“This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” — 1 John 5:14 MEV
Meditating on this verse, my main thought was: it doesn’t work. I wondered if the Holy Spirit led John the Revelator to put it here just to get people’s attention, as a sort of advertising, to get people to sign up. Like a salesman who over-promises and under-delivers.
As I was considering that curious possibility, I realized it was more a case of he had under-promised and over-delivered so abundantly beyond the original intent, that it was no longer even recognizable as follow-through to that promise. What do I mean?
In my own life, my prayers were modest: a happy marriage and some healthy children. I didn’t see how these could not be “according to His will” for me. These are simple things. Lots of women who don’t even want them and can’t afford them have children… So how hard could it be for God to deliver?
But these things didn’t happen. I mean, now, today, I am happy in my marriage, but there were many bumps in the road. The worst wasn’t even a bump in the road — it was an unbridgeable sinkhole: I would never have children, and my husband did not want to adopt. So, not only were none of my prayers answered, but because they were all big-picture prayers, there seemed to be no big picture left for my life. This Scripture’s promise appeared to have spectacularly failed me.
Still … these tragic events served as a catalyst to drive me close to the heart of God. When I had nothing left but my Sunday school idea of Jesus, I went looking for the real thing, and demanded that he fix this. That search and that demand and his answers have become the basis for a life that is exhilarating beyond anything I could have imagined before.
Today I live a vibrant, ongoing walk with the God of the universe who made me exactly to his specifications, who knows me inside and out, and who loves me in a mind-blowing way. My life today is far better than I ever could have asked for or imagined. It isn’t what I asked for. It’s far and away better.
Where does that leave us with the scripture? We have whatever we ask when we ask according to his word. We don’t get all the things we want, because it turns out all the things we want really won’t will lead us to everlasting fulfillment no matter what our circumstances.
It is like the salesman I described, but not the one who over-promises and under-delivers. Rather, like the one who looks at your list and says, “Oh no no no. This isn’t what you want. This will help you in the short-term, but let me show you what will go the distance,” and then makes it possible for you to have something far more wonderful than you even knew existed.
Did he snooker you? Maybe. But if he did, it was for your own good. As the incomparable Robert Farrar Capon says, God isn’t an honest man, and we have to stop trying to make one out of him. Or, as Mr. Beaver says in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, he isn’t safe, but he’s good. And that you can trust.