The effectiveness of prayer has been a question that has occupied theologians and saints down through the ages. How is it that some prayers are answered and others are not? How can we be sure of God’s will for our lives so that we can know what to pray for in regards to our needs? Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that it is necessary for Him to return to the Father in order that all that we ask for ‘in His name’ will be granted to us. This does not mean that we just have to append the words ‘in His name’ to any of our prayers in order to have them granted!

The concept of praying ‘in the name of Jesus’ is far deeper than the literal meaning of the words. What Jesus means by this phrase is that when we pray in accord with His will, then we are praying in His name. It is as though to say that if Jesus was in our situation, He would pray for exactly what we are praying. That is, in order to pray with surety ‘in the name of Jesus,’ we need to be able to discern His will for that particular situation. This is not easy as the mind and wisdom of God is not necessarily immediately apparent to us. There is an element of mystery to it that we will never fully comprehend.

This does not mean that we should stop praying for fear that we might be praying for the wrong thing! We should do our best to discern what we think the will of God is for this situation and then pray accordingly, always being willing to alter our prayer should it become evident to us that God’s will lies down a path dissimilar to the one we originally discerned.

This is not a ‘cop out!’ Part of discernment in any situation is being willing to go through the doors that are open to us and to reassess the situation if the door is closed. It is simply a matter of being humble – open to change – and using our common sense. It is no use praying for something that we know not to be a part of God’s will!

How much time do I spend discerning the things that I ask God for in my prayers? Am I truly serious about seeking His will and not just assuming that I will get it right all of the time?

Jesus, you constantly affirm that your main aim is to do all that the Father asks you to do. Help me to learn your way of obedience and discernment so that I will always walk according to His will.