Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Prayer and a Heart Without Doubt

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in sight and this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. (1 John 3:21-23)
The secret to a prayer without a doubt is a heart that does not condemn. To condemn means to find fault with, or holding something against someone. If your heart is finding fault with you or holding something against you, it can wreck the boldness and assurance with which you approach God. But if your heart is clear, your confidence will be strong.

So what is John talking about here? If our heart does not condemn us — about what? It is about keeping the commandments of God, and according to John, that comes down to two things: Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and love one another.

1. Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ

The apostle Paul declared, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). If you have received the Lord Jesus, there is no sentence of judgment that rests on you—Jesus took that in your place. God does not condemn you!

2. Love one another

This is the commandment Jesus gave to John and the other disciples on the night He instituted the Lord’s Supper. “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

Failure to love wrecks our confidence towards God because it shifts our focus off of God and onto ourselves. God showed His love to us through Jesus Christ, and He intends for that love to overflow to others through us. When we share that love freely with others, we are allowing God’s love to flow through us. But when we withhold that love from others, God does not withhold His love from us, but we stop the flow of His love from having its way in our lives. Then when the devil comes and whispers his accusations, our hearts begin to believe them.

Now, watch as James shows how failure to love can twist your prayer life and spoil your confidence towards God:
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3)
Clearly, this is not loving one another. It is self-centeredness. Prayer is not about our own pleasures but about God’s purpose, and His purpose is to love, because God is love (1 John 4:8).

Prayer is a very powerful thing. Jesus promised, “Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24). But then He added, “And whenever you stand praying if you have anything against anyone, forgive him” (v. 25). As powerful as prayer is, if we are unwilling to love one another by forgiving one another, it will seriously hinder our faith and keep us from receiving what we have asked. For as Paul concluded, faith works through love (Galatians 5:6).

A Heart That Does Not Condemn

The declaration of Scripture is that there is no condemnation for those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ. God does not condemn us, but sometimes our heart does, especially when we know that we have not been walking in love toward God and each other. But there is a ready solution at hand, and it is found in Jesus Christ. As John said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

To confess means to agree with God about it, that it is wrong and does not belong in our lives. When we do that, God promises, not only to forgive us our sins, but to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, that is, to deal with sin in our lives and lead us into victory over them. Then we are free to love as we have been loved by God, and our heart will find anything against us.

Oh, the devil may still come and whisper in your ear, making accusations against you, and try to set your heart in confusion. But you don’t have to listen to him. Instead, you can take the promises of God and say:
“I have received the Lord Jesus Christ, and there is now no condemnation for me, because I am in Him.”
If there is any sin in your life, or if you have not been walking in love, confess it to God, and trust Him to forgive you and to remove it from your life. You can always God boldly to God, for He has promised.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
When our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God, and we can know that whatever we ask of Him, we will receive, because we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and walk in love toward each, loving our neighbor as ourselves. Then the power of prayer and faith are released in a mighty way.

(See also, Outspokenness Toward God)