Prayer and Forgiveness
1 John 5: 13-17
Additional texts: 1John 2:28; 3:21; 4:7; 1 John 3: 21-22; 1 John 5:11-12, and 1 John1:8-10; 2:1-2; 3:4-6.
For Christians, prayer is the ongoing conversation with God our Heavenly Father. Prayer is more than a physiological feeling of well being because someone is listening. Prayer is a deep spiritual process that never stops and prayer has a “cleansing” effect as we confess our sins. This is not a mere listing of our faults but an acknowledgement of our guilt and our separation from God. The only way to recover that relationship is the atoning work of Jesus Christ, which will make the sin, guilt, and separation non-existent. We can have confidence in this God given testimony. John boldly asserts that our confidence before God rests in our knowledge that if we pray according to his will, He hears us and answers us.
Our focus in this lesson will be to understand the relationship of prayer and our confessional life before God. All of our confidence is the embodiment of the atoning nature of Jesus Christ and his position as the Only Son of our Heavenly Father!
1. Specifically, whom does John address his thoughts toward as he closes his letter? Can we feel that John is writing his letter to us?
The apostle John has used the following phrases throughout his letter: “little children”, “beloved”, “dear friends”, and “dear children”. Each phrase indicates John's deep love and care for his readers. His letter may have been intended for only one local congregation, probably Ephesus or even several congregations in the area of Ephesus. However, the letter was eventually circulated and even later attached to his gospel to indicate a complete work.
John's words held special and even very specific meaning for the readers of his day. The language and phrases help us determine this fact. Early Christians were facing a false teaching that was internal and devalued the nature and work of Jesus; the Gnostic teaching. Today, Christians are still facing false teaching from within and without that attempt to down play Jesus as simply a good moral teacher. John's message is still as meaningful today as it was 2000 years ago. John is still speaking directly to his “dear children.”
Although scholar and others attempt to weaken the gospel message remember John calls this message “Living”, “ Truth”, and eternal. Thus, his message, although old in a chronological sense, the message is new and timely today.
2. In addition to verse 14, John has indicated in previous verses that we have confidence as Christians. Using 1 John 2:28; 3:21; 4:7,and 5:1, what is/are the source(s) of this confidence? What are the focus of this confidence? Finally, what difference should this confidence make in our Christian faith and walk?
Our source of confidence is the fact that Jesus through his sacrificial life has made us acceptable to God as His children. John works hard to help us truly understand that we have confidence before God. Not through or by our own merits but because of Jesus!
John told us in:
1 John 2:28 that our confidence is by our continuing in Jesus.
1 John 3:21-22 that our confidence is in developing a pure
heart before God.
1 John 4:17that our confidence is by having Agape love in
fellowship with God by which we are made complete.
1 John 5: 13-14 that our confidence is through eternal life
that is promised to those who believe in Jesus.
All four statements are tied to our faith and obedience to his commands. The obedience is because of agape love and not fear. Faith is based in the Truth of His eternal word and our fellowship in the Word! How can we not have confidence in light of what John has impressed upon us in his letter?
3. For Christians, why is it comforting to know that our Father in heaven is listening to our prayers? What are the forms of listening?
Through John efforts in his letter we should understand that we have confidence in God listening our prayers. It is not a psychological pacifier that we exercise but truth based on Jesus.
Remember!! The creator of the cosmos is listening to us! What an honor and humbling thought. We must put this is context in every moment of prayer.
How do you listen to people? Are you attentive? Are you bored? Are you going to take action on what you hear? Do you understand correctly what people are saying to you? How does God listen to us? John says that we have in Christ the boldness/confidence to talk with God and He will listen attentively and favorably. John uses the Greek word “akouo” 75 times in his books and letters. This Greek word implies more than just an audible action but means that God understands our prayers in a favorable, attentive manner. This is should be comforting to us as we face difficult problems in life.
4. God promises to answer our prayers according to verses 14-15. What condition is placed on the answering of our prayers? Also see 1 John 3: 21-22.
In 1 John 3: 21-22, we see that a condition to our prayer life is our obedience to God's commands and our pleasing Him. John adds another condition to our prayer life in verses 14-15, we must ask according to His will. The only way that we can do this is to obey Him and walk in the Light as Jesus walked. Notice Jesus' words from John 4:34, 6:38-40, & 8:55. Jesus always followed the will of God his Father. We must do the same to have a prayer life that conforms to the Will of God and not trying to conform God to our will.
5. Who is the “brother” in verse 16? The answer to this question will help formulate answers to questions 6 and 7.
John as we discussed in the first question, is speaking to Christians. No sin is to be taken lightly, so we pray for our members (brothers and sisters of our fellowship).
6. What is the “sin that leads to death”? Why does John say that forgiveness of sin results in “life”? Also see 1 John 5:11-12.
These verses can be very difficult. However, if we view them in context and examine the Greek phrase we can gain some clarity. The translation should be “there is sin which is mortal and sin which is not mortal.” John does not say there is “a” mortal sin but sin that leads to death. Such was the sin of the Gnostics and antichrists, which was the denial of Jesus' deity. Certainly false teachers whom John was against would teach that Jesus was only a man and not God the Son. As John has clearly stated in earlier chapters, walking in darkness is a separation from God's fellowship.
7. What is the relationship of sin, confession, and prayer? Also use 1 John 1:8-10; 2:1-2; 3:4-6.
It would appear that confession may be opposite of “claiming to be without sin”. In I John 1:8, it says that claiming to be without sin is not truthful. The very next verse says that if we confess our sin, God will forgive and “purify” us from unrighteousness. This would strongly indicate that confession truly is a cleansing of the soul ----- It keeps us honest with ourselves, with others, and most importantly, with GOD. Prayer is one avenue for this act of truthfulness or confession to take place. In prayer we are laying ourselves open before God and also praying on the behalf of others. James 5:16-“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
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