"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." (1 John 5:14-15)The Greek word used here for "confidence" means to have all outspokenness towards another; to not be afraid to approach, request, or supplicate. Darby translates this verse as, "And this is the boldness which we have towards him," (1 John 5:14 Darby) The point is that we do not need to be afraid or timid in our prayers towards God, rather, we can come with boldness and confidence, asking of Him the things we need and desire. The writer of Hebrews put it this way, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16) When we have needs or desires, God wants us to be bold in our approach to Him; not holding back, not being shy about what or how to ask, but to ask that we might receive.
For some, prayer has become a religious duty; one by which they show forth their discipline, piety, and reverence. However, the kind of prayer God is inviting us to is one of asking and receiving; asking for what we need and desire and receiving them from Him. God is not calling us to prayer as a matter of discipline but as a mater of receiving those things we need and want. We all need and want things, many things that we cannot provide for ourselves. How else are we going to receive them unless we ask from the One who is able to provide them for us? Speaking of prayer, Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full." (John 16:23-24) God bids us to prayer, not that we might develop discipline in some new religious work or habit, but that "our joy may be full!" God wants us to pray so that He might give and that we might be made joyful. Many times, when we need joy, the answer to our need is asking and receiving. Much of our lack of joy can be traced to a lack of receiving and James says, "You do not have because you do not ask." (James 4:2)
God is a God who hears and answers prayer. Isaiah prophesied for God saying, "It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear." (Isaiah 65:24) God only asks that we ask according to His will. But how can we know God's will and how can we be certain that we are asking according to His will? John previously told us, "Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight." (1 John 3:21-22) The first key to asking according to His will is to ensure that we are walking according to His will. We cannot pray according to His will if our lives are lived contrary to that same will. The second key is to make sure we are asking for things for which our hearts do not condemn us. This means to make sure we are not asking for things that we know are wrong, or for which we know we will use them for wrong. For example, we know that it's wrong to ask for things that we intend to spend on our own selfish lusts. For these things our hearts condemn us and we ought to ask for pardon rather than their fulfillment. However, if we do these two things then we know we are asking according to His will and, if we know we are asking according to His will, then we know He will answer our prayers and, if we know He will answer our prayers, then we know joy is on its way. What a great reason to pray!