This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (1 John 5:14)

THE FIRST PRINCIPLE OF PRAYER is found in verse 14 with John’s four little words: “according to his will.” John underscored the importance of aligning our prayers with God’s heart elsewhere as well (John 14:14; 15:7; 1 John 3:22). True prayer is asking God for what He wants.

The second principle of prayer is that God listens. My four-year-old son is off-the-charts curious and easily distracted. Which is why, when giving him instructions, I find myself saying, “Listen to me with your eyes.” Hopefully he will grow out of it, but at this stage, I have no confidence that he hears me unless his gaze is locked with mine.

And while I admit that I often need God to force my distractions to a screeching halt so I can truly connect with and hear from Him, God needs no incentive to give me His undivided attention. The plain truth is that God listens to our prayers. Sure, it doesn’t always feel like He’s listening, but perhaps this is why John felt compelled to remind us of this comforting truth.

These two principles result in something John called parresia. Translated here as “confidence,” parresia originally meant freedom of speech. With God we have permission to speak boldly and honestly; He is listening. And when we ask in accordance with His will, we know that He hears us and will give us what we ask (v. 15).

Ask in accordance with His will, and have confidence that He hears you and will answer.

Andrea Summers is an ordained minister and has served on staff in her local church for five years. She is the director of Women’s Ministry for The Wesleyan Church.