1 John 5:14-15
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us:…
A very considerable amount of error prevails in regard to the answer of prayer. That answer is by many supposed to be a more tangible and ascertainable result than it really is. To answer prayer God has promised; to make the answer of prayer evident He has not promised. Religion is in all its departments a business of faith. In all that it calls us to do, we "walk by faith and not by sight." Prayer is no exception. "He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." In pursuing our subject further, then, let us consider first, that —
I. GOD IN ANSWERING OUR PRAYERS ALLOWS HIMSELF GREAT LATITUDE OF TIME. We are impatient creatures, eager for speedy and immediate results. But God is always calm, deliberate, judicious. He waiteth to be gracious, not capriciously but discreetly. A benefit often owes its chief value to its being seasonable, opportune. And the discipline of delay is frequently even a greater profit than the bliss of fruition.
II. Consider THAT THE ANSWER OF PRAYER IS WITHOUT LIMITATION IN REGARD TO THE MODE. God binds Himself to grant our requests, but He limits Himself to no particular method of granting them. God is not wont to bestow His favours, especially spiritual favours, on men directly. He far more commonly employs indirect and circuitous processes for their conveyance. Hence, we do not often perceive the success of our petitions as the fruit of God's immediate agency. We lose sight of its connection with its true source in the multiplicity of intermediate objects and events, not for the most part evidently relevant or suitable to the end. We pray for a new heart, and we expect our answer in the up springing and operation within us of new desires. Or we ask for the production or increase of some spiritual grace. But the real answer may come in changes of our external state unlooked for and unwelcome, such as will call us to toil and suffering, under the operation of which, by the secret influences of the Divine Spirit, the result we desire may be slowly and painfully developed. We looked for the blessing by immediate and easy communications; it comes under a course of prolonged and afflictive discipline.
III. Consider THAT GOD IN ANSWERING PRAYER HOLDS HIMSELF AT PERFECT LIBERTY IN REGARD TO THE SHAPE OF ITS ANSWER. Whether that which we ask for be really or only apparently good for us, or whether it be compatible with higher interests pertaining to ourselves or others must be left to His decision. "Our ignorance in asking," and especially in reference to temporal things, we ought not to overlook. In all true prayer, "the Spirit helpeth our infirmities." He will in all such cases hear us according to the Spirit's meaning, and not according to our own. The removal of a trouble, for instance, may not be so great a blessing to us as grace to bear it; and in that case God will withhold the inferior good which we ask. From all these considerations it must appear to reflecting minds that the answer of prayer must necessarily be a thing of great obscurity and of manifold disguises; and that our confidence in it, and consequent satisfaction from it, must rest far more on the Word of God than upon direct experience, observation, recognition, consciousness.
(R. A. Hallam, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: