The purpose of this lesson is to touch on some of the basic concepts of prayer. This will give us a foundation to build on for a more expanded study later.
Prayer is one of the graces of God to mankind; it is communication with God by man and visa-versa.
How do we define prayer? There are over a dozen words used in the Bible for prayer or pray. The four major words or phrases used in the Old Testament for prayer and pray are:
- An entreaty
- Intercession; supplication
- To Judge; intercede
The six major words or phrase used in the New Testament for prayer or pray are:
- To pray to God; Forward to; In front of
- A petition; Beg; Bind
- To interrogate; To utter
- To wish
- To interview; Supplication; Confer with; Entreat
- To call near; To incite by words
These definitions, while numerous, do not give us much help in really knowing what prayer is, how to pray, what to pray for, or to whom to pray.
Prayer is a very important doctrine, but it is not a doctrine that stands alone. There is no defining passages in the Bible that gives us definition, procedure, or even the purpose of prayer. Prayer is a peripheral doctrine. A peripheral doctrine is one that is not taught directly in the Scriptures: what we know of prayer is seen only as it mentioned in connection with other doctrines. As with other peripheral doctrines, the biblical teaching concerning prayer is only gleaned from the scriptures in connection or association with other teachings of Scripture. To have a Biblical understanding of prayer, we would have to spend a great deal of time outlining and studying in detail many other biblical subjects.
Prayer is part of a relationship; the relationship of God and man. This relationship has progressively changed since the Garden of Eden; partly due to the degeneration of man and partly due to the progressive plan of God for Redemption. At its conclusion, this plan of redemption will bring redeemed man into a perfect, complete, and eternal relationship and fellowship with God.
Prayer in its simplest form and in its most complex form is communication of God with man and man with God. If there were any one word that describes prayer, it might be fellowship; fellowship of man with God. However, sad to say, most think of prayer as a gimme session in which we ask God to give us things or do things for us.
To have any understanding of the subject of prayer will demand a good understanding of:
- The Time Period in which the information about prayer is found,
- The progression of God’s plan of redemption at the time the information about prayer is given. (1 & 2 are closely related),
- The spiritual maturity and call of the person about whom the illustration of prayer is based,
- An understanding of the nature of man and the essence of God (i.e. the omniscience of God).
The essence of prayer has never changed from the Garden of Eden until now, and the essence of prayer will not change through the kingdom age. However, the base from which we are to pray and the technique by which we pray, has and will change for each time period. Because the essence of prayer never changes, we can learn much about prayer from observing prayer in any time period.
As we look at information on prayer, we must make sure the information given, is not given for a specific individual or a specific time period. And we must make sure that the information is not given in regard to a specific set of circumstances. We must be sure the information is given to mankind as a whole; not to a specific person or for a specific purpose.
James 5:16 The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
I am sure you have heard this verse quoted many times in regards to prayer. If we are fervent in prayer we will get what we pray for. That isn’t what this verse is saying at all. Maybe it would do us good to rightly divide the Scripture in this matter.
James 5:13-16 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
This passage is speaking of a person who because of sin, has a sickness. Instructions are given in regards to the action that is to be taken. One of those actions is prayer. Other actions are confession of sin and actions of the church so the sick person can be righteous. Only when he is righteous will his prayer be effective and avail much. We need to be very careful not to superimpose the prayer for a person whose sins have caused a sickness.... over the general everyday requests in prayer. There are some very specific instructions and conditions associated with the “effective, fervent prayer of a righteous.”
Prayer is one of the most complex subjects in the Scriptures and rightly so. It involves one of the most complex actions in the universe, the interchange of the Holy God, the creator of all, with sinful man. Not just an interchange of words alone, but of the very life flow of God Himself to and through sinful mankind.
I hesitate to even broach the subject of prayer at all, and especially in such a very short lesson. To have any proper concept of prayer will demand an understanding of God and His plan for the ages. It is also necessary to have an understanding of the limitations of mankind to even look on God, to say nothing of fellowshipping with Him. Let me start with a quasi-description of prayer.
Believer’s Prayer is spiritual intercourse of God and man, in which God’s spiritual being is energized within man by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is to be continual. It is to be personal. And, most generally, it is to be secret. It can involve words, but they are not needed because God knows our thoughts. It may, at times, involve interceding for others or requesting for oneself. There are times when it may be collective with other humans.
