23 Confidence in prayer – 1 John 5:13-17
John, in his final encouraging remarks, shows his pastor’s heart. He wants to pass on all he has learned and fill his readers full of hope, encouraging them to focus on what is important. He declares in the first verse (1 John 5:13) exactly why he has bothered to write this letter to them, namely ‘so that you may know that you have eternal life’. Not that we may think we have eternal life or even hope we have, but that we may know without any shadow of doubt. He recognises that often we do not fully comprehend all that is ours in Christ. We believe in Jesus and can see why others are included in the blessings of the Kingdom of God but we know ourselves and we can’t quite accept these are for us as well. John wrote his Gospel ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name’ John 20:31. Now John is writing this letter to believers in order that their faith might become even stronger and more certain. We who are Christians have the hope of eternal glory and can have confidence when approaching God.
Confidence in prayer.
In Lesson 15 we covered the subjects ‘How should we pray?’ and ‘Conditions for a Successful Prayer Life’. Then in Lesson 20 we looked at what is ‘Intercession’ and ‘How to pray for other Christians’. Make sure you have these studies so that you can look at the foundation for our Confidence in Prayer.
Confidence in God was a new concept for Jewish believers as they only had the opportunity to approach God once a year through the high priest when he entered into the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Ordinary Jewish people were cut off from God by the thick curtain and were unable to enter into God’s Presence for themselves. Others receiving this letter had followed pagan gods that were very fickle and could only be approached through offerings and sacrifices that appeased them. So here John is reminding all believers that we can approach God with confidence as He is merciful and gracious even though we don’t deserve to have access to the King. We do deserve this through no good actions on our part but because of what Jesus Christ did on the Cross, He opened up the way and built a bridge between God and man, Hebrews 10:19-20. We have assurance in approaching God in prayer because God is our Father and He wants to talk to His children and give them His best, Matthew 7:9-11.
These two verses in 1 John 5:14-15 can cause problems for Christians as we feel we have prayed for many things and not seen answers and can even feel that these verses are not true. We feel God isn’t listening to our prayers, even putting our faith in others’ prayers for us and trek off to the famous preachers who claim to have seen miracles. We take our lack of result for our prayer as a personal rejection and find it hard to pray with confidence for the next problem. God has promised to listen to ‘anything we ask according to His will’, 1 John 5:14. So it is vital that we listen to God’s voice, tune into the Holy Spirit and then pray according to His will. We often think we are praying God’s will because we are praying for an answer that seems good from our perspective. God will not listen to any doubt-filled self-centred prayers with motives for our own gratification. John reminds us that when we pray ‘according to His will’ we will know that we have the petitions we desire of Him. A petition is a ‘formal written request addressed to a sovereign superior of a particular right or grace’.
This is what we need to do when we have a serious issue. Write out our petition by looking in the Word diligently and finding the verses that apply to the situation and listen for the direction of the Holy Spirit to check out this is God’s will for this situation. God sees the bigger picture and our hopes and plans are often very limited to a short term view and a desire for a more comfortable and easy time in the present. We can develop our petition in more detail as we listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit, this can be helped by praying in tongues (Romans 8:26-27) which cuts out our reasoning, that often gets in the way of the will of God. Expect God to reveal things from His heart to ours, He really does want us to know His will, He is not being elusive. But He wants us to seek Him with our whole hearts so we will find Him, Deuteronomy 4:29.Then we can make a formal written request by writing out all the scriptures we have found into a prayer including any ideas or impressions the Holy Spirit has given us. This takes time as the Holy Spirit develops the prayer. We need to let the Truth of what God has shown us to grow in our hearts.
Get the petition firmly in our spirit and then present it to God. As it is in our hearts with faith it should come out of our mouths, (Matthew 12:34) and our words will create the miracle spoken in the power of the Holy Spirit. We then have the written petition in front of us to encourage us to pray and be more diligent to seek God with our whole hearts for His will rather than our fleshly desires. Commit every situation to God whether big or small and have confidence that God will respond. Praise Him for the answer as this shows Him we trust Him whatever He wants to do.
Sometimes we want to determine the outcome, trying to make God answer the prayer the way we want and our loving Father has to respond with a firm ‘No’. This can be hard when we feel we are praying with the best interests from our perspective. The trouble is we don’t see the bigger picture that God has in His vast Kingdom. When we look back at times God has said ‘no’ we can be so grateful as we can see some of the wisdom of His response but we may not see this clearly until we are in eternity, 1 Corinthians 13:12. We must not stop praying the Word. When we weave God’s promises into our prayers, powerful things happen as we know we are praying ‘according to His will’. See extra notes. You can download them here:
If your brother or sister is in sin. 1 John 5:16
Having told us how to have confidence in God in prayer John now suggests who we should be praying for and what the result will be. If we see a sister commit a sin…. we should pray and God will give her Life. So this says through our prayer God will give Life. This is both physical life, like restoration of the body from sickness (James 5:16) and spiritual Life which is the new life a sinner receives after being forgiven and cleansed from his sin, 1 John 1:9. This shows how powerful our prayers are and yet our first reaction when we see someone in sin is to revel in their downfall, judge them, gossip and draw our own conclusions about them. All believers sin but this does not lead to death as God has made a way forward where there is repentance in the heart and confession with the mouth, 1 John 1:8-10.
