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‘When you pray, how do you know you’re talking to God and not just to yourself?’
I wasn’t expecting such a direct question, and I was stumped. How did I know?
Then, a week later, in a different discussion with the same friend, I realised – I knew I wasn’t just talking to myself because I had seen God answer prayers. Prayers that no-one else knew I was praying, for things no-one else knew I had needed… both the small things, and the huge things. That was how I knew I was talking to God, and how I knew he cared.
This passage is all about prayer, and God’s response to prayer. It tells us three important things. Firstly, we can be confident in approaching God. This confidence is simple: we who believe in the name of Jesus, the Son of God, know we have eternal life. We know that we have been ‘made perfect in love’ (4:18), and therefore we have an eternal place in God’s family and can approach God without fear.
Secondly, we can confidently ask anything of God. Anything at all – three simple words in verse 15 tell us that: ‘whatever we ask’. God cares about every single part of our lives, and so there is nothing too big, or too small, to bring before the Lord in prayer.
Thirdly, God hears and answers prayer in accordance with his will. God wants us to get to know him, to spend time with him, to become more like him, so that our prayers will align with his good and perfect will for us and for the world. After all, Jesus taught us to pray ‘your will be done’, not ‘your will be changed’!
As we spend time in God’s word, with God’s people, learning God’s heart for the world which he loves, we will see our desires begin to align with his. After all, we are ‘being transformed into his [the Son’s] image with ever-increasing glory’ (2 Corinthians 3:18).
So, with what requests are you confidently approaching God this week? Who or what are you praying will be changed and transformed by God’s power and presence? And what are you praying for which is so obscure, so seemingly impossible, or so secret, that if and when that prayer is answered, you’ll know that it was only God who could have heard and answered your cry?