3:22 “And whatever we are requesting, we are receiving from Him, because we are keeping His commands and we are doing the acceptable things before Him.”
Whereas the previous verses emphasized the word “know,” these next few verses emphasize the word “command.” Not only is the knowledge and reassurance of the truth an assurance that brings confidence before God, but keeping the commandments results in receiving what we ask (v.22) and in mutual abiding in God (V.24).
It is true that I am more inclined to fulfill the request of one of my children when they have been obedient to me and seeking to please me than when they are being disobedient and obnoxious. Furthermore, when we are seeking to obey and please God, we won’t be asking Him for the wrong things.
Westcott (119) says, “The sole object of the believer is to do thoroughly the part which has been assigned to him: his petitions are directed to this end and so are necessarily granted.” John Piper expounds on this in the second chapter of his book Let the Nations Be Glad:
God has designed prayer as a strategic tool for the building of His Kingdom in the midst of a spiritual war, not as an “intercom” to request luxuries from the comfort of your couch at home! God gives a command for us to execute and He expects us to use our “wartime walkie-talkie of prayer to get what we need to fulfill His command.
Sublett notes (91) that the unqualified “whatever we ask” in this passage is qualified later in 5:15 as “whatever we ask according to His will.”
Although the parallelism “keep His commandments” and “do what is pleasing” could be written off as Hebraistic parallelism, Westcott (119) notes different shades of meaning: “Under this twofold aspect, right action is presented both as a work of obedience and as a work of freedom, as enjoined and also as spontaneous.”
In other words, our relationship with God is not merely rules that we obey, but a living relationship where we go beyond mere letter of the law to joyfully fulfill the spirit of the law too, consumed with pleasing God. The verb “keep” connotes an alertness, a watchfulness, even guarding–not just mechanistic obedience. The phrase “the acceptable things before Him” is speaking of plural “things” and apparently carries the connotation of “Divine regard” (Hanna 436/Westcott 119) and so is well-translated by the KJV and NAV “the things that are pleasing in His sight.”
By Nate Wilson.