Whatever We Ask
“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him” (1 John 3:21–22).- 1 John 3:21–22
We concluded our study last week by looking at how the Christian might reassure his heart anytime he has doubts about his salvation. Crises of faith will come, even for the most mature believers (1 John 3:19–20), because they will realize how far short of God’s requirements they remain. When this happens, we must remember that God is greater than we are. Even though He knows us and our sin far better than we do, He promises to receive us if we trust in Christ alone for salvation (John 6:37–40). This trustworthiness of God is the ultimate basis for our assurance, and though it can be distinguished from the works by which we evidence our faith, it can never be separated from them. If we truly trust God we will increasingly obey Him in love and truth (1 John 3:17–18).
In today’s passage, John describes the benefits of the confidence that comes once we have our hearts reassured by God. Though the shed blood of Jesus means that sin should not cause us to run from communion with God (Heb. 10:19–22; 12:1–2), we see that we will experience confidence in our prayers most fully if our hearts are reassured before Him (1 John 3:21–22). As we look to the promises of God for our salvation in the Word and trust in Him, we will grow more and more convinced that He grants His children access to His throne, leading us to approach Him boldly with our needs.
Moreover, when we are confident to come before Him in prayer, we should also be confident we will receive whatever we ask in accordance with His will because we do what pleases Him. Although the prayers of the righteous are effective (James 5:16b), this does not mean our obedience necessarily earns God’s favorable response. In his commentary, John Calvin makes the point that while obedience is inextricably linked to effective prayer, it is not the causal agent.
Ultimately, any affirmative answer to prayer comes when we pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14). If we do what pleases God (3:22), we evidence a good knowledge of His Word and thus of His will. Those who obey God’s will also pray God’s will and have their prayers answered in accordance with His will.
As we spend time in the prayerful study of Scripture, we will know better what pleases God and thus be able to pray more effectively. As we learn Scripture, our prayers should become less self-centered and more in line with the concern to build the kingdom of God throughout the world. Spend some time today asking God to help you learn and pray God’s will. Using the Lord’s prayer as a model, pray that His kingdom would come in power wherever you happen to be.
Passages for Further Study
2 Kings 6:8–23
2 Chron. 7:14
1 Peter 4:7