WALKING IN THE LIGHT

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

By Dr. Robert R. Seyda

FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XCX) 03/30/23

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.

Furthermore, our confidence in God consists of this ‒ knowing that we have eternal life (verse thirteen) leads to the thought of boldness before God concerning prayer.[1] This idea develops further with special reference to intercession for others, a particular form of prayer that closely connects with another main idea in the Epistle – the love of fellow believers. Prayer demonstrates the Christian’s confidence in God. Christians can pray confidently because they know God hears and answers prayer. This assurance brings conviction to their prayers that God is accessible to every believer. 

The word “confidence” originates from the idea of freedom of speech.[2]  Christians can talk freely and confidently to God about their needs. So, John addresses the subject of “confidence” at three previous points in this epistle:

            1)      Confidence of freedom from shame at the rapture, 1 John 2:28,

            2)      Confidence of a clear conscience in prayer, 1 John 3:21-22, and

            3)      Confidence at the judgment seat of the Anointed One because our love resembles God’s

                     love, 1 John 4:17. 

While confidence in prayer is for the born-again, many experience frustration. They trust God for eternal life but cannot trust Him to meet their daily financial and physical needs for this life. We have a general faith in God but very little confidence in Him.  However, we know we trust God if we have an effective prayer life.[3] And that confidence is “In Him” literally reads towards Him. This connotes active fellowship with God. We develop boldness in prayer when we are in union with Him. That means we have confidence in prayer when we walk with the Lord.

Our right to ask God for answers and intercessions is unconditional. Our freedom rests on the person and miracles of the Anointed One; that’s why we come to the Father in Jesus’ name.[4] After all, God was accessible to Elijah for a special request in his confrontation with Baal’s prophets.[5] They cut themselves so their god would listen to them, but it did no good. Their god was inaccessible. Their prayers were futile. God heard and answered Elijah’s prayer at that moment. Christians today have access to the God of the universe because Jesus broke the barrier between God and humanity. The Christian has uninhibited boldness in prayer because of the work of Jesus the Anointed One.[6] 

John’s words, “If we ask,” presume expectation.  Since Christians are sure they possess eternal life,[7] they can be confident that God answers prayer. However, we must know the will of God to have confidence in prayer. That is why unanswered prayer is a mystery to many today. 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.”

Nevertheless, the mystery of prayer revolves around the nature of prayer. First, some initiate prayer attempts but give up because of their perceptions about prayers. Then they lose confidence in prayer altogether because God did not answer them immediately.  Finally, they assume that prayer fails to meet their needs. Not only that, but some Christians use prayer as a genie in the bottle that persuades God to do what they want. They get what they want if they rub the genie the right way. These are imitation prayers. By this, they make outlandish demands on God that they believe is their right. God promises to meet our “needs,” not our “greed.” It is praying “according to our cravings.[8]

So, we learn that genuine prayer is in harmony with God’s will and supernatural character. 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 what we desire. The act of prayer is simple, but the attributes of prayer are not superficial. We can have confidence in prayer because God delights Christians to take Him at His word. He loves bold faith and bold prayer.[9]

Prayer is not an endeavor to move God to see things our way. It is not an attempt to change God’s values or standards. God is unwilling to give His children something awful for them. God wants to provide what is in the best interest of the child of God. God does not pander to self-gratification. “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by the Anointed One Jesus.[10]

Our prayers must align with God’s will, be consistent with His principles, and plan for His kingdom. Prayer is more than submitting wishes to God. We can have confidence that God will answer our prayers if we ask in His will by faith. The more we grasp God’s will, the more effective our prayer life will be. God always answers prayers “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 clearer we know God’s will, our prayer life will be more effective.

God does not answer any quick impulse or dreamy notion. How do we know His will? His will is in His Word. That is why we have so few prayers answered. These are the blunt, bare, brutal facts. Many Christians do not get any answers to prayer, so they put their trust in luck. They follow their instincts when it comes to the path of their lives. God answers prayer according to specific standards. For example, we must ask in Jesus’ name[11] and be in fellowship[12]for God to answer prayer.

There are three types of God’s will: (1) God’s direct and unchanging will. (2) God’s permissive will be conditioned on certain factors, and (3) God’s overruling will. God does not give a blank check in prayer.  He qualifies prayer with His will.  If our prayer is not in harmony with His will, God will not answer because we are not on His wavelength. Our prayer was out of the will of God. We prayed according to our will, not God’s will.[13]

God hears our prayers because He is omniscient, but He also hears our prayers because He wants to respond to His children. Therefore, hearing our prayers is synonymous with answering prayers. God conditions answered prayer on our ask. God hears our prayer; His will answers it.  You may say, “He hears all prayers.”  Oh no, there are many prayers God never hears.[14]

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 a studious monk’s spiritual insight, Bede the Venerable (672-735 AD) sees the Apostle John repeating what he said many times over to stir us up to more vibrant prayer. But the condition he imposed at the beginning remains valid: we must ask according to our Maker’s will. There are two sides to this because, on the one hand, John urges us to ask for the things God wants to give us, and at the same time, we are expected to understand what those things are for. This understanding is what it means to have the kind of faith which works through love.[15]

With apostolic overtones, Œcumenius of Trikka (circa 990 AD) believes that what the Apostle John says in verse fifteen is that if we ask according to God’s will, He hears us. Therefore, if He hears us in everything we ask of Him, we know we are praying according to His will. Consequently, we already have the things we have asked for inside us, for these are the kingdom and righteousness of God for which He asked us to pray.[16]

