That your Joy May Be Complete #11
1 John 4:14-15
Confidence In Prayer
Well we are close to the end of our study in this first letter from the aged Pastor and Apostle, John. This final chapter has some verses that are often misunderstood. But John was not writing to confuse us. He was writing to complete our Joy. He was writing to clarify confusion and to set the record straight against false teaching.
The problem is that when we come to a passage with an agenda and preconceived ideas, we come to conclusions that may not fit the truth revealed and taught in the scripture.
So, when we read the word of God, it is best that we let it speak for itself, test it against the rest of scripture for a fuller understanding, and adjust our lives to the truth.
There is a stream of thinking in some avenues of Christianity that teaches and believes that if a Christian asks then God must do. If we have enough faith then God must respond as we wish.
The question I have then, what does that make God? Is God our butler? Dare we just pray to our Butler Jeeves, or do we pray to the Lord of Heaven and Earth?
Are WE the VINE and HE is the Branch reaching out from us to do our bidding? Or was Jesus correct when he said that HE is the Vine and WE are the Branches? It is then as Branches, that when WE bear much Fruit, then HE is glorified.
Now then, if we are not careful, we can swing to the OTHER extreme in understanding prayer. Is prayer just an action where we grovel, crawl on hands and knees wonder if God hears us, might answer us, not knowing if he even cares? NO!
Our text today tells us that we CAN have Confidence in our prayer life … So let’s open the Word of God and Open our Hearts, Our Minds, and Open our lives to conform to the will of God
Now I know some of you have had easy lives … but that’s not always been the way for many of us.
Andrae Crouch wrote
I thank God for the mountains, and I thank him for the valleys
I thank him for the storms He brought me through
For if I’d never had a problem, I’d never know God could solve them
I’d never know what faith in God could do
Through it all, through it all
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God
Through it all, through it all
I’ve learned to depend upon his Word
If some of us never had trouble we would never pray at all
If we never had trouble, we’d never know what a mighty God we serve
It is in the experience of prayer that we learn confidence
And these two little verse teach us much to give us confidence
So, Three Cs today … Confidence, Conditions, and Conclusions
Now we have seen this word before … in 1 John 2:28 and 4:17. In both cases, we are told we can have confidence in the judgment.
Remember the word is parresia = freedom of speech or frankness to speak up
John has taught us that our relationship with Christ will give us confidence “speak up” because of our position in Christ.
But right now we aren’t in Heaven yet.
So, as we live in the day to day, we need some confidence today
The YLT says “This is the boldness that we have toward him”
We read the NIV84 which says “this is the confidence we have in approaching God”
“freedom of speech” or boldness without reserve without fear
Wuerst says it is “free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance”
In fellowshipping with God, we can “speak up”and come boldly because of our fellowship with God
We have confidence to speak up to even pray in the first place because of our relationship with God …
Let me give you a list about our confidence
- We are his Children – John 1:12; 1 John 3:1
- Because we He LOVES us and we love him – John 3:16, 1 John 3:1, 3:16; 4:10
- Because Jesus is God’s Son, is In us, is our Sacrifice and our great High Priest. Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”
- Because we know we have secure Eternal Life – 1 John 5:13
- Because of the Cross … God has already given us the GREATEST Sacrificial Gift – Rom 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
So, look at the cross. It is MORE than just a great gift. It is evidence of how far God will go for us. Look at the Cross and approach God with Confidence in prayer.
But when we approach God in prayer, we must know that there are THREE possible answers to every request. They are “yes”, “no”, or “not yet”.
Too often, If God doesn’t say “yes”, people say “I prayed but God didn’t answer me”. Yes he did, he answered, he said “NO”. Or maybe he said “not yet”.
Are you telling me that the Lord of the Universe can’t say “no”?
Yes he can and he does. So, if God loves us and we are his children and we are IN Christ and the Cross tells me that God would not withhold anything good from me, then if he says “NO” or “wait” … MAYBE … MAYBE he knows something that we don’t and maybe he has something better
William Shakespeare wrote “We, ignorant of ourselves, beg often our own harms, which the wise powers deny us for our good; so find we profit by losing of our prayers”
So we can come to him confidently … but our Confidence comes with conditions
The most important thing in understanding scripture is reading it ALL. We sometimes want to jump right to the end … but there are some conditions here listed … some IFs before the THEN
A. If Our Hearts Do Not Condemn Us
The first condition has already been told to us by John in
1 John 3:21-22 If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him
There are several ways our hearts condemn us
Jesus said “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given” John 15:7
When we truly seek God, our hearts know if we are remaining or abiding in his will and if we are out of fellowship with him.
