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/13 //I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
14 //And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
15 //And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
16 //If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death.
There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.
17 //All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death./
Last week we learned from 1 John 5:13 that one of John’s aims for writing this letter is to help his readers deepen their assurance of eternal life through regular fellowship with Jesus, who is eternal life (1 John 1:2).
I suggested that the way to grow in assurance of eternal life is by seeing the evidence of eternal life within us.
And the greatest evidence is a real, vibrant, joy-filled fellowship with Jesus resulting in an orthodox faith that Jesus is the Son of God, loving obedience to his commandments, and radical, sacrificial, God-exalting love for one another.
In verses 14-17 John wants us to see just how real our fellowship with Jesus can (and should) be.
How can I know that I have real fellowship with Jesus?
John says that one way we can see evidence of our fellowship with Christ is through prayer.
When we pray and God answers, we deepen our assurance that we have eternal life.
Praying with Confidence
The more assured we are of our fellowship with Christ, the more confident we are in our relationship with him.
John says, “/this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us/” (v.
The word /confidence/ appears three other times in 1 John.
In 1 John 2:28 John urges his readers to “abide in [Christ] so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”
Confidence with a person is built by maintaining a real relationship with that person.
Ask a couple who has been married for 25 or 40 or 50 years.
When you have a real relationship with another person you know that they will accept you in spite of your imperfections.
That’s why John says in 1 John 4:17-18 that believers can have confidence on the day of judgment rather than fear.
But John’s point in today’s text is not merely that we can be confident that God will not reject us.
Our confidence with God, he says, is that God will say “yes” to our requests.
It’s as if John is wanting us to see God as a Father who is so gracious and so giving that whenever we make our request to him, he answers in the affirmative.
He doesn’t just “hear us;” according to verse 15, “we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”
Don’t miss the power of what John has just told us.
And don’t fall for the temptation to somehow explain away this clear teaching.
John is telling us that receiving answers to prayer should be normal for the Christian.
It is part of the confidence that we should have based on our real relationship with a real God who loves to say “yes” to his children.
Conditions for Answered Prayer
Of course, we left out one very important detail.
There is a condition that must be met before our request is granted.
John says God will hear us when we ask anything that is “according to his will.”
God will not grant our requests if our requests do not fit with his purposes.
In 1 John 3:21-22, another place where John speaks of our confidence with God, he says that “whatever we ask we receive from him” but only “because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”
So obedience is also a requirement for answered prayer.
We find at least three other conditions for answered prayer in the Bible.
* If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, /ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you/.
(John 15:7)
* /Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer/, believe that you have received it, /and it will be yours/.
(Mark 11:24; Matt 21:22)
* If you ask me anything in my name, /I will do it/.
(John 14:14 cf.
15:16; 16:23-24, 26)
Abiding in Christ refers to having real fellowship with him.
Making request in Jesus’ name refers to speaking accurately for him as one of his authorized representatives.[1]
So that would be the same concept as John describes here, making our requests according to God’s will.
And when Jesus says we must believe when we pray, he doesn’t mean we must utilize the power of positive thinking.
He is saying that we must have faith in God, that he will accomplish exactly what he sets out to do.
The conditions for answered prayer, then, are a genuine relationship with Christ and a prayer of faith that God will do whatever he is pleased to do.
Our prayers need to flow out of our fellowship with Christ and need to line up with the will of God.
Lining up with the Will of God
So if you would like to have your prayers answered here is the key: the will of the intercessor needs to coincide with the will of God.
“Prayer is not a battle, but a response; its power consists in lifting our wills to God, not in trying to bring his will down to us.”[2]
That means that prayer is first and foremost designed to change /us/.
When we pray for God’s will, we are not so much trying to discover his will.
We primarily want to adjust our will to match his.
God may reveal his will to us in prayer, but our biggest struggle is making his will our will.
We are not to merely /accept/ his will; we are to /desire/ his will.
This is what happened in Gethsemane.
Listen to how Jesus prayed, just hours before he went to the cross.
“/Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.
Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done/” (Luke 22:42).
Jesus’ prayer was granted (Heb 5:7) because he aligned his will with God’s will by desiring God’s will to be done above all else.
The very next verse says that “there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.”
This is what Jesus really needed, the strength to carry out God’s will.
And God gave it to him because Jesus’ will was aligned with his Father’s will.
If we could know the mind of God perfectly, if we could see everything from his viewpoint, if we were as wise as God, we would choose to do things exactly the way he wills to do them.
We would not improve on one thing that God has already planned to do.
So rejoice that your prayers are not always answered!
And realize that one of the greatest benefits of prayer is that it prepares our own heart for seeing the glory of God in whatever he decides to do.
The Problem of Unanswered Prayer
Let me say this again for emphasis: whenever we meet the biblical requirements of intercessory prayer, we are guaranteed that our prayers will be answered.
And the key requirement for the believer is praying according to the will of God.
If we ask for that which matches God’s will, God will most surely bring it to pass.
So what, then, can be said for prayers that appear to be made with the proper conditions and still remain unanswered?
There are two possible answers.
First, we cannot always know or comprehend the ways in which God answers our prayers.
A free and sovereign and eternal God is able to do the impossible, and so he does not work under the same parameters as we do when it comes to accomplishing his will.
The Bible does not promise that our prayers will be answered in our timeframe or even in our lifetime.
The Apostle John closed the book of Revelation with this prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20).
Because God has decreed that Jesus will return, we are guaranteed that John’s request has been granted, even if 2,000 years have transpired since John uttered that prayer for the last time.
Another way of saying this is that God’s will may be carried out in ways that we simply would not expect it to be carried out.
Perhaps this little story will illustrate just one of the infinite number of possible ways that God can carry out his will.
A legend says that Moses once sat near a well in meditation.
A wayfarer stopped to drink from the well and when he did so his purse fell from his girdle into the sand.
The man departed.
Shortly afterwards another man passed near the well, saw the purse and picked it up.
Later a third man stopped to assuage his thirst and went to sleep in the shadow of the well.
Meanwhile, the first man had discovered that his purse was missing and assuming that he must have lost it at the well, returned, awoke the sleeper (who of course knew nothing) and demanded his money back.
An argument followed, and irate, the first man slew the latter.
Where upon Moses said to God, “You see, therefore men do not believe you.
There is too much evil and injustice in the world.
Why should the first man have lost his purse and then become a murderer?
Why should the second have gotten a purse full of gold without having worked for it?
The third was completely innocent.
Why was he slain?”
God answered, “For once and only once, I will give you an explanation.
I cannot do it at every step.
The first man was a thief’s son.
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