By Dr. Robert R. Seyda


CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson CIV) 04/05/23

5:15 He listens to us every time we ask Him. So, we know that He gives us whatever we ask from Him

Beyond any doubt, remarks Alonzo R. Cocke (1858-1901), God is no longer afar off when we acquire eternal life. The chasm that separates the creature from the Creator is filled; they enjoy continued fellowship as God’s child. In Him, there is help, counsel, and comfort. This confidence or boldness which arises leads us to prayer. The trust is in God and takes a particular form “that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Asking according to His will is an essential condition of prayer and is only possible because of the Anointed One within. With His life inside us in full power and the Spirit guiding us, we only ask for God’s preferred gifts, which He gladly supplies.”[1]

Esteemed ministry veteran James B. Morgan (1859-1942) specifies an unseen connection between these verses and that which precedes them. The Apostle John addressed himself to those “that believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.” He referred to counsels he gave them “that they might know they have eternal life.” Their faith will be strengthened, elevated, and purified. by consciously enjoying such a high privilege. He assumes they want the blessedness described in the text to gain higher spiritual ground. It is the exercise of believing in prayer. The connection is the assurance of faith with the spirit of prayer.

Therefore, whenever we sense God’s acceptance, we feel liberty and encouragement to ask Him for those things that are good and necessary. The Apostle Paul expresses this attitude when he tells the Galatians, “Because you are God’s children, He has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts crying, Abba, Father.” It is what our Lord encouraged, “If your forefathers being evil knew how to give good gifts to their children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.” In the same spirit, John writes ‒ “This means that when we ask God for things (and those things agree with what God wants for us), God cares about what we say. He listens to us every time we ask Him. So, we know He gives us whatever we ask from Him.”[2] [3]

Thinking as a dispensationalist,[4] Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945) notes that the conclusion of John’s great Epistle mentions the practical confidence that a believer may have, the outcome of that relationship and fellowship with the Father and His Son, which the doctrinal part so blessedly unfolds. We can come in prayer to Him with boldness and ask, “according to His will” we have the guarantee that God will listen and answer – in His time.

As a loving Father, God listens to the cry of His children, and He answers if it is according to His will, and God’s children would not have it differently and desire anything to be granted them, which is contrary to God’s will. Our unanswered prayers we joyfully recognize as not being according to His will. It is not true faith when fanatics, like “name it and claim it,” faith healers, say God must do certain things. That is not faith but presumption.[5]

With characteristic fundamental thinking, Alan England Brooke (1863-1939) states that our awareness that God hears whatever we ask according to His will brings a consciousness of possession. In the certainty of anticipation, there is a kind of possession of that which has been granted, though our actual control may be indefinitely delayed. God has heard the petition: the things asked for are already ours by faith. This is perhaps the most natural explanation for verse fifteen. But it is possible that while meditating after urging compliance on prayer, John is trying to find expression for a view of prayer, which gives a more literal meaning to the words in verse fifteen, “we have the petitions” (KJV), “requests” (NLT).

In verse fourteen, John stresses that what he says applies only to prayers offered “according to His will.” It excludes any prayer that expresses the supplicant’s wishes not identified as part of God’s will. Therefore, John defines a valid prayer as a request for knowledge rather than a demand on crucial matters. It must also be accompanied by a readiness to give it up if it opposes God’s will.[6]

With an eye for detail, David Smith (1866-1932) amplifies the second limitation in verse fifteen. “We have our requests, not always as we pray but as we would pray were we wiser. God gives not what we ask but what we need.” As a backdrop, Smith quotes the character Menecrates in Shakespeare:

            “We, ignorant of ourselves,

                Beg often our harms, which the wise powers

                Deny us for our good; so, find we profit,

                By losing of our prayers.”[7]

Prayer is not dictating to God.[8]

Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951) illustrates this in his fireside chat manner by saying, “I hold a letter in my hand, and if the person to whom it is addressed is present, please come and claim it. It is addressed to ‘You who believe.’”[9] Now, what would you say? Do you believe First John 5:13 that in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son? Is the letter for you? Then, let us open it and see what it says. “That you may know that you have eternal life, even you who believe in the name [Yeshua, meaning ‘Savior’] of God’s Son.”

