1 John series: (post #11)
So, you say that you are a Christian. Okay, that leads me to believe that you know how to pray. But let me ask you a question: “Do you regularly receive what you request in prayer?” According to the apostle John, you should. As a matter of fact, he even named it as one of the verifiable proofs of a true salvation experience.
We find this in two passages from 1 John. The first one is 1 John 3:21-22, where John writes:
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. (N.K.J.V., boldfaced emphasis mine)
The second passage is 1 John 5:14-15, where John says concerning Jesus:
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (N.K.J.V., boldfaced emphasis mine)
Please notice that neither of these passages can be considered a “blank check” for the Christian in regards to prayer requests. To the contrary, John names multiple stipulations that factor into the whole equation. Those stipulations are:
- The Christian must keep God’s commandments. (3:22) (This kicks back to post #4 in this series.)
- The Christian must do things that are pleasing in God’s sight. (3:22)
- The Christian must ask for things that are according to God’s will. (5:14-15)
- The Christian must have a heart that does not condemn himself/herself. (3:21)
I purposely listed that one about the heart last because it requires some explaining. What exactly does John mean when he says, “…if our heart does not condemn us…”? We find the answer in 1 John 3:18-20, the verses that come just before the stipulation in question. Those verses say:
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. (N.K.J.V.)
In verse 18, John says that Christians should love in deed and in truth, not just in word or in tongue. (This kicks back to post #5 in this series.) Then, in verse 19, he says that if Christians love in this way, two things will happen. One, they will know they are of the truth. Two, they will have the assurance of their salvation in their hearts.
You see, the level of assurance a Christian has in regards to being saved, as well as the level of confidence that Christian has in regards to getting prayer requests granted, is dependent upon how that Christian lives. If he or she lives a life of merely talking about Christian love rather than actually showing it, his or her assurance of salvation and confidence in prayer will run low. John describes this as being condemned by one’s own heart. On the other hand, if that Christian loves not only in word but also in deed, his or her assurance of salvation and confidence in prayer will run high. This will keep that Christian’s heart from spitting out condemnation because of the hypocritical behavior.
Please understand that John isn’t suggesting that the Christian’s eternal standing with God is somehow swaying back and forth waiting to see whether or not that Christian shows love “in deed and in truth.” No, performance has nothing to do with a person either getting saved or staying saved. What John is saying is, “Even if you are a genuine Christian, if you aren’t showing love by your actions, you are giving yourself reason to doubt your salvation. That doubt, in turn, will cause your heart to condemn you, and that inner condemnation will keep you from having confidence that God will grant your prayer requests.”
By the way, don’t miss the fact that both of our text passages specifically use the word “confidence” in regards to the Christian asking for things in prayer. I must admit that I struggle in this department, not because I’m secretly living the life of a hypocrite but because I’ve asked God for many things that I just simply did not receive. Trust me, if enough of your prayer requests never become reality your confidence in prayer will take a hit, too. As I’ve had to do on several occasions, you’ll find yourself asking, “God, why didn’t you grant that request?”
It’s at that point that you will need 1 John 5:14-15, the second of those two passages that I cited earlier. The stipulating phrase in that passage is “according to His will.” John wants us all to know that God isn’t a cosmic Santa Claus who is only in business to grant our wish lists. For Him to grant a request, that request must be in alignment with His will. This basic tenet of prayer applies to every Christian, whether that Christian be backslidden on God or faithfully serving Him.
But let’s not get so bogged down in all these stipulations that we lose sight of the fact that receiving what you request in prayer is a major evidence of your salvation. Just as the proud earthly father of an obedient child will grant many of that child’s requests, the Christian’s heavenly Father will grant many of the requests made by His obedient child who keeps the commandments, does things that are pleasing in the Father’s sight, and lives a life of loving service to others. Even when the Christian has to wait for God to grant certain requests, God’s delays are not His denials. As James 1:17 tells us, every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from God the Father. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us in the least that it’s perfectly normal, even required, for a Christian to request things in prayer and have God grant those requests. That’s clear evidence of genuine Christianity.