We all have a desire to pray in such a way that we see God continuously working in our lives and answering our prayers. I venture a guess that most Christians remained unsatisfied with their prayer lives. There is a plethora of books which teach us how to pray effectively. 1 John 3 provides a foundational element to a prayer life that pleases God, but it is often overlooked.
John reminds us that the children of God and the children of the devil are revealed by whether or not they practice righteousness (3.10). Cain is typical of a child of the devil. He brutally murdered his brother. He did so because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous (3.12). We brutally murder our brothers and sisters in Christ as well. We are supposed to reveal to the world that we are children of God, but we often behave like children of the devil. “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (3.15).
It seems clear that Christians often become bitter and hate other Christians. They are still children of God but behave like children of the devil. The eternal life they could enjoy is not abiding in them. They are no longer influenced by the eternal life that they have as children of God. They expect answers to prayer without dealing with their hatred or bitterness.
We need to be reminded often of the extent to which Jesus Christ demonstrated His love toward us. He laid down His life for us. “And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (3.16b). But how does the love of God abide in or influence us when we neglect to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ (3.17)? If the love of God is not abiding in us, we will not please God with our prayer. Instead we shut our hearts down when it comes to God’s love. This is precisely why we fail to meet the need of another brother in Christ.
God Answers the Prayer of His Loving Children
Love is a verb. We don’t just talk about love, but we actually love in deed and in truth (3.18). Love is a work of God governed by the truth of God delivered to us in the Word of God. Our obligation is to love sacrificially even as Jesus loved. By this we know that we are of the truth, and our hearts will be confident before the Lord in prayer (3.19). I can rest assured that God is not only pleased with my prayer, but that He answers my prayer! How? First, I decide to sacrificially love my brothers and sisters in Christ.
There are times when my heart condemns me (3.20). There are other times when it doesn’t condemn me (3.21). But God is greater than my heart or conscience. He is all-knowing. I must turn to the truth and conviction from the Spirit of God from the truth or Word of God. If I confess the sin of failing to love my brother, He cleanses me from ALL unrighteousness. Since that is true, I have confidence to come before the throne of grace and ask.
God Answers the Prayer of His Obedient Children
“And whatever we ask we receive from [God], because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (3.22). Secondly, prayer that pleases God is prayer from an obedient heart. I endeavor to keep His commandments. I don’t have because I often don’t ask. I don’t ask because I don’t keep God’s commandments (see Psalm 34.15; 66.18). “The effective prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5.16b). Effective prayer comes from not only a ‘positionally’ righteous heart but from a practicing righteous heart.
God Answers the Prayer of His Believing Children
Specifically, we know God’s commandment as stated in 1 John 3:23: And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. (1 John 3:23) Third, prayer that pleases God also believes. We must believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scripture.
If we keep God’s commandments, we abide in Him. We are being influenced by Him. But more than that, He abides in us. We influence God through prayer (3.24). All of this is enabled by the Holy Spirit and made possible by the person and work of Jesus Christ, our Lord. The sovereign God is influenced by my prayer when I am loving, obedient, and believing. This is prayer God answers. What could be more important than that?