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 5:15
When our youngest son Joel was first learning how to pray, he always prayed the same exact prayer every time he bowed his head. When we got on our knees alongside his bed at night, he repeated the same prayer. If we asked him to pray over the meal at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, we already knew exactly what he was going to say. If we were taking a trip in the car and wanted to pray for safety, we knew we’d never get to the prayer for safety if Joel prayed because he would pray the same prayer he had prayed the night before when he went to bed. It was always word for word the same prayer.
Regardless of the place, event, or time of the day, Joel prayed: “Heavenly Father, please bless my parents, bless my brothers, bless my grandparents, bless the whole world, and please give us a good day. I pray this in Jesus’ name!” The only variation that ever occurred in his prayers was when he occasionally threw in a request for God to bless our family dog!
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When Joel was only five years old, we thought this was cute, and we enjoyed his amusing regularity in prayer. But a time came when it wasn’t cute anymore! He was getting older — and Denise and I knew our youngest son needed to step forward in his relationship with God and in his ability to pray more effectively. I remember the day I looked into his little blue eyes and told him, “Joel, you need to be more specific when you pray. It’s all right to ask for God’s blessing every time you pray, but if you’ll get specific with God when you pray, He will answer your specific prayer requests.”
Just as is true for all of us as we walk with God, there came a time for Joel when he was asked to take a step higher in prayer. He needed to learn to be specific when he prayed and not just ask for a general, sweeping bestowal of blessing on our family and the earth’s population.
Unfortunately, there are many people — even older adults who have known the Lord for many years and are well advanced in terms of age — who still sound like small children when they pray. They’ve never grown in their prayer life, and therefore they still pray only general, childlike prayers that beseech God to bestow His blessings on them and those they love. Of course, it’s good to ask for God’s blessing and to be childlike in our faith, but God pleads with His people to get specific with Him when they pray!
In First John 5:14, the Bible tells us that if we ask anything according to His will, God hears us. Then in the next verse, it continues: “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 5:15).
First, I want to point out that this verse says we are to “ask” when we pray. This means there is nothing wrong with asking if we are doing it according to the will of God! But wait — before we go any further, let’s stop and look at this word “ask.” In this word, we find a treasure trove that will help us know what kind of attitude we must have when we make our requests known to God.
In First John 5:15, the word “ask” in Greek is the word aiteo. This Greek word eliminates any religious suggestion that we are “lowly worms” who have no right to come into the presence of God to make a request. It also destroys the picture that we must pitifully beg and plead for the things we need from the Lord. The word aiteo means to be adamant in requesting and even demanding assistance in meeting tangible needs, such as food, shelter, money, and so forth.
Of course, we don’t want to be disrespectful when we pray, so for those who are concerned about sounding rude, let me assure you that the Greek word aiteo does not give us license to be arrogant or rude in this approach to God. In fact, in the New Testament and in other secular literature from New Testament times, the word aiteo is often used to portray a person addressing a superior. The person may insist or demand that a need be met, but he approaches and speaks to his superior with respect and a sense of honor. However, the petitioner is so sure that his request is correct that he asks boldly with a firm expectation that he will receive the desired outcome.
This word aiteo describes a person who speaks out and prays boldly and authoritatively. This person knows specifically what he needs and isn’t afraid to boldly come into God’s Presence to ask and expect to receive what he has requested.
As we have stated, the previous verse (see 1 John 5:14) states that you must know you are praying according to the will of God if you want Him to hear and answer you. So since you are praying in line with God’s will, you don’t have to sheepishly mumble your requests. You are praying precisely according to what God wants to do, so you can boldly assert your faith and expect Him to move on your behalf. He wants you to act boldly and courageously in prayer! He wants you to seize His will for your life and demand that it come into manifestation! He’s just waiting for you to ask.
Furthermore, don’t think that you can come to God only for spiritual blessings. As noted earlier, the word aiteo most often has to do with requesting things of a physical and material nature, such as food, clothes, shelter, money, and so forth. So find out what God promises you in His Word regarding such provision, and then boldly ask Him to meet your needs!
