NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
By Dr. Robert R. Seyda
FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson CII) 04/03/23
5:15 He listens to us every time we ask Him. So, we know that He gives us whatever we ask from Him.
According to Robert Jamieson (1802-1880), Andrew Fausset (1821-1910), and David Brown’s (1803-1897) way of thinking, the Apostle John’s promise that if we know God is listening when we talk to Him and give Him our requests, then we can be sure that He will answer us. To this, they remind us that we have, as present possessions, everything we wanted from Him. Not one of our past prayers offered in faith, according to His will, is lost.
Like Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, we can rejoice over them as granted even before the event; and recognize the event when it comes to pass, as not from chance but obtained by our past prayers. Compare Jehoshaphat’s belief confidence in the issue of his prayers, so much so that he appointed singers to praise the Lord beforehand. 
With noticeable spiritual comprehension, Henry Cowles (1802-1881) makes the point that the Greek noun parrēsia, translated as “Confidence” (KJV), is more suggestive in the case of prayer, signifying the “freedom of speech” we have when talking to a close friend – today we would say, “talk candidly” –because we know we can fully trust them. Parrēsia, as used by the writer of Hebrews, renders it as “boldness.” It should be accepted as non-offensive – a free conversation with no restraint or fear and the Apostle John’s conditional clause – “If we ask anything according to His will.” Is it the manner of asking, or the sort of thing being asked. The words might refer to either – the manner of speaking – or, in the name of Jesus or our own, or some saint. The motive is also important – is it for God’s or ours? Is it in the interest of God’s kingdom or our self-serving concerns?
With his lifework well-illustrating the biblical and reformation ideal of the pastor-theologian, Robert S. Candlish (1807-1873) says that what the Apostle John says here could be the ending of the epistle’s central portion. Whether the “these things” which “I have written unto you” are simply the things contained in the immediately preceding context or looking further back is not essential. John is summing up; he brings his discourse or argument to its close. John makes it very clear the ending he has in mind. It is that you may “know” certain things. Over and over again, he uses the word “know;” not less than six or seven times in about as many verses.
The knowledge John refers to is evidently of great importance from a spiritual point of view, not speculative or intellectual, but experimental and practical. It is not simply faith, although it works with confidence. Still, it is something more than faith. Faith is realized and proven inwardly by being acted on and acted out. Thus, the believer can determine, by actual trial and experience, the truth and trustworthiness of their belief. Therefore, if it is not with us now, we may need to be persuaded to have hope, but “we need to know.”
With an inquiring mind, Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885) assures us that if we are conscious that we have access to the divine ear, we also know, despite apparent failures, that we have the privilege of asking for things themselves or related blessings. Our prayers have never been ineffective, even though the specified thing we requested never came. They all come to us based on God’s generosity.
As a faithful and zealous scholar, William Graham (1810-1883) states that what the Apostle John says in verse thirteen is intended to enlarge our confidence in the goodness of our prayer-hearing God and remove all our suspicions and objections. But, first, observe the limited and peculiar meaning of “to hear,” which does not refer to the physical ability to hear but the consent and approval of one’s will. Thus, the meaning is, “If we know that He approves of our prayers, as agreeable to his will, and commanded by Him, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.”
The idea John gives in this verse of the goodness and power of God: “If we know that He hears, we know that we have.” Nothing can come between Him and us; with irreversible certainty, all the purposes of His grace apply. Almighty power and infinite wisdom will accomplish the petitions according to God’s will in the best possible way. The effect flowing instantaneously from God’s will is the highest ideal of eternal creative power. There are many instances of this in the Holy Scriptures. What God said initially is an example of this kind of exaltation.
Some such ideas of the power and majesty of God add to His infinite love and goodness must have been in the mind of the apostle John when he wrote, “If we know that He hears, we know that we have our petitions.” We also notice the noble confidence with which John speaks to us. “According to His will” is not added here, although it is understood after “whatsoever we ask.” The idea is this, God says, you are my children and friends, and I have such confidence in your love for others and forethought that I can give you carte blanche to fill up at your pleasure whenever you need my assistance in your journey through life. So the same apostle records the words of the Savior to the same effect.
