So, today, we will be closing out 2020 by concluding our look at the “The Power and Protocol of Prayer” where we have been learning not just about prayer, but specifically how to unlock the power and potential in it. So, what we have learned in this series is that the power & potential in prayer is found in the protocol of prayer—that is, in the official procedure or principles that govern it.
So, in this series of teachings, we have learned what prayer is and what prayer is not. We have looked at what Jesus warned to do and not do when we pray. Then we looked at how Jesus taught us to pray. We have also learned the importance of praying the will of God and the spirit by which our prayers need to be prayed. And over the holidays, we have learned that incorporating things like thanksgiving & rejoicing are the appropriate seasoning for our prayers. Those things encompass the first 5 parts of this series.
Then we shifted over into another important virtue that we need to possess in our prayer lives—perseverance. We found that these things like patience, persistence, and perseverance are critical to our prayer lives because as it is with everything in our Christian lives, it’s not how we start; it’s how we finish.
Then over the last two parts in this series, we have looked at the different kinds of prayer & supplication by camping on Ephesians 6:18. We saw that in this verse, the apostle Paul gave us another weapon of our warfare by teaching us that we are to pray in every season in the Holy Spirit. We learned that this means that the Holy Spirit is there to help us in our prayer lives when we don’t know what to pray for as we ought. He will intercede through us in every season so that we pray the appropriate prayer for that situation. And we saw that the reason this is important is because there are different kinds of prayer and different kinds of supplication for every single circumstance.
For example, the specific kind of prayer the Bible calls “the prayer of faith” would not be appropriate when praying for the salvation of someone. Why? Because we cannot pray once and believe we receive their salvation when their will is involved. What would be called the prayer of intercession is what would be most appropriate when praying for the lost because when free will is involved continuous, repetitive prayers are necessary. The prayer of faith would be more appropriate when praying for things that God has already both promised you and I and accomplished through Jesus like healing, financial provision, and protection.
So, what we did was we looked at both the different kinds of prayers and the different kinds of supplication in that Paul distinguished between them both—and we saw that while prayer is more of the relationship side of conversation with God, supplications more revolve around our petitioning Him for things.
Therefore, we saw that the different kinds of prayer were things like the prayer of thanksgiving, the prayer of praise, and the prayer of worship. It includes the prayer of meditation and the prayer language given to us by the Holy Spirit. The different kinds of supplication were things like the prayer of faith, the prayer of agreement, the prayer of intercession, etc. None of these different kinds of prayer and petition are more important than the other. Each just has its own time & place to where it would be considered more appropriate.
So, if you’ve missed any of these teachings over the past few months, I would encourage you to go back on our website and get up to speed in order to unlock the power & potential in your own prayer life. And as always, be sure not to just be a hearer of the Word, but be doers of these truths—because as James taught us, it is the doers of the Word that will be blessed. Amen?
So, as I considered what else the Lord might have for us before we move in a different direction for next year, I had on my heart to share with you some very practical nuggets of truth that I have accumulated through my walk with the Lord. So, I would like to end this series on prayer with giving you some of the most important prayers I have personally found that we could pray either for either ourselves or others.
I would consider these specific prayers something like those smooth stones that David gathered on his way to face Goliath out of the brook. These are things that through my time walking with Him and the Holy Spirit pouring the waters of truth over my heart, that I consider to be the best prayers one can pray.
Now some of these will be absolute Scriptural prayers in that they were essentially taken from the Bible as Spirit-inspired prayers that were prayed by men of God. Others will be simply what I have discovered over my Christian walk as wisdom & revelation.
So, let’s begin with more of the Scriptural prayers:
As we have learned throughout this series, praying the will of God is one of the most important aspects of prayer—for we are promised that if we pray according to His will, we know that He hears us, and when we know He hears us, we know we have the petitions we have presented to Him (See First John 5:14-15). So, for you and I to know His will and then to pray according to it, is one of the greatest keys to answered prayers.
And we learned that the will of God is contained in the Word of God. So, one of the best ways to pray according to His will is to pray the Word where His will is made manifest. For example, if the Scriptures teach us that God is not willing that any should perish but that all come to repentance (and they do), then I might pray like so for the lost or a backslidden believer— “Father, I know that you are not willing that any person would perish. You will for everyone to come to repentance. So, I am asking you to open their eyes to see their need for repentance. Show them the error of their ways, that they might turn to You and not perish …” What you just saw right there was prayer that was according to the will of God.
So, it is for that reason that I believe arguably the best way to pray the will of God is to actually pray the prayers that are found in the Bible—prayers like the one’s David or Solomon prayed in the Old Testament or like the one’s Paul prayed throughout his epistles. These prayers are totally Scriptural and contain the will of God for all people for all time.
But let me begin with a portion of the prayer that we have covered in this series, but one that is worth reiterating, commonly known as the Lord’s prayer: We saw that Jesus gave us His model prayer in the Sermon on the Mount, He gave us a great prayer template of what to pray. But at the very beginning of this prayer, He told us to pray— “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10). Now, church, this one of the most important prayers we can pray—a prayer that seeks first the kingdom of God and His will before all else. Amen!
Do you remember when we studied this model prayer of Jesus that we noted that this was the first request Jesus included in His model prayer—for God’s kingdom to come? And I made the point that this is essentially what Solomon asked the Lord for when He told him to ask for anything he wanted. Of course, we know that Solomon’s request was for a wise and understanding heart that he may rule over God’s people. This was Solomon seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (See Matthew 6:33).
And we know the result of his whole-hearted request—God said that because he asked for this and not wealth, the life of his enemies, etc. that He would give Solomon the wisdom that he asked for and all of these other things as well. Then, as we study Solomon’s proverbs after that event, he reveals that with wisdom comes prosperity, honor, health, etc.—showing us that the real reason he obtained the riches & honor that he did was because he got wisdom and understanding.
So, while the majority of Christians are praying for these physical things like healing, financial provision, and freedom from other natural issues of life, wouldn’t it be more prudent for us to pray for a wise & understanding heart instead of for all of these physical things?
So, let me tell you how I like to pray for people who are maybe struggling in their finances—"Father, grant them the wisdom they need. Give them a wise & understanding heart so that they can truly prosper on the outside. Create in them the capacity to get and keep wealth by giving them your way of thinking concerning these things.”
You see, when we study the prayers of the apostle Paul—which contain New Covenant perspectives in prayer—do you know what we never see. In all them (where there are at least 7 that are multiple verses), Paul does not one time pray for anything physical or carnal. No, not once does he pray for these church’s finances, physical health, or their growth. He only deals with things like their fruitfulness, wisdom, revelation, strength, light, etc. I believe what we ought to take away from that is the most important things we can pray for others is not their natural, physical needs; It is for their spiritual needs and issues of the heart.
And again, it was not because Paul was unconcerned about their physical needs. I just believe he understood something that most don’t, and that is—if we deal with the root of the problem, we change the fruit that appears to be the problem.
So, the first & best prayer (and appropriately so) that we can pray is this— Lord, fill my heart and mind with wisdom, understanding, revelation and knowledge. Give me a wise & understanding heart that we might more effectively seek first Your kingdom.
I’ll tell you—things like wisdom, understanding, revelation, and knowledge are laced throughout Paul’s prayers. Let’s look at a couple of them:
The first one is contained in Ephesians 1:17. After Paul gave this church so many tremendous truths from verses 3-14—things which we can chew on for years and years—he then prays for them to have a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of the Lord and that their eyes would be enlightened. Why? It is because you can have information without revelation. Our eyes need to be opened to perceive spiritual truth.
That is why Paul began his letter to the Colossians praying that they would be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding (See Colossians 1:9). It was because in order for them to move into the truths about who Christ was in them and who they were in Him, they needed to be filled with the knowledge of His will in all of His wisdom and spiritual understanding.
Church, this is why Solomon taught us to get wisdom and in all our getting to get understanding (See Proverbs 4:7). It is because wisdom is the principal thing (i.e. the first thing and of the most importance). If we seek first after this wisdom for the purpose of seeking first His kingdom, everything else will be added to us. Yes, all of these physical needs will be met as a result. Therefore, this is one of the top prayers you and I can pray for ourselves and others.
And this prayer for a spirit of wisdom & revelation leads us to the next prayer Paul prayed for the Ephesian church found in Ephesians 3:14-20 …
Now when one studies this prayer, you find that it builds from Paul praying that the Holy Spirit would strengthen them with power in their inner man to God doing exceedingly, abundantly, above all we could ever ask or think according to that power that works in us.
So, since it’s apparently all about the power of the Holy Spirit being worked in us that releases all of the ability of God in and through our lives, then I believe one of the greatest prayers we can pray is this – Lord, strengthen me in my inner man. Empower me from the inside to the outside—for I know that when my soul prospers, it will affect my outward man.
Church, the Lord strengthening us with ability in our inner man is what releases the ability of God in our lives. It is what produces the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and causes that fruit to abound. It is what causes our souls to prosper which will reflect in every area of our natural lives. So, that is why I believe prayers for the ability of God to be released in our inward man is one of the best prayers we can pray.
You see, so many Christians want power on the outside. They either want God to deliver them from all of their physical, natural problems or they want Him to give them power to rule over demons, heal diseases, etc. There is nothing wrong with any of that, but I have found that first praying for God to work inside of us is far more important—because if my inward man, soul, heart, etc. are prospering and yielding to the power of God, it will absolutely transform my life.
As Joyce Meyer was once quoted as saying, “People want authority over demons when they don’t even have authority over a sink full of dirty dishes or a screaming baby.” Friends, we are fooling ourselves if we are wanting to move forward in changing things around us when we have allowed Him to change things within us. That is where the power is—first in us, and then in the world around us. Amen?
For example, allowing God’s power to work in us, strengthening our inward man, we will most certainly love those around us. Yes, we will be more patient, longsuffering, kind, humble, etc.
We see this in Colossians 1:11 when Paul prayed for this church to be strengthened with all might according to His glorious power for all longsuffering and patience with joy. So, what was the purpose for all of this power according to the apostle Paul? It was “for all longsuffering and patience with joy.”
Church, one thing I do is when I see my patience and longsuffering with others failing, I go back to this. I look for a strengthening from the Holy Spirit in myself because I know that He is the power source for the fruit in my life. Verily, verily, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, self-control, etc. So, the power for everything from love to self-control come from a Spirit-controlled life. Amen.
Which leads me to the next part of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians chapter 3—for our roots to go deep into the love of God and that we might know this love of Christ which passes knowledge.
Church, I consider seeing and knowing the great love that God has for us as the single greatest revelation we could ever receive from the Lord.
The reason I can say this is because, through understanding that God is love, we will be drawn into a more intimate communion with Him—thus fulfilling God’s primary purpose for our lives. On top of that, knowing how much God loves us will produce, not only more of a love for Him, but it will also produce more of a love for others (1 John 4:19). What could be greater than that—because to love God and love others fulfills the two greatest commandments given to us by God?
Therefore, I believe another one of the best prayers we can pray is— Lord, reveal to me your unfailing love. I want your love for me to live in our heart so that I am experiencing your dimensionless love. Amen.
Church, receiving His love like that this will produce many awesome things. Let me give you a few benefits. I should want to know, see, and experience His love for me …
As Paul’s prayer goes on to say, all of this leads us to being filled with the fullness of God Himself—because to be filled with love is to be filled with God.
Now let’s move into some other prayers that I see as being some of the best we can pray …
I love this one right here – Lord, help me to see things through your eyes. Oh, how much this would benefit us—for if we can see things from His perspective, I guarantee you it would change everything from our love for others to our faith in Him.
I would sum up the “things” into four categories:
1. Myself- What a difference it would make if we could see ourselves through God’s eyes!?! To know how loved we are, how He thinks good thoughts towards us, and how precious we are in His sight, this would increase in us boldness, confidence and a security that nothing else could offer. Church, we need to see ourselves through God’s eyes!
2. Other People- But not only is it good to see ourselves through His eyes; it is also good to see others that way too. Some of the benefits of this are so that we may love them like the Lord does, that we may see beyond their current issues and see them through the eyes of faith, and that we might have more of the heart to be a soul winner for the kingdom of God.
3. Circumstances- It would also be great to be able to see our circumstances the way He sees them too. Far too often when we go through things in this life, our faith is shaken, we become discouraged, and lose our joy & peace. But I am convinced that when we see things from our Heavenly Father’s perspective, everything looks a whole lot different. I would compare this to how much different things look to parents than to young children: when they are pitching a fit about the littlest of things, the parents are calm, cool and collective because they know “it’s just not that big of a deal.” So, seeing our situation and circumstances through His eyes will cause me to have faith, joy, peace, etc. no matter what I am going through.
