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. And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. If you see your brother or sister committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one—to those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin that is mortal; I do not say that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal.
Our reading today starts with what sounds like a conclusion to 1 John, telling us why it was written. Then we have the postscript urging us to have the confidence to be bold in prayer. It reminds us that we know that God hears our prayers and so we have obtained the requests that we have made, so long as they are in accordance with God’s will.
That is a very powerful claim. We don’t need to spend time looking for the answer to prayer, because our prayer will be answered. That doesn’t mean that our prayer will be answered at the time we expect, or in the ways that we might anticipate, or even in ways that we can recognise. Nevertheless, we can pray in the confidence that God will hear us.
Perhaps, then, we need to concentrate on discerning God’s will, so that we can get our prayers ‘right’. On the other hand, God clearly knows God’s will and it’s God who will be answering our prayers. Surely, then, what we need to be identifying are the people, places and situations that God wants us to pray about and leaving the details up to God. Yet how often do we ask God for guidance on what we should be praying about?
The other aspect of this is how our prayers will change us and the way in which we respond to people and situations. Is this why we are urged to pray for forgiveness for others? Will that help us to forgive them ourselves and to include them fully in our fellowship? If our first prayer is to ask God what we should be praying about, then our second prayer needs to be to ask God how we can begin to answer our own prayers.
Living and Loving God, help me to know deep within myself that you hear my prayers. Give me the confidence to be bold in prayer. Show me the people, places and situations that you want me to pray about. Open me to your will for them. Guide me in how I can begin to answer my own prayers. Thanks be to God! Amen
The Rev’d Jacky Embrey, Moderator of the Mersey Synod.