Summary: Learn to pray more effectively with these two keys to prayer from John
Our text for this morning is 1 John 5:14-17. Next week we will have our last message from 1 John. If you’ve been with us, you would know that John is quite concerned with helping his readers know how to tell apart those who belong to God and those who don’t belong to God.
This morning, John wants to remind us that if we belong to God, we can have confidence in making requests of God. We call this prayer.
Jay Kesler, in his book, Raising Responsible Kids, records one of his prayer experiences. He writes, "Shortly after I got my driver’s license I was driving too close to the middle of a narrow road and I sideswiped another car. The crash tore the front fender, two doors, and the rear fender from my dad’s car. After I found out everyone was okay, I stood in the ditch and prayed, ’Dear God, I pray this didn’t happen.’
He continues, "I opened my eyes and saw that the car was still wrecked, so I closed my eyes, squinted real hard, and prayed again, ’Dear God, it didn’t happen.’ Then I opened my eyes, but it happened anyway."
This kind of prayer experience can lead one to think, "Why even pray?" Does prayer really work? Why do some prayers seem to get answered and others do not? John has some answers for us in this morning’s text.
Let me read 1 John 5:14-17.
Steve Brown is fond of saying, "Non-Christians don’t pray, because they’re afraid God is there. Christians don’t pray because they’re afraid God is not there, and they don’t want to lose their faith." John encourages us to pray and to approach God confidently, because God is there.
But John does more than tell us to pray. He tells us what to pray for and what not to pray for. These are what I call the two keys to effective prayer. Let’s look together.
The first key to effective prayer is to ask according to God’s will. We see this in verses 14-15.
Many people have a great deal of misconceptions about prayer. God is not a celestial vending machine that gives what we ask, when we put money in the offering box. God is not a heavenly genie who grants us three wishes when we rub Him in the right direction. If we belong to God, we are His children, and He, our Heavenly Father.
And a good Father does not give everything the child asks for. A Danish proverb notes, "Give to a pig when it grunts and a child when he cries, and you will have a fine pig and a bad child." God is raising children, not pigs.
John says that our confidence in approaching God comes from knowing that God only gives us what is in His will. When we don’t know God’s will, prayer becomes a time of learning God’s will.
E. Stanley Jones illustrated this point when he said, "If I throw out a boat hook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God. "
Now we can learn about God’s will in prayer, but we can only pray effectively when we ask according to God’s will. Let me say that again, "We can learn about God’s will in prayer, but we can only pray effectively when we ask according to God’s will.
Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9-10, "Pray like this: `Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored. May your kingdom come soon. May your Will be done here on earth, just as it is in heaven (NLT)."
In Matthew 26:42 Jesus himself prayed as he faced his pending crucifixion, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup [of suffering] to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done (NIV)."
For us to pray effectively, we must pray according to God’s will. And God has made His will known to us through His Word, the Bible.
So, for us to pray effectively, we must know what God says in the Bible. There is no shortcut. Wisdom and maturity comes with investing time in knowing the person and will of God. The sooner you settle this fact for yourself, the sooner you can take the Bible seriously.
Bill Hybels, in his book, Too Busy Not to Pray, wrote, "If the request is wrong, God says, ’No.’ If the timing is wrong, God says, ’Slow ’[slow down]. If you are wrong, God says, ’Grow’ [grow in right character and attitude]. But if the request is right, the timing is right and you are right, God says, ’Go!’ [He grants the request]"