4. Time- Finally, time. This is one I added down the road to my prayer life. Lord, may I see time through your eyes. I know that this will help me to make the most of this life here on the earth and lay up more treasures in heaven because if I see my time on this earth, in this body, through His eyes, then I will not live like this is the only life I have. Amen.
Let me briefly give you a few more:
Ø Lord, create in me a clean, pure, and sensitive heart – We know here that the heart is what needs to be guarded above all things—for it is where the issues of life flow from. So, while the heart is our responsibility to condition and cultivate, there is still biblical precedence for the Lord creating in us a clean and pure heart. So, for that reason, I believe praying for the Lord to help us keeping our heart in a good, healthy condition is paramount. It would make us more sensitive to things pertaining to His kingdom and also make us to feel what He feels. How wonderful would that be!?!
Ø Lord, grant me a heightened awareness of the communion that is available with the Holy Spirit (See Second Corinthians 13:14) – Oh, that we would all have our awareness of the presence, power and person of the Holy Spirit heightened!?! The Holy Spirit is to play a far greater role in our lives than most have allowed Him to. We have reduced Him to a power that we are to get ahold of and use rather than a Person who is to get ahold of and use us. Church, we would do well to fully capitalize on the Helper that lives on the inside me—benefiting from His guidance, leading, and His teaching in our lives—since He is to us today what Jesus was to His disciples yesterday.
So, I’ll end today with how Paul ended his writings to the Corinthians— “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.”
THE POWER AND PROTOCOL OF PRAYER
Parts Seven & Eight –
The Different Kinds of Prayer & Supplication
Now we are continuing our look at the “The Power and Protocol of Prayer” where we are learning not just about prayer itself, but specifically how to unlock the power and potential that is in it. You see, we all believe that there is power in prayer, but not everyone sees that potential in their own lives. So, why is that? Well, what we have been learning is that the power of prayer is found in the protocol of prayer—that is, in the official procedure or principles that govern prayer, given to us by God.
So, we have learned what prayer is, what prayer is not, and how to pray. We have also learned the importance of praying the will of God and the spirit by which our prayers need to be prayed. We have also learned that incorporating things like thanksgiving & rejoicing are the appropriate seasoning for our prayers.
And, most recently, we learned that another virtue that we need to bring into our prayer lives is perseverance. We found that things like patience, persistence, and perseverance are critical to our prayer lives because as it is with everything in our Christian lives, it’s not how we start; it’s how we finish.
Church, perseverance is just so vital to the Christian life and something we see emphasized time and time again throughout the New Testament. I mentioned how things like patience and endurance are what the early church craved for—because they knew that if they could stand through the persecution, they would always be victorious. Likewise, we have need of endurance so that after we’ve prayed the will of God, we can receive the promise of answered prayer (See Hebrews 10:36). Yes, I am convinced that if we can have the virtue of patience working in our prayer life then we will see the answers to our prayers every single time. The reason why we sometimes fail to see the manifestation of those answered prayers is because we either grow weary or we simply let the emotions wear off. When this happens, we tend to let go of our faith and stop seeking the answers like we did in the beginning. So, like many see “patience” as one of their greatest weaknesses, I see patience as one of the biggest weaknesses in our prayer lives too.
I understand that we live in a microwave society where we want everything, and we want it now, but I also know that God is not in the business of “drive-thru breakthroughs!” He is called the “God of Patience.” Therefore, He is obviously not in a hurry! So likewise, we need to develop the fruit of patience and not be in such a hurry to see the answers to our prayers!
In fact, we saw that just as it takes the seed of a man and the egg of a woman to conceive a child, it takes both faith and patience to inherit the promises (See Hebrews 6:12). And we learned from James chapter one, how patience works in us to make that conception have its perfect work so that the baby will be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. So, while we there is the excitement of faith when we find out that we are “expecting,” the patience is there to carry us all the way to full term. Amen?
So, this is why these virtues like patience & perseverance are so needful in our prayer lives: It is because, more often than not, there will be a process of time from the time we pray and the time we receive the answers, and we will need these power p-words to bring the answers to our prayers to pass.
Jesus taught us the power of persistence in our prayer lives, and He called this “knocking and keep on knocking” kind of prayer, faith. But He made sure to illustrate to us that it’s not because God is unwilling to give us what we desire, but that there are reasons in both the spiritual and physical world that require perseverance on our part to press through for the answers.
Yes, God is willing to answer our prayers! He wants to meet our needs! So, seeing Him as that good and gracious Heavenly Father is one of the keys to removing the hindrances that keep us from receiving from Him.
So, we do need to understand that the reason we are persistent is not because God is unwilling to give us what we are asking for and that we have annoy Him into doing it. The reason we need to be persistent is because it is a form of faith in God. It is a confidence and reliance upon God’s ability and willingness. And when we operate in faith, we will see results! There is also something that happens in us when we wait on the answer. We develop character. We develop patience. We develop faith. These are all things that need to take place in us, and God wants to make sure we trust Him.
THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF PRAYERS AND SUPPLICATIONS
So, let’s pick back up where we left off in Ephesians 6:18, which I made the point, is a verse that generally does not get the attention that it deserves.
You see, this verse is a continuation of the apostle Paul’s brilliant exposition of spiritual warfare and the whole armor of God. So, after specifically describing our spiritual armor in verses 14-17, he moves right into this verse. This teaches us that prayer is evidently a spiritual weapon! Yes, it is one of the weapons of our warfare that is mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds, etc.! Amen!
Now let’s continue looking at this verse that is chock-full of some awesome prayer principles: In it, Paul says, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
Now we covered the part of this verse that refers to the watchful and persevering part of our prayer life last time. So, now that we have seen the attitude in which our prayers are to be prayed, let’s now look at how Paul described these prayers. Again, Paul said, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit …” I feel that the wording of this particular translation can leave us a little confused. Let’s look at this phrase in more detail …
First of all, when Paul said, “with all prayer and supplication” he was actually saying “through every kind of prayer and supplication.” What this shows us that there are both various kinds of prayer and various kinds of supplications.
Now as we have seen already in this series, there is a difference between “prayer” and “supplication.” Supplications are petitions & requests, and prayer is more on the relationship side of our conversations with God. So, the different kinds of prayer might be the prayer of thanksgiving, praise, & worship, the prayer of meditation & the prayer of tongues. The different kinds of supplications might be (I will just call them “the prayer of …” for the sake of changing terminology) the prayer of faith, the prayer of petition, the prayer of agreement, the prayer of consecration, & the prayer of intercession.
A PRAYER FOR EVERY SEASON
Now before we begin looking at these specific kinds of prayer, let’s look back at the words “praying always” at the beginning of this verse: The word “always” is a translation of three Greek words— en kairos pas. The word en means “in or in the sphere of” and the word pas means “every or all.” Now the word kairos is the interesting part of this phrase: This word describes “an opportune, seasonable, or appointed time.” So, the literal translation of “always” could be “in all seasons” or “in every appropriate time.” This shows us that these different kinds of prayers and supplications are to be used “in specific instances”—meaning, there are specific and appropriate times for every different kind of prayer and every different kind of supplication.
Let me give you some examples— The specific kind of prayer the Bible calls “the prayer of faith” would not be appropriate when praying for the salvation of someone. Why? Because we cannot pray once and believe we receive their salvation when their will is involved. What would be called the prayer of intercession is what would be most appropriate when praying for the lost because when free will is involved continuous, repetitive prayers are necessary. The prayer of faith would be more appropriate when praying for things that God has already both promised you and I and accomplished through Jesus like healing, financial provision, and protection.
Another example might be using the prayer of other tongues when praying for someone else’s financial need. That wouldn’t be the right kind of prayer because the Word teaches us that the prayer of other tongues is for our own self-edification. So, what would be the most appropriate form of prayer or supplication for asking the Lord to meet someone’s financial need. Well, there are a couple—one being “the prayer of petition” because you are asking the Lord to meet that need in their life. You might use “the prayer of agreement” as the two of you talk about the need, you ask the Lord together, and then agree concerning the thing you’ve asked.
So, as you can see, it is important for us to understand the many different kinds of prayers & supplication so that we can use the right prayer in the right situation.
Now this beginning of the verse is not translated according to the proper sentence structure of the original Greek. It actually says, “through all manners of prayer and supplication, praying in every appropriate time in the Spirit …” The Amplified Bible translates this verse— “Pray at all times (on every occasion, in every season) in the Spirit, with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty …” This is important because it will help us to understand what Paul was saying better.
PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT
Notice that in the original Greek language, the three words “in the Spirit” follow “praying always.” So, this shows us how we can effectively pray with the specific kind of prayer in the specific and appropriate times. We don’t have to know what kind of prayer to use every time. All we need to do is pray “in the Spirit.”
Now this is not just praying in other tongues, although it can include that. Praying in the Spirit is simply prayer that is prompted, inspired, and empowered by the Spirit of God on the inside of us. This is the Holy Spirit helping us in our prayers as Paul described in Romans 8:26 when he said, “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.”
Church, when we pray under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, He will lead us to pray the way we need to pray in every situation. For example, say we have an hour allotted for prayer each day: Sometimes He might lead us to pray in other tongues for the entire hour, and sometimes He might lead us into 15 minutes of intercession and another 45 minutes of worship. Then another time, we might lead us back and forth between thanksgiving & praise and intercession for various needs. My point is, when we pray “in the Spirit,” it can vary and is not going to necessarily be consistent.
I believe the New Living Translation brings out the true meaning of the words “in the Spirit.” It translates this verse— “Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit …”
Saints, it is so important that we learn how to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit in our prayer lives! If we pray in ourselves, then we are limited to what we know but when we pray in Him then we will find a much more enjoyable flow. I would liken praying in the Spirit (as opposed to praying in our own abilities) to like going down a river in a boat as opposed to swimming down a river. It is like riding an escalator rather than climbing up and down stairs. It is so much easier and certainly more effective. Amen?
So, the question that should come up then is— “How do we pray in the Spirit?” There are a couple of ways that I believe we can tap into that flow of the Holy Ghost …
First of all, as we have been learning, we need to obey the law of prayer’s proper protocol and enter into His gates with thanksgiving and walking through His courts with praise. It is then from there that we will be in the Holy of holies where the presence of the Holy Ghost resides! This is when we will be in better position to be led by the Spirit because thanksgiving, praise, and worship (if it is done right) will always put us on the frequency of the Spirit. This is what the apostle Paul taught us in Ephesians 5:18-19 when he said that being continuously filled with the Spirit comes through speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
So, thanksgiving, praise, and worship put us on His frequency, but I’ve also learned that another practical way to get into the Spirit in my prayer times is to pray in other tongues. As we have learned, praying in other tongues builds us up! It charges our battery! And when we get charged and built up, we begin to operate more out of the inner man (the place where the Holy Spirit resides) than the outer man (where our intellect and our own strength resides). Sometimes it might take just 5 minutes and sometimes it might take an hour, but praying in other tongues will eventually transfer us from the flesh realm to the spirit realm. Amen.
THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF PRAYER
So, now that we’ve learned that there is an appropriate time for different types of prayer and that the Holy Spirit is here to inspire and empower us to pray the right prayer in those times, let’s begin looking at these different kinds of prayer and supplication Paul referred to …
Let’s begin with the various kinds of prayer:
THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF SUPPLICATION
But as we’ve made the point of throughout this series, there is a difference between prayers and supplications. Yes, we’ve learned that the term “supplication” describes more of the request side of our communication with God and, therefore, prayer is not just our petitions.
In fact, when you look up the Greek word that Paul used for “supplications” (Greek deesis), you will see that it always referred to asking God for things and presenting petitions to Him. It is defined as “to ask for humbly or earnestly; a humble petition; an earnest request; an entreaty.”
Let me give you an example where this word for “supplication” was used, but not translated that way--James 5:16.
At the end of verse 16, James gives us a tremendous promise concerning prayer. He says, “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” The words “effective fervent” are the translation of the one Greek word energeo. This describes a prayer that is continuously active and energetic (This word is where we get our English word “energy” from). In other words, it is a prayer that does not lose its passion and zeal. But rather, it is a prayer that remains full of energy and power after time.
Now the word that is translated “prayer” in this verse is that word for “supplication”—the Greek word deesis. So, this is a poor translation, and since the word deesis describes the requests and petitions in our prayer times, James is talking about fervent, continual supplications being lifted up to God. And just by the context of this verse, we can see that is exactly what James is referring to because he goes right into talking about Elijah and how he prayed earnestly for the rain to both stop and start. This is our biblical example of the power in supplication!
