Yesterday I preached 1 John 5:13-15 in John’s epistle in our “Know” series. After looking intently at verse 13 last week, we moved on to the next two verses and examined what John said about prayer as a Christian. If John’s agenda is to bring true believers to a place of concrete assurance and faith in Christ, he demonstrated his desire for the Christian to pray with confidence as well.
John, along with the pattern of the early church, was a man of prayer. We see Peter and John going up into the temple at the very hour of prayer in Acts 3. Certainly he understood the priority and privilege of prayer, and he desired for his fellow Christians in various cities to be people of prayer as well. Knowledge that is separated from prayer and communion with God becomes nothing more than cold and lifeless doctrine.
John desired for the Christians to know that God hears the prayers of His people. John urged the Christian community to pray with confidence. The language of “toward him” in verse 14 paints a picture of a face-to-face conversation. John is picturing prayer as a face-to-face conversation with God and what a joy it is to have this privilege as a Christian. John understood the privilege and desired for others to enjoy it as well.
While God hears the prayers of all people, there is a difference between merely hearing and hearing with a desire to care for and answer the prayers of His own people. If a group of children are calling out to a man for a favor, he may hear all of them, but he will pay close attention to the voice of his own son the group of children. God cares for His own children in a unique way. As we explore the Word of God, we see a clear pattern of prayer demonstrated from Jesus to the early church.
- Jesus prayed at His baptism in Luke 3:21.
- Jesus sought to be alone in prayer, but was often interrupted.
- Jesus would rise early in the morning for prayer as we see in Mark 1:35.
- Jesus would pray all night at times as we see in Luke 6:12.
- Jesus prayed for His people – John 17.
The Apostles Prayed
- Paul prayed for the church and for the church’s witness – praising God for it in Romans 1.
- Paul urged the Christians in Rome to be faithful in prayer – Romans 12:12.
- Paul urged the church at Rome to pray for him – Romans 15.
- Apostles prayed together in the upper room as they waited on the Holy Spirit to come – Acts 2.
- Peter and John were seen going into the temple at the hour of prayer – Acts 3.
- Peter prayed on a housetop in Acts 10:9.
- Paul and Silas prayed in prison – Acts 16:25.
- The apostles gave themselves to the Word of God and prayer as the deacons took charge of the practical needs of the church in Acts 6.
The Church Prayed
The early church is pictured in Acts 2:42 as gathered for the purpose of hearing the apostles’ teaching, engaging in fellowship, and praying together.
The Bible closes with a prayer of the church:
Revelation 22:17 – The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
God not only hears the prayers of His people, but He answers them in accordance with His will. John provides us the condition of prayer followed by the limitation of prayer. First, the condition of prayer is clearly revealed at the end of verse 14 as the “will of God.” We can’t pray code word language and expect that God will be bound by our words to give us the desires of our greed-filled hearts. We must learn to bend our will into conformity to God’s will. When we pray rightly, we don’t approach prayer out of superstition. We must learn to approach God in a way that far supersedes a rabbit’s foot. Christians pray in confidence that God hears and has the power to answer the prayer so long as we pray in accordance with God’s will.
The limitation of prayer is directly connected to the limitation of God. Our God is sovereign and big. He is strong and mighty. There is nothing too big for God, and we must learn to approach God with big weighty prayers that go well beyond the superficial weak prayers that we often pray. God can heal disease. God can provide jobs for the needy. The same God who never sleeps nor slumbers and the same God who controls the wind and the waves is the God who provides for His own people. Just as Jesus taught in Matthew 6:33, we must seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of the provisions for God’s people will be met. Jerry Bridges once said:
Prayer assumes the sovereignty of God. If God is not sovereign, we have no assurance that He is able to answer our prayers. Our prayers would become nothing more than wishes. But while God’s sovereignty, along with His wisdom and love, is the foundation of our trust in Him, prayer is the expression of trust.