The first half of the fifth chapter of 1 John summarizes the theological arguments of the book. Here, John explains that genuine faith is composed of three elements: belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; love for one’s Christian brothers and sisters; and obedience to God’s commands. If one or two of those elements are missing, one’s faith is incomplete.
The result of genuine faith is “life in the son” (1 John 5:11-12). As children of God we can be confident that we have life in the son (1 John 5:13). The theological argument is complete. Now what do we do with what we’ve learned? How is it applied and fleshed out in everyday life?
John provides three final points of application as he concludes chapter 5. Each corresponds with a key element of faith, the first of which is believing prayer.
“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for” (1 John 5:14-15, NLT).
John’s emphasis in these verses is that those who possess genuine faith can have confidence in approaching God in prayer. Our confidence is not based on our goodness, but on the goodness of God. The temptation we face is to take verses like these and turn them into a formula that guarantees we will get what we want from God. But notice how God’s response is conditioned. We must ask in accordance to his will. If we ask according to his will, he hears us. The word “hear” means that God will listen favorably. If God hears a request that is in accordance to his will, he will grant it.
John R.W. Stott wrote these words about this text: “Prayer is not so much getting God to agree with us as it is subordinating our will to his. It is the process of prayer where we seek God will, embrace it and align ourselves to it.”
Sometimes I hear people say that prayer changes things. I think a better way to think of prayer is that prayer changes the pray-er.
So how does God answer prayer? I’m thankful for Bill Hybels’ answer. According to Hybels, If the request is wrong, God says, “no.” If the timing is wrong, God says, “slow.” If my spiritual condition is wrong, God says, “grow.” But when the request is right, the timing is right, and my spiritual condition is right, God says, “go!” The request is granted.
Tomorrow I’ll take up the second application, loving carefrontation. (That’s not a typo!)