Prayer

Updated 12/30/12

 Outline

  1. Definition
  2. Prayer: Mandated for Every Dispensation
  3. Order of Prayer Categories
  4. Prayer Protocol
  5. Unanswered Prayers
  6. Petition in Prayer
  7. Intercesstion in Prayer
  8. Special Prayers
  9. Additional Comments

Pertinent Verses

Approach boldly the throne of grace, that we might obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews4:16NASB

Stop worrying about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be known to God.   Philippians 4:6 NASB

Make prayer a habit; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

1.  Definition

Prayer can be defined as an act of faith and worship whereby the precious promises of God are brought home to the mind of the believer. [Dallas Theological Seminary. (1979; 2002). Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 136 (136:345).]  The Westminster Shorter Catechism states:

“Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of His mercies.” [Dallas Theological Seminary. (1979; 2002). Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 136 (136:345), Dallas Theological Seminary.]  It is not simply petition, but a conversation with God, including therefore, 1. The expression of our thoughts and feelings in view of His greatness and glory, i.e., adoration. 2. The expression of our feelings in view of His goodness, i.e., thanksgiving. 3. The expression of our feelings in view of our sins and sinfulness, i.e., confession. 4. The expression of our feelings in view of our wants, i.e., supplication.. [Hodge, Princeton Sermons, p. 291. Dallas Theological Seminary. (1979; 2002). Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 136 (136:345). Dallas Theological Seminary.]

Prayer is communication with God.  Though we will look at a few Old Testament passages in this study, we will limit our technical discussion to prayer in the Church Age as it applies to Church Age believers.  In this age, our communication with God fits into four different categories:

  1. Confession of Personal Sin:  By means of this category, you make sure you are in fellowship with the Spirit.  You don’t want to pray if you are in a state of carnality.
  2. Thanksgiving: By this you express your gratitude to Him.
  3. Intercession: You pray for others.
  4. Petition: You pray for yourself.

Prayer is the most powerful and effective weapon in all of history.  By means of prayer, your spiritual life takes the offensive against satanic and worldly powers.  Because the Holy Spirit powers prayer, it is invisible divine power initiated by believers directed to the living but invisible Father-God.  By implementing the Father’s past provided solutions, your prayers fulfill the principle of offensive against satanic powers.  To the degree you have matured spiritually, to that degree you understand the issues of the angelic conflict.  Therefore, prayer is most effective when exercised by believers in spiritual maturity.

All answered prayer is part of the believer’s awardable Christian service.  We will visit the topic of Christian service in another study, but you might want to make a mental note of the fact that God rewards effective prayer.

Prayer is a ministry designed for every believer.  It isn’t just for those with the spiritual gift of prayer…and there are those…or just for elderly women who at an advanced age and widowed have more time.  Paul refers to this category of lady with respect to prayer.  Or is prayer just for the professional clergy.  Prayer is for every believer.

It is as if God hears our prayers twice: first, in eternity past, then secondly, at the moment you actually think or utter your prayer.  “Eternity past’ is language of accommodation.  God, who is outside of time, having created it for our benefit, isn’t limited by it as we are.  He can see history as a single totality.  God is omniscient so He has “always known” what you pray.  God being multi-dimensional sees your entire life, including all of your prayers, at once.  God knew and answered all prayers in, from our time-bound perspective, eternity past.  Do you understand the ramifications of this?  God provided perfectly for you long before He created the universe.  He had you in mind and solved all of your problems before you existed! As for your prayers, listen to Isaiah 65:24:

ü     Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.   Isaiah 65:24 NASB

The more you grow in grace, the greater your spiritual growth will be, and the greater your spiritual growth, the greater your effectiveness in prayer.  The effectiveness of your prayer life is not measured in terms of your eloquence in public prayer, but on the basis of private prayer content.  You must pray according to the will of the Father.  The greater your spiritual growth, the more your prayers are going to line up with what God wants you to pray.

2. Prayer: Mandated for Every Generation

God has mandated prayer of every generation, every dispensation of the human history.  The earliest prayers recorded are those offered by Job:

ü    Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth. “Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; Even twice, and I will add nothing more.” Job 40:4-5

Other early prayers offered by Abram to the Father regarding the heir he’d been promised are recorded:

ü     Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” and Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.”  Genesis 15:2-3

We can confidently assume that believers from Adam down to Abraham also prayed as well as offered sacrifices to the Father.  Many Old Testament passages emphasize the importance of prayer.