The only basis of Believer’s Prayer is the person and work of Christ. The prayer of Christ was based on an eternal relationship with the Father. Prayer for the Believer is based on his relationship to Christ: we are to pray in the name of Christ. This means consigned by Christ, to the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a different and unique approach to prayer especially prepared by God for this time of the Church age, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within Believers.
First and foremost the purpose of prayer is to bring my will into perfect alignment with God’s will. It is for the purpose of activating the Mind of Christ within the soul, changing our desires, and cleansing our life from sin. The only basis of Believer’s Prayer is the person and work of Christ.
Sad to say we have degraded prayer to simply requesting something from God. That is certainly part of prayer, but requesting should be the smallest part. We are so taken with the world, and the things of the world that we think that the main purpose of this intimate experience with God is to get things from the world for ourselves. We forget the purpose of prayer: that through this relationship with God (called prayer) we become like Christ! The only grounds or merit for my request to be answered is that it comes through and for Christ. (As we become like Christ, most of the things we think are so important right now will become very unimportant to us.) Then we will receive things, because the Father (the Giver) wants to do things for His Son (we are in Christ). Simply because I pray, means nothing to God! In and of myself, I deserve only judgment. My position in Christ makes all the difference!
As with almost any subject in the Bible that is not clearly spelled out in detail, the major problem of our understanding of prayer is that we do not understand the concept of God, His plan, man’s condition and our relationship with God.
The less of God’s total revealed information we apply to any one subject of the Word of God, the less we will know of that subject. Quite often we complicate the little understanding we have of a Biblical subject by trying to expand the truth of God by means of human or religious criteria.
Isaiah 55:8-9 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.
1 Corinthians 2:12-14 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1Corinthians 2:6-7 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,
So let’s look at Who God is. This will only be in abbreviated form, and we will skip over many details that are important. We will not go to the many of passages that support the concept. If we took the time to look at all the passages that are needed for support, we would need to begin a whole new series. So, fasten your safety belts, because we are going to fly through a lot of material quickly!
God is a Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These are titles taken by the Godhead primarily denoting their relationship with mankind in the plan of redemption. Each of these three personalities within the Trinity have the same essence:
- Eternal Life
These delineations of essence I’m sure are not complete, but they do give us handles with which to gain understanding.
God, even though a Trinity, is one God: one in essence, three in personality. I can’t explain it, and I don’t understand it! But the Bible declares it. So, I accept it as fact more sure that time and taxes.
The aspect of God’s essence that we want to hone in on right now is his Sovereignty. God is Sovereign! That means He had the ultimate right of choice and determination. God cannot be untrue to Himself or His word. That statement seems to be self-evident yet it is so easy for us, as we look at the actions of God, to forget to make sure that our conclusions about God’s actions are consistent with God’s essence and personality. Get a firm grip on that truth for it is important if we are to understanding the concept of prayer as given by God.
Titus 1:1-2 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,
Hebrews 6:13-18 For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, "Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you." 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. 16 For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. 17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.
The immutable things discussed in Hebrews 6:18 were God and His Word of promise.
Before time began, somewhere in the span of eternity, God in His sovereignty chose to have time. Time is only a small blimp in the span of eternity. Time had a beginning and it will have an end, but eternity never had a beginning and will never have an end. God chose to have time, create man, and give man dominion over the earth and all that was on and in it. God also gave man the right to choose his own destiny.
Even though God was omniscient and knew what the outcome would be, God never tampered with man’s volition, or right to choose. God allowed man to choose right from wrong. As we all know, man chose to follow Satan and became the slave of sin and Satan. As a result of Satan taking mankind into slavery, all that was man’s became Satan’s by the fact that spoil belongs to the conquer.
God determined through His eternal Sovereignty that man would have limited volition. This is sometimes referred to as free will, which is really a misnomer even though I know what they are trying to say by the term. Man did not have free will to do as he pleased. Man had limited volition during time.
In the physical realm, each choice we make limits the choices we have in the future, and also limits the choices of all humanity. The ultimate end of this choice-making is slavery to the results of our choices.
While in the spiritual realm, each proper choice we make opens to us eternally unlimited possibilities.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.
