There is no greater privilege granted to man than that of prayer. In the providence of God, prayer is the means of our success; it has been made the avenue through which we may receive blessings that would not otherwise be given us. Appeals, petitions, and entreaties between man and man are able to move men and act a part in controlling the affairs of nations; but prayer moves heaven.
- If God is sovereign, why pray?
The sovereign God has sovereignly willed to be influenced by the prayers of His people.
What evidence has God given that He will answer our prayer?
God, that spared not his own son, with Jesus will give us all things (Romans 8:32). God's estimate of the value of the soul can be seen in the value of the sacrifice made at Calvary. Having given such a demonstration of His interest in our salvation, we may be confident in His willingness to attend to our lesser needs (Psalm 37:4). While Himself on earth, Christ assured us that our Heavenly Father is aware of all our needs (Matthew 6:25-34, Luke 12:22-31, Philippians 4:19, Psalm 34:10). Jesus even said that our heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him (Luke 11:13).
John 14:13-14, "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it."
Isaiah 58:9, "Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am."
Daniel is an example of God answering prayer. In Daniel 10:12-14, Daniel prayed for three weeks, and after three weeks an angel told Daniel that God heard his words from the first day. Then the angel answered his prayer and gave Daniel a vision of the future.
Whose prayers will the Lord listen to?
God hears the prayers of the righteous (Psalm 34:15, Proverbs 15:8,29, James 5:16), those who keep his commandments (Daniel 9:4, 1 John 3:22), those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6), those who humble themselves (2 Chronicles 7:14), and those who do His Will (John 9:31). Those who receive answers to their prayers are those who walk in the light of God's commandments. If we do His will, if we walk in Truth, then we may ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us (John 15:7). How strange it would be for us to ask God to regard our wishes and desires when we disregard His. While we earnestly endeavor to be obedient, God will hear our petitions; but He will not bless us in disobedience.
But what about those who are lost and destitute? Will God hear their prayers?
Yes, He will regard the prayers of the destitute (Psalm 102:17).
What prevents God from answering prayer?
Prayers of those who sin and donít obey Godís Law (Psalm 66:18, Isaiah 59:2). Proverbs 28:9, "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination." Another reason why "...yet ye have not, because ye ask not," (James 4:2), however we should never pray selfishly (James 4:3). Also, if we pray with any doubt, we will not get an answer (James 1:6-7). We must have faith! Faith comes by reading scripture (Romans 10:17).
Can prayer change Godís mind?
Yes, but only if we do his commandments (Numbers 14:10; 22:1-41, 2 Kings 20:1-6, 1 Chronicles 21:16,17,27, 1 Samuel 8, Numbers 22).
What is a condition for receiving answers to prayer?
We must have Faith (James 1:5-8, Hebrews 11:6), and faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Prayer is the key that, in the hand of faith, opens to us the unlimited resources of heaven. God is willing to reveal Himself to us in a remarkable manner. The reason, however, that we do not see greater evidence of His power is that we lack faith. Were God to answer some of our faithless prayers, it would astonish us. When we go to God in earnest, blending faith with our perseverance in presenting our petitions, answers will come. Jesus said whatever we ask for in prayer, believe that we have received it, and we will receive answers to our prayers (Mark 11:24).
Faith is man responding to God's Word and Will. Faith is believing God concerning what He has said, knowing God's Will, and then acting on it.
What can be the reason for God not answering my prayers?
We must want God's will to be done (1 John 5:14). Even Jesus, in His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, submitted His prayers to be answered according to his Father's will (Luke 22:42). In every thing, pray with thanksgiving and let your requests be made known unto God (Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2).
Upon what condition does God hear our prayers for forgiveness?
We must forgive others (Mark 11:25-26).
Is the failure to pray considered a sin against the Lord?
Yes (1 Samuel 12:23).
To whom did Jesus say to present our requests?
To our Father which art in heaven (Matthew 6:9, Luke 11:2).
In whose name and by whose authority are we to pray?
Jesus (John 14:13-14; 15:16). Why is this so? "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5).
What other advice is there on prayer?
Be sober and watchful in our prayers (I Peter 4:7). Pray always with all perseverance and supplication (Ephesians 6:18). Pray with spirit and understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15). Pray if youíre afflicted (James 5:13). Do not use vain repetitions when praying (Matthew 6:7). Donít pray for the world (John 17:9,14-16)
Do we always know what to pray for?
No, but the Holy Spirit will make intercession for us and helps us pray (Romans 8:26). Besides, our Father knows what things we have need of before we ask him (Matthew 6:8, Luke 12:28).
