1 John 3:21-22

As we face up to our responsibility, not just to love ourselves, our sisters in Christ, those who hate us and our enemies, but also to look at the bigger, poorer world, we have to look at love from a much bigger perspective. We need to see through our loving Father’s eyes and also see how Jesus sees. It was His love for us that reinforced His willingness to sacrifice His life in the pain and suffering of crucifixion. Such love challenges us to lay down our lives completely for this amazing life where, of ourselves, we can do nothing.

We can choose to be empowered daily to rise early, so that we can connect with God by the power of His Holy Spirit. We can give the whole day to Him, doing all He wants done in the day and doing it in His way, knowing that, if we have any wrong thought or action, we can immediately apologise and decide we will never do it again and move on. At the same time, we know that we do not need to stress about what does not get done, because it has been God’s day and we can only do what He wanted done. All the rest has to be cast on Him for another day.

Does our conscience condemn us?

The acid test of being a true Christian is the test of love. Has our experience of Christ made us more loving towards people, so that others notice how His love flows through us? God’s people need to love and support each other because we really need each other when any form of opposition comes. That is why we have a conscience. It helps us to know in our newborn spirit whether or not we are obeying God’s commands. When we have the confidence that we are walking with Him, it also proves that we really do love Him first and foremost. (1 John 2:6) The love that God has put in us is the evidence of having passed from death to life. (Romans 5:5) It is this love that is our strength and foundation (although we should also be aware that a life well lived can also provoke anger and hostility in those outside God's kingdom).

John encourages us yet again to "keep short accounts" with God. Sometimes our hearts condemn us and we say to ourselves things like, "I am not worthy to be a child of God!" or "God could never use me because I have really messed up". We come short of God’s (and our own) standards and so we enter a downward spiral of self–condemnation. But Jesus knows our repeated sins: the self-will, rebellion and disappointments that hold sway in our hearts, sink our hopes and frustrate our desires, yet still He loves us. There are no secrets between us and God, which should be a great comfort to us. (Psalm 139:1-24) This allows us to take everything to Him first and see things from a new perspective: His perspective on our situation. If there is sin, we confess it. (1 John 1:9) If there is no sin, but we feel ourselves under condemnation, then we change our thinking to align with what He says in His word. (Philippians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 10:5) God knows everything about us and still wants us to be His children and a part of His family.

Restoring our relationship

Sometimes condemnation can become a great weight on our shoulders. Our Christian walk gets heavier and we get more weighed down by it as we focus on our weakness, failings and on tough circumstances rather than on Jesus Himself. We lose our joy and life seems too tough. We function in a legalistic way and feel tired and depressed. At such times, we need to get hold of this truth: God is greater than our hearts. (1 John 3:20) He knows everything, but will not condemn us. (Romans 8:1) We need to pray, soaking up His presence and asking Him to reveal if there is any sin in our life. If He does not reply, either through the inner voice of our conscience or through His word, then we need to recognise that we have been listening to "the accuser of the children of God". (Revelation 12:10) Once we know that the relationship with our Heavenly Father has been restored, we can worship Him in our spirit with singing. (John 4:23) We can also pray in tongues to lift our spirit. (Romans 14:14; Romans 8:26-27) Joy is the supernatural, spiritual force that gives us our strength. (Nehemiah 8:10) When we praise God, it silences our enemy. (Psalm 8:2)

Very often, we need to act in faith and remember that feelings follow faith. We must not allow our feelings to overwhelm us. The more we practise just coming to God in prayer by faith, the easier it will become to set us back on the right path again. This is such an important part of our everyday Christian walk. We can waste so much of our time listening to what is going on in our head, bringing our activity and our relationship with God to a standstill because we feel so condemned.

Confidence in God

Once we recognise that God does not condemn us, so we need not condemn ourselves either, we can have a real sense of confidence before God and our hearts will be at rest. "Therefore, since we are justified [acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God] through faith, let us [grasp the fact that we] have [the peace of reconciliation to hold and to enjoy] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ [the Messiah, the Anointed One]. Through Him also we have [our] access [entrance, introduction] by faith into this grace [state of God's favour] in which we [firmly and safely] stand." (Romans 5:1-2 Amplified version) We can hold our heads up because of what Jesus has done and who we are in Him.

Because we obey God’s commands and abide in Him, we can ask Him for anything and we will receive it. (John 15:7) Because our conscience is clear, we can be confident that our prayers will be led by the Holy Spirit. If God does not give us exactly what we ask for, it is because we have not heard Him correctly. (James 4:3) Nevertheless, God will always give us some answer to our prayers: "yes", "no" or "wait". He will always give us what is needed for our spiritual growth. Conversely (to what John is saying), if we do not obey His commands and do not live according to His will, then our prayers will be in vain.

