And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: 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 5:14–15
In First John chapter five, we are assured that God both hears and heeds our prayers. The fact that God hears our prayers is a statement of His omniscience, and the fact that God answers our prayers is a statement of His omnipotence.
The pages of both the Bible and human history are filled with examples of answered prayer. Prayer is not a form of spiritual self-hypnosis or a means to a better emotional state. It is the God-directed means for a child of God to receive what his Father wants to give him to accomplish His will and work.
The verses above make it clear that prayer is both a priority and a privilege for every Christian. What breathing is to the physical man, prayer is to the spiritual man. Prayer is a necessity for every born again believer.
R.A. Torrey said, “Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God’s infinite grace and power. All that God is and all that God has is at the disposal of prayer, but we must use the key.” Yes, we must pray if we expect God to answer and bless. We do not have to bear the burdens of our lives alone. We have the privilege of bringing every care and concern to the Lord in prayer.
As we examine the thought of having our prayers answered, John shares with us three tremendous truths in these two verses:
1. He speaks of the confidence we have as we pray. The word confidence means “freedom of speech.” It was a political term in that day to refer to speaking your opinion without hesitation in an open assembly. It reminds us that we have the privilege to tell the Lord what is on our hearts and minds. God is not interested in us being eloquent in prayer, but He desires that we be earnest in prayer.
We have confidence that we have both access to the Lord and an audience before Him. We do not have to twist God’s arm or bribe Him to hear us. George Mueller said, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of His willingness.”
Ephesians 3:12 reminds us that in Christ, “We have boldness and access with confidence” to approach Him in prayer. Hebrews 4:16 exhorts us with these words, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
The reason we have this confidence as we approach the Lord in prayer is because of our relationship with Him. We are reminded of our relationship with the Father through these words in verse 14, “that we have in him.” The little preposition in speaks of being in close proximity to. We are “in him” because we have trusted Christ as our personal Savior.
When you are in Christ, you are already in the bosom of the Heavenly Father. Prayer is you literally sitting on His lap and talking with Him in an unhurried and intimate fellowship. Someone once said, “Prayer is whispering in the ear of God.”
When we take time to pray, God takes time to listen. The Lord listens attentively, sincerely, and compassionately. He wants to know what is on our hearts. No wonder someone wrote, “The devil trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.”
Remember that our confidence is not in prayer, but in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to pray in faith, but our faith is not in prayer, but in His person. We approach the Father in the name of the Son. Jesus told us so in John 14:13–14, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”
John says, “That if we ask any thing,” assuring us that we can never ask anything that is beyond His ability.
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us,—Ephesians 3:20
John describes prayer by the words ask (vv. 14, 15) and petitions (vs. 15). The word ask was commonly used of an inferior asking a superior. It speaks of asking something of someone. The word desired (vs. 15) comes from the same root word.
Prayer is simply coming to God with certain desires and asking Him to meet those desires. In Matthew 7:7, Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
The word petitions speaks of asking for a particular thing. Prayer is coming to ask God with particular requests, not general ones. We are to pray fervently, continually, and patiently, as well as specifically.
2. There is a condition given. Having examined the confidence we have, let us look at the condition given to us in verse 14. As we are asking anything, we are to do so, “According to his will” (vs. 14b). Robert Law wrote, “Prayer is a mighty instrument, not for getting man’s will done in Heaven, but for getting God’s will done on earth.” The will of God does not limit our prayers, but it lifts our prayers to their proper level.
The question is never “can He?” but it is “will He?” Someone said, “Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer, except that which lies beyond the will of God.” In the model prayer, the Lord Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10b).
Since we know that our Father knows best, why would we ask anything but His will to be done? God’s will may be different than our wants, but it is always better than our wants. Our Lord is more than willing to fill us, “With the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Colossians 1:9).
God desires for us to pursue His will, perceive His will, and finally to perform His will. If we are not willing to do God’s will, we will never know His will, as our Lord is not foolish or naïve. You must decide right now that no matter what His will is in any given matter, you will do it.
3. John closes out this passage by speaking of the certainty we have as we pray. Twice in verse 15, he uses the phrase “we know.” It is a promise that God will hear and respond to our prayers. If we ask for something that is His will, we are assured that He will hear us.
The word hear in verse 15 carries the thought of not just listening, but also of acting on what He has heard. The response of God may come in different ways and through different means. He may grant us a direct answer to our prayers. It may come immediately and quickly. We may pray today and receive our answer today.
The response of the Lord may also be delayed. Our Lord not only knows what is best, but He also knows when it is best. God is never early, and He is never late. He is always on time.
His answer to our prayers may also be different from what we ask. We may ask for one thing and He gives another. He translates our inadequacies and ignorance into something far better. We may think it would be good for us, but God knows it would not be best for us and even bad for us.
Sometimes our requests are just denied by the Lord. “No,” is still an answer. We may rest assured that God does not say “no” because He is cruel, selfish, or unable. Once again, He knows what is best for us. Regardless of His response, He always responds to any and all requests prayed according to His will.
We know that not only does God respond to our prayers, but He also rewards our prayers. We know that He hears us, and we know that He will act on our behalf. Prayer in the will of God is prayed by faith and not by sight.
We have an unshakeable conviction that when we ask according to His will, He is already responding. Do not quit praying when you do not receive an immediate answer. Be certain that your prayers will be answered when you pray, asking God’s will to be done.
I read the story of a man who traveled to a foreign country. During his travels, he went into a pagan temple and saw the most hideous idol. The ignorant worshippers were writing requests on paper, rolling the papers into mud balls and throwing them at the idol. Their religion taught that if the ball of mud and paper stuck to the idol their prayer would be answered.
Aren’t you glad that you and I can approach the Lord with confidence, knowing that He hears us as we ask according to His will and that He has the ability and authority to hear and answer us? May we be people who pray and do so fervently and faithfully!