1 John 3:21-23 says; (21) Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God (22) and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. (23) And this is his command: to believe in the name of his son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded.” (NIV)
There is no doubt that the text says, receive from him anything we ask. The Apostle John said it under inspiration of the Holy Spirit….anything! Does that mean that if I were to ask God to win the six-hundredmillion dollar lottery I will win it because he said that we can receive anything we ask from him? I wonder how many people have asked for that lottery ticket and not received it.
Let’s unpack this passage and understand it in its literary context. John gave us three qualifiers in the text. First, our hearts cannot condemn us. Second, we have to obey his commands and do what pleases him and his first command is that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ. Third, we have to obey his commands and do what pleases him; specifically we must love one another as he commanded.
If we are to receive anything we ask of the Lord our hearts cannot condemn us. My heart in the Bible is my thinking and my emotions. If my mind and emotion don’t condemn me I can receive anything I ask from the Lord. That is a lot like saying if my conscience is clear I can ask anything of the Lord and receive it. My conscience will be clear when I get the other two qualifies in place.
If I am to receive anything I ask of the Lord I must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ. In summary that means that I live my life trusting in Jesus Christ for everything. When I trust Christ for everything in my life I am going to be focused on him and what he wants and it should never cross my mind to ask for something that is not his will. Living a life of faith in Christ assumes that I will be seeking things that fit his will. Why wouldn’t he give me things that are clearly his will?
If I can get anything I ask of God I must love others as he commanded me. If I love others as he commanded I would only be asking for things from him that reflect that kind of love for others. I won’t be asking for retribution from him for someone I disagree with or hate. Why? I can disagree with people without hating them. If I love others as he commanded I will be asking for his blessing even for my enemy.
Further, if my heart is right and I live by faith in Christ and if I love others like he commanded I recognize that He is God and I am not and He answers prayer on His terms because He is in charge of the universe as God and I am not. With a clear conscience, a life focused on living for Christ by faith and a life based on loving others I want God to do it His way and only His way!
I put it this way, if it is not from God I don’t even want it!
When I get the qualifier in place it says that we have confidence before God! Some translations translate confidence with the word “boldness!” With the qualifiers in place we can pray boldly knowing that we can receive anything we ask of the Lord, all the time knowing that He will do it His way and that is always best!
How does all this work out in real life? In 2012 I performed my sister’s funeral. I was fourteen-and-one-half years her senior. Cancer took her at 48 years of age. My prayer had been that she would be cancer free. My assumption was that I was asking for that in this life, but I always understood that God is God and I am not him and He answers prayer His way…. As it should be!
My conscience was always clear and I lived my life then and now by faith in Christ and based on loving others. In my message at her funeral I explained that my prayer had been that she would be cancer free. I pointed out that she was in Heaven in God’s presence…. cancer free!
Anything? Yes, anything! Tom West is a retired pastor working in auto sales at Porterville Ford and can be reached for comment at 602.758.1168