Summary: This sermon seeks to encourage believers to renew their confidence in prayer with emphasis on Petitionary and Intercessory prayer.
Would you believe that a Christian could lose confidence in prayer? Well, I contend that a Christian can. Now, for most of us we would not want to admit that we’ve lost confidence in prayer; that is perhaps because of our piousness or human pride. But a person can lose confidence in their praying. That this is true can be seen in John’s closing remarks to the community of faith gathered around him.
The apostle John wrote to restore the believers confidence in prayer. The letter of 1 John is largely written to combat false teachings that undermined the faith of believers by saying that Jesus was not fully God or by teaching that Jesus was not really human. The results of false prophets teaching false doctrine was that the joy and confidence of the believers Christian experience was being greatly disturbed. So, John wrote to restore their confidence in basic Christian certainties like prayer.
I wonder if that’s not the situation we find the church in today? Have Christians today lost confidence in prayer? When we look at attendance in mid-week prayer meetings it causes us to ask that question. When we observe the lack of persistency in praying since 9-11-01 it causes me to ask that question. Even looking at our own prayer life could cause us to ask - “Have Christians today lost confidence in prayer?” If so, John gives us encouragement towards restoring confidence in prayer.
First of all, he establishes the truth that:
I. We Need Restored Confidence In Petitionary Prayer vv.14-15
The practice of any kind of prayer is dependent upon our confidence before God. The Greek word for confidence comes from politics and has to do with the freedom of speech or the right of expression in public. It carries the idea of courage or boldness and in biblical usage acquires the meaning of confidence. It conveys the idea of a child having the freedom of speaking to his father. To restore this confidence in petitionary prayer John speaks of:
A. The Condition of Our Petitions v.14b
Verse 14b is a conditional clause indicating the condition upon which we are to pray. Whenever and whatever we pray should be according to what God has revealed to us in our relationship with Him. This could be from what He revealed through the reading of Scripture or from what He reveals through the Holy Spirit in our soul and spirit. The point is, we should pray based on the revealed will of God. We should pray based upon what we know God wants and wills for our lives, our families, His church, and His kingdom. The purpose of accomplishing the will of God on earth should ground our petition. And the will of the person praying should coincide with the will of God.
It may be that John is contrasting a youthful mistake he made in Mark 10:35-37 by asking according to what he wanted, rather than the will of God. I recall a time when I did a similar thing. God revealed His will in Bible Study through the truth: ”Understanding what I want to do through you is more important than you telling me what you want to do for me.” I then began to pray not according to His will, but mine; “Where do you want me to go?” When I should have been praying, “What do you want to do through me where I am?” Petitionary Prayer is not primarily asking God for what we want, but asking God for what He wants. To restore confidence in petitionary prayer John also speaks of:
B. The Inspiration of Our Petitions vv.14c-15
The fact that God hears us ought to inspire confidence in prayer. God is always listening. He’s more ready to hear than we are to pray. He’s more ready to hear our requests than we are a ring on the phone. He’s more ready to listen to our prayer than we are to receive a letter from the postman. Even if the answer is not immediately apparent, we can be assured God hears us and that ought to inspire us to more confident prayer.
We will be inspired with more confidence in verse 15. John is seeking to encourage us with the inspiration of assurance. The key word here is “know.” Not only do we know God hears us, but we know God answers us. It may be yes, it may be no, or it may be wait. But we can be assured that we are granted the requests which we have made of Him. God invited Solomon to ask in 1 Kings 3:5 and in verse 12 God says to Solomon, “I will do what you have asked. . . “ When God hears and grants requests we are inspired to more confident petitionary praying.