And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him (1 John 5:14–15).
That’s a beautiful promise, isn’t it? Isn’t so good to know that God will in fact answer our prayers when they are in accordance with His will?
And yet, knowing this, I have struggled in my prayer life. In order to pray according to God’s will, I have to know it … right? This becomes especially hard when it comes to praying for people’s physical health. I see people being healed of sickness throughout Scripture, and yet at the same time I read about how suffering can be used in people’s lives to bring them closer to God! Seeing how God can be glorified either way, my prayers usually end up sounding like much of my regular conversations—indecisive.
“God, I know that You are our Healer, so I pray that You would bring healing to this person … if that’s Your will. If not, I ask that You would give them faith and peace that they might trust You through it all.” It usually ends up sounding a lot like how I respond to my friends when they ask me what I want to do. I lay out different options and let them choose whichever one they like best—even though they just asked me what I want to do.
It has always stumped me when people pray with authority and faith that God will do as they ask, because how do they know if what they just asked Him to do is according to His will?
Then God brought to mind the story of Peter walking on water …
But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matt. 14:26–28, emphasis added).
Notice the boldness of Peter’s request. He didn’t say, “Jesus, if it’s according to Your will, could You call me out on the water with You? If You choose not to, I completely understand! I trust You anyway, but if You want to …” No! He plainly said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” How was it that Peter felt such liberty to say this? How did he know it was God’s will?
Let’s zoom out a little and ask ourselves about the overall will of God. A friend of mine once made the point that the Bible begins with man walking with God and it ends with man walking with God. Our God longs for us to know Him (1 Tim. 2:4). He created us in His image. We are made to reflect Him so that when people catch a glimpse of Him (not us), they turn and glorify God. God’s will is for us to glorify Him.
Peter had faith that it was Jesus out there walking on the water. Peter wanted those around him to see this, so he boldly asked Jesus to do a miraculous thing. Jesus could have told Peter no. Peter had no authority over Jesus—and Peter knew it! But he also saw an opportunity for God’s glory to be put on display. So he told Jesus to call him out on the water. That’s faith!
I encourage you to ask God to give you opportunities to exercise your faith in Him and to allow His glory to shine through you. Whether this means enduring suffering by His grace or having it taken away by His grace. Just don’t sit on the fence indecisively. It’s not so much how it is done, but for whom and through whom it is done—our Lord Jesus Christ. There is authority in Jesus’ name. Not ours, but His.
Are there areas of your life where you struggle to know God’s will? How can you pray for that situation with God’s glory (not simply your comfort) in mind?