So, what we see in Ephesians 6:18 is that there are not just different kinds of prayers, there are also different kinds of supplications. This means that there are also different kinds of ways in which we petition the Lord. Yes, there is not just one way to present our requests to Him; there are several ways. And that’s what I want us to look at this week—the different kinds of supplications …
Church, there are obviously different kinds of prayers and different kinds of supplications, and we need to understand what these are. But as I said, what is of the utmost importance is that we pray in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit because He will lead us into the right kind of praying for every occasion if we just let Him guide us.
So, lets study to show ourselves approved by searching the Scriptures to learn more about the various kinds of prayers and supplications and combine that with us walking in the communion of the Holy Spirit. If we do this, I can assure you that our prayers will be prayed in the right protocol and we will see great fruit as a result.
Today, we are continuing our look at the “The Power and Protocol of Prayer” where we are searching for how to see more of that power and potential that we all believe lies in prayer manifested in our lives. And what we have been learning is that the power of prayer is found in the protocol of prayer—that is, an official procedure or principles for how prayer works. So, our aim in this series is to find out how prayer works so that we can get the kind of results that Jesus taught us are possible when we pray.
So, we have learned what prayer is, what prayer is not, and how to pray. We have also learned the importance of praying the will of God, which is one of the most critical parts of praying more effectively. And last week, we looked at some specific ways in which we can pray the will of God found in First Thessalonians 5:16-18. In short, we learned how to make the God-kind of thanksgiving turkey sandwich 😊—by using the sandwich technique of rejoicing and thanksgiving in our unceasing prayer lives. Yes, we made the point that there is a spirit / attitude that our prayers can be sandwiched in that makes our constant & continual prayers that we offer up to God more appealing to Him.
Paul started off by saying, “Rejoice always.” Not when we feel like it, when we’ve got something to rejoice about, or as long as things around us make us happy.” No, Paul said that we are to rejoice, according to Webster’s dictionary, “at all times, at any rate, and at any event; forever.” That would include the times where we’ve gotten terrible news, the times our body is telling us we’re depressed, the times everything in the world around us is painted in doom & gloom. And the good news about this command is that it proves that we all are capable of doing just that! Amen!
But that was just one half of the sandwich: We saw that the other half is found in verse 18 where Paul goes on to say, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Now we saw that the phrase “give thanks” is significant because to give something indicates that we don’t just have it in our heart, but that we are deliberately offering something. For example, say I have it on my heart to give one of you some money, but I don’t actually follow through with it. Did I give it just because it was in my heart? No, of course not. So, when it comes to giving thanks to God, it is important that we are actually giving it to Him.
So, we learned from this that if we do not give this thanks to others, then we are essentially being “unthankful.” Therefore, to be unthankful is not just to actively murmur, gripe and complain; it is simply not giving thanks. As we learned, this is why we want to be specific when we give thanks—not just saying thank you, but expressing that gratitude from a true heart of thanksgiving.
And we also learned that this giving of thanks that God wills from all of us is to be done “in everything.” That means that in the midst of every situation and every circumstance, we are giving God thanks. We saw that this doesn’t mean that we are thanking God for any and all circumstances in our life. This simply means that we are thanking God while going through them.
Yes, we are giving God thanks for every good and perfect gift that He has given, gives, and will give no matter what we are going through in life. So, every situation and circumstance of life is to be weathered “with thanksgiving.”
Church, this spirit of rejoicing & thanksgiving is arguably the most important ingredient to prayers that avail much. We all know that in order for us to make bread that rises, we must add yeast in with the flour. Likewise, in order for our prayers to rise, we need to add the ingredients of joy & gratitude in with the prayers. Amen!
So, we learned that this rejoicing & thanksgiving is not just something we should do at the end of the year (i.e. Thanksgiving & Christmas); it is what we must do in the beginning of the year as well. It is how we come before Him and draw near to Him based on Psalm 95 & Psalm 100. This is the gateway into the holy of holies where the manifested glory and presence of God is housed. Amen.
So, let’s incorporate this spirit of rejoicing & thanksgiving into our prayer lives—for it is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us all. Amen.
A WEAPON OF OUR WARFARE
Now, this week, I want us to continue our study on prayer by beginning to look at a verse in Ephesians chapter 6 that generally does not get the respect & attention that it deserves--Ephesians 6:18.
You see, this verse is a continuation of the apostle Paul’s brilliant exposition of spiritual warfare and the whole armor of God. So, after referring to the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit in verse 17, he goes right into saying, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
Now by the wording he used in verse 18, it is clear that Paul was not changing the subject matter. In fact, verse 18 seems to be a continuation of the statements that were being said in the verses before. It is for this reason that some even believe that the prayer that is being spoken of here is also a weapon of our spiritual warfare. The reason for this is because when one considers the whole set of armor that Paul was likely drawing his analogy from—the Roman soldier—these soldiers also carried a lance that enabled them to do damage to their enemy from a distance.
How many of you know that this exactly what prayer does? It is a powerful weapon that is at our disposal that enables us to do damage from a distance. Amen!
Now with that said, let me take the opportunity here to make an important point—While prayer is a spiritual weapon, far too many Christians depend on carnal methods to see the changes they believe need to be made. For example, I have seen many believers who have a zeal and desire to see some kind of ministry to take place try to make it happen through “hard selling” it to the decision makers. But while it is certainly okay to make some suggestions, voice our opinion, etc. what we need to avoid is trying to make something happen through our own self-effort. That is carnal, and not trusting the Lord. Another example is with our lost loved ones: I have seen many Christians in their zeal, go over the top in trying to convert their family members. And oftentimes, these aggressive forms of evangelism come across as obnoxious and are a turn off to the very one we are trying to persuade.
Second Corinthians 10:4 teaches us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. That means that we are not waging our warfare through natural, fleshly means. The way to see the change that we believe God wills is through the whole armor of God, which includes prayer. Yes, praying to the Lord to move in that person or thing and let Him do the work and give the increase. Amen?
So, what I believe is the godly way of approaching things that we believe need to change is to trust God to move the hearts of those who can make it happen or those that need it to happen in them. It is much more gratifying to see the Lord open up the doors and direct hearts while we are just at peace and trusting Him. Not to mention, it’s a good spiritual exercise for us to boot.
So, prayer is one of the weapons of our warfare and it is where we will win most of our battles. More often than not, it is not going to be with our hands; it will be on our knees.
WATCH AND PERSEVERE
Now let’s begin looking at this verse that is chock-full of some awesome prayer principles:
Here are some other translations that give us some more insight into everything Paul was saying in this verse: The (older) Amplified Bible says, “Pray at all times (on every occasion, in every season) in the Spirit, with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty. To that end keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding on behalf of all the saints (God’s consecrated people).” The J.B. Phillips translation says it more simply— “Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray for all Christ’s men and women.”
After the apostle Paul exhorted us to incorporate the many different kinds of prayers and supplications into our prayer life and to constantly strive to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit (points we will get into over the next couple of weeks), he goes on to exhort us to pray like this while being both watchful and persistent. Like we studied last week, this shows more of the attitude that should accompany our prayer lives—things which I want us to camp on this week.
The first thing Paul mentions is praying with a watchful attitude by adding the phrase “being watchful to this end.”
Now in the Scriptures, the word “watch” is used many times in connection to prayer (See Matthew 26:41, Mark 13:33 & Mark 14:38). So, what does it mean to be watchful? It means to be spiritually awake, alert, and vigilant. It means to be aware of what is spiritually significant and eternal.
You see, so many believers just float through this earth life without any awareness of the spiritual implications of their daily routines. They do not truly understand that there is a war going on in the spirit and this short time we have in our body will come to an end before we know it. And since our prayer life is what is in view here, let’s look at what it would mean to be watchful in our prayer life.
Being watchful in prayer would be having our spiritual eyes and ears wide open. It would be living in the awareness of what is going on in the spiritual realm around us and praying accordingly. It would also involve praying continuously with more passion and zeal. So, being watchful is extremely important to our prayer life because it is what will cause us to pray the way that God intends for us to pray. Why? Because we will see what is truly going on and will then know how to pray effectively. Amen.
But I want you to notice is that Paul was sure to include that our watchful prayers are to be “with all perseverance.” The word Paul used for “perseverance” here was only used this one time in the New Testament. It comes from the root word proskartereo which was a word commonly defined as “continuing.” So, to “persevere” describes being persistent and continual in our prayer life. You could say that it is being patient and not becoming discouraged or disheartened when we are praying. Church, this is extremely critical to our prayer life.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FAITH AND PATIENCE
You see, when one studies the New Testament, they will see that it teaches us that virtues like “patience, endurance, and perseverance” are what we should all pursue in our lives. Actually, the word used for biblical “patience” was deemed by the early church as the queen of all virtues. The reason they thought so highly of hupomeno was because they knew that if they had this virtue in their life that they could always outlast the enemy and win every time. And, saints, this certainly applies to prayer too:
I am convinced that if we can have the virtue of patience working in our prayer life then we will see the answers to our prayers every single time. The reason why we sometimes fail to see the manifestation of those answered prayers is because we either grow weary or we simply let the emotions wear off. When this happens, we tend to let go of our faith and stop seeking the answers like we did in the beginning.
Like many see “patience” as one of their greatest weaknesses, I see patience as one of the biggest weaknesses in our prayer lives too because many believers can start off strong in their prayers, but after a period of time—when they do not see the answers—they become disheartened and let go of the faith. They feel that because they do not see it yet that it must not be working.
Church, we live in a microwave society where we want everything, and we want it now! But God is not in the business of “drive-thru breakthroughs!” He is called the “God of Patience.” Therefore, He is obviously not in a hurry! So likewise, we need to develop the fruit of patience and not be in such a hurry to see the answers to our prayers!
So, a point that needs to be understood is that faith is not the only virtue necessary for success in our prayer lives. Why? Because faith has siblings—two sisters, in fact, named hope & patience. So, just as we certainly need faith; we have need of patience too!
Hebrews 10:36 says it this way— “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” Might we say that we have need of this endurance so that after we have prayed the will of God, we may receive the answers? So, this verse makes it clear that receiving all of the promises of God—including the answers to our prayers—is not just accomplished by faith; it comes both by faith and this patience, endurance, and perseverance.
Hebrews 6:12 says that we should not become sluggish, but that we should imitate those who “through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Did you know that in the Greek language words have genders? Well, in Hebrews 6:12, the word for faith (Greek pistis) is masculine and the word for patience (Greek hupomeno) is feminine. So, let’s run with this analogy: If faith is the male and patience is the female, what are they capable of when they have a relationship with one another? Giving birth to the promises of God! Let me say it this way— When our faith sows into patience, we will give birth to the promises of God!
You see, most of the time when a seed is planted, it takes a considerable length of time to produce the harvest. And that is the way that God has planned it. More often than not, we are going to have to patiently wait through seasons for the manifestation of the prayers we have sown. And it is during that time that we need patience to endure and hold onto our faith, so we don’t dig those seeds up and cast away our confidence.
You see, as I have previously said, many believers start out of the gates with a blaze but after a few laps they become sluggish. They start off in faith—being fully persuaded that God has heard their prayer—but they do not keep the fire lit and oftentimes will even forget all about it. This is not effective prayer! We need to make a conscious decision that we will pray and believe God for as long as it takes. When we pray this way then we will start inheriting the promises! In other words, we will see the answers to those prayers start manifesting!
James 1:2-4 also carries on this illustration of how the promises of God are given birth to by describing the work of patience in our life:
First, James says, “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (Verse 2). Isn’t this what a husband and wife usually do when they discover that they are pregnant? We even throw gender reveal parties because of the excitement of the news of a baby being on the way. Yes, there is generally joy because we are “expecting.”
But going back to the “gender” thing—the problem that comes in is that the excitement is in faith, but because the patience isn’t present, there might not be any promises given birth to.
You see, what if we gave birth to our babies immediately? Well, pretty much no one will be ready for the responsibility. Why? Because preparations need to be made in the natural, the woman’s body needs time to adapt to the life within her, etc. This is what I see James going on to describe:
Verses 3-4 go on to say, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
What these verses are saying is that it is when we have these trying circumstances arise that we have the opportunity to develop in the virtue of patience. Again, most Christians will say that patience is not their strongest virtue, but what we need to understand is that the way we are going to develop patience in our lives is by exercising it. We will have to make a conscious effort to stand once we lift the request up to the Lord. And the more we put patience into practice the more we will see it develop and grow stronger.
And what an awesome promise verse 4 gives us: James says that if we completely walk in patience in any area of our life that we will not lack anything. And, again, this includes our prayers!
But what I want you to notice is that when this verse says, “have its perfect work,” it is a picture of a women coming to full term in her pregnancy. So, when a woman finds out she is pregnant she has to wait 9 months before she gets to see her baby manifested. Likewise, when we pray, sometimes we have to wait months and even years for the manifestation of the answer. But the Word tells us that if we let that baby come to full term then we will never lack our answer.