Then we, on our part, should respond to this fatherly confidence by a decent return of all affections and joyous obedience in all things, by drawing from the treasures of His grace. By so doing, we honor Him even more. By imitating His Son, who sought nothing and did nothing for His honor and glory, but everything for the glory of His Father in heaven, we cherish the spirit of prayer and communion with God! It is indeed the essence of all true faith and rises out of the doctrine of the believer’s sonship in Jesus the Anointed One, God’s Son. 
With the zeal of a scriptural text examiner, William E. Jelf (1811-1875) concludes that the notion of God hearing us is, in Scriptural language, the idea of prayers being answered and requests granted. Prayer, of course, it is only a human way we can speak to God.
After observing the Apostle John’s attention to detail, John Stock (1817-1884) declares that the privilege of prayer given to the household of faith is unimaginable. It conducts us to God, provides us with an audience with Him, and overcomes our cares and temptations. The soul is wonderfully enriched in this heavenly conversation, which the Holy Spirit mediates. He’s the only one who can teach us what to pray for and how to ask. Christians have two advocates, the Holy Spirit in their hearts and the Lord Jesus in the presence of the Father. God is approachable in and through the Lord Jesus, and by His Spirit, we always have access and in all places to the Father. It also gives us boldness and confidence to speak to God without fear openly.
Furthermore, the blessing of access to God’s throne of grace6 is beyond comprehension. Prayer itself, deserves nothing, yet it makes us eligible to obtain all things. And sometimes, it is inaudible to the ear. Sometimes our groanings are unutterable, yet the Holy Spirit makes them sound like thunder in heaven1. Prayers that are agreeable to God’s will are never denied but replied to in measure and time, as is most convenient for us. Delay in answer to prayer is not denial but only part of the process for the coveted gifts requested. God graciously says, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things,” who didn’t stop until Abraham ceased to ask.
English Anglican priest, scholar, and hymn-writer John Mason Neale (1818-1866) gave the following illustration on verses fourteen and fifteen: He remarked, here is an instance of remarkable grace. A young French soldier asked his mother for the prayer when he went off to the war. He thought about this repeatedly; it was the last request he made before leaving home. In every letter he sent her, there was this same earnest request, do not forget to pray for me. She did not forget what he asked every morning and evening. But one Wednesday afternoon around four o’clock – his mother suddenly felt heavily burdened – she could not tell why or how. She did not know that her son was in great danger, and she needed to pray for him at once. She did so, having the same urging, for more than two hours.
Not too long afterward, she received a letter from her son saying he was in extreme danger during those hours. He was assigned to serve in the battle of Balaclava. There, he saw sixteen soldiers who stood next to his right and left sides shot dead; his helmet had been blown off his head, and his uniform was nearly torn to pieces by shrapnel hitting the ground. But astoundingly, he was not wounded, not even one scratch. Now, says Neale, this would not, strictly speaking, be called a miracle. Instead, it is an example of “grace.” It is clear proof that God can and does hear and answer prayer.
With an inquiring spiritual mind, Johannes H. A. Ebrard (1819-1893) concludes that if we know that God heard our prayer, we already have the thing prayed for (even though the fulfillment may not be seen right away. But “He hears” involves the granting. Therefore, knowing that God hears us is influenced by what we ask. Consequently, it is the highest form of confidence that the petitioner with absolute assurance can have in prayer, regarding the thing asked for as their possession, even though they just asked God for it.
After contemplating John’s train of thought, William Kelly (1822-1888) urges us who love others to abide in God and God in us. Love expels large and small hindrances through His grace and gives us boldness through unchanging love to change what we can. God is pleased with this boldness in counting on His care for us during our trials, our weakness, our need, in the sorrow that sickness brings, in painful circumstances, in all the ways in which we are put to the proof from day today. What then should be our feeling? Have we boldness of faith in our present intercourse with God and reckoning on Him through the grace that delivered us from death and sins, that gave us life and the Holy Spirit? and are we trembling and doubtful in the little troubles of this life?
