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How to Pray With Confidence

May 7, 2018

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5: 14

Mothers are counted among the most faithful prayer warriors.  We prayed for our children before they were born, and we continue to pray for them throughout their lives. This Mother’s Day, know that you can pray with confidence that God hears your prayers, that he is faithful, and that he will give you the answers you need. Whether God hears and answers our prayers was also the subject of my July 20, 2016 blog, Yes, Virginia, God Answers Prayer,

The Resurrection gives us confidence in our salvation. It shows us that Christ atoned for our sins and secured our salvation when he died on the cross. This is a confidence that we can take to the bank. It is a confidence that sees us through life. In John we read “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5: 12). But John also gives us confidence that God hears our prayers: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5: 14).[1]

The key to ensuring that God listens to our prayers is found in the prayers themselves. If we approach prayer as a discussion with God about his will for us, he listens and will answer our prayers. We can pray with confidence that God will show us the way to the path he wants us to follow if we pray “Thy will be done.” Father Robert Spitzer says that is the most important prayer of all: “If you cannot remember any other prayer, default to this one.”[2] The purpose of prayer is not to impose our will on God, but to determine what his will is for our lives and to intercede on behalf of others (1 John 5:16).

God is not a cosmic butler to be summoned to do our bidding– to further our own goals.   He only answers prayers that are within the gambit of his plan. A.Z. Tozer writes, “When we go to God with a request that He modify the existing situation for us, that is, that He answer prayer, there are two conditions that we must meet: (1) We must pray in the will of God. (2) We must be on what old-fashioned Christians often call ‘praying ground’; that is we must be living lives pleasing to God. It is futile to beg God to act contrary to His revealed purposes.”[3]

Please read that sentence again and really think about it: “It is futile to beg God to act contrary to His revealed purposes.” God wants to commune with us; he wants to answer our prayers, but we must meet those conditions.  The other Scripture texts for next Sunday give us examples of people praying on “praying ground” that God’s will be done.

Jesus himself provided many examples of prayer and instructed us how to pray. The Lord’s Prayer includes the key element, “Thy will be done.” We see Jesus praying for his disciples in the 17th Chapter of John. He prayed for their protection: “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so they they may be as one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me . . . My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.” (Excerpts, John 17: 11-12; 15).

Luke recounts that after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, “[T]he apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying . . . They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. . . [I]t is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, . . . for one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” (Excerpts, Acts1:12-14; 21-22).   The disciples, now apostles, were feeling the great loss of Jesus when he ascended into heaven. But he had told them to stay in Jerusalem and promised to send the Spirit within a few days (Acts 1: 4).   They followed his instructions, and prayed for answers. When you are at a loss for what to do, you can still follow the guidelines set forth in Scripture, and pray that God’s will be done through you in your life.

A special word to mothers and grandmothers as we approach Mother’s Day next Sunday: remember that Monica prayed for years for her dissolute son—a son who would later become one of the great church fathers—St. Augustine of Hippo.  Have confidence that God will hear and answer your prayer that his will be done in your life and in the lives of those you love.  God wants only the best for you and for your loved ones.

When you follow Jesus and pray that his will be done, you can be confident that he is listening to you and that he will answer your prayers.  He will arrange for people, circumstances, and events to come together and to show you the way out of your challenges, despair, anxiety, and desperation.  He will point the way to the path that he wants you and your loved ones to follow.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Seventh Week of Easter are Acts 1: 12-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5: 9-15; John 17: 11-19.

[2] Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life (2008) Ignatius Press, p. 36

[3] A. Z. Tozer, compiled by W. L. Seaver Prayer: Communing with God in Everything (2016) Moody Publishers, p. 166.

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