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1 John 5:13-15
Dear Children of our Heavenly Father
Jacob wrestled with God all night and wouldn’t let him go until he blessed him. Did you ever think about that! As morning began to break God, in human form, touched Jacob’s hip, just touched it, and put it out of joint. Obviously, he allowed Jacob to wrestle with him. He could have put an end to the wrestling match, and to Jacob, any time he wanted. But, in the end, he did bless Jacob, changing his name to Israel.
This morning, John reminds us that we too can wrestle with God. We too can have the confidence to come into the presence of God and ask for his blessing and know that he will bless us. We can pray with confidence.
We need to hear this because Satan doesn’t want us to come to God in prayer at all; and our own conscience tells us that we shouldn’t even try. When we think about coming to God in prayer Satan and our conscience immediately point to a long list of our sins. They say, “you said you were going to read the Bible daily, but when’s the last time you did? You broke your word, why should God listen to you?” They say, “you haven’t been a very good parent lately; you have been very selfish and unloving toward others, not to mention those other things you have thought about or looked at that you would be ashamed of if anyone found out—But God knows about them all! Why would God even want you, sinner that you are, to come into his presence, much less give you anything but a just sentence of eternal punishment?” When Satan and our conscience say these things, we know it’s the truth. So, how could we ever come before the holy God? How could we ever pray with confidence?
John gives us the answer, 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. He echoes the familiar words from his Gospel, these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. And Paul says, In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Why? Because, in Jesus, whatever sin Satan tries to bring to our minds, whatever sin bothers our conscience, has been paid for in full. Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died– more than that, who was raised to life– is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. In Jesus, covered with his perfect righteousness, God sees us as holy and without sin. He sees us, not as sinners deserving his eternal punishment, but as his dear children to whom he wants to give every good thing and eternal life.
Because of what Jesus has done for us we have the confidence that we can come before God in prayer without the fear of having him turn his back on us so that we are dragged off to be punished for even daring to enter his presence. And, John says, we have the confidence of knowing that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
Think back to Jacob wrestling with God and refusing to stop until he blessed him. He could do that because God had promised to bless him. Years earlier, as he was running from his brother Esau, God gave him the vision of the ladder with angels going up and down. God promised him that he would be with him and bring him back to Canaan. Now, years later, Jacob was returning to Canaan, but he was worried about what Esau would do. Did he still want to kill him? Jacob could say to the Lord, “Lord, remember your promise. You said you would be with me and bless me and that the savior would be born through me. It seems like that would mean that you would keep Esau from taking vengeance on me and my family. Keep your promise, Lord.” And the Lord did keep his promise.
When we know that something is God’s will; when we know that God has promised to do something, we can pray with absolute confidence. God will not, he cannot ever break a promise he has made. And there is only one way to know what God’s will is, to know what he has promised. You have to read and study his word. You see, he has not promised to speak to us directly. He has not promised to give us a sign that indicates a yes or no answer to anything we ask him. But, when he says in the Bible that something is his will, or when read a promise God has made in his word, we can be 100% sure that if we ask for what he says is his will, if we call upon him to keep his promise, he will.
What has God said he wants? He wants all to be saved. He wants the gospel preached to every person on earth. He wants us to bring him honor by living Godly lives and teaching his word faithfully. So, if we come to God in prayer and ask him to help us share the gospel with someone, he will. It’s what he wants! If we ask him to help us crucify our sinful nature so that we live lives that honor him and let our light shine, we know that he hears us, and that he will do what we ask, even though we don’t deserve it.
What has God promised? He has promised that whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life– not only will have, but has it right now. He has promised that nothing in all creation can separate us from his love for us in Jesus. He has promised, as he promised to Jacob, to be with us always to the very end of the age. What confidence we can have then, that when we are troubled by a sin and we come to God in prayer and ask for forgiveness for Jesus’ sake! We are confident that we have forgiveness. He promised! What confidence we have, even in the face of death, to talk to God about our fears, and to ask for his help, and know that we have it. He won’t leave us or forsake us, because he promised!
Notice that our confidence in all these cases isn’t in us. It’s not because of anything we have done. It’s not because we promise to do something for God. Nothing we do can give us confidence; just the opposite. Looking to ourselves, or the things we do only makes us doubt. It is only when we look to God and his promises to us in Jesus that we will ask what is according to his will and be confident that he has heard and will do what we asked, because he promised.
It’s hard for us to imagine this, but God hears every one of our prayers. That’s hard to imagine because multiply your prayers each day by the billions of Christians who are also praying each day. Although it’s an irreverent movie, the Jim Carrey Movie “Bruce Almighty” tried to picture what it would be like if you were God trying to answer every prayer. A room full of filing cabinets couldn’t hold them all. If they came by Email, 24 hours a day wouldn’t give you enough time to answer them all. Finally, Carrey just answers them all “Yes”, and really makes a mess. Maybe Hollywood was trying to depict the foolishness of prayer, but for us, it reminds us what an awesome God we have. He considers every prayer individually. He doesn’t just answer them all “Yes.” He answers them, considering the person who is praying, how what they have asked aligns with his perfect will, how what they have asked will affect their future, especially their spiritual life, and how what they have asked will affect others. Then he answers in the way that is best, which might be “No,” or “wait a little longer,” or “it’s time for your suffering to end so I’m going to send my angels to guide your soul to heaven.”
We can be confident that we will receive the things we have asked from him, or something much better than we could have ever asked or imagined. As Jesus says, if
you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.
Jacob had the confidence to wrestle with God and refuse to let him go until he blessed him, and he received the blessing, because God had promised, what he asked was God’s will. We too can pray with confidence. We can approach the all-knowing, holy God, without fear because we have been cleansed of our sins through faith in Jesus. When God has revealed something to be his will, or promised to do something through his word, we can be confident that when we ask for those things, he will give them to us. When we pray about something that God has not spoken about, that’s not something he promised, we can have absolute confidence that he hears our prayer and will answer that prayer in the way that is best.
What a blessing to be able to pray every prayer with confidence, not because of who we are, but because of who God is and what he has done for us in Jesus.