October 16, 2022
Pastor John Hering
1 John 5:13-15
1 John 5:13-15
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
Will Jesus find faith when he returns? The answer is, Yes! Today we pray: Lord! Increase our faith! And we learn that Faith Demonstrates itself through Prayer. I believe that everyone here today agrees that prayer is a big deal. God invites us to pray, encourages us to pray and, yes, commands us to pray. Our worship service today is centered on the subject of prayer. Everyone here knows how to pray, for praying is talking. Perhaps from little on your parents taught you how to pray—bow your head, fold your hands and pray before meals, before going to bed, and when you get up in the morning. For sure there are some weeks when our prayer-life is better than others. When we slip in our prayer-life we get to come into God’s House of Prayer and be renewed with a carefully crafted, “Pray of the Church” that includes Jesus’ model prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, to get us back on track. So, today we pray: Lord, Increase our Faith that Demonstrates itself through Prayer.
However, there is a problem with my praying, and maybe yours too, that bugs me like a horsefly buzzing around my legs and it’s easily shooed away. It’s God’s answers to my prayers. I don’t usually have trouble coming up with things to prayer for, but sometimes I sinfully struggle with God’s answers to my prayers. So, sometimes I doubt, “I wonder if God is really listening”? or despair, “Why bother, because I don’t see anything happening.” Today St John addresses some of our questions about prayer. Remember, John was there next to Jesus when he taught the disciples the 1st Edition of the Lord’s Prayer. He heard Jesus when he talked about the persistent widow in our Gospel for today. John also knew that he and the people he served in Ephesus, and all of us needed help in our prayer life. So, the Holy Spirit inspired John to write this letter to Christians then and today to remind us to
Pray With Confidence
Because of Who God Is.
I can well imagine your reaction if stranger walked up to you and said, “I want you to pray to me.” Yes, you heard me right. He didn’t say, “Please pray for me” but said “Pray to me.” That would be weird, and maybe even shocking. Why would anyone want me to pray to them? You might even think this person is three french-fries short of a Happy Meal, or maybe he fell out of the stupid tree and crashed on every branch on the way down! Why in the world would anyone want to pray to a human being who is frail and faulty? Yet, it happens. People pray, in the sense that, they depend on and hope for governments to help, for neighbors to help, even for fellow Christians to help. So, let’s set a definition for prayer: It isn’t just a request from a higher power, but from a divine power!
So, if you had a chance to design a “higher divine power,” what sort of god would you make? I imagine you would want a god that knew who you are and what all you wanted. You might even create a god that looked just like the person you see in the mirror every morning. But, we all know this type of god, person, or entity would be inadequate, flawed and powerless. How foolish to pray to a false god like that! Yes, it happens all the time. St Paul wrote about people who followed such false gods:
“22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles”Romans 1:22-23
We hear that and think, “Why would anyone be so foolish?” I think you know. The desire to make ourselves a god is part of our nature because we know there is something out there to whom we are accountable. Indeed, the true God has revealed himself by giving us all a natural knowledge of God, a greater power out there! And this scares people and if they can create a false god of their own design they can hide their guilt and accountability. That’s why the Children of Israel wanted to avoid the God on Mount Sinai and create their own calf to worship. That’s why Mohammad wrote the Quran, why Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon, why Hindus have multiple gods and why Buddhists concentrate on removing desires. Their conscience tells them of a “higher divine power” and their life will not go well now, or in the next life, if they don’t appease the false gods they think are real.
But, prayer to what is not real is a worthless prayer—it’s the difference between fiction and non-fiction, as different as heaven and hell! Therefore, do not pray to a humans, or a block of wood or stone. That would be like building a skyscraper on sand. Worthless.
Rather, Pray with Confidence Because of Who God Is! Pray to the true God who has revealed himself to us as the One to whom we are accountable. The Lord God is the only true God who can do something about, and has done something about our guilty conscience. John wrote, “13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” God has revealed himself to you in the pages of holy Scripture so you can know who he is and what he did to save you. God knows that he demands your perfection to enter into heaven, therefore he sent Jesus to become one of us and do what we could never do, “Be holy!” He paid what we could never pay when he died on the cross and forgave all your sins. For Jesus’ sake the Lord God does not look at us and say, “Get out! Away from me you evil doers!” but he welcomes us with open arms because through faith in Jesus we are covered with his righteous, holy, blood. And until the day when he welcomes us into our eternal mansions, he says to us, Pray With Confidence To Me Because of Who I am!” He is our God who loves us and saved us. Then Pray With Confidence
Because He Listens.
