1 John 5 v 14 - 17

In verses 14 and 15 John sets down the basis and principle of prayer. The basis is the clear and obvious fact that God listens to our prayers. John uses a Greek word here which means 'freedom of speech': With God we have freedom to say whatever is on our hearts, without filter-look at David's outpourings in the Psalms-and confident that whenever we pray He is sure to listen. He is the God who draws close, who interacts with His creation, who wants to hear from us. I often used clips from 'Bruce Almighty' when I led youth groups and when Bruce is given the work of being the Almighty so as to give God a break he comes to recognise the deluge of prayers which people are sending up to the Divine. This becomes a great trial and responsibility to him, but this isn't the case for our God. He loves to hear from us! The principle of prayer is that, to be answered, the prayer must be in accordance with God's will. When we look back over this letter and his Gospel, we can note that John specifies three things concerning this: 1. Obedience is a condition of prayer-1 John 3 v 22; 2. Remaining in Christ is a condition of prayer- John 15 v 7: it is rather obvious that the closer we walk with Christ, the more we understand His will and the closer our prayers are to His will; 3. To pray in His Name is a condition of prayer- John 14 v 14. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus sweated blood, Jesus prayed that the cup of suffering would be taken from Him, ''But not my will, but yours be done.'' In verses 16 and 17 there is another difficult passage. John is focussing here on the privilege and responsibility of intercessory prayer. This reminds us that our prayers should never be selfish. That is not to say that we don't pray for ourselves, and I have spoken with Christians who don't, surely that is an instinctive reaching out to God as a little child does to a parent when he or she has a need? John is saying that our prayers shouldn't be wholly about us. In one sense, intercessory prayer is sacrificial and hard work. I don't remember anything in the Bible which tells us that prayer is easy! However, we are faced with this phrase, 'the sin which leads to death'. The issue is that we know that God is greater than any sin we might commit: even murderers, paedophiles and serial killers have found grace and been transformed. So, it is definitely not that John is looking at one particular sin. What it is is that John is aware that there are two ways of sinning: firstly, the sin which we do almost without thinking, are instantly caught up with a sense of guilt, cast ourselves again upon God, receive His forgiveness and move on with greater resolve not to do it again. The second is a calculated, repetitive sinning which involves a destruction of the person's conscience to the point where sinning is as easy as breathing. That is the sin which leads to destruction. As long as a person knows that they are sinning and in some part of themselves hates their self for doing so then there is still hope

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