1 John 5:13 – 15
A reason for confidence (v 13)
I’ve mentioned here before, that quite frequently, at funerals, After the event,
After I’ve preached about the confidence we can have for life and even for death through the death of Jesus in our place,
After I’ve said those tremendous words spoken by Jesus on his way to the graveside of his friend Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;
When we get to the , morning tea and biscuits bit, people will often say to me,
“I wish I had your faith.”
“I wish I had your confidence.”
“I wish I could be sure about the things that you seem to be very sure about.”
And maybe you’ve heard those words, from somebody close to you. Maybe someone who’s realised that their worldview isn’t up to the task of helping them navigate life as they experience it.
Because there are plenty of challenges to people’s worldviews aren’t there?
The more I speak to people, the more I find that every day, things happen that undermine people’s confidence.
The framework that people have established to look at the world, and make sense of the world, stuff happens, and they’re no longer able to make sense of what they see and experience.
People’s confidence is undermined.
Even the tragedy here on the oval a week ago, because it was reported in the media that it was a church event, I was inundated with phone calls and messages from people who know that our church meets at Cornerstone.
And so I had conversation after conversation with people, whose confidence had been shaken, “How can something like that happen?”
What can I have confidence in,
What can I rely on,
What can I be certain about, if this is the kind of thing that life can throw at us.
“I wish I had your faith.”
“I wish I had your confidence.”
If your friends have said that to you, I wonder how you’ve responded, or how you think you might respond, if someone did say that to you.
And I don’t want to suggest for a moment that being certain about Christian things means having all the answers, but the section of the letter from the Apostle John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, that we just heard read, it’s all about having confidence.
And we’re at the end of the letter, kind of into the postscript, the PS.
PS, John says, let me remind you of the confidence you can have. And it’s actually taken him until this point to state explicitly why he’s writing,
PS, I write these things, so that you may know that you have eternal life
And just listen to the language of confidence and assurance through this section:,
This is the confidence we have, verse 14
Verse 15, twice he tells them what Christian people can be assured of, we know, and we know
Verse 18, we know,
Verse 19, we know,
Verse 20, we know.
Here’s a part of the Bible about having confidence, about being sure. Here are things that we can be certain about, even if life doesn’t follow the path that we expected,
Here are things that we can speak confidently about to friends and family, the certainty that the message of Jesus offers them.
So that statement we started with, “I wish I had your faith”
Maybe this morning that’s actually you!
Maybe you don’t know what it is to have confidence about God,
About eternal life,
And so maybe you’re here this morning to try and find some of this out.
Or maybe your question about confidence is the question we’ve set ourselves today, how can we pray confidently?
How can we ask God for things, with any kind of confidence that he hears us, that he cares, that he’ll give us what we want or need?
I’m sure you noticed that what John has to say about confidence in our prayers, sits within the context of being confident in our relationship with God more broadly.
When it comes to prayer, John’s not talking about the kind of confidence the average person walking down the main street of Mount Barker will have, he’s talking about people who are confident in their relationship with God, being able to pray confidently.
So we’ll start broadly, as John does, and follow his narrowing focus down to this question of praying confidently.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life
To some people it seems incredibly arrogant for a Christian to speak of having confidence,
To say, “I know that I have eternal life, that God will welcome me in.”
And it’s definitely possible to talk about this confidence in a way that sounds arrogant. But what is the basis for this confidence that John says is his reason for writing?
Who are the people who can have this kind of certainty?
Does John say, “I am writing to you, good, moral, upright people, so that you may know you have eternal life?”
Or, “I’m writing to you who turn up to things, whose names are on the church rosters, you who give your money to gospel work, so that you people may have the confidence of eternal life”?
Does he say, “I am writing to you, who have had some kind of spiritual experience, you’re the ones, who have reason to be sure about eternal life”?
He doesn’t say any of that, does he?
And here’s the essence of the Christian message;,
It’s not how good you are that gives you confidence,
Not how much you do for God,
Whether you were brought up in a Christian family,
Or whether you’ve been to church every Sunday since you were born.
It would be arrogant, if I thought that I obtained eternal life by any of those means.
Imagine that! You stand before God at the Pearly Gates and you say, “you’re gonna have to let me in God, I’ve been such a stand up guy!”
Back in 1979 Billy Graham was in Australia, and Mike Willessee, who always seems to have had a great interest in matters of faith interviewed him on TV. And he asked "Do you think you'll be going to heaven?"
And without missing a beat, Billy Graham answers, "I don't just think I'm going to heaven, I know I'm going to heaven."
And you see Mike Willessee’s eyes kind of widen with surprise at the fact that someone could have this kind of confidence about a relationship with God.
But Billy Graham goes on, “It's not cause I'm Billy Graham and I've preached to a few people in my time.
And it's not because I'm a good man, I know what my future holds because I'm trusting Jesus. And he's promised it.”
See, Billy Graham knows what John says here, that confidence before God doesn’t come from ourselves, it comes only through believing in Jesus and what he accomplished in his life and death and resurrection.
We find in the Bible that the name of someone is representative for who they are,
Think of a king’s signet ring, bearing the mark of their identity, which, like we see in the book of Esther, could be given to someone else who then exercised vast power, in the name of the king.
I was trying to think if there was any kind of circumstance where my name, was kind of representative of me, that if you spoke my name, something would happen.
The only think I could come up with, was that if walked into Sazon Espresso in the main street, and said you were ordering for Clayton, the staff there would know exactly who you’re talking about, and how to make my coffee.
The name of Jesus communicates not just something of who he is, it stands for everything about him.
To believe in the name of the Son of God, is to trust Jesus’ claims about himself,
To believe the eye-witness testimony of his life and ministry,
To trust his offer for forgiveness and reconciliation with God,
And therefore to know, that you have eternal life
Our confidence for eternal life comes through believing in Jesus,
In his words,
In his life,
In his death and resurrection, everything that is summed up in , his name.
How to pray with confidence
Confidence in prayer comes from trusting in Jesus
But John the zooms in on what we want to focus on today, This question of how we can pray with confidence.
And so he says that as well as Christian people having the assurance of eternal life because we trust in Jesus, this relationship with God that comes to us through Jesus, allows us to pray with confidence.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us
Verse 14 actually begins with one of the most common words in the Bible, the little word kai, which is usually translated “and”. If you have an English Standard Version, you’ll see that’s how verse 14 begins.
The NIV translators have skipped it, because they want to break things up into manageable chunks for us. But the word is a conjunction which joins verses 13 and 14 together,
It means believing in Jesus, as well as giving us the confidence of eternal life, this relationship also gives us confidence to pray.
So it reads something like this, I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life., AND This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us
Confidence, in approaching God.
When John speaks of approaching God, he uses the same language that he put in chapter 1 verse 1 of his gospel, in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was , with God.
That’s the word here. It means more than approaching, it really means, “in the presence of.”
Because we believe in the name of the Son of God, we have confidence, in the presence of God.
Just , feel that for a moment,
When John tries to describe the situation that you and I have, because of our faith in Jesus,
The access to God that we have,
The relationship with God that we know,
The fact that our prayers can be heard, he can’t think of a better way of describing that, than with the word that he also uses to describe the Son of God’s eternal relationship with his Father.
In the beginning, the pre-incarnate Christ was with God,
This is the confidence we have, with God.
Now, it’s not that everything about the relationship between God the Father and God the Son is true of our relationship with God.
But if John chooses that language, that level of access and intimacy, to describe the confidence we can have when we pray, surely that tells us something, about where we stand with God, because we believe in Jesus,
Because, through his death in our place, Jesus ushers us into the very throne room of God.
One night this week when we were praying with our kids, one of them said to Kathy, “Mummy, you didn’t start by saying ‘Dear God’, you just started talking!”, so you can see we’re raising little legalists in our household!
But the question of where prayer actually starts is a good one!
Prayer doesn’t start the moment we open our mouths,
Prayer starts with us being accepted by God through Jesus.
Since you know, that you have eternal life,
Since you know that you have been brought near to God,
Since you know who God is, the profound lengths he went to in order to bring you near, and make himself known to you,
You can pray with great confidence.
See, a Christian person, someone who believes in the name of the Son of God, doesn’t pray in the hope that God will hear them.
You, friends, if you’re a Christian, can pray with confidence, in the presence of God, knowing that the eternal relationship with God you have already entered into through Jesus, gives you every reason to bring your requests to him.
Ebrahim Moosa is the Professor of Islamic Studies at Notre Dame University in the US. He’s recognized as a global leader in Muslim thought and scholarship, and is considered one of the most influential Muslims in the world.
And so I thought as we consider the confidence that people who trust in Jesus can have as we pray, it would be interesting to hear what this leading scholar says about how a Muslim person can gaing confidence in prayer.
This is what Professor Moosa says about the salat , the pattern of daily prayers that Muslims are expected to pray.
“, if you keep that chain of communication with God in good order, then all good things will come into your life.
Once you have , done your prayers, with a great deal of sincerity , concentration, and fulfillment, you get , God's attention."
A world leader in Islamic thought and he says, the only way you can be confident in approaching God, is when you’re sure that you’ve found the right words,
You’ve maintained the right level of concentration, and you’ve summoned up the right emotions;, a suitable degree of sincerity.
It couldn’t be further from what John says though, could it?
You may have seen some of the furore in the media before Christmas about a Christian university in the US standing down a professor for stating that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
Well, even in this one area of how we approach God in prayer, these 2 religions couldn’t be more different could they?
I don’t pray confidently because I’ve earned the right to get God’s attention.,
I don’t pray confidently because I’ve demonstrated competency in all the required criteria,
I pray confidently, because I trust in Jesus, because of what he has achieved for me.
And if you trust in Jesus, you too can pray confidently.
And if you don’t know Jesus but you would love to be able to engage with God, and actually be able to ask confidently for things, let me challenge you with that question of whether or not you’re willing to believe in the name of the Son of God.
I was listening to a sermon recently, and the preacher said, “I don’t believe in the power of prayer”, and I did a bit of a double-take, because I know the preacher, and that’s not what I was expecting him to say! But he went on, “I don’t believe in the power or prayer, I believe in the power of the God who hears our prayers.”
But it’s not the words that give us confidence,
But that Jesus has brought us into God’s presence.
Confidence in prayer comes through praying according to God's will v 14
But the confidence doesn’t stop there, does it? John says our confidence in prayer is linked to the fact that we ask according to God’s will.
if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
Here’s where we find out exactly which prayers are heard and answered;
The things that we ask, that are according to God’s will.
In his letter the Romans, chapter 12 verse 2, the Apostle Paul says that God’s will is good, pleasing, and perfect.
And so when it comes to prayer, if, as John assures us here, God is just busting to answer prayers that are according to his will, it means that God wants to answer prayers that are all about what’s best for us, the things that are good, pleasing, and perfect.
Of course this is all very easy when it’s in the abstract,
When this is much more difficult, is when we’re praying for the things that are closest to our hearts.
When we’re praying for people who don’t know Jesus,
When we’re praying that God would heal people we love.
When we’re praying for relationships and marriages that are unraveling.
In those situations, in the midst of those prayers, it’s hard to accept that what we so desperately want, may not be what our heavenly Father wills.
But to pray according to his will, means to pray, recognizing the infinite wisdom of God,
That his will is perfect,
That he has the best interests of us and all his children at heart,
And that where our will and God’s will differ, we subordinate our will to his.
Praying according to God’s will means submitting our will to his
And that can be hard.
And that can involve lots of tears,
And that can mean saying to God, “I want this particular outcome.
And I don’t know why you would choose some other outcome,
But even though I don’t understand your plans and purposes in this particular aspect, I accept your will, and I’ll pray, like Jesus, ‘not my will, but yours’.”
And if you’ve ever prayed something like that, and I know lots of you have, you’ll know how hard that is!
But think for a moment, about the alternative, the only alternative.
If we’re not willing, to submit our wills to God’s will, as hard as that is, then it means we’d have to pray something like this:,
Heavenly Father, it seems that your will and my will here are different. And so I pray, that you will not act according to your good, pleasing and perfect will,
I pray that you will, in this instance, not work, for my best interests,
That you will ignore your knowledge of all the factors surrounding this situation that I cannot see,
And that you will bring about my will, my imperfect will, My will, like every aspect of my person, tainted by sin. Amen.
Now, I’m not trying to make light of this, but do you see what it is, to pray anything other than, according to God’s will,
What it means to refuse to submit our will to God’s?
Sometimes God in his wisdom, and kindness, and sovereignty, says “no” to what we ask. But knowing as we do that God’s will is good, and pleasing and perfect, we can be assured that God’s not denying our request because he just can’t be bothered,
Or because we haven’t used the right words,
Or because he’s reluctant to give us good things.
We know that God the Father didn’t take away the bitter cup of judgment from his Son, Jesus, even though Jesus prayed through the night, in prayers that brought sweat like drops of blood falling to the ground.
He didn’t take that cup of punishment from Jesus, but because of that, took it away from all of his people.
God didn’t take away what Paul described as a thorn in his flesh, a messenger from Satan that tormented him, despite the fact that Paul repeatedly prayed for deliverance.
Instead, God used that torment in order for Paul to understand more deeply God’s grace and to rejoice in his own weakness.
Friends, do you think we can, together as we pray, help each other acknowledge God’s good and perfect will, even in the midst of unanswered prayers?
I think this also means we ought to encourage each other to keep praying. Paul prayed multiple times for that thorn in his flesh to be taken away,
And the truth is we may not know, whether God’s saying “No, I’m not going to answer that prayer because my will is for something else, something better”, or if God is going to say “yes”, just at some point in the future.
We need to keep praying.
How do we work out what God’s will is?
But is there a shortcut to finding out what is in God’s will?
Well, according to something I read this week there is. This is one little kid’s take on it;,
Because God has so much to do and so many people to look after, you shouldn't go wasting His time by going over your parent's head asking for something they said you couldn't have.
Well, beyond asking, did Mum or Dad already say, “no”, how do we know whether we’re praying according to God’s will?
Broadly speaking we know exactly what God’s will is, that is, we know what God is working towards in the world;, for the Son to bring glory to the Father.
That was the condition, if you like, attached to prayer in John 14, wasn’t it? I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
That’s God’s big picture for the world,
And for us, the Bible tells us that it’s God’s will that we live holy lives,
That we become more and more like Christ, .
Living self-controlled and upright lives,
Standing against temptation and against the Devil’s schemes,
Persevering in the face of suffering,
Producing the fruit of the Spirit,
And to be found standing mature and ready at the day of Christ’s return.
The Scriptures are clear what God’s will for us is, and if we pray according to the Scriptures, where God has made his plans and purposes known, here we have the promise that God will answer.
If you pray, for example, for strength to resist temptation, God will answer your prayer.
If you pray for sanctification, to become more holy, more given over to Christ-likeness, God will answer your prayer.
Just down a little bit, in verse 16, John gives an example of the kind of prayer that God answers.
If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life
If you pray, God will hear.
David Jackman, who trains church leaders in the UK, one said
Our prayer is never on a surer foundation, than when it is grounded in Scripture, for here God’s will is revealed.
If we want to pray in line with God’s will, we pray according to the Scriptures.
But as I said, we don’t always know in the specifics of some situation, what God’s will is. We don’t know, for example who God will call into a relationship with himself
But I wonder, if the reason we feel that we don’t know what God’s will is, when it comes to our prayers, is because the areas where God hasn’t made his intentions known to us, make up a much larger proportion of our prayers, than those areas where God has been absolutely clear what his will is.
Does the focus of our prayers need to shift?, Not that that we stop praying for these areas where we don’t know what the answer will be;,
The salvation of others,
But that we ought to be praying more for things that perhaps we’ve neglected, but where God has told us exactly what his will for us is;
Our ongoing sanctification,
The bearing of the fruit of the Spirit,
God the Father being glorified in the Son.
And I think the more we pray these things, again, I’m not saying we neglect those other kinds of prayer points, but the more we seek after God’s revealed will, and pray for the things God has said he longs for us and for the world, the more we’ll be able to discern what God’s will is likely to be in all those other areas of life, and so we learn how to pray with confidence in those situations too.
Confidence in Prayer means we know that we have what we ask. ( v15)
John makes one more statement about our confidence in prayer, And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
So is this where I can pray for my Ferrari?
I think a Ferrari would fit rather nicely in the garage next to the Falcon. I don’t know how you get child seats in the back of a Ferrari, but that’s an uncertainty I’m prepared to live with!
Is this my in?
All I need to do is ask, and I’ll get it?
Some years ago I heard one of the most popular TV evangelists say “Years ago they used to preach, 'O we are going to walk on streets of gold.' , I would say, 'I don't need the gold up there. I've got to have it down here.'"
whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
If we lift verse 15 out if its context here, its’ easy to go away thinking, “no matter what I ask for, I’ll get it!”
I’d better go home and start clearing out the garage!
But fortunately in this verse, the NIV shows us the link to what’s come previously by leaving in that same little conjunction, the and that’s in the original.
Verse 15 isn’t a separate teaching unit.
It’s not talking about a separate category of prayers, as if verse 14 is about praying according to God’s will, but verse 15 is about just any prayer that God hears.
John is teaching us,
If we’re praying like he urges us to,
Praying in accordance with God’s will,
Praying in a way that willingly submits our wills and desires to God’s, then we know that he hears us.
For God to hear, is for God to respond. This isn’t like the teenager who hears their parents, but ignores them.
And so if you want some encouragement, that God does hear your prayers, this is the language that’s used to describe God hearing the cries of Israel in slavery in Egypt, and putting into motion his great rescue plan.
That’s what it is for God to hear!
Your prayers, and the cries of the people of Israel that led God to that great act of salvation, can be lumped in together with the same language.
But what John really emphasizes here, is the present reality of answered prayer: We have what we ask for.
When John says we have, He’s talking about the present state of affairs.
He’s not looking at something we may have at some point in the future,
Not even something we will have in the future,
There’s lots of talk these days, visualise what you’re praying for,
Act as if you already have it, even when you don’t,
Picture yourself having your prayer answered,
And it’s mostly nonsense,
But the Bible promises something even more.
I have my glasses on.
When I say that I’m not making a statement about whether or not I had them on when we were setting up this morning,
I’m not making a statement about whether I’ll have them on when we’re having our picnic later.
But now, I have my glasses on.
That’s how John describes the answers to our prayers. Present reality.
We’re having some issues with our Internet connection at home, and so I’ve been in touch with the Internet people to try and sort it out, and when I log in to see where things are up to, I can see that my request is pending.
And it’s been pending for a couple of weeks.
I said what I wanted,
And now it’s pending, while the Internet people decide what they want to do,
What they’re able to do,
What else they want from me,
What does John tell us here?
There’s no pending status with prayer.
If we’re praying as he teaches us to, there’s no pending,
No waiting on hold,
No having to get back in touch to see where things are up to, while God makes up his mind whether or not he’s going to give us what we ask.
Sure, from our perspective, the outworking of the answer might take some time. I know people who have died, without seeing the effect of their prayers.
But John wants us to know, that God is not going to string us along, waiting for us to stumble onto the right words,
Or for us to develop the right level of sincerity,
Or for God to be feeling particularly generous,
We know that we have whatever we ask.
And even though we know from the Scriptures that John himself prayed prayers he never saw the answers to, such is his confidence in prayer, that comes from his trust in Jesus and the relationship has with God through Jesus he can speak of things he has never seen, as if he’s holding them in his hands already.
In 1968 Paul Simon wrote the song Mrs Robinson, “Here’s to you Mrs Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know,
God bless you please Mrs Robinson, heaven holds a place for those who pray.”
Now, I like Paul Simon, but he’s actually got it , the wrong way round, hasn’t he?
Our place in heaven isn’t determined by our prayers, our prayers are shaped, given confidence, by the place we enjoy in heaven.