2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Man certainly does not have any measure of true free will today. Mankind is a slave of sin and Satan, and every choice he makes limits the future choices he can make. In the spiritual realm, right choices give us liberty. On the human level choices are finite. On the spiritual level choices are infinite. On the human level choices are temporal. On the spiritual level choices are eternal. This spiritual type of choice was seen before the Fall of man.
In the Garden, there was only one choice that was wrong. That was going contrary to God’s Word and eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Once man made that human choice against God’s will, there was no choice left to man that was right. Any choice from that point on limited what man could do or choose. Any choice made after the fall was wrong and any choice, except one, was of a temporal nature. After the fall, the one choice man could make that would have any eternal or lasting results was to eat of the Tree of Life. Even that choice would limit his liberty for all eternity.
Genesis 3:22-23 Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.
Some would say, “Look at that! Man could have lived forever. What is so limiting about that choice?”
That choice would mean that he was limited to live forever in the sinful state, and in a temporal body. That, my friend, is the ultimate slavery! That is the condition of all who do not receive Christ as the Savior in this life. They will be resurrected from their grave in their physical body and cast into the Lake of Fire to spend eternity shut up in that torment, separated from God, and not able to die.
Mark 9:43-44 "And if your hand makes you sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched, 44 "where 'their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.'
In God’s plan during this Church age, He has chosen to have man carry out His work on earth. In the future, God will use angels to do much of his work in preparation for the Kingdom. But until that time, God’s work on earth rests on the shoulders of humans.
John 14:12 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
Acts 1:6-8 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
Ephesians 4:8-13 Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men." 9 (Now this, "He ascended"--what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
The success of God’s work on earth during this Church Age will rise or fall as Christians walk in the Spirit or walk in the flesh. That does not mean that God cannot, or does not use angels to further the ministry and to minister to the Believers. However, angels will not be the real players during this time period, they will only assist in ways that we do not know much about. God will very seldom personally intervene so His work on earth can be accomplished. That does not mean that God does not personally intervene, but it will be rare a best. Very seldom will God use creation to work His work during this church age. Again, that does not mean the God can’t or doesn’t change the natural pattern of creation’s activities. When He does change those natural patterns, it is called a miracle. God could turn stones into bread to feed the hungry, but instead He has left that project to humans. God could cause the rocks to sing His praises, but He doesn’t. He has left that ministry to humans.
When talking to others, we often hear, and many of us use, the verse below.
Philippians 4:19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Remember every verse has a context. Let’s look at it here.
Philippians 4:15-19 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
The context of this much-used verse in that these people had given so that work of God could be carried on through Paul. They had given out of their poverty, not intending or expecting anything in return. This was not giving God a bribe so that He would obligated to give back more than they gave.
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: 2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. 3 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, 4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 And this they did, not as we had hoped, but first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.
Philippians 4:19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Notice the supply cabinet of God mentioned here. That supply cabinet was according to His riches in glory. Dollar bills are not part of His riches in Glory. So, if you are to get dollars or penicillin, etc., those things must come from some other place than God’s supply cabinet.
This promise is not even given in connection with prayer. This provision did not come to them because they prayed for it. It came to them because they gave themselves and all they had to the Lord. However, with all that said, their giving to Paul in the first place was in response to prayer–the prayer of Paul and other saints asking that the Gospel go forward.
Most prayer is answered through people. Let’s try to set up the picture, in human terms, so that we can understand it a little better. Prayer is first and foremost for fellowship of God with man and visa versa. Positive answers to our prayers, are based on that fellowship, our relationship with Christ, and walking in the Spirit. God works through His people to supply needs. So, in our simplified illustration, we have two Believers in fellowship with God, coming in Christ, and walking in the Spirit.
- In the process of the fellowship with God, the need of a Believer is expressed.
- A second believer is also in fellowship with God, coming in prayer through Christ, and walking in the Spirit. So, the second believer is also open to God’s working in his life by this act of his volition. So through the working of the Holy Spirit in the second believer’s life in many areas, the need of the first believer is met; sometimes without the second believer even knowing that he was a part of the answer.
In this simplified illustration, I’m not trying to belittle the overall plan of God. I am simply trying to help us see that there many aspects to the thing called prayer and its answer, besides man’s “want list” and God’s “supply clerks.” Even more important, if we can see the very basics of prayer, then we can move on in our understanding of the whole realm of prayer.
In the process of that fellowship with God, the need of Believer #1 is expressed. This gives God the right or the authority to work on behalf of believer #1. God must have this right or authority in order to work on our behalf because God has, by His Sovereignty, chosen to give man the right of limited determination through man’s own volition. It would be immoral for God to violate that right given to man. God also has a right to work independently of man’s volition in many areas and for many causes. Some of those are:
- Because of sin, its penalty and results
- Because of the relationship of sonship with the Father of all Believers
- And many more
- But all of these are as a result of man’s choice at one time, or another
In our illustration, we are not looking at anything that would complicate our understanding of this simplest aspect of prayer. In this illustration, Believer #2 is also in fellowship with God, coming in prayer through Christ, and walking in the Spirit. So, Believer #2 is also open to God’s working in his life by this act of his volition. Through the working of the Holy Spirit in #2’s life, in many areas, the need of #1 is met, sometimes without #2 even knowing that he was a part of the answer.
This same thing is true when we pray for the salvation of some person outside of Christ. When we pray, God is then free to use any and all who in like manner have yielded to the will to Him.
Acts 17:26-27 "And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 "so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;
Creation is in the hand of God. He can use it to show Himself as recorded in Romans 1 or by circumstances, bring the unsaved across the path of yourself or some other saved person, etc. Or He can use creation in many ways to move or limit a person so they will hear the Word of God.
Exodus 23:27-28 "I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come, and will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 "And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you.
God will not force people to go contrary to their wills, but God can send hornets, and those people wills will be changed so that want to leave.
God can use Believers who are in fellowship with Him to “set an unbeliever apart” for special conviction and witness, by the very life and action of that Believer.
2 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.
The Word of God may come across their path, through memory, a tract, radio, TV, etc.
Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
One of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to “convict the world”. When we pray for someone, that prayer gives God the authority to continue or to strengthen this convicting ministry in that person or in people around him.
John 16:7-8 "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
As we look at many passages on prayer, it is important that we remember and understand that God cannot act in a manner that is contrary to His essence (His holiness, His love, His justice, etc). We must also understand that when prayer is described in the Scriptures the language used is descriptive of an action that is both human and Divine. If we have a Biblical understanding of humanity and Deity, we will be able to separate the physical concept from the spiritual concept. We must also remember that in these passages there will be times in which the act of prayer is being described, and other times in which there will be instruction concerning the act of prayer.
Psalms 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.
We will see the phrase over and over again, “The Lord will not hear...” etc. We know the God is omniscient so therefore He does know and therefore hear all things. So the word hear does not mean to simply be cognizant of the words, but to hear with empathy. There are many example of this in the Bible that deserve our study.
Carefully read through the following passages to find out what God does and does not hear.
Proverbs 28:9 One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination.
Proverbs 21:13 Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.
Psalms 34:15-18 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry. 16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. 17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Psalms 145:19-20 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them. 20 The LORD preserves all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy.
1 John 3:22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
John 15:7 "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
Psalms 91:1, 14-15 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 14 Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. 15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.
Psalms 37:3-5, 23-24 Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. 23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. 24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand.
Psalms 102:17 He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, And shall not despise their prayer.
Exodus 22:22-23 "You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. 23 "If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry;
Acts 10:25, 30-32 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. 30 And Cornelius said, "Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31 "and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 32 'Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.'
We could look at verse after verse, literally hundreds of them, on the many facets of prayer. If we did this, we would have a lot of facts about prayer but when we were through, we would not be any closer to a systematic understanding of prayer than before we started. Some might say, “If that’s the case, then we should not study prayer, right?” Wrong!!!!
2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
If after you have given diligence to a subject in the Word of God, it seems to defy being systematically divided, you will then realize that the subject is not a category in and of itself. Instead it is an active part of another category, or as in this case, many other categories. As a matter of fact, prayer is an active part of every phase of life in Christ during this time period. Never before in all of history has there been a relationship with God like this. Now there is because of the death, resurrection, and life of Christ! The Lord tries to explain this to His disciples just before his death.
John 14:12-15 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 "If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. 15 "If you love Me, keep My commandments.
