Have you ever prayed for something or someone and wondered if God was going to take action in each situation? You may be confident that He wants to or that He has the power to grant your petition, but perhaps you still lack that certainty that God will perform the requested action. Is it possible to have any assurance that God desires to answer your prayers?
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: – I John 5:14
In this verse, the Bible tells us that we can have confidence in our prayer life. The qualifying statement to ensure that God hears us is that we ask according to His will. The “will” of God is a statement of His desires, those things which will please Him the most.
We must ask ourselves if we have any source of information that sheds light on what things would please the Lord. If you own a Bible then you possess the divine source book that reveals God’s desires to mankind. Because the Bible reveals God’s will, we must use the Word of God to direct our prayers.
Are you familiar with the promises of God’s Word? If you do not know what God desires, how can you know that the Lord will give you the thing for which you are asking? Without such knowledge, your prayers will lack the confidence and faith needed to receive an answer. You must take action to search and study the Word of God in order to achieve confidence that God will answer your prayers. Generally speaking, you can probably (rightly) assume many of the desires of God. However, the point is not to make assumptions; the point is to approach God with a bold and cheerful courage that is assured by God’s unwavering promises (II Timothy 3:16).
Doesn’t the urgency and significance of our needs mandate that we take seriously this matter of prayer? Do you want to be assured of an answer or do you want to pine away in wishful wonderment as you curiously debate if God will ever help you? The topics of our prayers are extremely important. Therefore, we must discover what the Bible says about God’s desires for mankind. As we pray for those who are struggling, we must ask if God’s Word states that He is able and willing to help them. As we petition the Lord for our loved ones who are backslidden, we must discover a promise to accompany our prayer. You may be saying, “I know God wants to do these things.” We may “know” that God is willing and able to help, but John is telling us that praying over specific promises will give us confidence that our prayer will be answered.
Try this practical exercise to help your prayer life. Make a list of the needs and burdens on your heart for yourself or others. For each request, find a Bible verse to assign to it. If you are having trouble finding a verse, use some study tools such as an online search tool or concordance. You could also consider using a close friend who is knowledgeable in the Bible. Here are some good examples to get you started:
• Salvation of souls – II Peter 3:9; Romans 10:13
• Sicknesses – Philippians 2:27; II Corinthians 1:4-5
• Wayward people – Luke 15:18-24; II Corinthians 7:10
• Victory over sin – Romans 8:37; II Corinthians 2:14; I John 5:4
• To overcome fear or weakness – II Corinthians 12:19; Psalm 56:3; Psalm 138:3
• When in need of wisdom – James 1:5; Proverbs 1:7
• When wanting to quit – I Corinthians 9:25-27; I Timothy 6:12
• When facing a spiritual battle – Ephesians 6:10-13; Romans 13:12-14
When you make your list, read over the verses. Lock them into your heart and mind then ask God to move according to His word. This was often done in the Old Testament with great results (Nehemiah 1:8 and 2:8). Use the word of God to steer your prayers. Your confidence in God’s ability and willingness to answer your prayer will be magnified as you happily wait for God’s reply.
• What If My Request Isn’t In the Bible?
What if there are prayers you have that aren’t found in the Word of God? If that is the case, you must then ask if you should be praying for them in the first place. If it isn’t a desire on God’s heart, then it shouldn’t be a desire on your heart either. Many people want to be wealthy, popular, or physically attractive, but this may not be God’s will for your life. While these things aren’t sinful, the emphasis of the Bible is on seeking “the kingdom of God and his righteousness” before God gives you any other desires of your heart (Matthew 6:33). There may be other things which would be considered “vanity;” take the time to find the heart of God on each topic and pray for things that are the dearest to Him.
• If I Don’t Receive an Answer, Should I Keep Praying?
There are some things for which you pray that will remain subjective, such the decision for a loved one to be saved. While there is no doubt that God wants your loved ones to be saved, each person still “gets a vote” in whether or not they trust Christ as their Saviour. This applies to others as well, such as those who are away from God. Praying for the wayward is essential, but the person for whom you are praying must choose to submit to God. Don’t let this discourage you! Keep praying! Not all prayers are answered immediately. Prayer is powerful, and the “fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
Other aspects of prayer such as our need for victory over sin, overcoming fear, remaining faithful, and others concepts, are promises that God intends to help you fulfill through the power of prayer. In this case, you must choose to yield to God, but you certainly have control over such decisions for yourself through the power of the Holy Spirit.
• Once I’m Done Praying, My Job is Over, Right?
Some Christians consider prayer to be the end of their responsibility in the work of God. However, this isn’t always the case. While we understand there are some things only God can do (e.g. save a soul), we can play a part to help our prayers (e.g. we present the Gospel to those who need to be saved). If you’re praying for someone to be saved, then you should also consider sharing the Gospel with them (Romans 10:14). If you’re praying for someone to be encouraged, you should also consider that God can use you to be the encourager (I Thessalonians 5:11). If you are praying that strife will cease in your home, you should consider that God wants you to take the first step in reconciling the relationship (Matthew 5:23-24). These concepts also reveal the desires of God, not just in the area of prayer but also in the area of service. No matter what the situation, you should at least be willing to do something in the work of God. The Lord has used people in His work since the beginning of mankind, and He intends to continue using Christians today. Make sure you don’t miss out on an opportunity to be a blessing to others.
•What is the Goal of Prayer?
The goal of prayer is for God to be glorified in the answer. Sometimes God chooses to allow things, like sickness, to linger because He wants to perform a certain work in the life of that person (Philippians 1:6). Practically, you want to receive an answer vis-à-vis “my grace is sufficient for thee” (II Corinthians 12:9) or “[f]or indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him;” (Philippians 2:27). Prayer will not just help you receive such an answer, but also help you to accept such an answer (notice Paul’s reaction of “glorying” because of his infirmities – II Corinthians 12:10).
In summary: Prayer works. Prayer is work. Prayer leads to work. God desires indeed to hear and answer your prayers and to do the “work” that only He can do on your behalf. Prayer requires work on our part because we must know and be assured of biblical promises and commit to spending time to read and to pray. Prayer could result in your participation in God’s work as an answer to your own prayers. As your prayers draw you nearer to God’s desires, you will find that your own desires will change. There is no telling the change that you could witness in your life and in the lives of others if you would build your knowledge of and confidence in the promises of God’s Word!