Do a quick search of the word confidence on Amazon, and you will find a slew of self-help titles. Books such as 10 Days to Superhuman Confidence, The Confidence Code, and How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness, all promise a new life of love, freedom, and personal fulfillment.
Scripture, on the other hand, insists that our confidence must be in God. Particularly in our prayer life, we are encouraged that “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (v. 14). Our confidence is not in our own greatness but in God’s promise to hear our requests, “whatever we ask” (v. 15).
That includes praying for a sibling in Christ who has fallen into sin. The phrase “a sin that leads to death” (v. 16) has been interpreted by some to mean a sin that leads to physical death. Others see it as a reference to apostasy by someone who formerly claimed to believe. The Moody Bible Commentary observes that the language used in this verse “indicates that John is not absolutely forbidding prayer for one engaged in apostasy . . . simply that he cannot guarantee that prayer offered for any of the secessionists who had apostatized will have the effect typical of believing prayer promised in vv. 15 and 16a."
The underlying reason to pray for others is expanded in the remaining verses. Because Christians are “born of God” (v. 18) and counted as “children of God” (v. 19), “the world” and “the evil one” (v. 19) have no ultimate power over us. We do not belong to that realm any longer, but instead have an intimate, relational knowledge of the Father through His Son, who is “the true God and eternal life” (v. 20). For that reason, we come before God in prayer for others.