According to church tradition and what we can scrap together from history, the apostle John was the last man standing, so to speak. The rest of the original twelve disciples—that blessed-beyond-measure, ragtag and motley crew of misfits who followed Jesus around wherever He went during His earthly ministry—had all died. Near as we can tell, they were each martyred in particularly cruel ways. But not John. He lived to a ripe old age. His life wasn’t without struggle, of course. He was exiled to Patmos for a time, but it is believed that he was eventually released and that he finished out his years in Ephesus.
I wonder if John ever felt the weight of his position, being the last of the apostles. He was the final link to the earthly life of Jesus, the last one to report what he had heard with his own ears and seen with his own eyes. Reading the letters of John with this in mind, what stands out to me are the connections to things Jesus said in the Gospel of John.
I can picture John, sitting there with his stylus in hand, thinking through the things he heard Jesus say, things that would be a tremendous encouragement to Christians in uncertain times. In my mind’s eye, I see the old apostle’s face light up when he remembers these words from his Savior: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). At the end of 1 John, we read, “This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked of him” (1John 5:14–15). This promise is not speculation or a logical deduction based on a careful reading of the Old Testament. It is certain. John heard it from Jesus with his own ears.
Though we are separated from the original recipients of John’s first letter by nearly two thousand years, we need this same promise. We need to know that when we pray, our hearts and minds aligned with God’s, He hears us and will answer us. This does not mean that we will have whatever we want, even those things that seem to match up with God’s desires as revealed in Scripture. It does mean, however, that as we pray in Jesus’s name (i.e., according to His character and will), we can be confident that He is actively working to bring about a world that reflects His goodness, beauty, and truth.
John caught a glimpse of this world himself and wrote about it in the final chapters of the book of Revelation: “Then the one seated on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new’” (Revelation 21:5). We may not always see the ways that our prayers are being answered, but one day we will see and experience the “good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” in all its splendor (Romans 12:2). And that is a reason to pray with confidence.
Written by John Greco