You see, so many believers abort their babies before they come to full term and miss out on their answer. Yes, after we start out in faith and the seed has been conceived, things can get tough and many believers can cast away their confidence, not holding fast to their confession. But if we can gain that same mentality of a pregnant women, being willing to tough it out, then we will see tremendous results. I know so many of us want to see our babies right away but there is character that needs to be developed and preparations that need to be made and that might be the reason we don’t see our answers right away.
So, this is why these virtues like patience & perseverance are so needful in our prayer lives: It is because, more often that not, there will be a process of time from the time we pray to the time we receive the answers.
THE POWER OF PERSISTENCE
Now Jesus had much to say about the power of persevering prayer. One of His lessons came in Luke 11:1-13. Let’s take a look at it …
As we’ve studied already in this series, Jesus’ disciples came to Him as He was praying and asked Him to teach them how to pray. Jesus proceeded to give them the “Lord’s Prayer” (which of course is the “model prayer” as I’ve made the point of already). Then in verse 5, Jesus begins to give His disciples a parable concerning one of the most important principles of our prayer life—persistent and persevering prayer.
In verses 5-8, Jesus began by saying, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you.’ I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.”
Now let me first say that, in this parable, the exact opposite has been taught than what the Lord intended to get across. The point that is commonly made by Christians today concerning this parable is that God is like this friend. So, when we go to Him with a need He might just say no and if we just stay on Him about it long enough, He’ll give into us. I believe this is exactly the opposite of the point that Jesus was trying to make!
You see, this parable is not a comparison to God but rather a contrast to God. How many of us have friends that would turn us away if we came to them with a serious need like this? The answer is—none of us really do because, in my opinion, a real friend would not turn away another friend in a time of need. So, Jesus’ point was why would we think God would turn us away if we don’t even think that a friend would do this? God loves us infinitely more than any other human does!
Then notice what Jesus goes on to say: “So I say to you, 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.” (Verses 9&10) This is where Jesus makes the contrast between this so-called friend and God. He tells us that when we ask, it will be given to us; when we seek something from Him, we will find it; and when we knock on His door at midnight, it will be opened for us.
Church, this is where our faith needs to be in order to receive from God. We must believe that He will answer our prayers! And He does not just answer for certain special people. Verse 10 says that “everyone who asks receives …” God is gracious to all who ask of Him! This shows God’s willingness not only to answer for His friends but also to answer for whosoever will ask. This should be our basis of faith for our prayers being answered.
I know before I even walked with the Lord that He heard me and answered my prayers. When I was just a kid I would have crises that would arise in my personal life, school, etc. and when those crises would come I would cry out to the Lord to help me and, God is my witness, every time I asked Him to help He did! So, you cannot convince me that now that I am at least trying to be pleasing to Him that He will not answer my prayers. God is more loving and gracious than we give Him credit for. I believe the reason many Christians have such a hard time receiving the answers to their prayers is because they are “performance-minded.” That is, they don’t feel confident that God will answer their prayers because they do not feel like they deserve it. Listen, you will never deserve the answers to your prayers! Every prayer that we have answered is by the grace of God, so we need to receive them simply by His mercy. It is also important that we greatly desire the answer. We must be desperate and passionate in order to see great results. I believe the reason I saw perfect results before I even knew the Lord was because I was at the end of my rope and was desperate for His intervention. When you get like that—where you show a complete insufficiency in yourself and a total reliance upon Him to bring the breakthrough—you will see great results. The humble receive more grace!
Then in verses 11-13 Jesus continues His contrast of our natural relationships with our relationship with our Heavenly Father. He says, “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Jesus was making the point that there is not a human (i.e. evil) parent that would give their child something useless, much less deadly, if they asked for something they needed so how can we believe God would do that to us? Jesus used the example of God giving us the Holy Spirit when we ask Him—not just something natural or temporal! He is freely willing to give us the best gift we could ever ask for! I believe the reason that Jesus uses the example of God giving us the Holy Spirit is because the Holy Spirit will provide all these other things for us so God giving us Him is the assurance of these lesser gifts as well.
But if we go back to verse 8, we can find another very important point that Jesus was trying to make in explaining to His disciples “how to pray.” He said, “…though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.” This is the power in persistent prayer!
In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus gives a similar parable to describe the importance of persistent prayer …
Luke starts in verse 1 by saying, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,” In this verse, Luke reveals that the purpose of this upcoming parable was that “men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” Jesus had just finished explaining His Second Coming so that is what Luke was referring to when exhorting us “not to lose heart.”
Jesus then begins His parable in verse 2 by saying— “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.” Like in the previous parable we covered, many Christians believe that this parable is also meant to be a comparison to God but that is not true! Again, the unjust judge in this parable is meant to be a contrast to God just like the friend was in Luke chapter 11. The reason we know this is because, first of all, this judge did not fear God. How would that exemplify God Himself? And second, this judge did not regard man. The word “regard” literally means “respect.” God so loves the world, much less respects it! So, from verse two alone we should be able to conclude that this is a contrast rather than a comparison to God.
Let’s go on and look at verse 3: It says, “Now there was a certain widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary’.” God always has showed us to take special care of widows so how much more will He provide justice for them. And this request— “Get justice for me…”—is a petition that is directly in line with God’s will and nature. He is a God of righteousness and justice! The Word tells us that righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. That means that every judgment and decision that He makes is founded upon bringing justice to those in need. To top it off, the one that this widow needed justice from was called an “adversary.” This is a term given to Satan in the Bible. You see, what we need to understand is that Satan is the enemy of God and that we are His children, so how could we believe that God will not give us justice from His unjust enemy.
Verses 4-5 go on to explain the response: “And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” In other words, since this unjust judge did not care about people and he had no fear of God, when this widow came to Him with her petition, he did not give her justice. But after her “continual coming” he finally gave in to her because he was getting weary of her persistence. And in verse 6 Jesus told us to pay special attention to what the unjust judge said.
He then proceeded to tell us the principle of this parable in verse 7— “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? The principle was that if this unjust judge will grant the request of this widow because she pesters him, then how much more will God “avenge his own elect who cry out day and night.” The word “elect” means “chosen ones.” So, if we are specifically chosen by God and are recipients of His favor then how could we believe He would not avenge us—especially when we cry out day and night (i.e. pray perseveringly)? If He did not spare His own Son how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things (Romans 8:32)! Then Jesus said— “though He bears long with them.” The word “though” literally is the conjunction “and,” and the words “bears long” comes from the Greek word makrothumia which is better translated “longsuffering.” So, this phrase should be translated “and He even is longsuffering with them.”
This point could be interpreted two ways: First, not only should we believe that God will grant us our petitions because we are His chosen and favored ones but also because God puts up with our mistakes, and second, God will answer our prayers even though He could put up with our continual coming forever. You see, so many people believe that God has selected them to be in His body, but most do not believe that He is longsuffering towards them. And this belief causes them to not present their requests to God because they feel unworthy and even like a bother to Him. But Jesus is telling us that God does not operate like that.
Verse 8 goes on to tell us how He operates— “I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” Since we are God’s own elect—He will avenge us speedily! We do not have to beg and plead forever! He will move quickly to bring us justice! We just need to believe that God has answered our prayer even though we may not see the results yet.
But notice that Jesus calls this persevering prayer that makes requests of God day and night—faith! Faith in what? Faith in the nature and character of God to answer our prayers that we lift up to Him day and night! You see, faith is not only just praying once and believing you receive. Faith is also persistent!
You see, we need to understand that the reason we are persistent is not because God is unwilling to give us what we are asking for and that we have to annoy Him into doing it. The reason we need to be persistent is because it is a form of faith in God. It is a confidence and reliance upon God’s ability and willingness. And when we operate in faith, we will see results! There is also something that happens in us when we wait on the answer. We develop character. We develop patience. We develop faith. These are all things that need to take place in us, and God wants to make sure we trust Him.
Church, we are in training now. We are being prepared to be fit to enter the kingdom of heaven and to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus. That is why God does not always supernaturally manifest the answer to our prayers the moment we pray them. We need that space in between which makes us stronger and develops character. We just need to trust God and understand that He knows what He is doing. Our job is to rest and know that the Battle belongs to the Lord.
It is obvious that our prayers are not always answered when we want them to be. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, even years to see the manifestation of the answers. But what we are called to do is persevere in prayer. We are to pray continuously and not to give up. Delay is not denial! We need to just trust the fact that we are praying to an “on-time God!” Amen.
So, we began a new series of teachings on prayer several weeks back which I have entitled— “The Power and Protocol of Prayer.” And what we are searching for in these teachings is how to see more of that power and potential that we all believe lies in prayer manifested in our lives.
You see, we all believe that there is indeed power in prayer, but not everyone experiences that power. And the point we have been making is that one of the reasons for this is because the Lord has a protocol for our prayers—that is, an official procedure or system of rules for how prayer works.
In my opinion, far too many Christians just pray the way they know how—asking, begging, and pleading, all the while hoping that God will wake up on the right side of the bed and decide to grant them their request. But it doesn’t necessarily work that way. The truth is that the Lord has given us some prayer principles in His Word that teach us how to pray and how to get results when we pray.
So, this prayer protocol is a big part of what we are learning in this series …
We started out this series by answering the question— What is prayer? Then, in part two, we essentially explained what prayer is not through a message entitled “When we pray.” These first two messages gave us a lot of the nuts and bolts of prayer that will help our prayer lives be as efficient and effective as possible. If you missed either of these messages, I would encourage you to go back and listen to them.
Then, in part three, we looked at Jesus’ model prayer—known by most as the Lord’s Prayer—which answers the disciple’s question, how do we pray? And we learned some important things from this prayer that showed us how to organize and compartmentalize our prayers.
But last week, we talked specifically about praying the will of God. I made the point that this is probably the most important thing I have ever learned about prayer because I see it as something that can either guarantee good results or cause our prayers to be disqualified.
You see, a lot of people have no clue what God’s will is when they pray. They are basically praying what they desire, but give no consideration to what God desires when they pray. Many times, this is because they do not believe they can even know God’s will. But we learned last week, God absolutely wills for us to know His will.
And we learned what the will of God is—it is His Word. In other words, we can find in the Bible everything we need to know about what God desires, what pleases Him, and what His wishes are.
I remember one time when I was working at a Christian bookstore early in my Christian walk and a lady came in that asked, “Do you have any books on the will of God?” And immediately I responded, “Yeah, we have a whole wall of them over there!” as I pointed at the Bible section. I was not trying to be a smart aleck, it just kind of came out without me even thinking. But I believe what I said was the truth! You see, so many Christians would rather read a book on the will of God than The Book of the will of God! They would rather have someone else tell them what God’s will is than spending time in the Word of God which is the will of God.
I made the point though that this doesn’t mean that every Scripture is God’s perfect will. If that were the case, then we might read one verse that says, “And Judas went and hung himself” and then combine it together with another verse that says, “Go and do likewise,” and conclude that it is God’s will that we go hang ourselves. No, obviously not everything we read in the Bible shows us God’s perfect will, but when we rightly divide the truth, we can see what God’s perfect will is for all people for all time. Therefore, God’s Word is the road map to understanding the will of God!
So, we learned then how to take the truths from God’s Word and pray according to His will. We do this when our prayers are laced with “It is written, It is written, It is written.” The point was that we need to let the Word of God reveal to us how we pray to God’s will and then pray those Scriptures. And I gave a couple of different examples of how we can do this.
But the last thing we learned is that when we pray according to His will, we can have such confidence that we know, that we know, that we know, that we have at that moment the petitions. In other words, when we pray according to the will of God, we know we can receive His will when we pray. Amen!
THE THANKSGIVING TURKEY SANDWICH
Now when it comes to praying the will of God and with this week being Thanksgiving, I think it is appropriate for us to talk about one thing that the Holy Spirit made sure to let us know what is the will of God for each and every one of our prayer lives. I’ll give you one guess what it is … You got it! It’s the giving of thanks! Let’s look at a verse that makes it clear that this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us.
We spoke we couple of weeks ago about the sandwich technique for our prayer lives found in the model prayer given to us by the Lord Jesus, and how that was beginning our prayer time with praise and ending it with praise. Well, the Holy Spirit gives us a similar exhortation in First Thessalonians 5:16-18 that I want us to look at first today. Today, let’s look at the Thanksgiving turkey sandwich 😉
You see, if the bread we make the sandwich on is either stale or bland, it can kind of ruin the whole sandwich, right? I mean, you can have the best quality meat, cheese, and other fixings, but if your bread is not good and fresh, you probably will not say it was the best sandwich you’ve ever eaten.
