“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.” (1 John 5:14-15)
This promise is comprehensive and unlimited—a tremendous assurance of answered prayer. But there is one proviso—according to His will! There are a number of Christians who, with all good intentions, have argued that it evidences a lack of faith to add the qualification “if it be thy will” to one’s prayer. But this can hardly be true in light of the example of Christ Himself, when he “prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39).
The question is how to know whether or not we are praying according to God’s will. One key, of course, is to search the Scriptures. God’s will can never contradict His Word, and it is foolish to ask God to do something which the Scriptures themselves forbid. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3).
When, however, we sincerely desire God’s will to be done, and so far as can be determined there is no biblical or personal barrier hindering our prayer, then we can pray in confidence even if we yet don’t know for certain God’s will in the matter. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: But the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:26-28). HMM