Summary: John speaks about interceding for wayward brothers and sisters in Christ.
John tells us two things with respect to prayer in our passage for today.
1. We should pray according to God's will - vs. 14-15
What does it mean to pray "according to God's will"?
A. To approach God with a surrendered life.
"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." - Psalm 66:18 (Amplified)
If I'm honest about my sin when approaching God and claim His forgiveness (1 John 1:9), I can approach Him with confidence.
B. To approach God with a submissive heart.
Praying according to God's will means wanting His will above all else. This means I'm willing for God to answer however He desires.
C. To approach God in a Scriptural manner.
God's will never contradicts God's Word. The more I can pray in line with the Scripture, the more I can be sure I am praying "according to God's will." For example, I can be confident I am praying "according to God's will" when I pray for those who are without Christ.
"This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." - 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (NIV)
Additionally, John tells us, I can know I am praying "according to God's will" when I pray for wayward believers.
2. We should pray for the wayward - vs. 16-17
A. When Praying For A Wayward Brother Is Proper - v. 16a
1) Praying for the wayward who are among us.
John tells us here that we are to be our brother's keeper. As members of the body of Christ, we are to care for one another's spiritual welfare.
"Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works." - Hebrews 10:24 (NLT)
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." - James 5:16 (NIV)
We need to be open to asking others to intercede for us, to pray for us concerning our areas of weakness, so that we might be encouraged, strengthened, and victorious. There is not one of us who is without faults. Therefore, there isn't one of us without need for intercession.
Steve Green, the Christian vocalist, in his, "Listening Heart," shared about how he was often guilty of what he called "spiritual dishonesty." Though he desires to live a fully surrendered life to the Lord, he often falls short. He acknowledged he often pretends he is more committed than he actually is. So he said that he had gotten to where he often refers to himself as a "recovering hypocrite."
The point is that many of us need to get past the point of pretending that we "have it together" and learn to confess our faults to others and request to intercession. What a difference could be made in the body of Christ, if God's people would get sincerely honest with one another and pray for one another to be healed of our sinful struggles!
2) Praying for the wayward who are away from us.
Note the order of things as John lays them out for us here:
A) Observation - "If anyone sees his brother commit a sin"
B) Intercession - "he should pray"
C) Restoration - "God will give him life"
Here, intercession isn't requested. The intercessor takes the initiative to pray for one who maybe doesn't even realize his need to be prayed for. We need to go to God on behalf of our wayward brother, instead of gossiping about our wayward brother!