Well, I believe there is a spirit / attitude that our prayers can be sandwiched in that makes our constant & continual prayers to be offered up to God more appealing to Him, and it is found in these verses …
In these verses, the apostle Paul said to the church of Thessalonica: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Now in the middle verse here, we see the meat—and that is that we are to pray without ceasing. That doesn’t mean that we are to lock ourselves away in our prayer closet 24/7. We have responsibilities living in this world. We have to go to work, take care of the kids, and do many other natural things in these flesh & blood bodies. What Paul was describing here is essentially the way most of us are in our electronic devices without ceasing. I mean, we have our phones, tablets, etc. on us, and if we don’t, we feel naked. We are constantly scrolling, posting, tweeting, taking videos and pictures, etc. I think that’s a fair comparison to what the apostle Paul meant here by telling us to pray without ceasing. Just don’t leave your prayer phone at home. Don’t turn off your prayer tablet. Read your texts as the Spirit sends them to you. Just don’t hang the phone up or turn it off. That’s all.
However, to my point, we can pray without ceasing like a champ, but if we don’t have the best bread to sandwich those continual prayers in, it might not be as palatable to the Lord. I see verses 16 & 18 as the sandwich technique for an unceasing prayer life.
Notice Paul starts off by saying, “Rejoice when you feel like it, when you’ve got something to rejoice about, or as long as things around you make you happy.” No, that’s not what Paul said. He said, “Rejoice always.” That would include the times where you’ve gotten terrible news, the times your body is telling you you’re depressed, the times everything in the world around you is painted in doom & gloom. Even in these times, we are told to rejoice always!
Now I was not satisfied with the Greek definition of this word, so I looked it up in the dictionary and I found that the word “always” means “at all times, at any rate, and at any event; forever.” Now that certainly does not exclude any situation we are in. And the good news about this command is that it proves that we all are capable of doing just that! Hallelujah!
But what this teaches me is that this is the attitude & spirit by which our unceasing prayers are to be offered up in—always in the spirit of rejoicing. Amen! We can do this no matter what is going on in the world around us. The prophet Habakkuk said it this way— “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18). Praise God!
But that’s just one half of the sandwich. Notice the other half in verse 18 where Paul goes on to say, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
So, now we learn that not only are we to always rejoice in our unceasing prayer life, but in everything, we are to give thanks to the Lord as well. And Paul goes on to reveal to us that this three-part instruction in verses 16-18 is “the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” In other words, we see here that the will of God in Christ Jesus for us is this kind of prayer life—one that is always enveloped in unceasing joy and thanksgiving.
Now the phrase “give thanks” is significant because to give something indicates that we don’t just have it in our heart, but that we are deliberately offering something. For example, say I have it on my heart to give one of you some money, but I don’t actually follow through with it. Did I give it just because it was in my heart? No, of course not. So, when it comes to giving thanks to God, it is important that we are actually giving it to Him. Sure, I can be thankful in my heart, but to give thanks is to express that thankfulness somehow.
While we are on this, let me also say that to be unthankful is not just to actively murmur, gripe and complain. To be unthankful is to simply not be thankful as the word indicates. Likewise, to be thankful means to actually be thankful. In other words, to be thankful is not just a state of mind to where we are grateful in our hearts. What good does that do to the one you are thankful for? No, what blesses me is that if someone is thankful for the things I do or simply for who I am, they actually express their gratitude to me. For example, if I give something to someone and they never show any gratitude for it, that doesn’t exactly make me want to go out and get them something else. So, if we don’t thank God for ALL of the things He’s given us, how would that inspire Him to do more for us?
And let me add this little piece of practicality about being thankful: when you are sharing your gratitude with someone like God or another human being, be specific. Don’t just simply give a general thank you, but specifically tell them what you are thankful for. Say, for instance, you give a Christmas gift to someone this year. While it’s certainly better than nothing to simply hear a thank you when you give it to them, what would bless us all the more was that when they thanked us, they told us specifically what they appreciated about it. Here are some examples of what I mean— “it blessed me that you had actually listened to what I like, made a note of that, and then were gracious enough to go get it for me” or “I love the color you chose.” Basically, it is the things we would say when we truly are grateful.
I believe the Lord loves hearing specifically what we are thankful for as well just like we do.
Notice now that Paul says in this verse that the giving of thanks is to be done “in everything.” That means that in the midst of every situation and every circumstance, we are giving God thanks. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we are thanking God for any and all circumstances in our life. This simply means that we are thanking God while going through them.
The reason this is important to understand is because not all situations and circumstances of life are of God. The devil can directly be inspiring certain things that we are going through, so we wouldn’t thank God for something the devil is doing. But we can thank Him for things while we are going through it like, for instance, how He will deliver us out of it and for all the other things He’s done for us that aren’t even associated with our situation.
Now I do understand that there is another verse in Ephesians 5:20 that says that we are “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But what needs to be understood about this verse is that Paul was not saying that we are directly thanking God for any and everything that comes in our lives; only the things that God the Father has given and done for us. That is why this giving of thanks is directed “to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
You see, I don’t thank Betty Jean for putting the Scriptures up on the screen on Sunday morning; I thank Debbie for that. Why? Because Debbie is the one doing it this morning. Nor did I thank Minton for making sure the church was clean for us this morning; that is what I thank Betty Jean for. Why? Because she is the one who did it. Likewise, I don’t thank God for things He didn’t do. But, on the other hand, I can thank Him for things that He does give and do in the midst of the other things that are not a part of His will for my life. Amen?
Let me give you an example—Say, my left knee started hurting really bad to where it was apparent that there was a problem with it. I don’t thank God for the knee problem because He was not the one who gave it to me. But what I can and should do is thank God for other things like that it is His will to heal my knee. Yes, I can give Him thanks that He, through the stripes of Jesus, has both provided the means for me to be healed for whatever the issue is. But I can also thank Him that I have another knee that is not hurting and is working just fine. Yeah, I can rejoice in that! I can also thank Him for everything else that is healed and whole in my body and choose to magnify all that is functioning properly instead of magnifying the one thing that’s not.
So, do you see how we can truly give thanks always for all things and in everything? It is simple—give God thanks for every good and perfect gift that He has given, gives, and will give no matter what we are going through. So, every situation and circumstance of life is to be weathered “with thanksgiving.”
Now when it comes to us praying without ceasing but doing so with a spirit of thanksgiving, let’s look at another truth given to us by the apostle Paul: In Colossians 4:2, he says, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.”
The words “continue earnestly in prayer” describe being devoted and constant towards prayer, continuing and persevering in it. The phrase “being vigilant in it” literally describes “staying alert & watchful” in our prayer lives. To me, this echoes the example we see in the Old Testament of being the watchman on the wall. You see, the watchman’s responsibility was to see the enemy coming and to warn the rest of the city. Figuratively speaking, it describes us as being those vigilant prayer warriors who stay alert and “see” what God is saying and “see” what the enemy is doing.
Now I thank God for everyone who has this kind of devotion to prayer. But let me give a good warning to anyone who gives themselves over to “continuing earnestly in prayer & being vigilant in it” … Make sure you apply the last two words of this verse to your prayer mandate— “with thanksgiving.”
What this teaches us is that all of our continued, earnest prayer and vigilant, watchfulness in prayer is to be enveloped in thankfulness. In other words, an attitude of gratitude is to be the spirit in which all watching & prayer is to be done. The reason this is important to understand is because oftentimes prayer can be too conscious of the negatives—meaning, since those prayers are based on seeking change in things, the person praying can tend to only see what needs to change. This can lead to griping, whining, complaining and simply being focused on the wrong things. So, prayer needs to be done in the spirit of thanksgiving so that we stay focused on what God has already done and what He will do. Then, our prayer life is a joyful experience and not something that causes our countenance to fall.
Church, thanksgiving is arguably the most important ingredient to prayers that avail much. We see this echoed by Paul in Philippians 4:6 when he said that “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving we let our requests be made known unto God.” If the giving of thanks is left out, we do not have the complete recipe for having the peace that surpasses all understanding come through our prayer life (See Philippians 4:7).
For example, we all know that in order for us to make bread that rises, we must add yeast in with the flour. Likewise, in order for our prayers to rise, we need to add the ingredient of thanksgiving in with the prayers. Amen!
THANKSGIVING COMES BEFORE
However, even though we’ve seen thanksgiving mentioned last in verses like Philippians 4:6 & First Thessalonians 5:16-18, that does not mean that it is to be done last. We have several verses that teach us that it is actually to be done first. Let’s look at a few verses that teach us this …
In the Psalms, we have this principle clearly laid out: In Psalm 95:2, we are told— “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving. Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” So, we see here that we come before His presence with this giving of thanks. That means that this is how we initially approach Him—with thanksgiving. Psalm 100:4 says it this way— “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” Here, the Psalmist is obviously painting the picture of entering the Tabernacle / Temple, but what is being done is describing how one truly enters the Holiest of holies, where God’s presence is. And the first step through the gate is “with thanksgiving.”
You see, church we come before God’s presence with thanksgiving. It is both the appropriate and acceptable way to approach God. In other words, it is the spirit by which we draw near to God. So, when we look at wonderful promises like James 4:8 that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to you, we understand the first steps to drawing near to Him—and it is “with thanksgiving.” Therefore, when you and I draw near to God with thanksgiving, He will draw near to us—meaning, His presence will be manifested in our lives and we will experience more of His joy, peace, and power. Amen!
Now one point worth noting is how much the apostle Paul gave thanks for the churches he oversaw. When you study his epistles, you see him time and time again talking about how he always gave thanks for them, remembering them in his prayers. (See Romans 1:8, First Corinthians 1:4, Ephesians 1:16, Philippians 1:3, Colossians 1:3, First Thessalonians 1:2, 2:13, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 2:13, Philemon 1:4)
I want you to notice here that this is the majority of the churches he wrote to. But I want you to notice something else here: of the ones in this list, the majority of these references are found in the first chapter of each epistle. Why is this important to realize? It is because what Paul made a point to do first in his letters was thank God for them. Thus proving that biblical principle that we’ve seen already that we are to enter His gates and come before Him with thanksgiving.
Church, thanksgiving is not just something we should do at the end of the year; it is what we must do in the beginning of the year and all throughout it. It is how we come before Him and draw near to Him. It is the gateway into the holy of holies where the manifested glory and presence of God is housed.
So, let’s incorporate this spirit of thanksgiving into our prayer lives—for it is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us all. Amen.
Now we began a new series on the subject of prayer a few weeks back which I have entitled— “The Power and Protocol of Prayer.” And the reason I titled this series this is because while there is indeed power in prayer, the power that is contained in it is found in God’s protocol for prayer. In other words, it is not just any, old kind of prayer that gets results; it’s the kind of prayer that God lays out to us in His Word that holds great power.
So, this prayer protocol is a big part of what we are learning in this series. In short, we are learning how prayer works and we are learning how to see the answers we desire when we pray.
We started out this series by answering the question— What is prayer? Then, in part two, we essentially explained what prayer is not through a message entitled “When we pray.” These first two messages explained a lot of the nuts and bolts of prayer that, if you missed it, I would encourage you to go back and listen to those messages.
But last time, we looked at Jesus’ model prayer—known by most as the Lord’s Prayer—which answers the disciple’s question, how do we pray?
So, we learned that there is something to be said for how we organize and compartmentalize the things we pray to God. And that’s what we camped on last time.
So, let me quickly recap Jesus’ model of prayer …
Church, this is the protocol of prayer. It is the way of approaching the Father and the way of sealing the deal. In short, it is the way to pray. Amen.
ACCORDING TO HIS WILL
But again, as we learned through this model prayer, when we pray, our request needs to be for His kingdom, not our own. Our petitions need to be for His will to be done, not our own.
So, I want us to talk further today about praying the will of God because I believe praying God’s will is such an important part of our prayer lives that can either guarantee good results or disqualify our prayers. Therefore, we do not need to allow our prayers to revolve around our will, but to be according to His will. This is probably the most important thing I have ever learned about prayer—the importance of praying the will of God when I pray.
You see, a lot of people have no clue what God’s will is when they pray. They are basically praying what they desire, but give no consideration to what God desires when they pray. Many times, this is because they do not believe they can even know God’s will (we will cover this in minute). But other times, it’s simply because people only ask for things that their flesh wants and that might not exactly be what the Lord wants us seeking first. We know what He wants us seeking first—and it’s the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Let’s go over to First John 5:14-15 and see what the apostle John taught us about praying the will of God. He said, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions, that we have asked of Him.”
Notice that the first thing we see him say is that this is the confidence that we have in Him: Did you know that this is the spirit of how our prayers are to be prayed—in confidence?
This word “confidence” denotes assurance, certainty, and boldness. This is a far cry from us never knowing what God is going to do or wallowing around in condemnation when we approach God.
So, as we enter into knowing God’s will when we pray, know this— God’s will is that we approach Him boldly and confidently, not sheepishly or unworthily.