Whether by choosing our own path or active sinfulness, we cannot expect him to give us what we ask for if we are out of fellowship. IF we are out of fellowship we can’t even be sure about our motives in asking.
This is true for a couple of reasons
- we are out of his will for our lives and
- we are not pursuing HIS purposes in this world
Psalm 37:4-5 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:
“Delight” = to pamper yourself, or be sensitive to – the Lord
“Commit” = the word means to be rolled up … when you are sensitive to the Lord and your way is rolled up around His ways, then he will give you what you want and you can trust that … why? It is because you will only want what HE wants.
So, if my heart doesn’t condemn me saying
“Jim you know that his isn’t God’s will”
Or my heart doesn’t say
“you know that you are asking from a position of disobedience or rebellion”
If my heart doesn’t condemn me, i.e. speak the truth to myself, then I know I can come with Confidence
Then two conditions in this verse
B. IF We Ask According To His Will
Now in order for God to answer in the affirmative, it must be a request that is within his WILL
Will = thelema (thel-ay-ma) = desire or purpose … so it must be within God’s wants and to fill his purposes
But does that mean we don’t ask until we figure out if it’s his will?
I’ve asked people if they are praying and they say “well I don’t know if it is his will”
Well, where are you going to figure that out?
Ask God, pray, seek his face, tarry with him in prayer until he says “no”, “wait”, or “yes”.
Jesus taught us to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done” In Matthew 6:10 …
Jesus prayed in the garden, in Matthew 26:39 “let this cup pass from me, yet, not my will be done but yours”
The confidence comes as we begin by saying “Lord Be Glorified” … “Lord rule and reign in my life just like in heaven.” Then we move to say “This is what I want, but more than that, I want YOUR will, MORE than mine.”
That kind of selfless praying give us confidence when we pray.
When you aren’t sure how to pray, just lay your cares and concerns before God. Philippians 4:6 “in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God will guard your heart”
Lay it before God and know that when you don’t know what to say, then God’s Spirit who lives in you DOES know the heart, mind, and purposes of God and he intercedes for us
Romans 8:26-27 the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
God’s Spirit always prays in accordance with God’s will
Confidence comes if we are praying in accordance with God’s will
And the second Condition …
C. If We Know He Hears Us
When I have prayed, sought his face, and I am clear in my own heart. And I believe and am convinced that it is within his will … then I know that he hears me.
Now this doesn’t mean that sometimes God can’t hear or is out of reach or distracted.
He always hears in the sense of capability but this word “hear” is akouo (ak-oo-o) = to hear, listen, pay attention …
If my heart is clear, I am convinced it is his will, then I KNOW that he is paying attention.
If my heart condemns me, and it is not his will, then I really am wasting my time
John 9:31 says “we know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will’”
Psalm 66:18 “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened”
Heb 5:7 says Jesus was heard because of his reverent submission
If we are in line with his will and in right relationship then His EAR is tuned to us and so
We can have confidence in the Conclusion … so that brings us to the resolution … the answer
3. The Conclusion
My Prayers will be answered in the affirmative … so whatever we ask … we KNOW that we HAVE
Now listen, let me say something again
GOD ANSWERS our Prayers EVERY TIME
Sometimes he says “No”
Sometimes he says “Not Yet”
And sometimes he says “YES”
If the conditions are met, I can be confident that I HAVE
We have confidence in the coming resolution
It doesn’t say that “we know that we WILL have”
NO it says “we know that we HAVE what we have asked”
Have = echo = possess, hold on to
Everything centers around the HEARING of God …
If we have engaged God through the fellowship of Prayer, and by doing so come closer to him, in line with his will, and gain deeper understanding; and if in our prayer God doesn’t reveal that our request is out of his will, and we are not our own stumbling block, THEN the we can rest in assurance that we HAVE what we have asked for and he has either said “YES” or “NOT YET”
but BOTH are affirmative answers and possessions of Faith.