ü     I love the Lord, because He hears My voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.  Psalm 116:1-2

ü     Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.  Jeremiah 33:3

ü     Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:12-14

As nations, especially client nations, forget the spiritual life they ignore prayer.  The nationIsraelwas in just that state during our Lord’s walk upon the earth.  Our Lord even had to encourage His disciples to pray during the interim between the First Advent and the Church Age.  He told them:

ü     Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Matthew 7:7-8

ü     If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  John 15:7

Since His disciples did not ask, Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit onto them to sustain them between His ascension and Pentecost.

ü     And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22

He expects us to pray just as much as He expected His disciples to prayer.  Paul delineated the mandate for a consistent daily prayer life for Church Age believers in his letter to the Thessalonians:

ü     Pray habitually.  1 Thessalonians 5:17

The mandate to pray comes from the present middle imperative from the verb προσεύχομαι PROSEUCHOMAI.  The tense, voice, and mood of the verb used in this context reveal greater complexity to this mandate than initially evident in the English.  This present tense, a gnomic present, refers to a state which perpetually exists.  Prayer has been mandated for believers in every time period, past, present, and future.  The middle voice, a dynamic middle indicates that every believer who prays acts both in his own interest, in petition, and in the interest of others, in intercession.  This dynamic middle voice also emphasizes that the praying believer is the one producing the action.  This imperative mood mandates prayer of all Church Age believers.  The adverb of time διαλείπτως ADIALEIPTOS, often mistranslated “without ceasing,” means “unceasingly” or “continually.”  This does not mean non-stop prayer, but constant, recurring prayer.   This takes into consideration two necessary categories of prayer: habitual, routine prayer at certain times as well as spontaneous prayer at other times.  Often your prayer alertness leads to spontaneous prayer.

During the course of living the spiritual life, you will come to understand that you must be continually filled with the Holy Spirit.  This status puts you in the status of prayer empowerment.  The Spirit only empowers you to pray in the status of spirituality.  As you grow spiritually you will also come to understand the necessity of consistent prayer because you have seen the power God brings to bear upon lives, both individually and collectively because of prayer.  Prayer becomes such fun when wielded with result! Spiritual growth then, produces built in motivation for habitual prayer.  Paul addresses the same subject to the Ephesians:

ü     By means of all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit [the status of spirituality], and with this in view, be alert in prayer for all the saints with persistence and petition.  Ephesians 6:18

Alertness in prayer results from your spiritual growth and experiencing God’s answers to prayer.  Just as the marital artist or police officer on patrol becomes alert to his immediate environment, so you become alert to situations which demand your prayers.  Your alertness in prayer means that overseas military personel will advance being protected by a constant prayer barrage.  Your alertness means that those with illness in your periphery will be protected and their health care practitioners guided by divine power.  Your alertness in prayer means that those governmental authorities will be divinely guided because you prayed for them.  The list is endless!  As you grow spiritually, you will develop alertness for when prayer is needed.  Respond, then, to this divine directive: pray habitually with alertness!

Paul also addressed the Philippian believers with regard to their prayer life:

ü     Stop worrying about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be known to God.  And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall garrison your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

As we noted in verse 3 of this study, without gratitude toward the Father you have no mature capacity for any aspect of your spiritual life, including prayer.

Our Lord related effective prayer, as quoted by Mark, to the faith-rest drill.  This drill entails memorizing verses and applying them by claiming what God has promised.  As you mature, you apply entire categorical doctrines and rationales to your life. By continually applying promises and rationales, then experiencing God’s faithfulness, your faith grows.  Effective prayer demands faith.

ü     All things for which you ask in prayer, believe that you shall receive them, and they shall be given to you.  Markk 11:24

Without the faith derived from the faith-rest drill, prayer doesn’t work:

ü     And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.  Matthew 21:22

The Apostle John related effective prayer to continual spiritual growth.  As you grow spiritually, you will come to understand and so respond to divine mandates:

ü     Whatever we ask, we shall continue to receive from Him, because we continue to execute His mandates and keep on doing what is pleasing in His sight.  1 John 3:22

3. Order of Prayer Categories

In this section we will see what our prayers should consist of and in what order these items should fall. Why is this important?  In God’s plan, there is a right way to do everything, including praying.  All believers need to master this.

     a. Prayer of Confession

I mention, by reminder, the first item in your prayer agenda at the beginning of each Bible class I teach.  Several scriptures delineate the mechanic and emphasize its importance.  It consists of naming, citing, or confessing your known sin or sins to the God Father.  Though the English term, “confession” often carries emotional baggage with it, the Greek source word denotes an emotionless mechanic.  When you cite your sin to Him, the Father immediately forgives you of any sin.  He purifies you from any guilt.  You resume fellowship with the entire Godhead, including the Father, Son and Spirit.  Your fellowship with the Father and Son relates to your continual recall and application of the Word.  Fellowship with the Spirit relates to the resumption of His empowering ministry allowing you to resume your spiritual life so that you can learn and apply Bible doctrine.  He also mentors you, teaching you accurate Bible doctrine you hear.  You must be in a state of spirituality for your prayers to be heard.  God only hears your prayers when you are filled and empowered by God the Holy Spirit because it is by His power that you pray.  No prayer is ever effective apart from the empowering ministry of the Spirit. The mechanic of reentering the Holy Spirit’s power sphere is delineated in 1 John 1:9 and two Old Testament passages:

