Here is a condition to answered prayer that should get our attention. That condition is our obedience, which serves as proof of our love for God: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:13-15). Love between the disciple and the Lord Jesus is proved by obedience to his commands (E.g. John 14:21-23; 15:14; 1 John 5:3). If we adhere to his Word it proves we love him and walk according to his name, which then means God will answer. If we do not walk in obedience then our self-proclaimed love for Christ may not be genuine. At the very least, it is immature, incomplete, and we need the purifying power of God’s chastening through unanswered prayer. This same John counsels us in his first letter to believers,
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 John 3:21-24)
When we walk in obedience to God’s Word then there is no legitimate reason for our heart to condemn us. This does not mean; however, we will never struggle with the internal assurance of our salvation. The weakness of our humanity sometimes produces doubt (on numerous occasions, Jesus addressed his disciples “O, you of little faith”) and the devil works overtime accusing us “before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10).
When our heart rightly condemns us because of disobedience, and our spirit grieves along with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), we must repent and confess those sins to God and receive his forgiveness (1 John 1:9). However, we must also return to the original commandment we obeyed when we were initially saved, “this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ.” If we are trusting in Christ then God has dealt rightly with our sins and, therefore, we can be assured that we are in right standing with him. Returning to this gospel truth brings to our heart the assurance that only God’s Word can provide.
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 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 (1 John 5:11-15).
If we have the Son of God then we have assurance that we have eternal life. If we know Jesus then we know the Father and when we pray “according to his will,” which is equivalent to praying in his Name, then “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.” This promise should not only compel us to never give up on prayer, but to deal readily with our sins so that God’s restorative discipline does not need to be longer, or harder, than it needs to be.