It is a message from the high court of heaven to every believer in the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. Have you doubted all through the years? Have you been, as the old Afro-American spiritual puts it, “Sometimes up and sometimes down,”[10] yet hoping that you are heaven-bound but not very sure of it? Get settled today, put away your doubts and fears, and look at the risen Anointed One by faith. Take it from the blessed God Himself that “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.”[11]

As an effective spiritual mentor, Ronald A. Ward (1920-1986) points out that the Apostle John said, “believers listen to us,”[12] but now, “God hears us.”[13] We profit from God’s answer to our prayers, and our listeners benefit from the Word of God on our lips. The Apostle John describes a “spiritual law in the spiritual world.” God’s will requires those in union with Him to make their requests known to Him. This desire on God’s part does not narrow the channel through which our prayers travel to Him but widens it. Having eternal life gives us confidence and boldness to approach Him with our needs – meaning we shouldn’t feel too bashful to ask.[14] [15]

With academic precision, Stephen S. Smalley (1931-2018) finds that verse fifteen extends the content and mood of verse fourteen. The keyword “know” occurs for the first time in this section, which deals with Christian inevitable. On the use and significance of the Greek verb oidmen (“to see, perceive”) is translated by the KJV as “know” in this whole passage, especially in verses eighteen to twenty-one, “and if we know that He listens to us, whatever we ask.” It has no parallel in the Johannine literature.[16] God does listen to believing prayer, as verse fourteen made clear.[17]

An insistent believer in God’s Grace, Zane Clark Hodges (1932-2008) agrees with the Apostle John that God hears requests made in accordance with His will, and a believer can be confident of receiving answers to them. So naturally, Christians today discern God’s will through the Scriptures and follow its advice. But the unit of thought that commences with verse three has focused on the truth that God’s commands are not a burden because faith in God’s Son is the secret of spiritual victory over the world.

In this context, it is natural to suppose that John was thinking especially, though not exclusively, of a Christian’s right to ask God for help in keeping His commands. That kind of prayer is transparently according to His will. Thus, in victorious living, a Christian is relieved of any burden through prayer based on “faith in the name [Yeshua, meaning “Savior”] of God’s Son.”[18]

As a capable scripture analyst, Ian Howard Marshall (1934-2015) states that if we know that God hears our prayers, we can be sure that we have obtained whatever is best for us ‒ meaning “Our petitions are granted at once, or the granting of the results are perceived in the future.” Of course, if our prayers concern future events, their answers can only be up ahead. But perhaps John means what he says. The spiritual gifts we ask for in prayer are directly available to us. In any case, the point is that God’s children can be sure of an answer when they pray according to His will. “I tell you,” said Jesus, “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it, and it will be yours.”[19] We need that confidence today.[20]

As a seasoned essayist on the Apostle John’s writings, John Painter (1935) points out that verse fifteen elaborates on verse fourteen. The conclusion of verse fourteen, “He hears us,” now becomes the basis of the condition of verse fifteen, “if we know that He hears us whatever we ask.” The assumption that God hears us has already been made conditional to asking according to His will. The new condition builds on that. What follows from this is an elaboration of what it means for God to hear us. It means that “we get the request that we asked from Him.”

