Friday, May 18, 2007

Praying with Confidence

I love to memorize scripture, and when I lay awake at night I recite memorized portions in my mind – and often it puts me to sleep.
I have found that when you memorize scripture, repeating it over and over again to get it ‘stuck’ in your mind , sometimes a verse is suddenly illuminated in a way that you never saw it before.

Years ago I memorized the book of I John. It is one of my favourite books.
The teaching in verses 14 and 15 of the last chapter have been especially important to me - changing how I pray. These two verses expound on Mark 11:24.

Here in I John 5:14,15, John is talking about the confidence we can have in prayer. Not just the confidence that God is listening or that we know we can come ‘boldly’ before His throne. (Heb.4:16) What these verses are talking about is being confident that we will receive the answers we are seeking to our prayers.
Who wouldn’t want to have a guarantee that ALL their prayers would be granted!!

According to this passage it is possible!

What does it say?
It starts with the qualifying condition of the promise – IF we ask anything according to His will.
How do we learn to know someone’s will? We get to know them.

During my dating years, I did not know my husband’s ‘will’ very well. Now after being married for 42 years I know his will so well, I could predict his very words in a given situation or circumstance. Does that mean I don’t ask him about things? Of course not – knowing someone well does not negate communication , it enhances it!!
Knowing God’s character, knowing His will, helps us to know how to pray, to ask in the right way for the right things. ( James 4:2,3)

The verse continues… If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us…
Does God not always hear us when we pray ? yes of course -but the original Greek word for our English word ‘hear’ encompasses more than just ‘listening’ – the meaning also includes the action necessitated by what was heard. So what the verse is saying is “If we ask anything according to His will, He goes into action on our behalf!
And then ‘if we know that He hears us, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”
There is another verse that carries the same promise as this passage. Jesus said , “Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name, He will give it to you !” ( John 16:23)
That does not mean that if we end our prayer with the words, “In Jesus’ name” that He promises to give us what we asked. In bible times, names were very important, much more important than they are today. A person’s ‘name’ was his character! So to ask in Jesus’ name – is to ask as He would ask , according to His character . or His will!

Have you ever noticed that when you learn something, God is very faithful to give you opportunity to test it? He brings a situation or circumstance your way that exercises you to use your new found understanding.

When I was studying this passage and believed that I understood what was meant, God did bring a situation across my path that allowed me to work this out in a practical way.

I had a good friend, Heather. We shared our joys and sorrows and our heartaches.
She had been going through a very difficult time with a teenage daughter. She and her husband decided that they needed to pull her out of the public school where she had become entrenched in the wrong crowd. They wanted to put her into a Christian private school , and finally her daughter agreed to the change.
Heather inquired at the school and found that there were only 4 available spots in her daughter’s grade and there was a waiting list of 80 students. It looked hopeless but she asked if I would pray with her that somehow her daughter would get in. I readily agreed!
And so I began to pray that God would work a miracle so Heather’s daughter would be accepted. But my prayer seemed to be bouncing back down off the ceiling.
I felt I was praying from a selfish perspective. There were 80 families praying the same prayer Heather and I were praying, all hoping that THEIR child would get in. I questioned -- what if another child needed the spot more than my friend’s daughter? What if my friend’s daughter would not even benefit from the school ?
I was definitely not praying with confidence.
I thought of my I John passage, and considered how could I pray according to God’s will.
I reasoned …. God knows exactly which of the 80 children need the spot the most, which ones would be positively affected from the experience… and surely God could choose better than we could.
I called Heather and explained to her what I had been thinking and asked if she would be willing to pray that God choose the four children who were most deserving and who would benefit the most from attending the school. Perhaps her daughter would be one of them , perhaps not. She was immediately agreeable and so we changed how we prayed.
My confidence level soared amazingly !! I KNEW I was praying according to God’s will, therefore I KNEW according to I John 5:14,15 that He would answer my prayer. I was no longer anxious, no longer fearing that Heather’s daughter would not get in. My trust that God would choose well was unwavering.

We prayed and waited.
About a week later, Heather called me. There was a lilt in her voice! “She got in!!” she informed me.

How excited we were! And there was an added blessing to the answer to our prayer. Because of the way we had prayed we also knew that Heather’s daughter would benefit from the school and that it was God’s will that she go there.

Since that time - before I pray I consider what God’s will would be – how can I pray that I have confidence that I am asking according to His will?
Praying in this way is only possible if you have found that level of trust that overrides your own personal interests and you are willing to summit to God’s greater wisdom and plan over your own.
I know that while I may think I know what is best and how things should come out… I really know nothing when it comes to the big picture and I have learned to be thankful that I can pray “thy will be done, not mine!”
Jesus prayed that way… should I do less?

Next time you have a deep concern or worry or crisis to pray about , consider first I John 5:14,15 and think how you can ask according to His will !!
And then pray with confidence!!

4 comments:

Lovella said...

Thank you Julie, I will.

Carolanne said...

Great post, Julie. I am impressed that you have memorised so much of Scripture. I know 1 John 5:14, 15 as a song which is how I memorise much of Scripture.

Knowing God’s character, knowing His will, helps us to know how to pray, to ask in the right way for the right things. ( James 4:2,3)

Very true. Thanks for your words of encouragement.

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Demara said...

Yes I will be reminded of God's will just like it says in Ps. 37:4...delight in Him and He WILL give you the desires of your heart. "delight" in Him I believe is to "know" Him so that the "desires in my heart" are His desires that He wills to happen and by me knowing Him I know what He WILLS!