Understanding the Prayer of Faith
This is part '5/5' to a study entitled 'Three Keys to Effective Prayer' on 1 John 5:14-15. This article expands the meaning and application to the difficult 1 John 5:15 concept of prayer of faith.
#3 Knocking Until He Hears
1 John 5:15
And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
Some people really have a hard time over this aspect. I remember myself struggling over it. I desire something but don’t seem to have the faith for it. But there really isn’t any need for that. God is not trying to trick us. This faith is a natural outflow of what we have already shared.
Did John not already say that when we know it is God’s will, then we know He hears us, that is, He hears our prayer request? The Almighty God looks down from heaven and purposes to do something about what we just asked. But let us think of three scenarios.
• What happens when we are not sure He wants something, and we do not know it is His will or not?
In this case, we should go back to the seeking stage. Ask if this is something you are sure that God wants. How is this going to advance His kingdom? We sometimes have personal needs. God is faithful. God wants to show Himself faithful even in our desperate times. If you look at Philippians 4, you will see that the apostle Paul sometimes suffered hunger and sometimes had different needs. Having a need does not mean that God has not answered prayer. God allows these circumstances to arise. He is helping us analyze our situation, sometimes to see the impossibility of it all. Affirm your need and God’s promises and hang in there without doubting. God will provide at just the right time. God has done this over and over in my life.
I remember once being down real low on money. We wanted to buy groceries, but then Linda mentioned we hadn’t paid our tithe. Once we wrote that check, we had just spare change. No shopping that week. But right after we wrote the check to the church, a surprise gift came in the mail.
At other times I lack wisdom. As I wait on Him, He delivers always in His special way. This happened several times in the past weeks working around the house. I didn’t want to face fixing the garage door opener. I already spent several hours on it but failed. I prayed. I didn't’ want try fixing it again. But I resolved I would again try by His grace. He showed me a paragraph in the manual that I didn’t pay too much attention to and helped in several other ways that led to fixing it. The door works today because of God.
• What happens when we really think God wants something, but we don’t see an answer to prayer?
God is paying very close to these situations. God is faithful. Remember that Daniel once prayed and sent the angel to bring the answer to that prayer, but because of strong opposition, the angel was delayed. This helps us understand that there are more things happening than we see with our eyes.
"But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. (Daniel 10:13, NASB).
We often want immediate answers to prayer. But for some answers to prayer, many things might first need first to happen. Do not doubt whether God had heard you. You might want to make a quick check if it is God’s will or not. But if there is no concern on that, in the strength of your faith persevere. Some prayers might not even be fulfilled in our lifetime. The point is we need to pray and trust God to answer in His way. God mixes all the prayers of the saints and uses them to exert His wise will.
At the same time, remember this is a test of your faith. God is growing your faith. Our faith does not depend on what we see but on what God wills. Once we confirm our will with His, then we just need to persevere in prayer. Remember Elijah? He kept asking his servant to go back and see if there were any clouds in the sky. He prayed until he saw the clouds forming the rain that he was asking for.
Now Elijah said to Ahab, "Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower." So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth, and put his face between his knees. And he said to his servant, "Go up now, look toward the sea." So he went up and looked and said, "There is nothing." And he said, "Go back" seven times. And it came about at the seventh time, that he said, "Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea." And he said, "Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.’" So it came about in a little while, that the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. (1 Kings 18:41-45, NASB).
I believe that the ‘sound of the roar of a heavy shower’ was from the Lord. When there is a special need, God will allow you see and hear things no one else hears and sees. No one else heard the roar. Only he did. Now everyone was needy for water after no rain for three and one half years. The Lord was saying now is the time. Elijah just didn’t go hang out with Ahab and trust it would rain. He went and started seriously praying. He understood that the vision of the Lord must be accompanied by prayer. He knew His father heard him but he persevered until he saw the cloud.
• What happens when what He puts on our hearts seems so much greater than you would ever think of?
Persevering faith is needed nowhere more than in the great impossible things that God wants to do. We do not let the impossible hold us back from believing prayer. I always get honest with God. “Lord, you know this is impossible with man, but …” Admit our weakness. Admit the strong forces against us. But always come back and boldly state that what you want to do will be done. In fact, we are only agreeing that what God wants to be done should be done.
These things can include a person’s salvation, bringing the gospel to some lost tribe, reviving a church or bringing righteousness to some government. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. (James 5:17, NASB). Remember there is a reason for the burden on your heart.
• Think of something you would like to ask God. Try to think back on a burden that the Lord has put on your heart or His purpose for your life.
• Make sure it is God’s will. This is not so straightforward at times especially if some of our bad motives are involved. We need to work through a process where we discern He really wants this one thing done.
• After affirming it is God’s will persist in your prayer. Look out for how He will answer your prayers. Track your request preferably in a journal. This will help you persist in this endeavor even if it lasts over several years.
God is so good to us. He wants us involved in what happens on earth. He could easily do these things without our prayers but has made it so that what happens is a result of our prayers. It is hard for a parent not to do for a child what he can do for himself. God wants each of us to be involved in His work of expanding the kingdom of God. Sometimes this has to do with leading a person to Christ, helping a new Christian grow or training someone who already knows the Lord.
God wants us to pray. He has in a real sense made a way that we can make a real difference in what happens in different countries, in politics, in business, in research, in personal problems. The next time you go visiting, first pray in faith. Seek God what He would want you to do. I have seen closed psychiatric doors open when I prayed. More important, people who were confused because of being subdued by medication become alert and attentive to the gospel when I prayed. God wants to do a lot more through our lives. We just need to ask, seek and knock.
And this is the confidence which we have before 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 which we have asked from Him.