NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XCV) 03/23/23
5:14 We can come to God with no doubts. This means that when we ask God for things that agree with what He wants for us. God cares about what we tell Him.
When John speaks of “in Him,” it literally means “towards Him.” This implies active fellowship with God. We develop confidence in prayer when we are in union with Him. Thus, we have confidence in prayer when we walk with the Lord. As such, our right to ask God for petitions and intercessions is unconditional, for it rests on the person and work of the Anointed One. That is why we come to God in Jesus’ name.
Remember, God was accessible to Elijah in his confrontation with the prophets of Baal. The Baal prophets cut themselves so their gods would listen to them, but it did no good. Their gods were inaccessible. Their prayers were futile. But God heard and answered Elijah’s prayer. Christians today have access to the God of the universe because Jesus broke the barrier between God and mankind. The Christian has uninhibited boldness in prayer because of the work of Jesus the Anointed One. So, when we ask, we expect an answer. Thus, believers are confident that they possess eternal life and convinced that God answers prayer. However, the chief principle is that we must know God’s will to have confidence in prayer.
Unanswered prayer is a mystery to many today because they experiment around the edges of prayer but never get serious about it. They do not pray with certainty. Sometimes they use prayer as the “last resort.” Most mysteries about prayer revolve around the nature of prayer. First, some try to pray but give up because of their perceptions about what prayers accomplish. Then they lose confidence in prayer altogether because God did not answer their prayer. They assume then that praying fails to meet their needs. Finally, some Christians use prayer as a genie that persuades God to do what they want. They get what they want if they rub the genie’s bottle right. This is an imitation of prayer. By this, they make outlandish demands on God that they believe is their right. God promises to meet our “needs,” not our “greed.”
We learn that valid petitions are according to God’s will and nature. Prayer outside God’s will is an insult to His integrity. There is a wide range wherein we can pray. We pray for what God requires, not our desires. The act of prayer is simple, but the characteristics of prayer are not superficial. We can have confidence in prayer because God delights when Christians take Him at His word. He loves bold faith and prayer.
Therefore, prayer is not an attempt to move God to see things our way. It is not an effort to change God’s values or standards. God is not willing to give His child something that is not good for them. God wants to provide what is in the best interest of His children. God does not pander to self-gratification. Prayer is more than submitting wishes to God. We can have confidence that God will answer our prayers if we ask according to His will by faith. The more we invoke God’s will, the more our prayer He will fulfill.
God always answers prayer when asked, “according to His will.” God reveals His will in His Word. God answers prayer according to the dynamics of our prayer life. The better we know God’s will, the more He will answer our prayers. The better we know God’s will; our prayer life will be better. God does not answer any whim or imagination. If we pray with confidence, we must pray according to His will. That is why we have so few prayers answered. These are the plain, bare, brutal facts. When Christians do not receive answers to their prayers, they put their trust in being lucky. God answers prayer according to specific standards. For example, we must ask in Jesus’ name and be in fellowship with Himfor God to answer prayer.
COMMENTARY AND HOMILETICS
This verse has comments, interpretations, and insights of the Early Church Fathers, Medieval Thinkers, Reformation Theologians, Revivalist Teachers, Reformed Scholars, and Modern Commentators.
With great assurance, early church ecclesiastical teacher Didymus the Blind (313-398) finds that those who possess technical skills and know how to repair things are confident they will be able to do so when need arises. Similarly, these holy men, John, and the other apostles, knew from their own experience that if they asked God for what was pleasing and acceptable to Him, they would obtain it. God is most generous to those with this knowledge and will grant the requests of those who ask according to his will.
With a studious monk’s spiritual insight, Bede the Venerable (672-735) John holds out to us the great assurance that we can expect to receive heavenly blessings from the Lord and that whatever we ask for here on earth will be given to us as long as we ask for it in the right way. This is in complete agreement with what Jesus said in the Gospels: “I say to you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will.”
In the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), one question reads: “What are the requisites of that prayer which is acceptable to God and which He will hear?” Answer: First, that we from the heart to the one true God only, who has manifested Himself in His Word, for all things He has commanded us to ask of Him; secondly, that we rightly and thoroughly know our need and misery, that so we may deeply humble ourselves in the presence of His divine majesty; thirdly, that we are fully persuaded that He, notwithstanding that we are unworthy of it, will, for the sake of the Anointed One our Lord, certainly hear our prayer, as He has promised us in His Word. 
Respected Reformation writer Matthew Poole (1624-1679) explains that “according to His will,” it is not to be taken negatively since it does not forbid our praying for and enjoying the things that bring us joy. On the contrary, it must be looked at positively, namely, according to His will signifies: 1) By His commands, that is, when our prayers involve some spiritually good thing, as when we pray for grace to enable us to be and to do what He requires us. 2) By his promises, which are absolute and particular regarding things of that nature.
About things of a less critical nature, the things promised coming under the common notion of good things, not in themselves only, but for us, in present circumstances; which, whether they are or not, God reserves the liberty of determining and only promise them, if they are; and so we are only to pray for them; for that is praying, according to what signification He has given us of His will, in such cases. And so, we will surely be heard in the former case, in the very particular kind, about which His will is expressly made known beforehand. And if we are persuaded that He hears us, respecting what we ask of Him, we are confident of receiving the petitions we asked of Him.