IF you have extra time, conduct a personal study of John 14-17. It might take weeks. It might take months, but the rewards will be eternal! We don’t have time study it all now, so allow me to review just a few more verses from those chapters.
John 16:23-27 "And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 "Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. 25 "These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 "In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; 27 "for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.
Christ is explaining to them that, in Him, this is a new deal. God hears us because of our relationship with Christ. Read that verse again so you won’t miss it!
Romans 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
For anyone to communicate with God, there must be an access to God or a basis from which we have a right or the authority to do so.
- In the Old Testament the basis of prayer and requests of God was the covenants made by God with man.
- Prayer for and during the kingdom has its base in the fact that God can and will set up His kingdom.
- The prayer of Christ was based on His eternal relationship with the Father.
- Prayer for the Believer, since Pentecost, is our relationship to Christ.
Our rights are given to us by our relationship with Christ. We are to pray in the name of Christ, literally consigned by Christ, to the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
God hears all we say and do, even every idle word we speak. He also looks on the heart for honesty and purity of attitude, not on the outward finesse. God has provided for times we stumble with the outward form of prayer, but the heart is right. However, if we are to be mature in our spiritual growth and attitude, we need to use, be conscious of, and hone the prescribed manner of approach to God’s throne of Grace.
The ultimate purpose of this series is to bring us to the point of praying without ceasing, as well as to become more effective in our prayer life. We certainly do not want to have the attitude that would say to ourselves and others, we are better than that poor tax collector, because we pray properly.
Luke 18:10-14 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 'I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' 13 "And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God be merciful to me a sinner!' 14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Knowledge should never be for the purpose of self-elevation. Knowledge without the appropriate action and obedience only makes for fat-headed Christians. However, knowledge along with the appropriate action and obedience is translated into the power of God. For growth and maturity in the Christian life, the accurate and solid teaching of the Word of God, in these matters, is essential. Yes, you can be a Christian and live only on the milk of the World of God, but what a sad state of affairs that would be. Not in an effort to study these passages, but so we can have an understanding of the importance of this fact, I would like us to look quickly at several passages throughout the Scriptures that speak to this subject. We will have to look only at the information that is pertinent to the subject at hand.
Jeremiah 23:28-31 "The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?" says the LORD. 29 "Is not My word like a fire?" says the LORD, "And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? 30 "Therefore behold, I am against the prophets," says the LORD, "who steal My words every one from his neighbor. 31 "Behold, I am against the prophets," says the LORD, "who use their tongues and say, 'He says.'
- faithfully (Hebrew)
- stability; (when used of speech) of certainty; In truth; trustworthiness in content
- steal (Hebrew)
- to thieve (lit. or fig.); (by impl) to deceive
Do you get the implication of what is being said in this passage? The prophet or proclaimer is to speak that which is of certainty with truthfulness and trustworthiness in the content. He should never do as stated in v. 31–say “thus saith the Lord” when it is information only from one’s own tongue.
Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
God’s arm is revealed through the report: in this case the revelation of God. Notice the analogy use here, the arm of the Lord is the symbol of protection, power, comfort, and etc. This reveling of God’s arm comes through the Word of God.
Romans 16:25-27 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began 26 but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith-- 27 to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.
2 Timothy 2:8 Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel,
Paul is not claiming to have invented the gospel, but he is distinguishing between the Good News that he taught and the so-called good news that some others were teaching. The point we want to see is that there is power in the gospel, when it is truly the gospel and not a perversion of, or a watered down form of the gospel.
1 Thessalonians 1:5 For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.
- Assurance (Greek)
- entire confidence; to carry out fully in evidence (obedience) based on complete information
In 1 Thessalonians 1:5, there is described the willingness and freedom of spirit enjoyed by those who brought the gospel to Thessalonica.
Colossians 2:2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,
In Colossians 2:2, this freedom of mind and confidence comes as a result of knowledge and understanding of the “mystery of God”.
Hebrews 6:11-12 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
In Hebrews 6:11, the writer states that this assurance comes by understanding and is maintained by obeying that understanding, or imitating those who have inherited the promises.