John went on to say, “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 5:15). Let’s look next at the word “petitions,” because the form used in the original text emphatically informs us that God wants us to get very specific when we pray!
The word “petition” is the Greek word aitema, which is a form of the word aiteo that we discussed above, but now it denotes a specific, exact, explicit, precise, detailed request. This request is so in-depth, thorough, and comprehensive that there is no room for misunderstanding exactly what has been asked. This is why the King James translators translated it as the word “petition.” It paints the picture of a prayer so detailed and explicit that it is like a bona fide “petition” that has been prepared and submitted.
With the meanings of these Greek words in mind, First John 5:15 could be interpreted:
“And if we can be confident that God hears us, regardless of what we ask or what physical or tangible need we may want Him to meet for us, we can be sure that we will have a ‘yes’ to the specific, exact, explicit, detailed requests that we desired of Him.”
So let me ask you this: When you pray, do you pray general, sweeping prayers for blessings, or have you learned the secret of getting specific with God when you pray? That kind of vague, general prayer may be cute for a little child, but as you grow in your walk with God, He expects you to get bold, courageous, and very specific about the things you request of Him. We know this very clearly because of the Greek words aiteo and aitema that are used in First John 5:15.
So let me encourage you today to open your Bible and explore its pages until you find specifically what the will of God is for your situation. Once you know it, be assured that you have the right as a child of God to go straight into His presence and, with honor and respect, insist that His will be done in this matter! In fact, God wants you to come to Him boldly like that!
So when you make your requests known to Him, get as specific and detailed as you can. I suggest that you even think it through, write it down on a piece of paper, and then submit it as your “petition” to God.
If you have a specific request, you need to be specific when you ask God to bring about His will in the matter you’re bringing before Him. You’ll only experience discernible answers to prayer if you get specific when you pray. So make this the day you decide you are stepping up higher in your prayer life! It’s time to become very specific when you come boldly before the Father’s throne of grace to receive mercy and grace to help in your time of need (Hebrews 4:16)!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Heavenly Father, today I come to You in Jesus’ name, thanking You for the Holy Spirit who leads me and guides me into all truth. Your Word is filled with promises that meet every need in my life. Thank You for directing me to find Your promises that apply to the specific situations in my life right now. Holy Spirit, once You have enabled me to find those promises, I purpose in my heart to come to the Father in confidence and assurance as I submit specific, detailed requests to the concrete needs I am facing in my life. You have commanded me to ask that I might receive and that my joy would be made full. From this point onward, I commit myself to honor You with specific requests when I pray! And I will be faithful to glorify Your Name when the answers are granted!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am finished with praying only general, sweeping prayers for God’s blessings. From this moment forward, I intend to be very specific when I pray. God’s Word holds answers and promises that He wants to bring to pass in my life. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I will find those answers, discover those promises, and then be very concrete about the things for which I release my faith to receive from God. This is the confidence that I have in my Heavenly Father: If I ask any- thing according to His will — and His Word is His will — He hears me. And according to First John 5:14, since I know that He hears me, I know that I have the petition I have desired from Him. Therefore, I am now stepping up to the next level of maturity in prayer, where I speak up, speak out, and pray with authority every time I make my requests known to God.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- When you pray, are you specific about what you want God to do, or do you pray mostly general, sweeping prayers that are not detailed or explicit? If someone else asked you to do the exact same thing you’ve been asking God to do, would you understand what that person wanted you to do?
- What do you want God to do for you? Can you express it in clear and unambiguous terms? Are you so clear on the subject that you could write it on a piece of paper and submit it to God as an official “petition”?
- Why don’t you take a few minutes today to write down the requests you want to present to God. You may discover that you aren’t clear about what you want God to do for you. This exercise may help you attain a better understanding of exactly what you want God to do for you based on His Word.