Thursday, 11 June 2020
And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. 1 John 5:15
Here John uses the word “if” again, just as he did in the previous verse –
“if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
“if we know that He hears us.”
The first “if” makes the statement conditional. We must ask according to His will. If this is the case, He hears us. The second “if” sets the tone for the coming proposition. It is not a conditional statement, but rather a rhetorical device – a note of surety – based on the first proposition. One could paraphrase it, “And as we know, based on the fact that we have asked according to His will, that He hears us.”
With this understanding, John then says, “whatever we ask.” These words belong to the conditional statement of the previous verse –
“if we ask anything according to His will.”
Then… “whatever we ask.”
The “whatever we ask” must be “according to His will.” If this is so, then we know that He hears us, and “we know that we have the petitions we have asked of Him.”
It must be remembered that nothing goes unheard by God. In Isaiah it says –
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear.” Isaiah 59:2
The word “hear” does not mean He is unaware. It means that He does not actively acknowledge. That God is aware of every word spoken is conveyed by Jesus –
“But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.” Matthew 12:36
God is aware of all things, including every word ever spoken. However, God does not “hear” in the sense of acknowledgment, unless certain conditions are met. One of the conditions is that a prayer must be from a person in Christ. As He is the mediator between God and man, then no word of prayer will be “heard” by God if it comes from an unbeliever. Another condition is that a person’s prayer must be in accord with His will. If it is, then God “hears” that prayer.
In meeting these requirements, John assures us that “we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” This, again, does not mean that they will be exactly as we asked. We ask without clarity of thought. Therefore, if we ask for something that is in accord with His will, but it is not in accord with His plans, He will give it to us, but only in the manner in which it aligns with both.
For example, a person may ask God for a particular wife. That is in accord with His will – meaning marriage. But His plan may be that the person marries another woman who will bear a son that will accomplish things according to His plan for furthering the gospel. In this, He has actually given us what is according to His will, but it is also according to His plan – something we are unaware of.
Therefore, there may be delays in answers to prayers, there may be seemingly no response at all to them (which is a response all by itself), there may be amendments to the response, and so on. God is not dismissive of our prayers, but He is above them – knowing what each response will result in. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to acknowledge the truth in God’s word, accept that God hears, and accept that we have what we have asked for, even if it doesn’t appear to be what we desired.
God is not required to respond to our prayers as if they were dictates to Him. He graciously responds to our prayers as a Father – knowing what is best, withholding what is harmful, and directing our lives according to a plan that is infinitely more detailed than our shortsighted prayers may be.
Life application: As learned in the previous verse, if we ask anything “according to His will,” He hears that petition. The words of this verse, “And if we know,” lead in and assumes that the rest of the thought is an axiom – a truth that is given. If the two are in agreement, then we have the petitions that we asked of Him. This action of knowing is to be taken at face value – it is completely certain. So why do we ask and not receive?
Why do we pray, and our prayer isn’t acted upon in the manner we ask? Because it is not in accordance with His will. If we ask that our beloved child not be taken from us, and yet he or she is, this in no way means that we were wrong in asking, but it means that God’s will is that the child is to be taken. If we ask for our cancer to be healed and it isn’t, this in no way means that God didn’t hear, but that God has chosen to allow us to continue with the cancer.
This shouldn’t lead to a fatalistic attitude that God doesn’t hear, but it should remind us that God’s will and His way are not ours. He is the Creator, we are the creation; He is the potter, we are the clay.
It is unreasonable to think that we can demand anything of God. But it is also unreasonable for us to get upset when a heartfelt prayer isn’t responded to in the manner in which we would like. He has an eternal plan for billions of people. We have a temporal life which will end, and we also have limited knowledge of His workings. Therefore, we pray, we believe, and yet in the end we acknowledge, “Thy will be done, O God.”
Lord God, when we come to You through Christ, our prayers are heard, and our petitions are answered. We believe this because Your word says it is true. But we understand that our prayers are not always in line with Your will. And so, the answer to our petition isn’t always what we want. Help us to be adults – mature in our thinking – concerning Your plan, and not only for our immediate desires. When our will is in accord with Your will, may Your will be done. Amen.