However, is this not unworthy, a strange inconsistency? By faith about the best blessings, let us have no less boldness about the minor things day by day. Never doubt that He who loves us monitors allowed or sent to prove us. Surely, we should be ashamed to ask for anything against His will. His words let us know what His will is and what is not. So, let us not doubt Him in these comparatively small trials by proving His infinite love for our deepest needs. How easily we forget to act quickly for what might be His answer. Prayers are meant for God and blessings for us. But it is not as it should be without the boldness which honors God’s love for us.
Familiar with John’s writing style, William B. Pope (1822-1903) notes that boldness is a more specific characterization of our confidence toward God, whose children we are by virtue of eternal life through regeneration. Throughout the Final Covenant, having assurance towards the Father in prayer is represented as the first privilege of the adoption: we have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
The Apostle Paul says that the Holy Spirit helps us cope with our daily problems and prayers. For, sometimes, we don’t know what we should pray for nor how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with such feeling that it cannot be expressed in words, and the Father who knows all hearts knows, of course, what the Spirit is saying as the Spirit pleads for us in harmony with God’s will for our lives. And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and adjust to His plans.
What Paul says and what our Lord said implies we can get anything we ask for in prayer – if we believe, and furnishes the best commentary on this passage. As Jesus, the Intercessor in heaven, presents our prayers with confidence, the Spirit, the Intercessor in the heart, communicates to Him; it teaches us that anything we ask according to His will, He hears us. In fact, He hears the voice of His Spirit within us, and we are not praying when we don’t ask according to His mind. This IS the sublime perfection of the only prayer that John knows, and it is in harmony with the tenor of the whole Epistle, always and in everything making real the highest ideal.
 1 Samuel 2:1-10
 2 Chronicles 20:6-12
 Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, New Testament Volume, op. cit., p. 730
 Hebrews 4:16
 Cowles, Henry: The Gospel and Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 358-359
 Candlish, Robert S., The First Epistle of John Expounded in a Series of Lectures, op. cit., Lecture XLI, pp. 503-516
 Whedon, Daniel D., Commentary on the New Testament, op. cit., p. 280
 Genesis 1:3; cf. Matthew 8:3; Mark 4:39; John 11:43
 French term meaning blank document or blank check.
 John 15:7; John 15:16; 14:13, 14; 16:23
 Graham, William: The Spirit of Love, op. cit., pp. 340-341
 Jelf, William E., Commentary on the First Epistle of St. John, op. cit., p. 77
 Psalm 81:10
 Stock, John: An Exposition of the First Epistle General of St. John, op. cit., pp. 445, 448-449
 The Battle of Balaclava, fought on October 25, 1854, during the Crimean War, was part of the Siege of Sevastopol, an Allied attempt to capture the port and fortress there, Russia’s principal naval base on the Black Sea. The engagement followed the earlier Allied victory in September at the Battle of the Alma, where the Russian General Menshikov had positioned his army in an attempt to stop the Allies from progressing south toward their strategic goal. Alma was the first major encounter fought on the Crimean Peninsula since the Allied landings at Kalamita Bay on September 14th and was a clear battlefield success; but a tardy pursuit by the Allies failed to gain a decisive victory, allowing the Russians to regroup, recover and prepare their defense.
 Neale, J. M., Sermons in Sackville College Chapel, J. Masters and Company, London, 1882, vol. ii. p. 27
 Ebrard, Johannes H. A., Biblical Commentary on the Epistles of St. John, op. cit., p. 337
 Kelly, William: An Exposition of the Epistles of John the Apostle, op. cit., p. 385
 Romans 8:15
 Matthew 21:22
 Pope, William B., The International Illustrated Commentary on the N.T., Vol. IV, op. cit., pp. 39-40