ü     If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

ü     I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.  Psalm 32:5

ü     He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.  Proverbs 28:13

This prayer of confession relates to your royal priesthood because with this prayer you fulfill one aspect of it:  you represent yourself to the Father.  Decidedly, we would rather come to Father’s throne of grace in a state of spirituality rather than carnality.  Be grateful for this wonderful mechanic of spiritual recovery!

     b. Thanksgiving

By means of the second item, you express your gratitude to God as a part of your worship.  Your capacity for true worship comes from your love for God the Father.  Your capacity for true gratitude also comes from the flip side of love for the Father, its reciprocal, virtue love for every member of the human race.  Your gratitude toward God increases with your growth in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

As we learned in verse 3 of this study, your thanksgiving for God, that is your gratitude toward Him, reflects your actual love for Him. If you are not grateful for everything He has done in grace and love for you, then you simply do not love Him. The more you love God, the more you appreciate Him.  This leads to greater thanksgiving and greater gratitude toward Him, leading to greater alertness in prayer.  This is key to your prayer life.  Listen to what Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

ü     Always giving thanks to God the Father for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.   Ephesians 5:20 RBT

     c. Intercession

The third item on your agenda is intercession, praying for others.  Now, this can be tough to organize sometimes.  So here is a word of advice. Keep a prayer list.  Keep track of those for whom you pray and for those for whom you want to pray.

     d. Petition

The fourth item in our prayer agenda is petition, in which you pray for yourself, bringing your needs before God’s throne of grace.  As we will learn when we study in detail, the Ten Problem Solving Devices, we will discover that there is not one problem in life that is not covered by these mechanics. However, even if you have mastered the Ten Problem Solving Devices, there are times when you want to pray for yourself. As a matter of fact, we are mandated to do so. Listen to Hebrews 4:16.

ü     Approach boldly the throne of grace that we might obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:16 (NASB)

You can only boldly approach the Father’s throne of grace if you posses confidence that you pray according the both His will and Biblical protocol.  Your prayer content must line up with His will.  You level of capacity must be equal to or greater than your request, should it be a petition.  Furthermore, you must pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is through Him, our High Priest that we pray.

4. Prayer Protocol

In our fourth point, we’re going to discuss prayer protocol. This simply means that there is a right way to do everything.  In the Christian life, everything must be done God’s way. Prayer is no different.  God has mandated us to pray in a certain way, using certain mechanics.  We’ll be studying those mechanics in this section.

     a.  Prayers Must be Adressed to the Father

The first mechanic: All prayers must be addressed to the Father.  When we pray we must always follow precisely correct procedure.  Remember who you are addressing!  You are speaking to God the Father.  He demands your complete respect!  Furthermore, there is no place of sloppiness in prayer.

You never pray to the Son. You will not find this in the word of God.  Do not prayer to the Holy Spirit.  Again, you will never find the apostles praying to the Holy Spirit.  Do not pray to the mother of the humanity of Christ.  She is not deity.  And again, you will find no Biblical examples of prayer to her.  Admittedly she was a magnificent woman, and God used her in a magnificent way, but she was not deity.  Any prayer offered to anyone apart from the Father is automatically canceled.  If you pray to the Son, your prayer is canceled.  If you pray to the Spirit, your prayer is cancelled. If you pray to the mother of the humanity of Christ, your prayer is canceled. Why?  None of those prayers follow God’s protocol for prayer.  Listen to our Lord’s instruction in Matthew 6:9.

ü     Pray, then, in this way, “Our Father who is in Heaven…”  Matthew 6:9 (NASB)

I think we are all very familiar with this prayer, the one our Lord taught his disciplines. Though this prayer does not specifically apply to us as Church Age believers because of dispensational issues, its content, in terms of prayer protocol, as being addressed to the Father, is timeless.

