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:…
And this is the confidence that we have in him, etc. We have in our text.
I. AN ASSURANCE THAT GOD HEARS PRAYER. "This is the boldness that we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us." Prayer is much more than petition. Canon Liddon admirably defines it: "Prayer is the act by which man, conscious at once of his weakness and of his immortality, puts himself into real and effective communication with the Almighty, the Eternal, the self-existent God.... Prayer is not only - perhaps in some of the holiest souls it is not even chiefly - a petition for something that we want and do not possess. In the larger sense of the word, as the spiritual language of the soul, prayer is intercourse with God, often seeking no end beyond the pleasure of such intercourse. It is praise; it is congratulation; it is adoration of the Infinite Majesty; it is a colloquy in which the soul engages with the All-wise and the All-holy; it is a basking in the sunshine, varied by ejaculations of thankfulness to the Sun of Righteousness for his light and his warmth Prayer is not, as it has been scornfully described, 'only a machine warranted by theologians to make God do what his clients want;' it is a great deal more than petition, which is only one department of it: it is nothing less than the whole spiritual action of the soul turned towards God as its true and adequate Object.... It is the action whereby we men, in all our frailty and defilement, associate ourselves with our Divine Advocate on high, and realize the sublime bond which in him, the one Mediator between God and man, unites us in our utter unworthiness to the strong and all-holy God." Such is prayer in its highest and largest significance. But in our text prayer is viewed simply as petition. "If we ask anything;... whatsoever we ask.... the petitions which we have asked of him." Notice:
1. The offering of prayer. This implies
(1) consciousness of need. How many are man's wants! Regular supplies for the requirements of the body, forgiveness of sin, daily guidance and grace, reliable hope as to our future, etc. We are creatures of constant and countless necessities. Every moment we are dependent upon the power and grace of the Supreme. The exercise of prayer implies
(2) belief that God is able and willing to supply our needs. Without this faith man would never address himself in his times of need to God. Moreover, the "we" of our text refers to Christians, even unto them "that believe on the Name of the Son of God" (verse 13). Their belief in the reality of prayer springs out of their faith in Christ. And the exercise of prayer is an expression of their spiritual life.
2. The hearing of prayer. How marvelous is the fact that God hears the innumerable prayers that are ever being presented unto him! None but an Infinite Being could hear them. And a Being of infinite intelligence cannot fail to observe every longing which is directed towards him. No utterance whatever escapes the Divine ear. None but a gracious Being would regard the prayers which are offered by such unworthy suppliants. Great is the condescension of God in attending to our requests. That he does graciously hear and attend to them is repeatedly declared in the sacred Scriptures (see 2 Samuel 22:7; Psalm 22:4, 5, 24; Psalm 30:2, 8-12; Psalm 31:22; Psalm 34:4-6; Psalm 50:15; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 18:1-8; John 16:23, 24; James 1:5; James 5:16).
II. AN IMPORTANT LIMITATION OF THE SCOPE OF ACCEPTABLE PRAYER. "If we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us."
1. This limitation is necessary. God's will is supreme. The well-being of the universe is bound up with the execution of his will. Therefore he cannot grant the petitions which are not in harmony therewith. This limitation is necessary also, inasmuch as different suppliants may be seeking from him at the same time things which are thoroughly opposed to each other. Thus in time of war between two Christian nations, prayer is presented to God for the success of each of the contending armies. The requests of both cannot be granted.
2. This limitation is beneficial. The judicious and kind parent does not give to his child the thing which he asks for, if it will prove hurtful or perilous to him. In our ignorance we may pray to God for such things as would be injurious to us, in which case it is well for us to be denied. Thus the request of St. Paul was not granted, though his prayer was graciously answered (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). On the other hand, the clamorous cry of the unbelieving and self-willed Israelites for flesh was acceded to, to their sore injury (Numbers 11:4-6, 31-34; Psalm 106:15).
3. This limitation allows a large sphere for the exercise of prayer. There are many things which we know are "according to his will," and these are the most important things; e.g., supplies for bodily and temporal needs, forgiveness of sins, grace to enable us to do or to bear his will, guidance in our quest of truth and in our way of life, the sanctification of our being, and possession of an inheritance in heaven. We may seek the salvation of others, the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, and the final triumph of his cause throughout the world. These and other things we know accord with his will.
III. AN ASSURANCE THAT THE THINGS SOLICITED IN SUCH PRAYERS WILL BE GRANTED. "And if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him." Alford calls attention to the present,... "we have the petitions," with the perfect, "which we have asked of him." "The perfect reaches through all our past prayers to this moment. All these 'we have;' not one of them is lost: he has heard, he has answered them all: we know that we have them in the truest sense, in possession." It is important to bear in mind here the character of those to whom St. John writes. They are genuine Christians; possessors of Jesus Christ, and of eternal life in him. Their will is that God's will may be done. In them is fulfilled the inspiring assurance of the sacred psalmist: "Delight thyself in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." In whomsoever this character is realized, the desires are in harmony with the will of God, and the things solicited in prayer are such as God takes pleasure in bestowing and man is blessed in receiving. And this assurance which the apostle expresses is confirmed by the experience of the godly in all ages (cf. Exodus 32:11-14, 31-34; Numbers 11:1, 2; 1 Kings 17:17-24; 1 Kings 18:42-45; 2 Kings 4:28-36; Psalm 116:1-8; Isaiah 38:1-8; Daniel 9:20-23; Acts 12:1-17). Let us seek a character like that indicated by the apostle (verses 11-13), and then this inspiring and strengthening "confidence toward God" may be ours also. - W.J.
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: