I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.
These verses take us into the mystery of prayer. I say “mystery” because, so often, prayer is not quite as straightforward as it sounds. As in all our activities, prayer is firmly rooted in time, which often seems to drag mercilessly while we wait for the Lord’s response. Yet, waiting in time, we have the powerful assurance of these verses to build faith, even in the midst of mystery.
I think it no mistake that John has just been affirming the certainty of our salvation in Jesus Christ – our sure possession of eternal life. “He who has the Son has life,” he tells us (verse 12). Praise God. “I write these things … so that you may know that you have eternal life”(verse 13). Thank you, Lord, for such certainty of knowledge. Thank you for such bedrock assurance.
With this sure confidence in place, John invites us into further confidence, that of answered prayer. But let’s be clear: this isn’t a push-button transaction. No. Instead, it’s deeply rooted in relationship wherein our heart is shaped by the very purposes of God, our own longings fired by his will.
I’m reminded that on the very night of his betrayal, Jesus prayed to his Father: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). These words affirm that eternal life is the outflow of relationship – real, abiding connection with Father and Son, empowered by the Spirit. It was John himself who recorded these words for us.
So, here in 1 John 5, he again affirms eternal life, and then goes on to speak of prayer. In it all, relationship is foundational. We can have complete confidence as we pray, if we pray “according to his will.” Clearly, this is confidence that flows out of relationship – knowing him, knowing what’s on his heart, knowing the whisper of his voice.
Oh, how I need this confidence. Lord, I take you at your word. But my conundrum, once again, is that I run up against time. I pray in time. The answer itself takes time. It’s in this very conundrum that I need the confidence – I don’t yet see the answer, so I desperately need to hang on to the promise.
Which yields another insight: if it weren’t for this slow, methodical pace of time, I wouldn’t need the confidence. If I was outside time, rather than in it, and could see my prayer’s answer clearly played out even as I prayed it, I wouldn’t have the need to lean into confidence – which ultimately is another way of saying I wouldn’t have the same need to lean into the Lord. It turns out, then, that while confidence springs from relationship (knowing him and his will), confidence itself deepens that relationship, because I find I’m actually leaning into the Lord, waiting for his answer.
So, I will continue to embrace the mystery of prayer as I pray in time. Sometimes it’s trying. Sometimes it’s discouraging. But I will embrace the mystery. Equally, I will embrace the confidence of these verses – “we know that we have what we asked of him.” As I do, I lean into the Lord.
Lord, praying in time stretches my faith. But I have confidence that as I lean into you and your will, my prayers are shaped by your purposes. I have confidence that you hear what I ask, and you will answer. So, rooted in time, I place confidence in you – your answer will come. All in good time. For Jesus’ glory. Amen.
What current prayer is most challenged by the slow pace of time? Re-affirm your confidence in the Lord – he hears and answers. Re-submit your prayer to his will – does he want to reshape it? Pray during the day. Build confidence.
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