Thus, we see that “to hear” means more than simply to be aware of the words. To hear in this sense means to respond positively to what is asked. Thus, to know that God hears means that God grants the requests. It is now explicit that the request is made of God, and it is implicit that God provides whatever has been requested. The hidden assumption is that God is able to provide whatever we ask according to His will.[21]

Ministry & Missions Overseer Muncia Walls (1937) says that verse fifteen expresses faith. Actually, there are two essential keys to be considered by the child of God in their approach to God in prayer; 1) The will of God – knowing the will of God will result in our praying with more assurance and boldness. Sometimes, like Israel of old, we may plead with God to give us something (something which we don’t actually need), and the Lord, because of our persistence, may permit us to have that thing, but at the same time, it may bring toughness into our soul. So, knowing the will of God is very important. 2) By faith – Prayer must be by faith. We must believe that God is not only able to do what we ask Him for but that He will do it for us. That is what John is speaking about in this verse.[22]

Expositor and systematic theologist Michael Eaton (1942-2017) points out that it is vital believers know they are experiencing eternal life because it will affect their praying. If we know that we believe and are praying in His will, then we may also know that the answer to that prayer is on its way. John does say, sometimes we do not have a one hundred percent assurance that what we are praying for is God’s will. God allows us to pray generally. But if we know that we are praying in His will, tremendous confidence in prayer follows in our relationship with Him.

Again we know that John does say “if” we pray, and we may not know that He hears us. But we can still pray! And God may answer us even if we do not have total certainty that what we are asking for is His will. But if we do know He hears us, we have it! It may be slow in coming, slow to be visibly realized, but the actual answer to the prayer has already been approved. To have this kind of knowledge in advance gives great peace and joy.[23]

After scrutinizing the Apostle John’s subject theme, William Loader (1944) notes that the Apostle John repeats the theme of boldness in prayer in these verses.[24] God’s agápē gives us life and encourages us to stand with confidence before God. The model is not that of the pleading servant before a vicious rich man nor begging on one’s knees before the Almighty. Instead, it is one of awe and reverence expressed in acceptance of love and the invitation to be fully present with God, not to diminish oneself. Respect for God based on reverence differs from respect based on being overawed.[25]

A Great Commission practitioner David Jackman (1945) sees further confidence in verse fifteen that we can know that, with God, hearing means answering. This is the force of the present tense. We have what we asked. There is no “pending” notice with God. Though the outworking of the answer may not be seen until sometime in the future, our requests are granted at once. The trust that opens up our needs to God is not disappointed. [26]

[1] Cocke, Alonzo R: Studies in the Epistles of John; or, The Manifest Life, op. cit., pp. 132-133

[2] 1 John 5:14b-15

[3] Morgan, James B., An Exposition of the First Epistle of John, op. cit., Lecture XLVIII, pp. pp. 478-479

[4] A belief in a system of historical progression, as revealed in the Bible, consisting of a series of stages in God’s self-revelation and plan of salvation through Noah, Moses, and Jesus, who served as Saviors of God’s chosen.

[5] Gaebelein, Arno C., The Annotated Bible, op. cit., pp. 159-160

[6] Brooke, Alan E., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 144-145

[7] The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra, published by Isaac Iaggard & Ed. Blount, 1623, Act II, Scene I

[8] Smith, David: The Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1 John, op. cit., 197

[9] 1 John 5:13

[10] Nobody Knows the Trouble I See, author unknown

[11] Ironside, Harry A., Addresses on the Epistles of John, op. cit., pp. 207-208

[12] 1 John 4:6

[13] Ibid. 5:15

[14] See Mark 11:23ff  

[15] Ward, Ronald A., The Epistles on John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 57-58

[16] See Luke 19:40; 1 Thessalonians 3:8

[17] Smalley, Stephen S., Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 51, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., p. 296

[18] Hodges, Zane C. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 902

[19] Mark 11:24

[20] Marshall, Ian Howard: The Epistles of John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), op. cit., p. 245

[21] Painter, John. Sacra Pagina: 1, 2, and 3 John: Volume 18, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Edition

[22] Walls, Muncia: Epistles of John and Jude, op. cit., pp. 91-92

[23] Eaton, Michael: Focus on the Bible, 1,2,3 John, op. cit., pp. 191-192

[24] See 1 John 3:21-22; cf. 2:28

[25] Loader, William: Epworth Commentary, The Johannine Epistles, op. cit., pp. 73-74

[26] Jackman, David: The Message of John’s Letters, op. cit., pp. 161-162

About drbob76

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