Several months ago in my role with the MasterWork Bible study curriculum, I was reviewing and reading quite a few books for possible study in MasterWork. One that landed on my desk was an-as-yet-unpublished manuscript on the Book of 1 John by J. Ryan Wicker. I was captivated by this book and quickly made arrangement’s to create a Bible study based on this book.
That book, Unfailing Love in Uncertain Times, released this week, and it’s worth your time. What follows is a brief excerpt.
“Dear friends, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive whatever we ask from him because we keep his commands and do what is pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:21-22).
As much as love assures us of our salvation, it also gives us great confidence in prayer. In this passage, John highlights this confidence we can have before God’s throne. A Table Talk devotion on this passage says, “John describes the benefits of the confidence that comes once we have our hearts reassured by God. Though the shed blood of Jesus means that sin should not cause us to run from communion with God (Heb. 10:19–22; 12:1–2), we see that we will experience confidence in our prayers most fully if our hearts are reassured before Him (1 John 3:21–22). As we look to the promises of God for our salvation in the Word and trust in Him, we will grow more and more convinced that He grants His children access to His throne, leading us to approach Him boldly with our needs.”
What a great promise this is for us! We can approach God’s throne with a clear conscience. Not only that, but we can have confidence that when we speak to God, He listens. Prayer is an amazing privilege that so many of God’s children take for granted. He doesn’t just desire for us to come to Him in prayer; He delights in it.
There is a problem of prayer in many of our churches. John Onwuchekwa says in his book Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church that on any given Sunday you might see prayer present in the church assembled, “but the prayers will likely be brief and few, a couple of cursory words as musicians and speakers shuffle on and off the stage. They will likely be biblical but vague, focusing on the general promises of God for an undefined subset of people.” He goes on to say “The prayers won’t slow down and linger on the glories of God, his attributes, and his character. They won’t meditate unhurriedly on his Word. They won’t ask hearers to study their own hearts and confess specific sins. They won’t ask God to help do what only he can do: save the lost, feed the hungry, liberate captives, give wisdom to world leaders, fix broken institutions, sustain persecuted Christians.”
To put it plainly, we don’t understand the blessing we have in prayer. If we did, we wouldn’t neglect it so much. So, why don’t Christians pray? There could be many reasons, but for the sake of sticking to John’s argument here, he says even a guilty or doubting conscience can lead to a less vibrant prayer life. In other words, we don’t tend to call on God when we are carrying the burden of a condemning conscience. But this is the beautiful thing about the love John is talking about: We can rest in the fact that God loves us. If we are His, we no longer stand condemned before Him.
Have you ever heard someone say something like, “I know God has forgiven me, but I can’t forgive myself?” This is self-condemnation. We are our own worst critics and our harshest judge sometimes. John points us to the truth of who God is and who He says we are. He is greater than our conscience! He knows us better than we know ourselves! And if God can forgive us, we ought to rest in that truth and forgive ourselves. In the words of John MacArthur, “Love banishes self-condemnation.”
When we recognize this truth, it frees us to love more deeply and serve more joyfully. It also leads us to pray more confidently. God hears you. His grace is louder than the voices of condemnation in your own head. We can pray with a clear conscience before God. Prayer is one way we demonstrate our submissiveness to God. In it, He aligns our wills with His. We are no longer selfish in our prayer life, but selfless. We can ask things of God from a heart that trusts Him to answer according to His will. This doesn’t mean God gives us everything we want, but it does mean that in prayer we are learning to trust His character and provision. As He reveals himself to us in His word and through prayer, we learn to love Him more deeply. We then ask for things in alignment with His revealed will and trust Him to answer according to His character. Prayer is indeed love in action. It is actively placing our lives in the hands of our heavenly Father who loves us, and we can have confidence He hears.
Click here to purchase Unfailing Love in Uncertain Times at Amazon.
 “Whatever We Ask”, Ligonier, Accessed on June 10, 2020, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/whatever-we-ask/
 John Onwuchekwa, Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 13-14
 John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 1962