Hebrews 10:19-23 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:22 brings out the fact that prayer, in this age, is dependent on this full assurance. This “full assurance” is ours because we continue in obedience, and because we have this complete information. It is in this manner, we are to draw near to God through our High Priest, Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
Notice once again the importance of the “truth” taught in the epistles. This truth is the base for our obtaining the “glory of our Lord Jesus Christ”. If this truth is the base, then I do believe it is important that we have the whole counsel of God on the matter. Not just a few proof texts, taken from their context to shore up some person’s thoughts, but the whole truth.
1 Corinthians 1:18-24 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Well, there it is again! The message is power, but that same message can be foolishness or a stumbling block, to those who seek or hear it for the wrong reasons, whether saved or unsaved.
Galatians 1:6-7 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
This perversion of the gospel can be deliberate, or it can happen to good people with the best of intentions.
Galatians 2:11-14 But when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, "If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?
Good men, such as Peter, can pervert the truth either and/or because:
- they do not have the complete truth
- they are not in complete obedience to the truth
That is why any writings or sermons of mankind must be viewed as just that–writings and sermons of mankind. These writings or sermons should not become part of your spiritual repertoire, until you have checked them out with all of Scripture, first.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Notice it is the “Word of God”, not just some words out of the Word of God.
As mentioned previously, for anyone to communicate with God, there must be an access to God or a basis from which we have a right or the authority to do so. Our rights are given to us by our relationship with Christ. We are to pray in the name of Christ, literally consigned by Christ, to the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is a different and unique approach to prayer especially prepared by God for this time of the Church age, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within Believers. The essence of prayer has not changed from the Garden of Eden until now, and the essence of prayer will not change through the kingdom age. However, the base from which we are to pray, and the technique has, and will change for each time period. Because the essence of prayer never changes, we can learn much about prayer from observing prayer in any time period. However, we should not confuse the base from which we pray and the manner in which we pray in this church age, with those of other ages.
Prayer is first and foremost fellowship of God with man and visa versa. Positive answers to our prayers are based on that fellowship, coming in Christ, and walking in the Spirit. God, most generally, works through His people to supply needs. So, in our simplified illustration, we had two Believers in fellowship with God, coming in Christ, and walking in the Spirit.
Please don’t get so hung up on the technique of prayer that you fail to pray. Sometimes we can get so taken with the “how” to play the game, that we never actually play the game. Nonetheless, we go through life having all the rules right, just in case we ever happened to decide to play the game.
In this series, we have been looking at one very narrow aspect of prayer and its working, although we have touched on many other aspects. There are many other aspects of prayer, and often these aspects are combined in prayer and its answer. The process of prayer, and especially Believer’s prayer is so intricate in its details and workings, that, even if we knew all of its workings, we could not explain all of its workings in a life time.
The question was asked, “Why would God make an activity in which all Believers are to participate so complicated that it’s beyond the ability of any to fully understand?” The answer to that is simple, God had to make prayer far beyond the reaches of human understand for it to work. Prayer had to transcend both human and divine realms, so that depraved finite mankind, and holy infinite God could have fellowship.
The best of human thinking has brought us the Internet, and that process isn’t exactly simple. Nor do I know of many, if any, who fully understand exactly how the internet works. Sometimes we don’t even understand how to get on the internet! However, the internet is mere child’s play compared to prayer.
For nutrition and information to pass from one cell to another in our body is also quite complicated. Some of the greatest of human minds have spent their lives studying the simple cell, and yet cannot fully and completely explain what it is and how it works.
I’m glad the cell and the working of those many cells together are intricate and complicated. I had bran flakes, raisins, bananas, milk, and coffee for breakfast. Plus, all those extras listed on the side of the box, along with some sugar and other stuff. I also had a hand full of pills to heal me from getting old. Now can you imagine all that stuff going down into to my stomach, and being loaded on a miniature train with a bunch of boxcars? Then this little train goes around to all my cells, and someone with a little garden spade shoves some of that mixture into each cell. As the train speeds away, the engineer hollers out, “There’s your nutrition for the day.” That pretty well sums up how many people understand prayer.
If you read some of the books of theologians, that’s not too far away from what they are presenting, either! Isn’t it wonderful: if we put the right stuff down our throats, and the digestive system is working properly, our body has all its needs supplied.