Many Christians worry that we have committed the unforgivable ‘sin that leads to death’ which is referred to in Mark 3:29 as ‘whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit’. The fact that we are concerned is a sure sign that we have not committed this sin as someone who has truly committed this sin does not worry about it or care. It is the continuous and deliberate rejection of God, of Christ, of the Gospel and of the witness of the Holy Spirit. It is knowingly to continue to sin without repentance from the heart, which has become hardened by the constant turning away from the drawing of the Holy Spirit. We can recognise these people by their ‘fruit’ (Matthew 7:16) but at the same time we cannot be sure that they will not be forgiven. So we should continue to pray for all people that they would repent of all their sins and turn to Christ.
Ananias and Sapphira are an example of the judgement of God on a couple who ‘lied to the Holy Spirit’ Acts 5:1-11. Peter as a leader highlighted their sin giving them an opportunity to repent. Sometimes we are called by God to do this but only when it hurts us more than the receiver, making sure we are right with God in our heart before we open our mouth, Matthew 7:1-6. We also must be in a position to receive a disciplinary word from someone who sees a problem in our own lives. Our response must be grateful and gracious taking what a person says before the Lord and repenting and asking God to fill this dirty hole with His Spirit and His Love. It is always good to have a close friend to whom we are accountable and who will tell us the Truth in Love, Ephesians 4:15.
The battle is raging whether we like it or not. We need to make spiritual warfare a vital part of our prayer life. Jesus gave us the perfect example for overpowering Satan, Matthew 3:13-4:11. As soldiers we go into battle with all the protection and armour the Word tells us about, Ephesians 6:13-17. So we can put on:- His Belt of Truth; His Breastplate of God’s approval; His Shoes of the Gospel of Peace; His Shield of Faith; His Helmet of Salvation; His Sword of the Spirit.
Satan hates joyful Christians, especially when they are praising the Lord Jesus for saving them from a life of sin. One of his favourite tricks is planting doubt in our minds. He tries taking us into the past, and replaying past mistakes and errors. Alternatively he tries to project us into the future, where the path is strewn with concerns of worry and fear. But God says ‘Don’t let him steal your joy’, Nehemiah 8:10. God’s gift to us is the whole armour, a very special birthday present, received the day we were born again. Grab hold of that stray thought; don’t give it a chance to take root; cast it into the presence of God and watch it instantly be burned to a cinder, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
It’s not a case of looking at each piece of armour and deciding which to pick up. We are clothed in the whole armour of God to be used together. We do this in faith by following and ‘putting on’ the Lord Jesus Christ and trusting Him for the victory. John 14:13-14 ‘In solemn truth I tell you, anyone believing in Me shall do the same miracles I have done, and even greater ones, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask Him for anything, using My name, and I will do it, for this will bring praise to the Father because of what I, the Son, will do for you. Yes, ask anything, using My name, and I will do it!’
Our security is found in His protection. We are able to endure trials, difficulties and sufferings and come out as the winners. What great news!! Our own strength is useless, Ephesians 6:11. Remember, when we have asked Jesus into our lives it means we have changed sides, and Satan is furious, 1 Peter 5:8. He tries to savage us in our own mind, thoughts and body. He lies to us because ‘He was a murderer from the beginning and a hater of truth – there is not an iota of truth in him. When he lies, it is perfectly normal; for he is the father of liars,’John 8:44. Jesus came to earth and defeated the devil and sin. When Jesus healed, raised the dead, and cast out demons, He drew on the power of God, John 14:10. He knew God was in Him, and working through Him, John 10:30. When Jesus faced Satan and all the forces of hell on the Cross, He drew on the power of God. He didn’t rely on His own strength to bring about His Resurrection, He knew the Spirit of God would do it. That power and confidence is in us, Romans 8:11. If Jesus needed His Father’s power how much more do we need it!
As we draw on God’s power in Jesus by faith, we realise it is possible to be invincible where Satan is concerned. A soldier involved in hand-to-hand combat would be crazy going into battle without putting on his armour. As Christian soldiers the principle is the same. Put on the whole armour, Christ’s armour, ‘for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ’, Galatians 3:27.
The apostle Paul wrote, ‘The night is far gone, the day of His return will soon be here. So quit the evil deeds of darkness and put on the armour of right living, as we who live in the daylight should! Be decent and true in everything you do so that all can approve your behaviour. Don’t spend your time in wild parties and getting drunk or in adultery and lust or fighting or jealousy’, Romans 13:12-13 LB
‘Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful’. Hebrews 10:22-23
23 Confidence in prayer – 1 John 5:13-17 Challenge Questions
Read all the notes on ‘Confidence in Prayer’ -1 John 5:13-17
1. Do you just think you have eternal life or do you know without any shadow of doubt?
2. What steps will you take to find out God’s will and pray it, the next time you have a problem?
3. Do you have confidence in God for an answer? How and why?
4. Take time now to write a petition (on a separate sheet) you want to present to God. Back it with Scripture and the direction of the Holy Spirit.
5. From the section ‘If your brother or sister is in sin‘ do you understand the difference between people involved with ‘sin that leads to death’ and those whose involvement ‘does not lead to death’? Who do you think we should pray for?
6. Choose two parts of the armour and describe how you would use them today?
7. Which pieces of armour do you use the most? And which do you use the least?
Read the verses 1 John 5:18-21 for the conclusion of this epistle.
8. Give three promises in verse 18 for the person born of God.
9. According to the whole book of 1 John how do ‘we know that we are children of God’?
10. Who controls the world? Where do you see this? Where is the world not under his control?
11. Who is the one True God? Name some of His characteristics and Names from your knowledge.
12. From these names which do you find easy to accept and which do you find harder? Why?
13. Give several points of who we are in Him?
14. What is an idol? In the modern world name some idols. Are there any you have a problem with?
15. Sum up in one short sentence what you have learnt from this study.
Memory Verse. ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails.’ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8