There are so many examples of people in the Bible who had trouble with their prayers. When they didn’t have it right, God patiently taught them and us who hears and who doesn’t hear the prayers of people. For instance God humiliated Balaam by proving to him that his donkey was smarter than he was (tell the story of Balaam). Or how about the time Elijah took on the prophets of Baal in a prayer dual? They made bet—we will both set up an altar with a sacrifice—the Prophets of Baal to their god and Elijah to his God. Then they would pray for fire to come from their god/God to consume the sacrifice. Whoever’s sacrifice was burnt up had the true God. The prophets of Baal shouted and prayed to catch Baal’s attention, even to the point of cutting themselves. And there’s Elijah with his elbow leaning on his altar with something to say: “27 “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18). There you see Elijah’s Confidence in the Lord who is the Only God Who Listens. Then Elijah prayed,
““Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.”1 Kings 18:36-38
Pray Confidently Because Our God is the God Who Listens!
Does God listen to you when you pray? How can you be sure? Shall we set up an altar in the back yard and give it a try? No! We can be sure God hears our prayers because of the promises he has already given to us in his Word! John said, “14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” You can be driving in your car, walking in the woods, sitting in your classroom, at work, on vacation, on a boat or in the quiet of your home and God has already promised to hear you for Jesus’ sake. David teaches us this in Word we love from Psalm 121, “3 He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” That’s God’s commitment to listen to you. We don’t need fire from heaven to lite up our altars because the Lord God is our dear Father in heaven who has already promised to hear our prayers. Therefore Pray With Confidence Because of Who God Is, Because He Promises to Listen, and
Because He Answers.
But, there’s still that question that is buzzing around my legs like a horsefly—how is God going to answer my prayers? I know we are praying to the only true God, the God who is bigger than the universe he created, the God who can do anything and everything, who ought to throw us away in the eternity of hell for our sinful behavior, but instead we are ushered into the presence of the King of Kings by his Son, Jesus. We know all these things, so can we ask him for anything and he will do whatever we ask? The answer is…. Yes & No! Prayer is a great privilege, but it isn’t a blank check. God’s invitation and command to pray does not leave the door wide open to pray, “Lord, let me win the lottery” or “Give me perfect health” or “Destroy all my enemies.” Listen again to what John wrote:
“14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”1 John 5:14-15
Prayer is not a way for us to impose our will on the One who runs the world. Rather, if you want confidence that God will answer all your prayers, then all your prayers need to be in line with God’s will. That means we need to determine what God’s will is. So, how do we do that? How do we get the horsefly to stop buzzing around and know what God’s will is for our lives? The answer is here in the Bible! God revealed his will to us in his holy Word. Now, don’t think of the Bible as a mysterious code book to discover what God’s will is. Rather stick to the obvious! Pray as Jesus taught us and you will pray according to God’s will. Pray according to the promises God has made in his Word and you will pray according to his will. Here’s an example:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”1 Timothy 2:1-4
So, when I pray for the Lord to use me to bring his Gospel to people I know I’m praying in line with God’s will. I know God wants his Word proclaimed, for people to listen to it and be saved. Now, where did the horsefly go? He’s gone! I know God Listened to will Answer my Prayer According to his Good And Gracious Will.
But, what about the Lottery? Think about it. It would be heartless and cruel for a father to give his kids everything they asked for if it harmed them or others. “Hey Dad, can I juggle the knives in the kitchen?” No! “Hey Dad, can I borrow your car keys, grab some beers and go driving around tonight with my friends?” No! you just got your license two days ago! “Hey Dad, can I have your credit card to buy games on the internet?” NO! You’ll waste all your time doing that instead of your homework!” “Hey God, Can I win the lottery, please?” No! Because then you would become lazy, tire yourself out with entertainment and stop coming to church, and eventually lose your faith!” Do you see, God does answer all your prayers, “Yes, No, or sometimes, Wait!” We might think of the Apostle Paul who prayed,
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me”1 Corinthians 12:7,8
The Lord didn’t take it away so when people would see Paul’s weakness and the Gospel that was proclaimed in spite of it, they would honor and love the Lord God who used a weak vessel like St Paul to accomplish only what God can do—save people!
Will Jesus find faith when he returns? Yes, he will find his Church built on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, today we pray, Lord Increase Our Faith That Demonstrates Itself Through Prayer. We Pray with Confidence Because We Know Who the True God Is, That He Graciously Listens To Our Prayers and Answers Them According to His Will. Pray Until Something Happens as you hear God’s promise: “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15). Amen.