By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XCIX) 03/29/23

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.

Ministry & Missions Overseer Muncia Walls (1937) sees the Apostle John’s expression employed here as “confidence,” could also be interpreted as “boldness.” As God’s children, we can come before Him with courage, knowing that we are His and He is concerned about our spiritual well-being. The writer of Hebrews speaks of how we “come boldly into the throne room of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.[1]

Note, however, there are two limitations placed upon God’s children concerning their approach to the Lord; 1) What we ask of the Lord must be according to His will if we expect to receive a favorable reply to our supplications. Jesus gave us an excellent example when He prayed in the garden that night before His crucifixion, “Not my will, but Your will be done. ”[2] This must also be our approach to the Lord with our supplications. 2) There is no assurance that He will answer us, but it is an assurance that the child of God never prays without the Lord being aware of his prayers.

The Lord will not always answer the way we might want Him to – and it is a good thing He doesn’t. If He answered every prayer the way we want, our life would soon be a mess because we are found asking for something we want but do not need. That is why the Apostle Paul wrote about how the Holy Spirit helps us pray. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for, “But the Holy Spirit prays for us with words expressed by groanings.”[3] There are different ways in which the Lord may answer our prayer. He may say, “No!” He might say, “Not now.” He might say, “Yes!” And so we need to ask with the desire that we want His will for our lives regardless of what it may be.[4]

As an articulate spokesman for the Reformed Faith movement, James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) points out that verse fourteen contains the word “assurance” (Greek parresia). It is translated three other times in John’s letter as “confidence.” When contemplating the final judgment, John used it twice concerning the Christian’s confidence before God.[5] On one other occasion, as in verse fourteen, it refers to the Christian’s confidence regarding prayer.[6] John says that Christians need not fear that God will refuse to hear them when they pray. Indeed, such confidence is a product of knowing that one is God’s true child and has no doubts about the matter.

In verse fourteen, John also phrases the content of the Christian’s confidence as being “that if we ask anything according to His will, God hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him.” In English, this promise seems to fall into two parts, (1) that God hears us and (2) that He answers when He hears. This is not the point, however. To begin with, whenever the Bible speaks of God hearing prayer, this means that God answers. So, in this case, the first part of the promise is that God hears in the sense that He answers,

But what does the second part mean? Is it mere repetition? No! Instead it introduces an entirely new idea, for the promise is not just that God answers but rather that we have the items we requested of Him now because He answers. The Greek verb echō (“have”) is in the present tense. Consequently, the promise is not that we will have them but that by faith, we have (echo) them even as we pray. But Christians are not to suppose that God will grant just anything they might pray for, however foolish or sinful it may be, just because they petition God for it; they must pray according to God’s will.[7]

Great Commission practitioner David Jackman (1945) remarks that the teaching of Jesus on the night of His betrayal[8] is full of similar encouragements. These became formative in John’s prayer life and teaching on prayer. The Master promised, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it,[9] which results from “believing in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son” and proves the existence of that life-giving faith.

John does, however, introduce a limitation on such confident praying; more accurately, it underlines and explains the restriction that the Lord Jesus placed on asking ‒ it must be according to God’s will for Him to hear us. Within that provision, we may ask anything. Our praying is never on a surer foundation than when it is grounded in Scripture, for God’s revealed will. We know that God will hear and answer as we pray Bible prayers. [10]

As a man who loves sharing God’s Word, Robert W. Yarbrough (1948) offers that to confirm John’s message also means to affirm a confident and mature understanding of prayer. The centrality of prayer to fellowship with God should surprise no one familiar with the Bible generally (perhaps most notably the Psalms) and with Jesus’s life as portrayed in the Gospels (most notably Luke).

Yarbrough notes that Swiss Protestant theologian Adolf Schlatter (1852-1938) says prayer essentially defines the meaning of being Christian and “comprises the congregation’s calling.”[11] He captures biblical precedent and precept well: Since prayer is that act by which we turn our will to God, prayer is of the very essence of religion . . . Prayer is the most direct expression of faith because prayerfully turning our thoughts and will to God is the initial step from thinking about God to the full assurance of God. By the same token, prayer is the most direct expression of love. It is an offering of the highest priority since the first thing we owe God is our thinking and willingness.[12]

With her crafted spiritual insight, Judith Lieu (1951) comments that throughout the Apostle John’s letter, boldness before God has been a recurring symbol of the relationship with God shared by those who believe.[13] Boldness (Greek. parresia) is the freedom of speech granted to the Kingdom of God citizens. Still, it also implies being in the presence of an individual or group of greater power and authority. The confidence in exercising such boldness is, at the same time, an acknowledgment that anxiety might be a more instinctive reaction.

Hence in its previous occurrences, the possibility of merited condemnation has hovered in the background; even if experienced in the present, there has been an element of looking to the future. Already, John expressed the receiving of answered requests experience in the present.[14] In verse fourteen, there is even more emphasis on the present, the example. For someone who sins, John shows that the context continues to be one of approach to a God in whose presence only light and truth belong.[15]

With a classical thinking approach to understanding the scriptures, Bruce G. Schuchard (1958) sees the first of two final instances of an attention-grabbing “this is” appears twice here in verse fourteen,[16] which helps with the second “these things[17] to frame John’s conclusion. John further exhorts those certainties of the faith can and must, in the end, be known. Here, he adds that to know the favor of our heavenly Father who gives to His children who believe in the name of His Son the abundance of the life of the age to come[18] is to know Him as an approachable God; God who freely, who gladly, gives. To know is to be assured; to be confirmed is to be confident; to be convinced is, without hesitation, to ask for the very things that we know that our God intends for us all to have and to hold.

