1 John 3:19-24
Do you ever feel guilty and don’t know why? Of course if you wander around in your mind long enough you can always scare up something. While none of us are saints, I know from experience that from time to time Satan wants to stir us up for his own pleasure. Something like this was going on in the group to which John is writing. In verse 19 he writes about “setting our heart at rest” and in the following verse of peoples heart condemning them. The point is that God is greater than the subjective response of our wounded conscience. When God forgives there is no room left for our self-inflicted guilt that we are not perfect. Verse 21 points out that a clear understanding of this truth will grant us “confidence before God;” then when we come to him with our requests he will grant us” anything we ask” (v. 22).
Prayer is a mystery. We know from scripture that God answers prayer and that he will do what we ask. We understand, of course, that we are to ask for things that are consistent with his will. We do not give our children what they ask for if it could hurt them in any way, so they learn that it is useless to ask for candy at bedtime. So let’s apply that same condition to our prayer requests. We do not pray, “Lord, help me become a rich man.” We know he is not in that business. But we often ask him for what seems to us to be perfectly acceptable and he doesn’t answer.
I think that prayer may be more for our benefit than for a result in someone else’s life. In prayer we talk to God. We share with him. We ask him questions. He makes suggestions. Back and forth it goes just as in a normal conversation. And in the process we get to know him better. And the result of that is that our prayers are far more likely to be heard and answered because we don’t waste time asking for what we know could not be a part of his will. Put another way, prayer changes us in the same way an extended conversation with a friend will influence how we may think on a subject. The fact that God is almighty means that there is nothing that exceeds his ability and power to accomplish. So if he wanted a certain thing to happen in your life why would you have to ask for help? Could he not accomplish whatever it is on his own? He is omnipotent and doesn’t that mean he can do it all by himself?
In answer to that I think that in a certain way God has put “limits” on his ability to achieve certain results. He may be saying,“ I will do such and such IF Bob, Joe, Nelly, or whoever, asks me. I’m going to operate that way in order to involve them for their own sake. Prayer is for those who pray. They need to draw close and as they become more serious about our friendship they will understand that it is my desire for a certain thing to happen – let’s say, the conversion of their friends. If I withhold their “candy” this evening they will search their own soul in a desire to know more about what I want and when their friend comes to me by faith I will have my desire fulfilled and they will be stronger and more informed believers.”
What do you think? Does God think along those lines? Is prayer for the one praying or for what God wants done – or both?