Paul validates this prayer mechanic in his letter to the Ephesians:

ü     For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father.  Ephesians 3:14

Paul always addressed his prayers to God the Father.

     b.  Prayer Offered Through the Son

The second item in our prayer protocol: all prayers must be offered though the Son, that is, our Lord Jesus Christ. You may begin your prayer with the approach, “Heavenly Father, I am coming in the Name of the Son…” or you may conclude it with “in Jesus’ name, Amen.”   Listen to the Words of our Lord as recorded in by the Apostle John:

ü     Whatever you ask in My Name, that I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.   John 14:13

Aside from the simple instruction to pray though Him, what does it mean to pray in His name?  Every word we utter in prayer is important.  Every word represents a thought recalled, a truth recognized.  When we pray through Jesus, a certain category of thought must accompany that mechanic.  Let us make sure we understand what the name, “Jesus” means.  The disciples knew their Lord by the name, Jesus, just as you and I call each other by a name. The angel gave Him this name at His annunciation.  “Jesus” representing His saving work on the cross, means “Savior.” Just as “Christ” emphasizes that He is King and Messiah, “Lord” emphasizes His deity and eternality.  So “Jesus” points to His work as our Savior. His first name, Jesus, brings meaning and glory to, and elevates and intensifies His Personhood.

Listen to Paul’s letter to the Philippians explaining the importance of His name.

ü     For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name…  Philippians 2:9-10

We would expect every one to bow to Christ, the King or to Christ, the Lord!  Note majesty implied in both of those titles!  But to use the name, Jesus! Savior!  Our thoughts should immediately recall with gratitude that He bore our sins on His human body!  Such things do His earthly first name emphasize!  If you remember also, that the disciples, when representing our Lord toIsrael, did miracles in the name of Jesus!  Sometimes the name “Jesus” is used with “Lord” and sometimes with “Christ,” but “Jesus” is used in every case but one. By the use of the word “name” then, especially His name, we should recall everything He has done for us.

In contrast to using the name “Jesus,” there was precedent to do things in the name of the “Lord.” “Jesus himself is said to come in the name of the “Lord.” “Lord” simply meant “God,” the God of the Jews.  “In the name of Christ” is nowhere found.  We can take the phrase “in my name” to refer to our Lord, as the Savior, Jesus. Praying in the name of Jesus is, then, is based first on His office as Savior, whereby we acknowledge His saving work in the Cross.

What then, does it mean for us to pray in Jesus’ name?  I came across an article written by Dr. John Walvoord published by BibSac in the Oct 1934 issue BSac 91:364 (Oct 34) p. 466ff.  Dr. Walvoord was in graduate school at the time getting his doctorate.   These are some points he discussed.  We can gain a better understanding of coming to Father in His Name if we look at how we, in our day to day lives do things in another’s name.  When we do something in another’s name, it can fall into one or more of three categories: legal, life or love.

Legal unions in the form of corporations or partnerships abound.  Partners legally do business in each other’s names. What one partner does legally binds both to an agreement or contract.  Employees do business in their employers name constantly. An employee may even have the power of attorney and possess the same privileges of power of his employer’s name. This is an example of a legal union.  Another type of union is the life union, there is blood relationship involved.  Consider a father and son. The son inherits his father’s name.  Because he has that name he has certain privileges. Then there is union in love. When a bride takes the name of her bridegroom, she has certain rights and privileges by virtue of the fact that she has taken a new name. These modern analogies fall very short from representing what Christ meant by “in my name,” but by understanding these we can get a better idea of what He means.  Now, when He said to come in His name, He meant legal union, life union, love union, and yet more than all of this. The central fact lies in the fact of divine power that went into every aspect of His work.

What then is the significance of prayer in His Name?  The foundation of our prayer life is our positional sanctification before the Father, our union in Jesus Christ.  We are joined to Him by legal union. We are His partners, His servants. We are working in His name. This is our position by virtue of our redemption and new birth. We are carrying out His task in His name. We are joined in life union just as the father is with the son. Our position is not that of one outside the family of God, but one of God’s kin; we are sons of God. (Galatians 3:26) We are joined vitally to God through the new birth.  Then, there is the love union.  We are the bride of Christ. In that sense we have taken His name. We are betrothed to Him. We are joined to Christ as the object of His love in this age as well as in the future consummation. This all can be said to be part of our position in Christ. It does not depend on our spirituality or the quality of our life. It is grounded only on our salvation and our new birth. It is certain that this aspect was included when Christ told His disciples to ask “in my name.”

     c. Prayers Offered Through the Filling of Spirirt

Now for our third point.  All effective prayer must be offered through the filling of God the Holy Spirit, or through the enabling power of the Spirit. Prayers offered when you are carnal are not heard.  They might as well bounce off the ceiling! Listen to the words of Paul to the Ephesians:

ü     With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit…be on alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.  Ephesians6:18 (NASB)

