Dear Church Family,

When you pray, do you believe you will or won’t receive what you ask from God? Are you surprised when God hears your requests or when He doesn’t? Should we feel one way or the other?

It’s probably fair to say many Christians pray expecting not to receive that for which they ask. Several factors play into our predispositions here, but one that is not often talked about comes from 1 John 3:21-22. It reads, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”

John wrote this letter to God’s children; that is, the church. Christians are those who have entered into the New Covenant with God through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is within the context of this relationship that God’s steadfast love is poured into our hearts. With that being said, only the prayers of those who have been born again are heard by the Father. God is good, kind, patient, and loving in some ways to all without exception. Nevertheless, there are other ways in which God is good, kind, patient, and loving only to those who bear the blood of His Son.

However, as you may have noticed, John qualifies that there will even be times when Christians are not heard by God. Those whose hearts condemn them have no confidence before God that He will answer their requests. What does John mean when he talks about a condemning heart? I will leave it to you to dig into the broader context of his letter, but specifically in this same sentence he links it with not keeping God’s commandment and not doing what pleases God.

What do we make of that? If we are not living in obedience to God’s Word and not fighting to honor Him, we have no confidence our prayers will be answered by Him. Why would God refuse to hear the prayers of His children when they are disobedient? Again, please look into the whole of John’s letter to see this, but God does this to discipline us in order to lead us to repentance. Though it may not seem this way at first, it is truly a blessing from God for Him not only to warn us of the danger of not being in good standing with Him, but also to motivate us to walk in obedience from an eagerness for Him to hear us when we pray.

So, from these two verses, John teaches us that genuine Christians who are walking with the Lord in the light of His Word should pray with a confident expectancy that the Lord will hear their requests. Does that mean if God doesn’t answer your request you either aren’t a Christian or you aren’t walking in obedience to His Word? Not necessarily. Those are good places for us to begin testing ourselves, but John gives us one more factor later in his letter that may be the reason why God does not grant our requests. We will look at this remaining element next time, Lord willing.