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in answered prayer.

1 John 5:13–15 (ESV)

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

The purpose construct in verse 13 is the purpose for the whole letter. That’s clearer if verse 13 is translated as, “I have written these things,” instead of, “I write these things.

Have written” is more literal. The verb for write in verse 13 (ἔγραψα egg-rah-psa) is in the aorist tense, not the present. Thus, John is referring to the whole letter when he says the purpose is that you may know that you have eternal life.

This is very encouraging, even surprising. John wouldn’t be making this point if it didn’t need to be made. Even in the first century, there were Christians who were unsure of their doctrines.

Life in the 21st century is great in many ways. Food, medicine, sanitation, and information are all much better and more widely available than they were back then.

But the first century Christians had one precious advantage—proximity to the resurrection. It was still possible to talk to (or to get a letter from) someone who was an eyewitness. The resurrection was a fact you could verify personally. It’s nice to have the vast volume of references we have now, but it still doesn’t feel the same.

So, it’s interesting that these folks needed John to prop up their assurance of eternal life. They knew He rose sure enough, but they weren’t sure of the eternal life bit.

It was all just too wonderful to comprehend.

This assurance of eternal life leads in an interesting direction—to confidence in answered prayer. But John’s description of how prayers are answered precludes a “dear Santa Claus” attitude about prayer. John notes that this is if we ask anything according to his will. No wish list prayers there.

This matches John’s quote of Jesus in chapter 15, verse 7 of his gospel.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (ESV)

What that passage implies with the words “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,” this passage makes explicit with the words, “if we ask anything according to his will.”

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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