There is one non-protocol prayer that God does hear.  It is not the word, “help!”  It is the prayer of sin confession whereby the believer names his sin to the Father as per 1 John 1:9.  The over arching principle is this: God does not hear prayers from the carnal believer.  So if you are out of fellowship, God will not hear your prayer.  In as much as confession is the recovery procedure from sin, and resultant carnality and reentry into the spiritual life and since the mechanics of confession require that you name your sins to God, it is obvious that naming yours sins to God is the only prayer that He answers when you are in a state of sin.  If you are in a state of carnality, the only way you are going have effective prayers is to name your sins prior to praying.

     d. The Grace Caveat: The Spirit’s Intercession

You can consider the last three points as pulpit pounding points!  Those are 3 important factors of prayer protocol that you need to master.  Despite my pulpit pounding, however, God always provides grace upon grace to take up the slack for our great weaknesses even in mechanics requiring a particular protocol.  God always provides fantastic grace caveats in light of our ignorance!  The first grace caveat:  God the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.

ü     In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  Romans 8:26-27

The Holy Spirit has a phenomenal intercessory prayer ministry for us when we do not pray according to proper procedure.  We may not know how to pray, who to pray to, when to pray, what to pray for or simply be in a state of confusion from life’s pressures.  The Holy Spirit comes to our rescue, interceding for us.  The Spirit is love just as the Father and the Son, so He is personally interested in interceding for you!  Often, we human beings pray on the basis of our own desires rather than using the power options and spiritual skills to pray according to God’s will.  The Spirit, by the way, does not groan, per se; this is an anthropopathism.  The Spirit’s prayer groanings express far more to the Father than words.  Is it not comforting to know that when you are totally irrational, mixed up and confused, and all you can do is groan, that God the Holy Spirit takes up the slack for you?  God the Holy Spirit intercedes as a substitute for us when we are motivated to pray and try to pray but do not know how to pray.  The Holy Spirit’s ministry of prayer for you cannot be squelched or grieved.  He continues to make intercession for you even when you are out of fellowship.  He does this for you regardless of your volition. [Thieme. Thieme’s Doctrines of the Bible.]

In addition to the Spirit’s interceding ministry, Jesus, the Son, also intercedes for us.

ü     But this (priest), because He abides forever, has the priesthood which is non-transferable, for which reason He is able to be saving those completely and forever who come to God through Him, being always alive for the purpose of continually making intercession for them.  Hebrews 7:24-25 Wuest

Note, who continually intercedes for us?  Not the Christ, not our Lord, but Jesus, our Savior, who in His human body, bore our sins.  The word “intercession” is Greek ντυγχανο ENTUGCHANO.  The nuance of this word is more intervention rather than only intercession. Intercession is a facet of this principle but not the complete meaning. It includes every form of the Messiah’s identifying Himself with humanity, and includes the idea of intercession. Jesus’ intercedes for us, believers, now.  What is His intercession based upon?  His intercession is based upon His once-for-all offering of Himself as the sacrifice for sin. His sacrifice was once for all, but His intercession is continual. He was not only the offering, but the priest who offered it. Therefore, He has become not only a sacrifice, but an intercessor.  This is one aspect of the fact we can never be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.  [Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament].

Hebrews4:14affirms that in Jesus “we have a great High Priest.” As a human being He is able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses. Yet He is also God: the Son has “gone into heaven” to take His stand in the very presence of the Father.  Because Jesus is both God and Man, He is an adequate link between us and the Father. So the Scripture says:

ü     Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

“When we fail and are ashamed, or when we are overwhelmed and need help desperately, we need never draw back. Jesus, human like us, will understand. And Jesus, God as is the Father, is able to aid.”  [Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary. Includes index. (999).Wheaton,Ill.: Victor Books.]

5. Unanswered Prayers

Let us look at some reasons why God does not answer prayers positively.  The fundamental reason for this is that the believer is under the control of his old sin nature. God will not answer your prayers if you are carnal, in a state of sin, and under the control of your old sin nature. Secondly, He will answer prayers negatively if they fail to comply with His will.  Failure in prayer is usually related in some way to carnality, to being out of fellowship with God the Holy Spirit:

ü     If I cherish iniquity in my heart [center of thought], the Lord will not listen to me.  Psalm 66:18

If you know that you have sinned and you do not get back into fellowship you are in a state of cherishing iniquity.

If you are indifferent to or reject clear and accurate Bible teaching you will be ignorant, guaranteeing failure in your prayer life.  Because your priorities are wrong, you will be a spiritual loser, not even having a prayer life at all!   You may be ignorant of the Word because you live in the state of arrogance, being unable to comprehend the meaning of the Scripture.  If this is the case, you won’t know how or what to pray.  Arrogance forms a complex of sins. Which sins are these? Jealousy, gossip, bitterness, vindictiveness, implacability, hatred, self-pity, inordinate competition, vilification, slander, judging, revenge or revenge motivation, creating the public lie, and preoccupation with yourself constitute one set of arrogance sins. If you are in any of these sins, then I guarantee that you will not pray effectively. Furthermore, if you remain arrogant, you will never get though to the Throne of Grace.