Now the reason we can have this boldness and confidence is because we are “in Christ.” That’s why the apostle John said that this is the confidence we have “in Him.” We are not confident in ourselves; we are confident in who He is in us! Amen! When we are in Christ, we are standing in all that He is—His righteousness, His holiness, and His complete perfection! If we gained a revelation of this, then we would not sheepishly approach God with our petitions. We would enter into His throne room boldly and with absolute confidence.
I know there are times where everything within us feels completely unworthy to approach God boldly and confidently because of the bad things we’ve done or because of the good things we should have done, but this is when we must depend on Scriptures like this that say it is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God that I come boldly before His throne of grace to obtain the mercy and grace that I have need of. My heart might be condemning the mess out of me, but I am walking by faith and not by how I feel. This is God’s will for all of us when we pray. Amen?
Then notice how John said that “if we ask anything.” This is obviously something he picked up from His Rabbi, the Lord Jesus. Time and time again, we see Jesus saying that we have permission to ask whatever we desire, anything, etc. and He put no qualifications on those things we are asking for. This is just amazing to me that we can ask anything and still have this kind of confidence when we pray.
However, many believers have taken these verses to mean that whatever carnal, selfish desire we ask for we will receive when we ask. But the qualification is given to us in this phrase— “according to His will.” So, no, this is not just asking for whatever we want. As James said, we can ask and not receive if we ask amiss that we may spend it on our own pleasures (See James 4:3). How many of you know that is not asking “according to His will”? Sure, the Lord doesn’t mind us having things and enjoying them. But when we are more concerned about our own wants and desires than the needs of others, we are out of the will of God. It doesn’t mean we will never receive from Him if this is the case, but it does mean we cannot have the same confidence we had if we were praying according to the will of God.
So, John goes on to say that if we ask anything according to the will of God “He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions, that we have asked of Him.” This statement indicates that if we can make sure God hears us when we pray, we know that have the answers of our petitions that we’ve asked of Him. That’s awesome!
But how can we make sure our petitions are heard by God? When we ask according to His will. So, in other words, if we ask according to His desires, what He wishes, and what pleases Him, then we can be assured of the fact that He heard us, and once we know He heard us, we know we have the things we petitioned Him for. In other words, it’s a done “deal” when we pray according to His “weal”!
Now some take this praying according to His will as what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, “Nevertheless, not what I will but your will be done.”
And while in some cases, it is important for us to include this in our prayers, God doesn’t want us to use that as an excuse for ignorance. No, the Word of God is clear that God’s will is that we know His will.
In Colossians 1:9, when the apostle Paul began praying for this body of believers, he asked God that they would be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” That is why the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 5:17— “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” So, it is clear that God’s will is for us to not just know His will, but to be filled with the knowledge and understanding of it. Amen?
I know there is a large group of Christians out there who believe otherwise, citing things like, “who can know the mind of God. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.” But what the New Testament teaches us is that all of those things that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has even entered into the heart of man, have been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit (See First Corinthians 2:9-10). Jesus said to His disciples that it was for them to know the mysteries of God. He went on to say that those who keep His commandments are His friends and He will make known to us what He is doing (John 15:14-15). I am reminded now of how the Lord did this with Abraham: After He came to visit Abraham and was about to go to Sodom, He said amongst Himself— “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing …” (Genesis 18:17).
You see, saints, we have a similar covenant with God that Abraham had! We are His disciples and friends today! Therefore, ought we not know the will of God? I believe God wants us to know His will and also pray His will.
So again, this does not mean that we need to tack on this phrase to all of our prayers. There are many things that we can absolutely know what God’s will is when we pray such as, we know it is God’s will to save everyone. He makes this crystal clear in His Word—that He desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Yes, He is not willing that anyone should perish but that all come to repentance.
So, we definitely are not to pray for the Lord to save someone and then say, “But not my will, Lord. Your will be done.” His Word makes it clear that it is His will to save that person.
But let me take this opportunity to make the point that it is also not best to pray that God save a person. For example, when we bring someone before the Lord in prayer, we don’t need to say to the Father— “God, please save them. I’m asking you to save them.” To pray that way implies God isn’t willing to save them and we are trying to get God to do what we will for Him to do.
No, a better way to pray for them is like so— “Father, I know it is your will to save them. You said in Your Word that you are not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance and come to the knowledge of the truth. But I know that they have a will too, and You in your graciousness, have given all men a free will to either choose or reject You. So, what I’m asking is that You open their eyes to see the truth. Lord, grant them light that they be not deceived any longer. Remove that veil from them that they can see the light of the glorious gospel and send those laborers across their path that will share that gospel to them …”
So, let’s now move into some questions: What is the will of God, and how can we know it? Because it seems that we need to discover what God’s will is so that we can get these kinds of results when we pray. Amen?
WHAT IS GOD’S WILL?
Now when we talk about God’s will, what this is specifically referring to is His desires, wishes, and what pleases Him.
So, what are God’s desires? What does He wish? And what is pleasing to Him? Well, there are obviously the things that the Holy Spirit leads us to do and the specific guidance that we get from Him. Those are obviously important things that are “according to His will.” But if we want to be more general about it, God’s Word is His will. Amen. That means we can find in the Bible everything we need to know about what God desires, what pleases Him, and what His wishes are. Yes, His Word reveals to us His general will for all people. And we need not forget that the Holy Spirit is not going to lead us do things contrary to the Word of God either.
Now we could spend weeks and even months talking about everything that His Word reveals to us is His will, but I believe John 15:7 puts it in a nutshell perfectly:
In this verse, Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
Notice that the first qualification for having the things we desire being done for us is that we abide in Jesus. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not referring to being in Christ or in Him like the apostle Paul refers to. This is remaining, staying, living and dwelling in Christ that the disciples were being exhorted to do. I see it as Jesus exhorting His disciples that even though He would be leaving them, for them not to leave Him. In other words, learn to keep their awareness of His presence in their lives even though He would not be physically present any longer. So, this shows that first having an abiding personal relationship with Jesus is important to having the rest of this verse working for us.
So, first of all, we can see that His will is that you and I enter into a vibrant, intimate, and personal relationship with the Godhead. That we love Him in this respect, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This has been His will from the beginning, and Jesus came to restore this fellowship between us and God. And along these lines, the Scriptures also teach us that His will is also that you and I love one another as He has loved us. That we esteem others better than ourselves. That we love mercy, show compassion, and lay down our lives that we might bless others. So, as Paul said to Timothy in First Timothy 1:5—the entire purpose of the commandment is love. On it, hangs all the law and the prophets. Amen?
To me, this parallels the truth we see in Psalm 37:4 when we are told that if we delight ourselves in the Lord that He will give us the desires of our heart. This verse is saying essentially the same thing at John 15:7—that if we make the Lord the object of our desires, we will “abide” in Him. And as Psalm 37:4 is teaching us, when we delight ourselves in Him, then our desires will be in line with His desires. This is when the desires of our heart will be according to His will.
But as John 15:7 also says, there is another way to pray according to God’s will, and that is when His word abides in us. You see, spending time in the Word of God is a major key to praying according to His will and, as a result, is a major key to receiving the answers to our prayers. And why? Again, it is because the Word of God is the will of God!
I remember one time when I was working at a Christian bookstore early in my Christian walk and a lady came in that asked, “Do you have any books on the will of God?” And immediately I responded, “Yeah, we have a whole wall of them over there!” as I pointed at the Bible section. I was not trying to be a smart aleck, it just kind of came out without me even thinking. But I believe what I said was the truth! You see, so many Christians would rather read a book on the will of God than The Book of the will of God! They would rather have someone else tell them what God’s will is than spending time in the Word of God which is the will of God.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that every scripture is God’s perfect will. If that were the case, then we might read one verse that says, “And Judas went and hung himself” and then combine it together with another verse that says, “Go and do likewise,” and conclude that it is God’s will that we go hang ourselves. No, obviously not everything we read in the Bible shows us God’s perfect will, but when we rightly divide the truth, we can see what God’s perfect will is for all people for all time. Therefore, God’s Word is the road map to understanding the will of God!
HOW TO PRAY GOD’S WILL
So, we take the truths from God’s Word as being His will, and we pray according to His will. But what does this look like? Practically, how do we do this? I’ll tell you how I do it—I pray God’s Word! Yes, my prayers are laced with “It is written, It is written, It is written.”
So say, I have a friend who has a financial need in their life. If this person is a believer, then I might pray like so— “Father, I bring so and so’s financial need before you. You are Jehovah Jireh—the Lord our Provider, and You have promised to meet our financial needs and, therefore, have instructed us to not worry or give any thought. So, as the apostle Paul declared, I say today, that my God will supply all of so and so’s need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. It is written, and God is able to make all grace abound toward them, that they, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed they have sown and increase the fruits of their righteousness. Amen.”
Now, of course, when we pray this for our friend, we need to also be very open to being the vessel that the Lord would use to help meet that need. We have a lot of Scriptural precedence for this—that it’s not just us saying “I’ll pray for you” without considering that we might be the one to help them.
This is a good example when it comes to praying for someone with a physical need in their body: While there certainly are times where we are to pray to God for someone to be healed from a distance, there are also a lot more Scriptural examples of us being the person to heal them and not just asking God to do it. Jesus said that the works He did, we will do and even greater works than this because He has gone to the Father. He goes on to say that those that believe will lay hands on the sick and see them recover. There are actually not too many examples of us praying for God to heal someone. We are told to heal them in His name.
So, I just say this to say that sometimes we are praying for things that God didn’t tell us to pray about. Rather, He told us to do something about it ourselves. Like I said, there are times where we certainly can and should pray about these things, but my point is that we need to let the Word of God reveal to us how we pray according to God’s will. Amen?
But when it comes to simply praying the will of God, I like to pray what the Word says because I believe that the Lord loves to hear His Word quoted back to Him. He said, “Put Me in remembrance …” (Isaiah 43:26). He also said that He hastens over His Word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12). This means that He stays ready to perform His Word. Not only that, but Psalm 103:20 says that His angels do His word, heeding the voice of His Word. So, when you and I pray and declare God’s Word, God is ready to perform it and so are His angels.
Man, how important it is that we give them something to work with through our prayer life!?! I just envision many of the Lord’s angels lounging around believers, just wishing that they would start praying God’s will so that they could get busy on their behalf. But these believers are praying their own will, many times griping, murmuring, and complaining while doing it.
RECEIVING THE WILL OF GOD
And again, the glorious promise is that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. Notice that John didn’t say that God answers our prayers when we pray according to His will; he just says that God hears us. Why is this so significant? It is because it shows us that the real determining factor to us getting answers to our prayers is if God is hearing those prayers or not. In other words, it is not a matter of if God says yes or no to our petitions. No, according to this verse, He does not reject one request and then answer the other. God is so good that He answers all the prayers that He hears! The key is if He is hearing our prayers or not! If He hears them, He will answer them!
In fact, the apostle John did not say He will answer them; he said that “we have the petitions.” This means that we ought to know that we have (presently, right now!) the petitions we made to Him. This does not necessarily mean that we will see, hear, or feel them. It just means that those petitions are presently ours in the mind of God, and we are to receive them by faith in order to possess them in this physical realm.
This is where the truths that Jesus taught us in Mark 11:24 come into play: In this verse, Jesus told us— “Therefore, I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
In this verse, we can assume that Jesus was referring to us praying according to the will of God when we compare Scriptures with Scriptures. So, according to Jesus, when we pray God’s will and believe we receive when we pray, we will have the things we’ve asked.
Now there are some parts to this that I have seen so many believers fail to understand: Again, Jesus said that whatever things you ask (or, desire) when you pray “believe you receive them.” So, when are we to believe we receive them? When we see the answers to our prayers? When we get the manifestation of the thing we’ve asked Him for? No, according to Jesus, we believe we receive when we pray. That means that we believe we’ve got it during the time we’ve asked for it. How few people actually do this!?! And Jesus promises us that when we believe we receive the things we’ve prayed for we “will have them.” That doesn’t mean that it will happen right away every time, but it does mean that we can be confident that we will have it at some point. This is the prayer of faith! Amen!
Church, this is where we have confidence when we pray—when we know we are praying according to His will. And this confidence can roll over into receiving our petitions because we know we’ve prayed according to God’s wishes.
This is how to pray, saints—the way God desires for us too! Amen!
So, we began a new series on the subject of prayer a few weeks back which I have entitled— “The Power and Protocol of Prayer.” And the reason I titled this series this is because while there is indeed power in prayer, the power that is contained in it is found in God’s protocol for prayer. In other words, it is not just any, old kind of prayer that gets results; it’s the kind of prayer that God lays out to us in His Word that holds great power.
So, this prayer protocol is a big part of what we are going to learn in this series. We are going to learn how prayer works and how to see the answers we desire when we pray.
Now we began in part one this series by asking the question—What is prayer? And I made the point that prayer is not a position or posture. It is not us getting on our knees, folding our hands, bowing our heads, and closing our eyes. Nor is it rehearsed or memorized statements that can be said with the person praying’s heart and mind being completely detached.
We defined prayer from the New Testament and found that it is “intimately approaching God (coming face to face with Him) for the purpose of communicating with Him.” In short, we could define prayer as our communion with God. This means that prayer is a part of the relationship that we have with God. And, of course, a big part of this relationship is that verbal communication that we have with each other.
Then, last time, we learned a lot of things that prayer is not. In short, we looked at things we need to be aware of “when we pray.”
We went over to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and looked at a section of Scriptures where, as Jesus was teaching on the motives of the heart and us not just outwardly observing religious deeds, He begins teaching on our prayer lives. And I made the point that we need to know why we are praying too, looking at our motives behind the things we are doing in prayer so that there is no room for hypocrisy in our prayer lives.
So, we looked at both the things Jesus told us to avoid and the things He told us to embrace from Matthew 6:5-8:
The first thing we took note of is that Jesus said three times in these verses “when you pray.” This shows us that Jesus assumes that a believer has a prayer life. No, it is not a matter of if we pray; it is when we pray.
But there were some warnings Jesus gives us when we pray: He said don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, but rather go to your “room” when you pray.
We saw that this, of course, does not mean that we are never to pray while standing on our feet, in a public place, with other people around. It was just simply a warning to not let our heart’s motivation be to be seen of men. No, our prayer closet is wherever we take it. It is that personal place of privacy and intimacy where it is just us and the Father. But we learned that it is also that place where we shut the door to outside distractions.
The next thing we saw was how the Lord then told us not to use vain repetitions when we pray. We saw that these are those meaningless and mechanically repeated phrases that we tend to use when we pray. And why? Because, as Jesus goes on to say, our Father knows what we have need of before we ask Him.
You see, it is easy to pray just a little longer and say more things because we believe if we word it just right or fill up more time, that God will answer our prayers. We can’t work our way to get God’s blessing. We just need to keep our prayers short and sweet and not believe we will be heard because we say more.
So, this is in essence what we learned last week:
These are just a few of the things we need to know “when we pray.”
So, what I want us to move into this week is what Jesus went on to say next in Matthew chapter 6. It is the answer to that very common question concerning prayer—How do you pray?
Now again, I want to remind you that it is not about the tempo of our prayers or the words we say as much as it is the heart behind our communication with the Lord. However, there is something to be said for how we organize and compartmentalize the things we say to God. And that’s what we will delve into this week …
OUR MODEL FOR PRAYER
In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus began to teach His disciples how to do just this in their prayer lives. And if you look at Luke’s account of this (Luke 11:1-4), you can see that His disciples asked Him this very same question which prompted His response. They said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).
Now no doubt, Jesus led by example. I am sure His disciples watched Him separate Himself from them for hours at a time to spend time with His Heavenly Father. I am sure there were times that they would wake up early in the morning and not find their Rabbi with them because He arose early in the morning to petition His Father. We know from the Scriptures that He would go up on a mountain and would spend the whole night in prayer. Jesus was a praying machine! And so, from His example, I’m sure His disciples implored Him to teach them how to pray. So, He did …
In Matthew’s account, Jesus began by saying, “In this manner, therefore pray,” Notice that Jesus said, “In this manner, therefore pray” and did not say “pray this prayer.”
You see, this prayer is what is commonly known as “the Lord’s Prayer” and so many groups of Christians have done with this prayer exactly what Jesus admonished us not to do in the verses right before, which is use vain repetitions (vs. 7). They have turned this prayer into a “vain repetition” by reciting it as a religious ritual, but that is the exact opposite of what Jesus was intending to accomplish by giving it to us.
When He said, “In this manner, therefore pray” He was giving us a pattern for prayer so that we can avoid using vain repetitions and get right to the point with God. So, in other words, what Jesus was really saying when He said “in this manner, therefore pray” was “pray according to this pattern,” or you could say that Jesus was giving His disciples the proper protocol for prayer.
THE FATHER SIDE OF GOD
Then Jesus begins to give us this pattern for prayer, and the first thing He does is address God as— “Our Father in heaven.”
You know, this seems on the surface as a relatively insignificant portion of this model prayer, but the exact opposite is true. What Jesus was saying was profound—especially to the Jewish people of His day! Jesus totally revolutionized the way they viewed “Yahweh” by constantly referring to Him as “My Father.” But this was not only an important revelation for them; it is to us as well.
You see, by seeing Him as “our Father” and not just as “our God” we will approach Him in a different manner. We will go beyond just seeing Him as “Able” and begin to see Him as “Willing.” We will go beyond just seeing Him as “Almighty” and begin to see Him as “All-Loving.” Yes, having a revelation that God Almighty is our Father will produce more confidence and boldness in our prayer lives.
This reminds me of the story I heard one time about a president’s daughter. As the president was sitting in the oval office conducting national business, his daughter ran through all the yellow tape that was put up to keep people from approaching Him and jumped right in his lap. The reason she did this was because she knew he was her daddy and, therefore, she could relate to Him different than any else. Likewise, when we see The Almighty God as our loving Father, then we will be more confident to approach Him even when we feel unworthy and unqualified.
So what is implied by Jesus in these two simple words “Our Father” is “Father—the One who loves me unconditionally, the One who I know will provide my every need, the One who hears me when I call, etc. etc. etc.” Jesus knew that the boldness and confidence this would produce and that it is the foundation of knowing how to pray effectively.
There is, however, a flip side to this: While we do want to get the revelation that God is our Father, we do not need to forget that He is still our God too. It seems like the enemy has been somewhat successful at getting much of the church in one of these two ditches …
Most see Him as their God and fail to see Him as their Father while others have gotten the revelation that He is their Father and become less revering of Him in the process. We need to see Him as He is in truth—Our Father God! Perhaps this is why Jesus added the two words “in heaven” to “our Father”—teaching us that while He is our Father, He is still in the highest most influential place as our God.
HALLOWING HIS NAME
Then Jesus continues by saying, “hallowed be Your name.”
This phrase shows us that our pattern for effective prayer starts off with thanksgiving, praise, and worship. Not only is it just the appropriate protocol to approach our God with worship and reverence, but it is also does us good as well. Let me explain …
The word “hallowed” comes from the Greek word hagaidzo and means “to set apart, dedicate, consecrate, or to make holy.” So, what does it mean to “set apart, consecrate, and make holy” His name? Well, the key to finding out the answer to this question is to, first of all, find out what the “name” of someone describes. The “name” of someone describes all that that person is: It describes their character and nature. It describes their authority and power. It also describes their reputation. So, when we “hallow His name” what we are doing is we are setting apart in our hearts all that He has a reputation for being and doing. And when we do this, those characteristics begin to become magnified in our own eyes because we are intentionally focusing on who He is.
But do you what most people do when they approach Father God in prayer? They hallow their own name. No, they don’t do this intentionally, rather, many Christians enter into their prayer times saying things like— “Oh God, I know I have not talked to you all day or that I missed it in this area and in that area and that I am an unworthy little worm, but…” This is praying in our own name, which is the wrong way to enter into God’s presence! Instead of us approaching Him talking about all that we are, why not approach Him declaring all that He is!?!
You see, we need to enter into His presence through “hallowing His name”, not “hallowing our name.” And we do this through giving Him thanks, praise, and worship! Yes, even if we feel like we are “good for nothing” then we should praise Him that He loves us despite our inadequacies. The bottom line is we need to stop magnifying our weaknesses and start magnifying His goodness! That is why Psalm 100:4 tells us to enter into His gates with thanksgiving because we magnify Him with thanksgiving (Psalm 69:30). And the result of us magnifying Him is our faith will soar!
SEEKING FIRST HIS KINGDOM
Then Jesus moves on to some specific requests that I believe continue to show us the correct protocol for our prayer lives: He says, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Notice that the first request Jesus mentions for us to make is for the kingdom of God. This goes right in line with what Jesus went on to say in verse 33 of this same chapter— “Seek first the kingdom of God…” (Matthew 6:33). What I believe Jesus was making a point of is that we must make sure our prayers are begun with the correct priorities, namely the kingdom of God.
You see, as we’ve seen, God already knows what we have need of before we ask Him, so it is really a waste of our breath to spend our whole time of prayer talking about our needs as if God is not aware of them. If we get our priorities right and put His kingdom business first then we will see our needs met faster and more abundantly because, as He went on to say in Matthew 6:33— “… and all these things shall be added to you.” This is a spiritual law that is repeated time and time again in God’s Word— If we seek His kingdom first then He’ll take care of our kingdom.
Do you remember the story of King Solomon (Second Chronicles 1:7-12)? God appeared to Him in the night and said to him— “Ask! What shall I give to you?” Of course, we know that Solomon’s sole request was for the wisdom and knowledge to rule over God’s people. Now I want you to see this: Solomon could have had anything he wanted, but what did he ask for? Yes, he asked for wisdom, but I want you to see why he asked for it. He asked for wisdom because it would benefit God’s kingdom—which at that time was the nation of Israel. So, in essence, he was fulfilling Matthew 6:33 by “Seeking first the Kingdom of God.” This was a type and shadow of this eternal principle that God wants us to follow as well—putting His Kingdom first! And look at what the result of Solomon’s decision was: God responded, “since you did not ask for riches, wealth, honor, or the life of your enemies, I will give you wisdom and knowledge plus wealth like you never imagined.” (vs. 11) You see, when Solomon put God’s kingdom first all those other natural things were added unto him as well!
Interestingly enough, when studying the New Testament prayers, you find that the emphasis is almost exclusively on His kingdom being accomplished in individuals and the church collectively. Like Solomon, it generally was for things like wisdom, revelation and understanding rather than prosperity, healing, and living a good life now in this life.
Now the Lord definitely wants us to have a healthy & wealthy life, but what He wants more than that is for our souls to prosper. Yes, He desires us to be fruitful so that His kingdom is coming in our own lives and in the lives that we encounter. This is God’s best.
NEVERTHELESS, NOT MY WILL
You know, sometimes our prayers are completely laced with our will—what we want and desire for ourselves. But according to Jesus, that is not the best way to pray. This is why Jesus went on to say, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Church, we should always strive to pray according to God’s will above all else. This is one of the main ways that we seek first God’s kingdom because a kingdom is a place where the will of a king is done.
I am reminded now of what Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (See Luke 22:42): Jesus was just hours away from the most horrible situation He would ever face and everything in Jesus’ flesh did not want to go through with it. So, He prayed vehemently for hours that, if there was any other way, God would take this cup away from Him. But the key was that He always ended these requests with “Nevertheless, not My will but Your will be done.” Now, in essence, what Jesus was saying was— “Father, I really do not want to go through with this, but I am willing to do it your way above what I want.”
You see, our prayers should be no different. We should be seeking God’s will above our own will in our prayer lives as well!
What makes this so difficult to do is that it requires faith: We have to believe that God’s plan—which usually does not appeal to our flesh—is the best thing for us. We have to trust that God’s way is going to ultimately benefit us more than our way would have.
I had a situation happen to me when we moved to Macon where I had the opportunity to put this principle into practice: When I went job hunting out here in Macon I had one interview with a bank that seemed like the right fit. It was the only interview I had and I was feeling the pressure of getting some income coming in to support my family. Everything in my flesh cried out to God— “I really want this job, Lord! Please give me this job!” But, thank God, I had enough sense to pray— “But not my will but your will be done.” Oh, I am so glad that I prayed that because I truly believe that if I would have asked Him for that other job He would have given it to me, and the job that He gave me instead is the perfect fit for me.
You see, I could not see His plan, but He had one. It did not make sense to me, but it did to Him. I just had to trust Him and submit to His plan, and as is the case every time, His will was the best thing for me.
GOD’S WILL REVEALED
Now there absolutely are certain times that we know what God’s will is and we need to pray specifically for those things to come to come to pass. So how do we know what His will is? Well, number one, God’s will is found in His Word, but Jesus went on to tell us to pray that God’s kingdom would come and His will would be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Wow! This one statement gives us tremendous insight into what is God’s will and what is not God’s will! It shows us that God’s will is exactly the way things are in heaven!
So, what are some of the realities of heaven that we should pray for?
Number one, there is a constant awareness and knowledge of Him. There are not people in heaven who vacillate between whether God exists or not. No, I can assure you that they fully know that God is almighty and totally glorious. I can assure you that they know His nature and are fully persuaded of His character.