Who should we pray for?
Pray for one another (James 5:16, Colossians 4:14).
Is it okay to ask others to pray for or with us?
Yes. Jesus said if two people are gathered together in his name, and they agree on something, and they ask our Father in Heaven for it, it shall be done for them (Matthew 18:19-20).
Where should we pray?
Jesus commanded we pray in secret (Matthew 6:6). Jesus himself prayed in solitary places (Matthew 14:13,23; Mark 1:35; 6:46, Luke 5:16; 6:12) and away from his disciples (Matthew 26:36-44, Mark 14:34-41, Luke 22:44-46). Jesus assures us that whatever we speak in solitude will be heard (Luke 12:2,3).
Is it okay to pray in public?
Jesus says not to pray like the hypocrites do, in public places, if your purpose is to be seen by other men, or just to impress others (Matthew 6:5).
When we praise the Lord, should we raise our hands?
Yes (Exodus 17:11-14, Nehemiah 8:6, Psalm 28:2; 63:3-4; 134:2, Lamentations 2:19; 3:41, 1 Timothy 2:8).
Must we kneel down when we pray?
True reverence for God is inspired by a sense of His infinite greatness and a realization of His presence. Jesus, our Example, "kneeled down, and prayed" (Luke 22:41). Of the disciples it is recorded that they, too, "kneeled down, and prayed" (Acts 9:40; 20:36; 21:5.) In confessing before God the sins of Israel, Ezra knelt (Ezra 9:5.) Daniel, a man beloved and greatly honored by God, "kneeled down on his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God" (Daniel 6:10). Both in public and in private worship, it is our privilege to bow on our knees before the Lord when we offer our prayers to Him (Psalm 95:6). When Mark 11:25 says, "stand praying," it means to "persevere, persist", not to literally stand on ones feet. Luke 18:13 is a parable, and not to be taken literally.
Are we supposed to close our eyes and bow our heads when we pray?
Why shut our eyes from God and turn away from Him? There is no biblical support for any man of God praying in this way. Jesus opened his eyes and lifted his head to heaven (Mark 7:34, John 11:41; 17:1). But if you're sorrowful, you can fall on your face and pray to God (Job 1:20, Matthew 26:39). It is true that men have bowed their head in worship (Genesis 24:26,48, Exodus 12:27; 34:8, 2 Chronicles 20:18), but never in prayer.
What is the Lordís Prayer?
Matthew 6:9-13 is not the "Lordís Prayer", as is commonly believed, this is simply Jesusí teaching on how to pray (Luke 11:1-2). John 17 contains the Lordís Prayer.
How often should we pray?
"Pray without ceasing" (1Thessalonians 5:17), "continue instant in prayer" (Romans 12:12), , "...men ought always to pray" (Luke 18:1). You may ask, "But how could we pray all the time when we have so many things to do"? A plain, sensible girl once said that this is one of the easiest and best texts of the Bible. She answered,
"When I open my eyes in the morning, I pray, ĎLord, open the eyes of my understandingí; and when I am dressing, I pray that I may be clothed with the robes of righteousness; and when I have washed me, I ask for the washing of regeneration; and as I begin my work, I pray that I may have strength equal to my day. When I begin to kindle up the fire, I pray that Godís work may revive in my soul; and as I sweep out the house, I pray that my heart may be cleansed from all its impurities; and while preparing and partaking of breakfast, I desire to be fed with the hidden manna and the sincere milk of the Word; and while I am busy with the little children, I look up to God as my father, and pray for the spirit of adoption, that I may be His child, and so on all day. Everything I do furnishes me with a thought for prayer."
Wherever we are, whatever duties we may be attending to, our hearts are to be uplifted to God in prayer. We need not always wait until we can bow upon our knees before we pray. Though we cannot always be in the position of prayer, our thoughts and desires can always be upward. There is no time or place where it is inappropriate for us to turn our thoughts to God in prayer.
Can prayer change God's Mind?
If we are so set in our hearts not to face difficult situations, God will actually release us even though it is not His perfect will. In Numbers 22, Balaam wanted to curse Israel because there were great rewards for him personally. He asked the Lord the first time if he could go, and God showed him that His will for Balaam was not to go. When the princes of Moab returned with more money and honor, Balaam went to God again. This time, God said to go with them. Why did God change his mind? The answer is that God did not change his mind. Balaam was so set on going that God let him go. That is why His anger was aroused against Balaam when he did go.