Respected Reformation writer Matthew Poole (1624-1679) states that if God determines the best things for us, we will have them. However, if He decides otherwise, we will not get them if it is intended only to benefit themselves. And God answers His children according to the general meaning of their prayers, not always corresponding to the particular item they desire. Accordingly, suppose the thing would be harmful to the believer, their prayer was constructed to be denied, and the denial is in line with what they prayed for.[17] Furthermore, their prayer cannot be considered according to God’s will if it is not for His glory.[18] And it is impossible for anyone with a sincere heart to have the idea that God would bless them with something He is against. Therefore, the liberty of Jesus’ followers is to ask what they will[19] in line with their calling and mission.[20]

Thomas Pyle (1674-1756), an Anglican priest opposing the monarchy of Church and State in favor of a constitutional parliamentary system, quotes the Apostle John as having said, in the previous five verses, that the sum of our Christianity is this: God promised to provide eternal happiness for godly people. However,  the indispensable condition of enjoying it is a sincere belief in the incarnate Anointed One as God’s Son and His Gospel of Salvation. Accordingly, John’s design in this Epistle was to satisfy all such true believers of the safety of their future condition; and to encourage them to a steadfast belief in this principle, on a full assurance that God will not deny them anything that is genuinely needful for them; but will, in due time and manner, answer all their sincere prayers.[21]

After skillfully scrutinizing the Apostle John’s theme, John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) states that we who truly believe in God are not only assured that He will not only bring us safely to everlasting happiness but will graciously grant us whatever blessings we ask by faith in Jesus’ name, according to the declarations of His will given in His Word. So now, if God is ready to hear the prayers offered to Him with faith in the name of the Anointed One, we ought to pray for forgiveness of sins against our fellow Christians and others in the hope of obtaining His blessings – except the sin against the Holy Spirit, which God has established as unpardonable, and connected with eternal damnation.[22]

More concerned with the Church as a unified body than the sacraments, William Jones of Nyland (1726-1800) says that the Apostle John’s statement in verse fifteen implies: (1) consciousness of things necessary, however many are needed! Regular supplies for the body’s requirements, the forgiveness of sin, daily guidance and grace, reliable hope for our future, etc. We are creatures of constant and countless necessities. Every moment we are dependent upon the power and grace of our Supreme Maker. The exercise of prayer also implies (2) the belief that God is able and willing to supply our needs. Without this faith, a person would never go to God for help in times of need.

Moreover, “we” in verse fifteen refers to Christians “that believe in the Name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son,” mentioned by the Apostle John in verse thirteen ‒ their belief in prayer’s reality springs from their faith in the Anointed One. And the exercise of worship is an expression of their spiritual life in addition to God hearing our prayers. How amazing that God hears countless hourly prayers in many of the world’s different languages! None but an Infinite Being could listen to and understand them. And a Being of infinite intelligence cannot fail to observe every request directed towards Him. No utterance whatever escapes the Divine ear. No gracious Being would regard the prayers such unworthy petitioners offer. Great is the grace of God in attending to our requests. That God graciously hears and responds to them is repeatedly declared in the sacred Scriptures.[23] [24]

For example, a man with a heartfelt friendship with hymn writer[25] John Newton (1726-1807), Thomas Scott (1747-1821) declares that through the intercession of the Anointed One, our prayer requests are presented to God on behalf of all, “who come to God through Him,” or “who pray in His name:”[26] and all wandering believers are invited to return in this way to the Lord from whom they have departed, and are assured that the Anointed One will not refuse to defend the cause of anyone, whatever they hath been or are, who seek the benefit of Him as an advocate: yet there is a sense in which it is not general, but particular.


[1] 1 John 3:21-22

[2] Ibid. 2:28

[3] Matthew 7:7; Ephesians 3:20-21

[4] John 16:24

[5] 1 Kings 18

[6] Hebrews 4:14-16

[7] 1 John 5:12

[8] James 4:3

[9] Hebrew 4:14-16; 10:19

[10] Philippians 4:19

[11] John 14:13; 15:16

[12] John 15:7; 1 John 3:22

[13] Matthew 6:10

[14] Psalm 66:8; 1 Peter 3:7; Psalm 65:2

[15] Bede the Venerable, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scriptures, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 227

[16] Œcumenius, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scriptures, Bray, G. (Ed.), op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 227

[17] 1 John 3:22

[18] Cf. Matthew 6:9-13; John 14:13; 1 John 5:14-15

[19] See John 14:13,14; 15:16; 16:23 etc.

[20] Poole, Matthew. Commentary on the Holy Bible – Book of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John (Annotated), Kindle Edition

[21] Pyle, Thomas: Paraphrase of the Epistles of the New Testament (1725), op. cit., Vol. II, p. 401

[22] Brown of Haddington, John: Self-Interpreting Bible, N. T., Vol. IV, pp. 506-507

[23] See 2 Samuel 22:7; Psalm 22:4, 5, 24; 30:2, 8-12; 31:22; 34:4-6; 50:15; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 18:1-8; John 16:23, 24; James 1:5; 5:16

[24] Jones, William: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., Vol. 22, pp. 164-165

[25] Newton, John: Composer of “Amazing Grace,”

[26] John 14:13

About drbob76

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