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)
What is prayer? Over the years I have heard so many different definitions of prayer, it is almost dizzying. Some of these definitions come dangerously close to heresy. I once had a Christian tell me that “prayer is bending the arm of God.” Wow! If I can bend God’s arm, why should I pray to him? And what if someone else with more faith than me is trying to bend God’s arm in the opposite direction? What then? With this kind of view of God and this kind of understanding of prayer, it would be easy to begin feeling sorry for God, imagining his poor arm twisted up like a pretzel from Christians bending it in every direction. And if it were true that Christians can bend the arm of God in whatever direction they desire so long as they have enough faith, then who really is God? Him or us? Who is really in control? No, prayer is not bending God’s arm. Then what is prayer? And what does John mean when he writes, “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.” The key is “if we ask anything according to his will…” Does that then mean that prayer is just a guessing game and has no real power? Not at all. It means that like Elijah who prayed for fire from heaven (1 Kng 18:37-38), and like the disciples who prayed for Peter’s release from prison and it happened (Acts 12:5-12), when we walk by the Spirit and when our minds have been so transformed by God’s word, we are able to discern God’s will, our prayers will instinctively be in line with God's will and thus will be answered (Rom 12:2; Gal 5:16). The more we are transformed into the image and character of Christ, the more our prayers will be answered.
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