So, then there is confidence while we wait in faith
But please understand …
We miss the whole point in prayer if we think it is just about getting what we want.
As I said earlier, sometimes the most loving thing God can do is say “no”.
But in every circumstance prayer is about us being in closer fellowship with God and being conformed to his purpose his will.
Prayer is not about changing God but about God changing us.
Does a mother talk to a baby hoping to become like the baby?
No, that’s silly, The loving mother talks to the baby in order to teach the baby that she loves it and to help be the baby become like HER.
Prayer is talking to our MASTER, in order to find and be conformed to HIS will not the other way around
Prayer comes out of a relationship and is as natural as parent communicating with Child
So then, Why Pray?
Because God tells us to pray
Because Jesus taught us to pray
Because it is the only way to relate to God
Because it is a pleasure to fellowship with God
Now, I have to be honest and admit that I don’t pray to the level that I should
I will admit that I often THINK about God and I THINK about my cares, concerns and joys. I even praise him MORE than I PRAY to God about the things in my life.
Yet we are told to TARRY, that is to Get in his presence and stay there, relate to him, seek him, want him …
Jesus took the disciples with him into the garden and while he prayed, they fell asleep
Jesus asked them, “couldn’t you tarry with me for just an hour” Matthew 26:40
What was Jesus doing? When he was praying he was saying “Not my will but yours” …
When we tarry we are seeking God and wanting to be conformed to his will
We try and make prayer into a “to do list” for God
Or we think of how wonderful if God would work a miracle for us and we try and make it a “ta-da” list …
But prayer is SO MUCH BIGGER than that.
If God just did everything as WE thought best, and WHEN we ask … God would be cheating us … if that’s all there is to prayer
People that think God never says “no” or never says “wait” are missing the point in prayer
Think how shallow our prayers would be and how shallow our relationships if that’s all there were to prayer
If we make our prayers all about the answer, we miss the point.
I am guilty of this, I trust God, so I make my request and then often just leave it alone … but even then I miss the point … the Point is that God wants me to pray because God wants me to know him and be close to him to dwell with him …
Oh there’s more to prayer than “I need it now” … and “Did God make my way smooth …?”
Through It All
I’ve had many tears and sorrows, I’ve had questions for tomorrow
There’ve been many times I didn’t know right from wrong
But in every situation, God gave me blessed consolation
That my trials come to only make me strong
Through it all, through it all
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God
Through it all, through it all
I’ve learned to depend upon his word
I’ve been to lots of places, I’ve seen a lot of faces
There’ve been times I’ve felt so all alone
But in my lonely hours, yes those precious lonely hours
Jesus lets me know that I was his own
So … that’s why
I Thank God for the mountains, and I thank him for the valleys
I thank him for the storms he brought me through
For If I’d never had a problem
I wouldn’t know God could SOLVE them
I’d never know what faith could do
-- Andrae Crouch
And so Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:4 when we have been through troubles, have sought God’s face have come to know him better, and been comforted, then we can comfort others who are facing the same things …
In the hospital they gave me this little device, some of you have had to use them.
The problem is that most of us don’t breathe deeply enough.
And when we are wounded we breathe even more shallowly … so they give you this to encourage you to breathe more deeply and thus build your strength to breath and nourish your body.
As I bring us to a close, what is something practical?
- How can we pray and gain confidence?
It’s not anything revolutionary … Jesus taught us how in Matthew 6
1. Proclaim the Wonder, Glory, and Authority of God
“Hallowed Be Thy Name”
2. Proclaim the Purpose of God is Superior to all else
“Your kingdom come, your will be done”
3. Desire Needs Over Wants
“give us our daily bread”
4. Set Your Heart Right and At Rest
5. Desire to Walk In His Ways
“Lead us … Deliver us from Evil”
In doing this you are teaching your spirit to breath more deeply
6. then tarry there,
treasure his presence, until HIS will and HIS purpose are more important than your own and find yourself beginning to look like him
The first time I took this machine up in the hospital I barely moved it off the bottom, I struggled to breathe deeply … but I kept on breathing …
Edward Keith said “Prayer is exhaling the Spirit of Man and inhaling the Spirit of God”
Prayer might be as shallow as “Lord help me” …
“Lord Shape me”
“Lord Make Me”
“Lord Use Me”
“Lord Speak … I will listen”