1 John 5:14–15 “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us. And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”
Scripture teaches that God hears and answers prayer. But does that mean that we can ask God for whatever we want and expect to receive it? Of course not. 1 John 5:14 provides an important qualification: if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. But that raises more questions: What is God’s will? And how do we pray according to his will?
Regarding God’s will, it is necessary to distinguish between the will of God’s decree and the will of God’s command. Doing this does not mean that God has two wills; God has one will. Nevertheless, scripture uses the word will to refer to both God’s decrees and his commands.
For example, Ephesians 1:5 refers to the will of God’s decree: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” God wills (decrees) everything that happens in our lives. In other words, he sovereignly determines the whole course of our lives. The will of God’s decree includes all that has happened in history and all that God will still accomplish.
In contrast, Matthew 7:21 refers to the will of God’s command: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Here, God’s will refers to what we ought to do as men and women. God’s commands reveal to us his will for how to live. For example, the Ten Commandments are a part of the will of God’s command.
1. God hears and answers our prayers when we pray according to his will, that is, when we pray in harmony with his will. Can we know the will of God’s command? If so, how? What does it mean to pray in harmony with the will of God’s command?
2. Suppose a young Israelite man intended to marry a pagan woman. He then prayed that God would bless his marriage. Could he expect God to hear and answer his prayer? Why or why not? See Nehemiah 13:23–31. How does this apply to us today?
3. In addition to praying in harmony with the will of God’s command, we must also pray in harmony with the will of his decree. But, can we ever know the will of God’s decree? How can we be guided by God’s counsel as Psalm 73:24 states?
4. 2 Samuel 12:16 indicates that David prayed for his sick son. Did he know God’s will as he prayed? How did the will of God’s decree influence his prayers? Read through verse 23 of the chapter.
5. How might you use scripture reading to make your prayers more in harmony with God’s will?
6. Can we use the Lord’s Prayer to pray in harmony with God’s will? What about the promises of God in Scripture?
7. It is proper and good to pray about things such as a dating relationship, a potential job, and college plans. How might you pray in harmony with God’s will when seeking direction concerning these things? In what ways does God reveal his will for the future?
8. What are some of the blessings of praying in harmony with God’s will?
9. How will the truth of 1 John 5:14-15 impact your prayer life?