Assuredly, says George Swinnock (1627-1673), believers are not to exceed the limits of prayer. Israel had their wish, to their sorrowful cost, when they cried out, “If we had only died in Egypt or in this wilderness.” As the Apostle Paul said, “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.” Indeed, Christians may have anything of God they ask in prayer, but only when they seek to promote God’s glory. But those that prioritize their will, not minding God’s, are like proud and ungracious beggars. They want to be choosers; therefore, they will be sent away as losers. The Christian’s charter is wide enough; they have no cause to desire more than they need.
From his strategic viewpoint as a biblical expositor and educational pioneer, William Burkitt (1650-1703) says that for the Apostle John to enforce this appeal to believers, namely, to be confirmed and constant in the faith, he shows them what an extraordinary advantage believers have above other persons, namely, confidence in all their approaches to God; with complete assurance: 1) In general, that whatever they ask in faith according to His will, they will obtain. 2) In particular, our several petitions, which we present to God, will in His time and His way, and after His custom will be granted, provided our prayers qualify according to the Gospel for receiving His promise.
Thus, we learn the following, 1) Through our interest in the Anointed One and for His satisfaction and prevailing intercession as our Mediator, our prayers are heard by God, and we will have what God promised to give, and we are eligible to receive. God, indeed, does not always come with an answer to prayer immediately, but He never stays a moment beyond His time. 2) In all the prayers we present and put to God, special regard must be given to God’s will if we expect to be heard and answered. The will of God is the rule, not only of things to be done by us but also of those we crave God to do for us.
The will of God under a threefold revelation is the rule and matter of prayer, 1) The will of God in His commands; whatever God requires us to do, we may pray for power that we may do. 2) The will of God in His promises; what God has said He will give; we may pray that we may receive. And 3) The will of God in prophecies; what God has foretold will come to pass; we may and ought to pray that it may come to pass. Our prayers give birth to the prophecies and promises of God. 
With scholarly meditation, James Macknight (1721-1800) speaks of our boldness with God if we ask anything according to His will. The fact that He listens to us is commonly understood as the Apostle John speaking of Christians, in general, to assure them that God will grant it to them if they ask for anything necessary to their salvation. Nevertheless, from verses sixteen to seventeen, it is plain that John is speaking not of our asking for spiritual blessings for ourselves but of our asking life for a spiritual brother or sister who committed a moral sin, not a mortal sin. Others, therefore, think John, in these verses, directs Christians, in general, to pray for the eternal pardon of each other’s sins. But a better interpretation is suggested as no person’s sins will be pardoned at the request. Moreover, this directive contains an allusion to our Lord’s promise to His apostles, which John recorded in his Gospel.
We also see that the Anointed One promised that His apostles should do greater miracles than He did and that whatever they should ask in His name, He would do it; the meaning is that whatever blessing they should ask for, the confirmation of their mission as His apostles, He would do it. In like manner, when He promised, in the second passage, that they should ask the Father in His name, and He would give it to them. Jesus then said, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Therefore, we should not doubt that the things Jesus directed them to ask of the Father were miracles for the manifestation of His character as God’s Son and for the successful spread of the Gospel, whereby the apostle’s joy would be rendered complete.
These declarations and promises were the foundation for the boldness that the persons to whom John was writing had with the Father that if they asked anything according to His will, He would listen to them. So, John is speaking of their boldness in asking for miracles. Macknight compliments John Tillotson (1630-1694) for being sensible for saying that the boldness in asking of which John speaks was boldness in asking blessings, supposing that this is to be understood by the apostles alone. But that this boldness also belonged to such of the disciples as, in the first age, were endowed with the gift of healing diseases miraculously.
 John 16:24
 1 Kings 18
 Hebrews 4:14-16
 1 John 5:13
 James 4:3
 Hebrews 4:13-16; 10:19
 Philippians 4:19
 John 14:13; 15:16
 Ibid. 15:7; 1 John 3:22
 Matthew 6:10
 Didymus the Blind, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scriptures, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 225
 Bede the Venerable, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scriptures, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 226
 John 4:22-23
 Romans 8:26; 1 John 5:14
 John 4:23-24
 2 Chronicles 20:12
 Psalm 2:11
 Romans 10:13
 Heidelberg Catechism: Of Prayer Lord’s Day 45, Question 117
 Matthew 5:6; Luke 11:13
 Poole, Matthew. Commentary on the Holy Bible – Book of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John (Annotated), Kindle Edition
 Numbers 14:2, 28-29
 Ephesians 5:17
 Swinnock, George: The Christian Man’s Calling, Vol. 1, Ch. XIII, p. 121
 Ezekiel 36:37
 Burkitt, William: Expository Notes, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 738
 John 14:12; 16:23
 The Greek meizōn means “enlarged” or “more abundant.” Abarim Biblical Dictionary: The New Testament
 Matthew 7:7
 John Tillotson whose father was a Puritan, was the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury
 See Mark 16:17
 Macknight, James: Apostolic Epistles with Commentary, Vol. VI, pp. 116-117