The malfunction of your spiritual life because of arrogance or ignorance, leads to misunderstanding God’s will and plan…both generally and specifically…for your life and general trends of history. You see, a large part of the effectiveness of your prayer life depends upon your understanding of God’s will for your life, historical situations and for the people for whom you are praying.  You can only learn God’s will through spiritual growth.   Effective prayers must always line up with God’s will, not yours!  All effective prayer must comply with the God’s will and must follow the precisely correct protocol procedure.

Probably the least known reason of all reasons for prayer failure is the malfunction of marriage or the lack of domestic tranquility.  Failure in your marriage spills over into failure in prayer.  Only your knowledge and application of Bible doctrine and the virtue this creates in your soul can solve domestic problems, clearing the way for an effective prayer life.  The primary responsibility in marriage belongs to the husband.  His wife responds to his thoughtfulness and treatment of her.

ü     You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.  1 Peter 3:7

God will also not answer prayers because of these things: lust, criminality, jealousy, false motivation.  All of these things neutralize prayer.  Lust, murder, jealousy and fighting are all wrong ways to attain desires and the wrong motives for prayer.  Sure, go ahead and ask!  But if you pray out of wrong motivation, your prayer will not be answered.  Listen to an expanded translation of James 4:23:

ü     You lust and do not have [what you want], so you commit murder.  Also, you are jealous and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask [in prayer] and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on pleasures.”  James 4:2-3 RBT

This next point may be unnecessary to mention, but it is a further application of the principle.  If the negative or carnal believer prays for the deliverance of his nation…let’s say he lives in a client nation and that nation is undergoing the cycles of discipline…if that believer prays for the deliverance of his country that prayer will not be answered for two reasons:  First, because God never answers the prayer of a negative or carnal believer, and secondly God may be just going to remove that nation from history.  Instead of praying, that carnal believer needs to grow up spiritually, joining the pivot to become a part of the reason God preserves that nation.

6. Petition in Prayer

A couple of points ago, we mentioned petition as the last item in the agenda in private prayer.  Let’s expand on this for a few minutes.  When you offer a prayer up for yourself to the Father, there is the thing for which you ask.  Behind that petition, lies the desire or your motivation for asking for it.  The four lines that follow illustrate that God views both parts of your prayer as separate.  That is, the petition and the desire behind it.  He answers each part either positively or negatively.

1. God may answer your petition positively but your desire negatively.

2. God may give you a negative answer to your petition but a positive answer to the desire behind it

3. He may give you a positive answer to your petition as well as a positive answer to the desire.

4. Finally, He may answer both petition and desire negatively.

We will look at each category carefully.

Let’s look at the first category: God answers your petition positively but the desire behind that petition negatively.  For example: You ask God for a million dollars.  The million dollars is your petition but the desire behind your petition for the money is happiness.  Yes, I understand that people who think that money brings happiness still exist today!  In this scenario, God grants you the million dollars but He does not grant you happiness along with it.  So, your petition is answered positively but your desire, negatively.

A passage of Scripture that illustrates this category very well is 1 Samuel 8:5 and verses 19-20. Let’s look at these:

ü     Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.  1 Samuel 8:5

ü     Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, ‘No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.’”   1 Samuel 8:19-20 NASB

What was going on inIsrael?  When they offered this petition, Jesus Christ ruled over them, as a theocracy.  But they were unhappy with our Lord’s leadership.  Can you imagine that?  Well, as evidenced by this country’s fortunes, most believers feel this way!  If you are in reversionism, you are going to reject whoever the Lord puts in charge!   The people ofIsraelwanted to have a human king, one they could see instead of our Lord whom they could not.  This was their petition. Their desire was to be like other nations.  This would make them happy…or so they thought!

God answered their petition positively, yes! He permitted them to pick out their own king.  That’s not quite accurate!  He provided a candidate for them to accept. They wanted some one taller, more handsome and stronger than the kings in the nations surrounding them.  By this criterion, God offered them Saul and they accepted him.  But their desire to be happy with a human king was answered negatively.  Saul turned out to be a terrible king and the Jews suffered great misery as a result.  Furthermore, God did not bringIsraelinto being to be like other nations, but to be a client nation to Himself.

In our second category, God answers your petition negatively and your desire positively.  God’s answer to your petition is no, definitely not, negative!  However, God grants your desire!  To continue our scenario: No, God will not provide you with a million dollars but yes, you will be happy!