We know that hearing us, God will gladly and freely provide from the bounty of the life of the age to come that He secured for us. Therefore, the “if’ of the first of three instances[19] of a conditional sentence is expectations! The first of six clustered references to “requests” and “asking.”[20] It amplifies further the precious treasure that is our asking because ours is the knowledge that God gladly hears.[21]

In his unorthodox Unitarian way, Duncan Heaster (1967) points out that if God’s Spirit and Eternal Life live in us, then His will is our will, and the Spirit teaches us the “truth.[22] This “truth” spoken of in verse fourteen is knowing God’s will. If His Spirit and Logos abide in us, we can ask what we will and receive it. Our spirit adheres to His Spirit, so we will better perceive His will, and our prayers will be for those things He knows we need.

This increasingly positive experience of answered prayer, which comes from progressively learning His will, is another evidence that we are indeed inhabited by the Lord and can be confident that we have “eternal life,” His Spirit is encouraging to those who believe and receive the Spirit and yet still have their doubts. But Jesus said as much when He taught that answered prayer means that our joy will be complete.[23] [24]

Bright seminarian Karen H. Jobes (1968) clarifies that the initial conjunction “and” in verse fourteen relates to verse thirteen, which concerns the reassurance of eternal life. John is concerned for the spiritual state of his readers, knowing they have been exposed to false teaching and practices by those who walked away from the truth.[25] He argued extensively throughout the letter about the need to live without sin, discern the origin of teaching about God, and the necessity of Jesus’ shed blood as part of the Gospel. So, what do his readers do when they see a spiritual brother or sister not living according to the apostolic teachings? Before encouraging them to pray for one another, he reminds them that God does hear the requests of His people that ask according to His will.[26]

While many readers will immediately wonder what God we might ask for, that is not quite the point. John will explain what to ask for.[27] As Robert Walter Yarbrough (1948) comments, “There are no explicit limits set to such requests, although it is likely that John assumes that believers will pray in keeping with God’s purposes…. John’s point is to affirm that we know God hears when we request, not that we have unerring discernment as to what we should be requesting.”[28] This assurance of personal communion with God is also the context in which seemingly unanswered prayer requests should be understood.[29] 


This promise that the Apostle John makes here does not come easy. It’s not a case of ordering from God online. First, He may have you ask Him several times before He answers. Secondly, He may send you in search of your response in order to grant your request. And thirdly, you might need to press Him harder and harder before He opens the door to victory.[30] Such requirements are not to discourage you from praying but to test your sincerity and desire for God’s will to be done. This should be comforting to everyone who reads the Apostle John’s letter.

Sometimes when we don’t get an immediate answer from God, we conclude that He either wasn’t listening or didn’t have an answer. But John assures us that God hears us every time we pray and listens to everything we say. But we should not get discouraged. As someone said: “While we are waiting, God is working!” Or, as Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) noted in an earlier comment, “God has already approved the answer, but it may take a while for it to get to you.”

John already made it clear to whom he was writing. Some believers became somewhat unsure about the validity of their salvation caused by all the false doctrines at the time.  People not firmly anchored in God’s Word can sometimes easily be swayed and unsure of their faith.  As God’s chosen servants, it is our job to preach and teach God’s Word so that they build their trust upon a rock, not sand. Then John says something exciting: when we go to God with our requests, make sure they are according to His will for our lives.  John no doubt remembers what Jesus told them about how even a tiny amount of faith could move a mountain.[31] But since John was there, he also knew that Jesus qualified His statement so that they understood such requests must align with their mission and what God intended for them to do.  Some people will one day be glad that God did not answer all their prayers and give them what they were asking for.  He knows what’s best because He knows our future.

[1] Hebrews 4:16

[2] Luke 22:42

[3] Romans 8:26

[4] Walls, Muncia: Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 90-91

[5] 1 John 2:28; 4:17

[6] Ibid. 3:21-22

[7] Boice, James Montgomery: The Epistles of John, An Expository Commentary, op. cit., pp. 138-139 

[8] John’s Gospel, Chapters 14-16

[9] John 14:14

[10] Jackman, David: The Message of John’s Letters, op. cit., pp. 160-161

[11] Schlatter, Adolf: The Significance of Method for Theological Work, Trans. R. W. Yarbrough, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, 1997,

[12] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., p. 298

[13] 1 John 2:28; 3:21; 4:127

[14] Ibid. 3:22

[15] Lieu, Judith: A New Testament Library, I, II, & III John, op. cit., p. 223

[16] 1 John 5: 3, 4, 9, 11

[17] See ibid. 5:21; cf. 5:13

[18] See ibid. 5:11-12

[19] Ibid. 5:13-17

[20] See ibid. 5:15-16

[21] Schuchard, Bruce G., Concordia Commentary, 1-3 John, op. cit., pp. 570-572

[22] John 16:13

[23] Ibid. 16:24

[24] Heaster, Duncan. New European Christadelphian Commentary: op. cit., The Letters of John, p. 77

[25] See 1 John 2:19

[26] Ibid. 3:21-22

[27] See ibid. 5:15-16

[28] Yarbrough, Robert W., 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) p. 300

[29] Jobes, Karen H., 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament Series Book 18), op. cit., pp. 231-232

[30] Cf. Luke :11:9-10

[31] Mark 11:23-24

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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