1 John 5:14-15
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.
This passage has always intrigued me. For additional context, the passage is included in a list of “affirmations” that the Apostle John is sharing with his readers. He is trying to build trust in God and His promises. For example, Verse 13 reads: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Likewise in our passage, he encourages believers to pray (approach God) – asking according to HIS will. John assures we can be confident that God hears us.
First of all, it should be amazing to us that God … the Creator of all that is seen and unseen – the entire universe … actually listens to our prayers. Why would such a Being care about His creatures to even do so? King David pondered the same question:
Psalm 8:3-4 (NIV)
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
Yet, David goes on to assert something quite incredible – God created us to have dominion over His works:
Psalm 8:5-6 (NIV)
You have made them (human beings) a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. 6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet:
It is clear from the whole of Scripture that God ordained for human beings to be an integral part of His creative order … for man to have dominion over the earth and everything in it … that man should rule (exercise our ordained authority) over creation with the same love and compassion for it as God Himself. In other words, our unity and fellowship with God would be such that we as created beings would be “an extension” of God in His creation. So it follows that God would desire us to communicate with Him and fellowship with Him in this relationship that He designed for us. In the beginning, it was perfect communion … unity with God … until the first human beings allowed sin to desecrate and corrupt them. Pride? Exertion of self-will over the will of God? Disobedience? Through all the above, we fell from the glory and honor God had bestowed upon us through the deceptive power and darkness of sin…. As Paul explained, “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” (Cf. Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21) And as Paul affirmed, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23)
As we have previously noted in our studies, human beings MUST have a Savior. We cannot save our selves. We cannot redeem ourselves from our sin because we are incapable to offer a Holy God a perfect sacrifice to atone for our transgressions. God did the only thing that could be done to reconcile and restore our fellowship with Him. He offered a perfect Lamb … His Son, Jesus! God did so because of His great love for us … not because we merited or deserved His kindness or mercy. Paul makes this quite clear:
Ephesians 2:4-10 (NKJV)
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Father God would not allow His beloved creation … human beings … to continue in separation from Him. No, His great love with which He loved us would not allow us to remain dead in our sin. God sent His Son to redeem us … to restore us to true life and to accomplish the good works which God had already prepared for us to do. He replaced a crown of thorns with a crown of glory and honor! “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ Jesus. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20) I believe this is why the Apostle John insists we can know that we have eternal life. This is why John confirms that God hears our prayers. And if God hears us … we know that we have what we asked of Him!
Jesus made an astonishing declaration right before He raised Lazarus from the dead:
John 11:38-42 (NIV)
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” He said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Jesus knew that God heard Him … and knew that He would receive what He had asked in prayer. What a confirmation to us that God hears prayer … and a demonstration to us about the power of prayer! Yet, the reality we often experience is that we do not receive what we asked of God. What is the difference? Does God have selective hearing? Why is John so confident that God hears our prayers and that we can know that we have what we asked of Him? We pray, and yet, loved ones die of cancer; couples remain childless; children leave the Church; chronic illness continues unabated…. Why does God not answer our prayers the way we want Him to … the way we think He should?
John said God hears us when we ask anything according to His will … not our will. And that is the challenge for us! That is the conundrum of prayer and the mystery of faith. How do we ever truly know the will of God in a specific circumstance or situation? To be honest, I’m not sure. In Isaiah 55:8-10 we read, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. So we have to understand that issue. In Deuteronomy 29:29 we read, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”
So maybe we should consider that in order to pray and ask according to the will of God the Father, we need to grow in the knowledge of His “revealed” will. And we can do so through the study of His Word and the life of His Son, Christ Jesus. Those are things we CAN do if we will take the time to do them…. To me, it follows, that increased wisdom will translate into prayers that resonate the will of God. And when He hear us … we need to “receive” and embrace HIS answer to our prayers. His answer will be in accordance with His will. And I believe that we can fully trust that His will is always for our good. His great love redeemed us. His great love is for us! (Cf. Romans 8:31) And we have to consider that we may not always see how God works and orchestrates in another person’s life to “work” His will for their good. In other words, God IS answering the prayers offered up in faith; but He is doing so in His way and on His timetable according to His own purpose and grace. (Cf. Romans 8:28; Philippians 2:13; 2 Timothy 1:9-10) I just think we have to realize, and ultimately trust, that God does hear us and does answer us according to His will. We just need to be attuned to how His will is being revealed….
One last thought or observation on this subject. And I share this as a challenge to all of us who pray fervently for something in our lives. Hebrews 5:7 reads, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Notice that the Scripture here said Jesus was heard because of His reverent submission. I believe there is a lesson for us here. Being heard was predicated upon reverent submission. If a person does not fear God … if a person does not believe Him … if a person does not submit themselves to the authority of the Creator over their life … I’m not inclined to think that their prayer is going to be heard. God knows those who truly believe Him and reverence Him. He knows those who love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Cf. Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37) You cannot fool God and think that He will hear or answer your prayers.
My point is that the key aspect of prayer is ultimately our relationship with God. Ultimately, His will is for each of us to be in perfect fellowship with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ. And that requires reverent submission! That requires humility … forsaking human pride and confessing our sins … and seeking reconciliation through Christ. It reminds me of an often-quoted passage and I will end here:
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
If we want our prayers to be heard, we most certainly must ask according to His will. And His will is for us is accomplished only through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ:
Recognition of our sinful nature;
Repentance for our transgressions;
Redemption from the power of sin;
Reconciliation to the Father;
Relationship with the Father;
Reverence for the Father