Our Biblical example here is Abraham’s petition to have Ishmael as his heir. In Genesis 17:18, Abraham prayed that Ishmael, Hagar’s son, might be his heir.

ü     And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before You!’ But God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.’” Genesis 17:18-19 NASB

What was wrong with this petition?  God was not going to force Ishmael to serve Him.  Abraham was not praying according to protocol.  God will never answer the prayer to coerce anyone to do His will.  So God would not fulfill Abraham’s petition.  He said, “Not!” Ishmael was not to be Abraham’s heir.  But God did grant Abraham’s desire for an heir.  He gave him Isaac sometime later.  So, God refused Abraham his petition but did grant him his desire, for he received an heir in Isaac.

In our third category, God grants both your petition and desire.  Our Biblical example of this category is Samson.  Now, Samson, as narrated in Judges16:28, was blinded and tied up in the Philistine’s temple to their god, Dega.  The narrative reads this way:

ü     Then Samson called to the Lord and prayed saying, ‘O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just one time, O God, that with one blow I may get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.’  Judges 16:28

Both his petition, to strike the Philistines and his desire, to exact revenge upon the Philistines were answered positively.  Why did God grant Samson revenge?  God did not grant him revenge because He approves of revenge.  We are to leave that in God’s hands, in the hands of the Supreme Court of Heaven.  God used Samson to destroy a degenerate people.  Samson understood the concept of national discipline and understood that God intended to destroy that nation.  So God allowed revenge by using him to destroy that evil and degenerate group of people.  God gave Samson back his strength so he wrapped his arms around two support pillars of the temple and pulled the whole thing down upon them, killing every one there.

Another illustration of this category of answered prayer is found in Luke 23:42-43.  This is the petition of the dying thief:

ü     Then he kept saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come into your kingdom.’ Jesus replied to him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’  Luke 23:42-43 RBT

Our Lord granted this thief’s petition, our His remembrance and his desire behind that petition, his salvation Jesus also granted.  He was eternally saved!

In our last category, negative-negative, God grants neither your petition nor desire.  Our Lord’s last prayer to the Father in theGardenofGethsemaneillustrates this category well.  When Jesus went toGethsemaneto pray the night He was arrested the Father refused to grant both His petition and desire. Matthew quoted our Lord’s prayer, His prayer to God the Father:

ü     My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will…”  Matthew 26:39 NASB.

Jesus prayed to be relieved from the ordeal of bearing our sins.  The Father did not grant His petition, so our Lord went to the cross and paid the price for our salvation.  He paid the price for every sin of every member of the human race.

7. Intercessory Prayers

Now, in this category of prayer, we pray to the Father on behalf of others.  The prophet Elijah’s prayer on Mt Carmel illustrates the power of intercessory prayer on behalf of a nation.  Listen to the Apostles James’ commentary on a situation inIsrael:

ü     Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.  Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.  James 5:17-18 NASB

The early church illustrates the power of prevailing, consistent and continual prayer, when they prayed for Peter’s deliverance.  He was in prison, awaiting execution.

ü     So Peter was being kept in prison, but fervent prayer was made for him to God by the church.  Acts 12:5 NASB

The result of this congregation’s fervent prayers was Peter’s dramatic deliverance from prison. Peter had been condemned.  He was chained between two Roman soldiers, awaiting execution which was scheduled the next morning.  The result of these fervent prayers: Every Roman guard fell asleep, so Peter simply walked out of the prison.  Now, every one of those Roman soldiers presumably was executed for derelict of duty.  They were evil; it was their time to die.

Let me read you the entire account:

ü     When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God. On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, “It is his angel.” But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed. But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, “Report these things to James and the brethren.” Then he left and went to another place. Now when day came, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers as to what could have become of Peter. When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there.  Acts 12:4-19

Another category of intercessory prayer is the prayer for the unbeliever.  Prayers for unbelievers are legitimate!  They should be a dynamic part of your intercessory prayers.  Listen to Paul in Romans 10:1

ü     Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them [Jews] is for their salvation. Romans 10:1 RBT

Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot or should not pray for the unsaved.  But you need to remember some important factors. Remember, do not attempt to coerce an unbeliever’s volition by asking God to make them believe in Jesus Christ.  The issue in the Angelic Conflict is the volition of every individual at the moment they receive a clear concise Gospel hearing.  This prayer is also a demonstration of the power of virtue love.  Every unbeliever should be the object of a believer’s prayer.

The most phenomenal intercessory prayer is found in John 17.  This was the most phenomenal intercessory prayer ever offered.  This is what the Lord prayed for us, in this Church Age.  Í recommend that you go back and read this entire chapter.  But I’ll read a couple of specific items that our Lord prayed for us in the following verses.