It was God's Will that Israel be ruled by God Himself, and not by a human king like the heathen nations. But Israel wanted to be ruled by a human king instead of God, so God answered their prayer, even though it was against God's Will (1 Samuel 8).
In 2 Kings 20:1-6, God told Hezekiah he was going to die that very night. But Hezekiah prayed to God and God changed His Will and added fifteen years to Hezekiah's life.
We can pester the Lord regarding something for which he has already shown us His will. He will then allow us to do what we want even when it is against His Will, even when it is not in our best interest. Often, God's plan causes us to face hurts and attitudes we don't want to face. Yet we run from the very thing that will bring strength to our lives. Refusing to deal with an offense will not free us from the problem. It will only give us temporary relief. The root of the problem remains untouched.
The Example of Peter
In Acts 12 we learn that Peter was arrested and thrown into prison. Since Herod had just put James, the brother of John, to death, we might assume that Peter was in serious trouble. What was the Christ's assembly's response to Peter's predicament? We are told that "fervent prayer was made by the assembly to God concerning him" (Acts 12:5). They were praying for divine intervention. They wanted to see the power of heaven intervene in Peter's earthly circumstances.
We are also told how they were praying...fervently (Acts 12:5). The results were exciting. Blatant divine intervention occured. God answered the prayers of the Christ's assembly. He sent an angel who woke up Peter (without waking the guards he was chained to), released the chains that bound him (still without waking the guards), and led Peter right out of the prison. Peter and the angel walked by the guards, who were apparently blinded, and out of the iron gate of the city (which opened all by itself). Peter was free! Heavenly realities influenced earthly circumstances in direct response to the prayers of God's people. This was not a Hollywood special effect, this was real. The event was so extraordinary that not even Peter believed it was actually occuring. The text tells us that he thought he was having a vision (Acts 12:9).
Peter then went to the house where the men and women of the Christ's assembly were praying for him. They were still praying while Peter stood at the door knocking. When the servant girl reported that Peter was at the door, their response was classic.
Acts 12:15, "And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she strongly affirmed that it was even so. And they said, It is his angel."
The assembly didn't have faith that God would actually do what they had prayed about. They reasoned that it must be Peter's spirit knocking on the door, and not Peter himself! Meanwhile, Peter was still knocking. Finally, they opened the door. The text says they were "amazed." The lights finally went on. "Wait a minute! Peter gets jailed, we pray, God springs him, God answers prayer!"
Here's the point. Jesus gives those who bear his name the privilege of appropriating or claiming divine intervention through prayer. It is not our kingdom we are praying for, we affirm the will of God through prayer and bring the reality of His kingdom into our lives. What an exciting privilege! I hope and pray you capture a sense of the incomprehensible opportunity that God has placed at our fingertips, which awaits our appropriation and application.
Will everything we ask for come True?
Not everything we ask for will God grant just as we hope. Even though we may have had faith, God knows better than we do what is best for us. When we ask for something that God knows it is not best for us to have, He will answer our prayer; but it may be in a different way than we expected.
At a time of great discouragement in his life, Elijah asked God to let him die (1 Kings 19:4). Instead of allowing him to die, God gave Elijah more work to do. Just think how different things might have been if God had answered Elijah's prayer just as he asked. Every prayer that is presented to God in faith and with a true heart will be answered. Such prayer is never lost; but to claim that it will always be answered in the very way and for the particular thing that we desire is presumption. God is too wise to make a mistake and loves us too much to give us anything that is not for our best good. If we have, in the honesty of our hearts, asked anything that God sees will not be good for us, He may withhold the thing desired but in its place give us the blessing we most need (Psalm 84:11).
If the answer to our prayers does not come just when we expect it, we must not distrust God. He knows the end from the beginning. He is acquainted with our hearts and the circumstances that surround us. For this reason, we are to commit our desires to our all-wise Heavenly Father; and then, in perfect confidence, trust all to Him. To press our requests without a submissive spirit is not right; our prayers must take the form, not of a command, but of a petition
God is never so busy that He will not listen and answer our prayers. In fact, He has given us his promise in Psalm 91:15. When we approach our Heavenly Father, feeling our need, and in confidence open our hearts to Him, we are assured that He will hear us. When Jesus was upon the earth, He taught His disciples how to pray. He directed them to present their daily needs before God and to cast all their care upon Him. The assurance He gave them that their petitions would be heard is assurance also to us.
Jesusí Opinion About Prayer
Through the example of Jesus Christ, he shows that the significance of prayer is one of the top priorities of our life. Despite the fact that multitudes of people were coming to him, Jesus withdrew himself into the wilderness and prayed (Luke 5:15-16). In other words, prayer was a habit of Jesus Christ. He always took the time to pray and gave top priority to it, even when he was very busy. In turn, this shows the importance of prayer.