When all is said and done, what we have in Christ is a life. The Bible declares it as such. Prayer is one function of that life. Not totally unlike the digestive process, and the metabolism of that food. Now don’t want to carry that illustration too far! This process of prayer must be on going at all times, not just when a crisis pops up. There are times of greater intensity, and variety of activities in both physical life and prayer life. We must be careful of what we put into prayer and the way we do it. When we do our part right, we don’t have to worry about the rest of the process¬–God will properly take care of that. Let’s not insult God and His infinite program by thinking of prayer as being of such a simplistic nature, so that a depraved human mind can completely comprehend it. God has given us enough information about prayer so we can have a basis of understanding, and properly participate in it.
One of the richest sources of answered prayer is the Bible. As we feed on the Word of God in a daily consistent manner, it has the supply for “all things that pertain to life and godliness”. It is through the feeding process on the Word of God that we partake of His divine nature for living. It is part of the spiritual nutrition that comes only as we fellowship with God in the whole scope of prayer and fellowship.
Too often we see our needs as only physical, and we are somewhat disgusted when God suggests that the spiritual is far more important that the physical. Most often the physical needs are met out of and through the spiritual. Much of our lack of receiving when we pray comes because we ask amiss only to consume it on our own desires or lusts.
James 4:2-3 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Within the realm of theology, there are what has been dubbed the general graces of God. Such as the air we breathe, the water we drink, and even physical life itself.
Then there is a whole different realm of “God’s graces that are conditional”. These graces are not conditional based on the fact that we do something to deserve them, or that by our doing we cause these graces to be produced. No, all of these graces are already provided. No person can do anything great enough to deserve them, nor is anyone great enough to cause them to come into existence. Even though all of God’s graces are already provided, and are available to all, there are conditions which must be met to have these graces appropriated personally. God does not force grace on us. We must choose to receive or reject it: such as the grace of salvation.
Even though Christ paid for the sins of the whole world, and provided salvation for every person, a person must personally accept Christ as their Savior before the grace of salvation is personally appropriated to that life. Likewise, are the many graces for Christian living such as peace, joy, forgiveness, stability, etc.
Let’s take the grace of personal forgiveness and cleansing. We know that all sins were forgiven on the Cross. So, why should I confess my sins, or if you prefer pray for forgiveness? The answer to that is very simple! That’s the only way you can personally appropriate that which has already been provided. We have a lot of self-proclaimed counselors running around today giving people a regiment to follow so they can gain the freedom of forgiveness. You can follow that regiment for the rest of your life and you will never know God’s forgiveness or cleansing. You may feel better for a while, because activity sometimes makes us feel better, but I’m here to tell you, there is only one way to have the grace of forgiveness and cleansing and that is God’s way, period!
The epistle of 1 John gives us the most concise declaration of God’s method of forgiveness and cleansing. Other passages also speak to this subject. This is what I have dubbed as the “automatic cleansing” of God.
1 John 1:7-8 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
The best way to a life of freedom from guilt is prevention and automatic cleansing. As we walk daily with God, in this fellowship that we have talked about so often, we will be cleansed at the moment we stumble in these things. I highly recommend this method. It saves a lot of wear and tear on the system through guilt. However, we sometimes walk in the flesh, and when we do that there is no automatic provision of God for that situation. Then 1 John 1:9 must come into use.
1 John 1:9-10 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Here we must confess what we have done as sin, not a mistake, human error, societal condition, etc. We must take responsibility, a dirty word in this day and age. Through this confession we humble ourselves and become dependent on God and God alone for the appropriation of this forgiveness. This is known as obedience.
Believer’s Prayer is a fellowship that we should be engaged in 24 hours a day.
1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Proverbs 3:5-6 gives the essence of this type of activity and fellowship.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
Everything we do, all day, every day, no matter what that task may be, should be done as though we were doing it in the presence of and in fellowship with God. This would sure change our attitudes and actions, wouldn’t it?! You know, like those self-centered harsh responses we give to other people when we think our rights have been violated.
Over and over throughout the New Testament this concept is expressed.
1 Corinthians 10:31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Notice it includes the very basics of life: those mundane things that we give very little thought to. Eating and drinking should be done for the glory of God.
Colossians 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
What more needs to be said? We are to be in prayer, or fellowship, with God at all times. May we truly learn to pray without ceasing!