ü     This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.  John 17:3

ü     But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. John 17:13

Here our Lord is praying that we might have a tremendous inner happiness. You may have noticed that I called this prayer, in John 17, as “the Lord’s prayer.”  Many say that the prayer in Matt 6:9 should be called that…and they do!  Our Lord prayed that as an instruction to His disciples, soon to be His apostles toIsrael.  It is a prayer forIsraelduring our Lord’s incarnation asking for the institution of His millennial reign.  This cannot be fulfilled until our Lord’s Second Advent.  So, technically, it does not apply to us in this Church Age.  I’d probably, more accurately call it, “the Apostles or Disciples Prayer.”

8. Special Prayers

This is a discussion of special prayers.  We talked about this first category of special prayers in our doctrine of sanctification.  This is the sanctification of food or what some consider as saying grace over meal time food.  This is a special prayer which God has mandated for every believer.   Listen to the words of Paul in his first letter to Timothy:

ü     For everything created by God is good for food, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.  For it is sanctified by means of the Word of God and prayer.”  1 Timothy 4:4-5

Now the act of saying grace before meals has a two-fold purpose: First: it is an expression of gratitude toward God for His logistical provision.  Food is a part of His logistical support.  And secondly, when you ask God to sanctify your food, He removes anything which can harm you.  So offering this prayer will protect you.

There is prayer for those in authority over us.  As citizens of a client nation to God, this is a very important function for believers.

ü     First of all, therefore, I request [in the sense of a command] that petitions (for personal needs), prayers, intercessions,, thanksgivings be made on behalf of all; on behalf of kings [rulers] and all who are in authority, that we may lead an undisturbed and tranquil life in all godliness (freedom to live the spiritual life) and integrity.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2

There is prayer for the sick:

ü     …and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.  James 5:15 NASB

Do not take this verse as it appears in the English literally.  Much history and Old Testament context influence the interpretation of James’ words.  For this study, understand that we should offer prayer for sick people, whether or not some category of personal sin appears to be the cause.

We are also encouraged to follow Paul’s lead and pray for unbeliers. He prayed for unbelieving Jews:

ü     Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” Romans 10:1 NASB

Three things you need to remember when you pray for unbelievers:

1. Don’t coerce an unbeliever’s volition.  Coercion violates the angelic conflict. People must choose to believe themselves, from their own volition.

2. You may pray that they are exposed to a clear concise Gospel presentation.

3. Pray that they are given the opportunity to be saved.

Pray for your enemies.

ü     But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.  Matthew 5:44 RBT

In this point, we’re going to discuss a special category of prayers prayed by a very special category of prayer warrior: These are widows, ladies who become single by death, divorce or abandonment by their husbands.  This special category of widows, those in spiritual maturity, can pray both day and night…at least twice a day…for themselves and others.  They can do this because they have often lead tranquil and uncomplicated lives.  They are able to be effective in continual prayer on behalf of others.

ü     Now she who is a widow and has been left alone, and has fixed her confidence on God, she also continues in petitions and prayers [intercession] night and day.”  1 Timothy 5:5 RBT

This category of prayer is for the spiritual maturity of a given group of believers:

ü     And this I pray, that your virtue-love may abound still more and more in metabolized doctrine and all discernment.  Philippians 1:9 RBT

ü     For this reason, we… have not ceased to pray for you, and to ask that you might be filled with all doctrine of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.  Colossians 1:9

Pray for the communication and communicators of Doctrine, referring to pastor-teachers, missionaries, evangelists and chaplains to those serving in the military.

ü     Devote yourselves to prayer; in it, keeping alert with an attitude of thanksgiving, praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the teaching of the Word, so that we may communicate the mystery doctrine from Christ. Colossians 4:2-3 RBT

9. Additional Comments

I as a pastor can never say that I’ve exhaustively covered a subject.  I suspect that this subject is limitless; that I’ll never say everything about it.  I haven’t had the opportunity to study these two facts I’m about to delineate, but need additional study.  So I’m offering them to you for further contemplation.

1. The prayer life of George Muller as presented by Roger Steer in his book, “Spiritual Secrets by George Muller (Harold Shaw Publishers: Wheaton, 1985).  In a Youth for Christ conference workshop session on prayer presented by Pastor Tim Baker, he emphasized the role of the meditating on the Scripture during prayer.  This is a fascinating concept worthy of much study.

2. Revelation 8:3-5 This passage presents a visual image of the Throne Room of God where what is closest to our Lord are the prayers of the saints mixed with incense.  He values a treasures our prayers to much a greater degree than I have ever imagined.  We need to pray more.  Again, this subject demands much greater study.

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