Welcome back to our series of articles on the conditions of answered prayer (or the reasons why God does not answer prayer). Here’s a quick review of what we’ve discussed so far.
Condition #1: God will not answer our prayers if we have “cherished sin in my heart” (Psalm 66:18).
Condition #2: God will not answer our prayers if we do not pray in the name of Jesus, which means that the objective of our prayers is something other than the glory of God. “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father” (John 14:13).
Now let’s consider a third condition.
Condition #3: God will not answer our prayers if we are not living a life of obedience. Or to state it positively: God promises to answers our prayers only if our lives are characterized by obedience to the Word of God.
1 John 3:21-22 is a key passage for this teaching:
“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and (we) receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”
First, notice that the phrase “if our hearts do not condemn us” is a reference to Reason #1 mentioned above. If we have sin in our lives, our hearts willcondemn us. So this verse actually combines two potential roadblocks to answered prayer in the same sentence.
Second, John says that the absence of sin results in “confidence before God” as well as answered prayer. Having “confidence before God” is a wonderful promise that should fill our hearts with joy!
Third, John summarizes his point by saying that a non-condemning heart, confidence before God, and answered prayer are all the result of obedience: “because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.”
It should come as no surprise that John places such a high priority on obedience. One of the themes of 1 John is “tests of genuine salvation”. Throughout the letter John tells us how to know whether or not we are truly saved. If you ever struggle with the issue of assurance of salvation, 1 John is one of the best places in the Bible to find our whether your profession of faith is true or false.
For example, 1 John 2:3 provides crystal clear teaching on assurance. How do I know whether I’m truly a Christian? Here’s the answer:
“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.”
Straightforward. Direct. Simple. No nonsense. That’s John’s writing style throughout the Gospel of John and his three epistles. And he certainly comes through loud and clear in this verse, doesn’t he?
If I live a life of obedience to God’s Word, I can know that I know Jesus. Now that’s assurance! 1 John 2:4 repeats this idea. “The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
Here’s a paraphrase of verse four:
So you say “I’m a Christian. I’m saved. I’m born again. I know Christ as my Savior and Lord.” Great! But anybody can say anything. If you are really a believer, you will prove it by your behavior, by a life of obedience to the commands of Christ. And no matter what you say you are, if you are not living a life of habitual obedience to God’s Word, then your profession is false. In fact, your profession is a lie. Your words don’t prove anything. Only your actions enable you to pass the test of genuine conversion and saving faith.
God only promises to answer the prayers of His people, and His people are those whose lives are characterized by obedience. It’s as simple as that.