So, for our prayers to receive a positive response from our loving Father, we must first be obedient to His word. Secondly, we must pray in faith, believing that He will respond. (Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24) Thirdly, we need to pray according to His will and the easiest way of doing this is to follow closely the prayers that we see recorded in His word. (1 John 5:14-15) This is why Christians all over the world regularly pray "The Lord's Prayer". (Matthew 6:9-13) Finally, we need to pray in Jesus’ name because His "name" (the use of His authority) is the only reason we are allowed to "approach the throne of grace with confidence and receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16; Ephesians 2:18)

If we make Jesus our Lord, we have access to the throne of almighty God. He has every solution to every problem we will ever have and He is just waiting for us to come to Him, so that He can give us the answer. It may take some private time alone with Him, but He will never disappoint us. Let's be confident!

How should we pray?

In Luke 11:1, we read that Jesus' disciples asked this same question. Look at how Jesus replied to them. In Matthew 6:5-15, the picture is made even clearer. There are clearly four examples of things that we should not do and four examples of things that we should do in this one short passage.

Check out what His word says:

  • Matthew 6:5 - DO NOT be like the...
  • Matthew 6:7-8 - DO NOT...
  • Matthew 6:7-8 - DO NOT be like the...
  • Matthew 6:14-15 - DO NOT...

BUT, when you pray

  • Matthew 6:6 - DO GO...
  • Matthew 6:6 - DO close the...
  • Matthew 6:14-15 - DO forgive...
  • Matthew 6:6 - DO pray to your Father...

According to Jesus, our prayers should be simple and uncomplicated. The key point to bear in mind comes in Matthew's gospel where He says: "not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39) It is not about us asking for what we want, but allowing God to tell us what He wants, what we need to do about it and, therefore, what He has decided to give us. Another important thing about prayer is that we should "pray continually". (1 Thessalonians 5:17) We need to be in constant communion with God. Take a few minutes just now to soak in His presence. He is with us everywhere at every moment, whether we are aware of it or not.

Conditions for success in prayer

  1. Pray in God's will; (1 John 5:14)
  2. Have a clear, controlled mind; (1 Peter 4:7)
  3. Be cleansed of sin; (James 5:16)
  4. Be at peace with your family; (1 Peter 3:7)
  5. Confess all sin; (Isaiah 59:1-2)
  6. Pray with humility; (Luke 18:14)
  7. Pray with faith; (Mark 11:23-24)
  8. Have a forgiving attitude; (Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:25)
  9. Pray obediently every day; (1 John 3:21-22)
  10. Pray persistently; (Luke 18:7)
  11. Don't pray when you're angry or in dispute with someone; (1 Timothy 2:8)
  12. Be submissive. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Prayer is everything

Prayer is probably our most important activity because nothing should be done without it. It is the best way to grow our relationship with our Father. It involves many forms: praise, worship, confession, waiting, listening to God, praying in line with His word, intercession (praying for others), meditation and many others. Jesus prayed and taught His followers to do the same. His life was one of constant prayer and there are numerous references to Him praying. (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12)

An amazing example of confidence in God is seen in 1 Samuel 17:4-51. David, who was just a young shepherd boy, had such a heart for God that, when he saw the giant Goliath was causing great fear throughout the whole camp of Israel and bringing the power of God into question, he decided to act. David knew what God had done for him previously in his job as a shepherd - how God had helped him kill lions and bears that came to carry off his father’s sheep. He knew that Goliath was an enemy of God who wanted to kill God’s "sheep", so his boldness rose up from within him and he declared: "the Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." (1 Samuel 17:37)

David was not distracted by his brother Eliab’s jealousy or Saul’s doubts. (1 Samuel 17:28; 1 Samuel 17:33) He chose not to have any additional protection but relied totally on the word of God alone. "I come against you in the Name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied." (1 Samuel 17:45) David knew the God in whom he had confidence. He simply looked at Goliath and instead of thinking, "he is too big for me to destroy", he looked at him with a heart brimming with faith (because of all God had done for him in his short life) and thought, "he is too big to miss". David killed Goliath with a single, small stone in his sling shot and with the word spoken out of his mouth.

Whatever "giant" of finance, health, relationships or any other kind of problem we may be facing, let us seek God’s word and what He is saying about it. We can "remind" God of the promise in His word by repeating it aloud. We can also speak out God’s answer, rather than describing how big the problem is, even if this seems ridiculous. As we guard our tongue, so is success crafted. Our speech has the creative power to change the situation, to silence the enemy and increase our faith. We need to declare the success we are expecting to see, before we actually see it.

"Jesus, replying, said to them: 'have faith in God [constantly]. Truly I tell you, whoever says to this mountain, be lifted up and thrown into the sea! and does not doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it will be done for him. For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe [trust and be confident] that it is granted to you, and you will [get it]. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop [leave it, let it go], in order that your Father who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop’." (Mark 11:22-25 Amplified version)

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