Mark 1:21-34 is another example of a very busy day for Jesus, and in between that day and the following busy day (Mark 1:35-36), Jesus woke up well before daylight and then he went out and departed to a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35). The night before Jesus made one of his most crucial decisions of his ministry, the choice of the twelve apostles, Jesus continued all night in prayer to God (Luke 6:12-13). If Jesus needed to pray before he made decisions and choices, donít you think we need to pray before we make them?
In Matthew 26:36-38, the reason why Jesus Christ was very sorrowful and distressed was that he knew that he was going to be arrested and crucified. Really, it was a very difficult time for him and, at the same time, a very crucial time for all of us, since the plan of our salvation was based on his personal sacrifice and resurrection. But how did he decide to face this crisis? Matthew 26:39-44 says Jesus fell on his face, and prayed. Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "What? Could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak". Again, a second time, He went away and prayed. And he came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. So he left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then God sent an angel (Luke 22:43) and strengthened him to do what was his biggest desire; the will of God.
Jesus was asking the Father whether there was another way whereby he could accomplish man's salvation, without having to go through this situation. He prayed about it, he prayed three times. It is very instructive to pay attention to his prayer attitude. As we can see, he expressed his desire to God ("let this cup pass from me") but at the same time he asked for the will of God to be done ("nevertheless, not as I will but as you will"). This is very important, since sometimes we think that, because we ask God for something, He is obliged to do it, and not only that, but that He should do it when we want it to be done. God is obliged to do whatever we ask only when we ask in accordance with His will.
Communion with God
The spiritual resources which were available to Jesus are open to us on the same terms. We, too, can be conscious of Godís presence; we can listen to his voice and share our problems with him; we can gain insight and love and courage from him. We, too, can be a brother to man; going about doing good; sharing, healing, restoring. Self-centered people do not often possess great spiritual power. Preoccupation with oneís own comfort and pleasure is a primary explanation of spiritual barrenness. Prayer often lacks vitality because an individual is not conscious of anything really worth praying for. Not until man has caught sight of the desperate need of some other person and realizes his own inability to relieve this need is he likely to find spiritual reality.
Within the deep places of the heart, a flame kindles that throws a searching light into our true character. We see our selfishness, our silly pride, our greed and our baseless fears silhouetted against the radiant background of Christís life and thought. Comes then repentance, humility, and the beginning of the journey of the soul toward full-orbed personality. Only in prayer do we achieve that complete and harmonious assembly of body, mind, and spirit which transforms weakness and confusion into unshakable strength. Prayer, like radium, is thus the one source of luminous, self-generating energy.
Such prayer is not begging God for this thing or that. It is not an easy way of cajoling a cosmic errand boy into giving us money and gadgets to make life easy. It is not about asking for things. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" was the way Jesus put it (Matthew 6:33).
But how? Use prayer as a supreme opportunity for the soulís communion with the Creator and Source of all energy, all beauty and all power. When we pray, we link ourselves with the inexhaustible motive power that spins the universe. But we do not pray enough. Epictetus said, "think of God more often than you breathe". The apostle Paul said to "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). And Jesus taught that, "...men ought always to pray" (Luke 18:1).
True prayer is constant communion with God. In order to mold character and personality, prayer must become a habit.
James 5:13-15, "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? 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: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him."
The Spirit, Jesus told his disciples, will bring to their minds all that he had taught them (John 14:26). Note the order: first teaching is embedded in the mind, then the Spirit activates it. That's the norm. A self-induced ignorance is unlikely to inspire God to miraculously compensate for our laziness.
Power resides in persistent prayer; never in prayerless passivity. And it is faith, not fate, that releases us into ministry. The great mystery of Christian life is not unanswered prayer, it's unfinished prayer. Prayer that quits before the answer arrives is like a mansion carefully constructed, almost furnished, and then abandoned. As days snake by with no apparent change, our prayers become less passionate, less hopeful. We must fight this tendency with all we've got, employing to the full the irresistible force of prevailing prayer.
Passive people rust;
Fools stay in bed.
Prayerful people trust;
Kneelers surge ahead.
Sluggards keep their faults;
Loafers end in shame.
Prayers get results;
Kneelers always gain.
Remember, if you want God to answer your prayers...
James 4:8, "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you."
Malachi 3:7, "...Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts."
Jeremiah 33:3, "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."
Psalms 37:4-5, "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass."
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