assuring us of the confidence we can have in our salvation. As God’s adopted children, we have access to the throne of grace. That’s part of the package of what it means to have eternal life in fellowship with our triune God. We have all the rights and privileges as sons and daughters of the living God. God promises us access into His presence without fear and with great joy and expectation because Jesus is our mediator. 

If we treat Jesus as a genie we will use Him to serve our will. But if we regard Jesus as our Lord and God we will serve Him and seek His will. That is the qualifier that John gives us here. “If we ask anything according to His will,” He promises to hear us and to act in response to our prayers. 

What an amazing thought! The God who is able to do all that we ask and more inclines His ear to the voice of our struggles, laments, desires, and whatever else weighs on our minds, and uses those feeble utterances for the accomplishment of His ordained purposes. God uses our prayers as His means for His ends. 

What exactly is the will of God? We can look at it in two ways. On the one hand, God’s will is His perfect plan in the governance of all that comes to pass, what might be called His secret will. It is secret in that we are not privy to it, but we do submit ourselves to it. On the other hand, God’s will has been laid out for us in the pages of holy Scripture. That is His revealed will that is to shape our understanding, set our ambition, and direct our steps. In either case, secret or revealed, we are to qualify our prayer, "Your will be done."

To submit our prayers to the will of God radically shapes them, and us. 

What confidence do you have that God will act on your petitions?

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and ten grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

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