And this is why praying the Pauline prayers is so powerful. It is because in all of his prayers, he mainly prayed for the church to be filled with the knowledge of His will. He prayed for them to possess a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. It was for understanding, wisdom, knowledge, etc. That’s evidently what the apostle Paul thought was important to pray for others.
So, likewise, when we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, we need to pray for people to know God more fully and intimately. We should pray for their hearts to be more persuaded of His nature and ability. We should pray for our brothers and sisters—just as Jesus did for Peter—that their faith would not fail in the times of adversity. This is God’s will being done on earth as things are in heaven right now.
In like manner, there is continual praise and worship of God going on in heaven. Therefore, we need to pray that the high praises of God would resound here on the earth just as they do in heaven.
Another characteristic of heaven is that those there operate in love, holiness, servanthood, and all the evidences of true spirituality. So, we should pray for people’s spiritual lives as well. We should pray for people to abound in the fruit of the Spirit. We should pray for people to learn to live separate from this carnal, natural world. We should pray for people to learn to serve one another and not be so self-centered. These are just some of the things that are God’s will for the human race.
Last, but not least, there is no lack of any kind in heaven either. There is no sickness, disease, or poverty there. There is nothing missing, and nothing broken. Therefore, we should pray against any of these curses when they rear their ugly head. As Jesus said— “God’s will on earth is the way it is in heaven!”
Then after we have first prayed for the kingdom of God and for God’s will to be done, Jesus said that we lift up our petitions to Him. Again, this is a very important part of prayer’s protocol because we are approaching the God of the universe and His things need to be put first. You see, He already understands what our needs are, and He has promised to take care of what concerns us as we put His things first.
OUR DAILY MANNA
Now let’s take a look at what Jesus told us to specifically ask for in this protocol of prayer—this day’s daily bread: Jesus said that the manner in which we pray is with this request--“Give us this day our daily bread.”
First of all, one point that needs to be made from this is that when Jesus uses the phrase “this day” and refers to our “daily” bread, that this implies that we are praying every day. Amen? I mean, unless we are fasting prayer on a particular day, we will be praying daily.
This is an obvious reference to the manna that God gave to the children of Israel in the wilderness. The reason I firmly believe this is because of the wording Jesus used— “Give us this day our daily bread.” You see, God commanded Israel to only collect the portion that they needed for each day. He was adamant about it. And the reason He specifically told them this was to test them to see if they would be obedient and trust Him. So I believe it is very significant that Jesus implied the same thing as God commanded the children of Israel with the manna—for His people to only focus on their daily need and not try and horde up some for the future.
Of course, Jesus was not referring to us praying for the literal manna that they had. So, what is He referring to? I believe it has a two-fold application:
On the surface, this appears to be a request for physical bread, but I believe Jesus had more in mind here rather than just natural food. I believe that He was also referring to our spiritual bread as well. You see, the “manna” given by God under the Old Testament was a type and shadow of Jesus (See John 6:35), which would also make it a reference to the Word of God (Compare Matthew 4:4). So, when Jesus told us to pray— “Give us this day our daily bread”—what He was alluding to was “Pray for God to give you the spiritual nourishment from Me and from His Word daily.”
You see, every day we need to partake of Christ and experience the strengthening and empowerment that comes through abiding in Him. Every day we need to be nourished with the life-giving Word of God, hearing what the Spirit would say to us daily. Every day we need to fill our tanks up through His manifest presence and His revealed Word. This is not just something that we need on Sundays. We need our spiritual nourishment everyday just as we need our physical nourishment every day.
Now this can also be a reference to natural provision such as food, finances, etc., but the bottom line is that it is an obvious reference to our present daily need.
Why was this obviously so important to Jesus? It is because God wants us to daily depend on Him, just as he wanted the Israelites to daily depend on Him with the manna. He doesn’t want us to worry about tomorrow or get fretful about a month down the road. He wants us to trust Him daily for our needs to be met—both spiritual and natural.
In Philippians 4:19, there is something that is often overlooked in this verse. Paul says, “And my God shall supply all your need …” Notice he did not say “needs.” He said “need” (singular). I believe the significance of this is that God will provide every need that will ever arise in our lives— individually and daily.
PRAYING IN LOVE
Then notice what Jesus mentions next— “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).
If you look back a chapter in Matthew 5:44, the first thing Jesus ever taught us concerning prayer was that we are to pray in love. He taught us in this verse to “pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
You see, when we are walking with the Lord then people will come out of the woodwork to hate us, curse us, persecute us, and spitefully use us. So, when this happens, we must have this foundational aspect of prayer at work in our lives. We must love our enemies by giving to them when they try and hurt us. We must speak good things about those who speak negatively of us. We must do good things for those who hate us. And, last but not least, we must pray for those who mistreat us! By operating in these spiritual principles, we unlock the grace that it takes to love and forgive! This is extremely important to fulfilling this command to forgive when we stand praying.
Here is, in my estimation, one of the greatest prayers we can pray—"Lord, help me to see both myself and others through Your eyes.” You see, if we can see other people the way the Lord sees them, there is a good chance we might have a totally different perspective of those we see as our “debtors.” Especially when we see ourselves through God’s eyes first. Then we might realize— “Hey, I’ve done the same thing to the Lord that they are doing to me. Thank you for forgiving me, Lord. Now I forgive them as your have forgiven me.”
I have had the Lord do this with me on a number of occassions: When someone I knew came across as proud, haughty, and arrogant, the Lord showed me that they were really just insecure and used those other things to cover up the fact that they did not have any self-confidence.
In this case, if we have someone who is being mean, hateful and hurtful towards us, the Lord might show us that they are simply acting out of their ignorance. The ultimate example of this was when Jesus hung on the Cross and said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Did you that was the truth? Jesus was not trying to be spiritual, but knew that the only reason they were having Him crucified was because they were ignorant. As the apostle Paul said, if they had known what they were doing, they would not have crucified the Lord of the glory.
You see, I have come to discover that the primary reason that people do hateful things is because they hate themselves. The reason they hurt others is because they are hurting themselves. The reason they try and take things away from others is because they are empty themselves. The list can go on and on. But the bottom line is, if everyone walked in their created value, there would not be much room for becoming one of these hurtful people.
So, it’s not just the prayers that say, “they need to change God,” that we ought to be praying. Maybe we are the ones who need to change the way we are seeing them. Let’s get the plank out of our own eye instead of always trying to clean the specks out of others. Amen?
Then Jesus moved on to say, “And do not lead us into temptation,” (Matthew 6:13a) …
This statement used to trouble me because on the surface it seemed as if Jesus was telling us to pray that God would not lead us into the temptation that He was planning to lead us into. Of course, that would not make any sense. To think that God will lead us into temptation violates other Scriptures that say that God cannot be tempted by evil nor does He Himself tempt anyone (See James 1:13). So what does this statement mean? Jesus was giving us the pattern of praying for God’s direction and leading so that we do not even enter temptation.
You see, Jesus did not teach us to pray that God would help us to overcome temptation. He taught us to pray for God’s leading so that we would not even enter into temptation. There is a big difference. In Matthew 26:41 Jesus said, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation…” Again, He told us what we need to do so that we would not even enter into temptation, much less overcome it!
And did you know that our prayer lives can keep us out of a lot of unnecessary temptations? That’s what Jesus was teaching His disciples in the Garden. I believe that simply having this kind of prayer life and requesting the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can receive supernatural guidance from Him and greatly lessen the difficulties we seem to stumble into regularly.
You see, I believe there are many circumstances and situations that we find ourselves in that were never God’s will for us to go through. The reason we enter into many of them is because we never sought God for direction. We just blared through that “check” of the Holy Spirit and never inquired of the Lord to whether or not we should go that direction or make that decision. This is why it is so important to pray that God would lead us out of tempting circumstances and situations that would hinder His perfect will for our lives.
This is what is available to us under our new and better covenant—the ability to be led by God’s Spirit! We don’t have to have those rare, spectacular visitations to give us direction. We have God’s Spirit on the inside of us leading us and guiding us into all truth and into God’s perfect plan for our lives. The key is learning to recognize that still small voice and recognizing that inward witness that He gives us. And a way that Jesus told us to do this is to pray that we would be led (by God’s Spirit) out of all temptation.
Then Jesus, staying along the same lines, said, “but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13b). In this one statement Jesus was showing us how important it is for us to look to God for protection and deliverance from the enemy.
How many of you know that He wouldn’t tell you and I to pray this way if He didn’t want to deliver us? But this is why Jesus told us to incorporate this in our prayer life. It’s because we need to invite Him to do it.
Sure, the Lord wants to give you and I the kingdom of God. Jesus told us that it was the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32), yet Jesus told us to pray that His kingdom would come. Of course, we know that the Lord desires to give us our daily bread, but we told us to request that He give it to us. Likewise, God’s desire is for us to escape the temptations of the devil and be delivered from the evil one, but again, we are told to pray for these things. This is all because the Lord needs us to invite His will in our lives. Then it can be performed. Amen.
You see, we live in a fallen world where our enemy exercises his authority. We are not of this world, but since we live in this world we are constantly on his hit-list. It is for this reason that we need to constantly pray for God’s deliverance and protection from the enemy, not only for ourselves and our loved ones, but for those on the front lines.
You see, we need to focus on praying this for other people too. This is what Jesus did for Simon Peter in Luke 22:31-32. He perceived that Satan desired to sift Peter like wheat, but He prayed for him that his faith would not fail.
You see, we all need to pray for each other because Satan is constantly trying to sift us as wheat. Our prayers are what give us the strength to withstand the devices of the devil. None of us stand a chance against His wiles in ourselves. He is much too smart, but when we pray for God’s help Satan doesn’t stand a chance!
THE SANDWICH TECHNIQUE
I do, however, want to comment on one more part of this prayer that I feel is tremendously important to understand. And it is the statement Jesus concluded His model prayer with-- “for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matthew 6:14). Jesus culminates this pattern of prayer with this resounding statement and I believe this is good habit for us to have in our prayer lives as well.
You see, just as Jesus taught us to begin our prayers with thanksgiving, praise, and worship with the phrase— “Hallowed be your name”, He finishes up by teaching us the same. This is what many people would call “the sandwich technique.”
Let me give you an example: Paul gave us an example of this “sandwich technique” in Philippians 4:6 when he said, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Notice that he was saying that when we feel ourselves starting to worry about something that we need to start out with “prayer,” then present our “supplication,” and end with “thanksgiving.” As we’ve seen already, the word “prayer” does not describe our requests because why would there be an obvious distinction between “prayer” and “supplications” (which literally means “requests”)?
So, if you look at this “sandwich technique” given to us by the Apostle Paul you will see him telling us to start off with our communion with God—just telling Him we love Him and acknowledging who He is while also listening to Him. Then we go into the request for the situation that we are feeling some anxiety about. And then after that, we throw the other piece of bread on there, which is thanking Him for providing the answer and for all that He is.
You see, the point both Paul and Jesus were making was that we are to begin and end our prayers focusing on Him! Now we are not talking about some way of manipulating God through flattery because He sees right through that. What we are saying is to give Him the proper recognition that He is due. And as we have already made the point of, not only is it the proper protocol. but it also gets our eyes on the solution instead of the problem.
So, this prayer model Jesus gave us in Matthew chapter 6 shows us the will of God for our prayer lives. And if we would follow this pattern of prayer, I guarantee you that we will find less needs present in our lives and can then focus all the more on His kingdom coming and His will being done in others lives.
Church, this is the protocol of prayer. It is the way of approaching the Father and the way of sealing the deal. In short, it is the way to pray. Amen.
Last Sunday, we started a new series about prayer entitled— “The Power and Protocol of Prayer.” The reason I titled this series this is because these are two very important things that I believe we need to understand about prayer: We need to first know that there is indeed power in prayer. When you and I pray to the Father in Jesus’ name, heaven and earth can be moved to see results when, in the natural, there seems like there is no way things could ever change. So, prayer—the kind God has intended—is indeed super powerful. But I also included the word “protocol” because in order for us to tap into the power that is contained prayer, we need to understand how it works.
We looked at James 5:16 last week and saw how Pastor James said that “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” And we saw that the words “avails much” means that it “possesses a great amount of power and ability.” So, prayer holds awesome power! But not just our own idea of prayer, but a specific kind of prayer—the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man or woman. In other words, in order to be more effective in our prayer lives and to see its potential power, we must learn God’s protocol for this powerful kind of prayer.
The word “protocol” describes an official procedure, a system of rules, or we might say a proper way of approaching someone or something. How many of you know that God has given us a way of how to approach Him and a procedure of how to approach prayer itself? He most certainly has! There are rules He’s put into place that get the best results in this area.
So, this prayer protocol is a big part of what we are going to learn in this series: What prayer is; what it’s not; how to do it; etc. In short, we are going to learn how prayer works and how to see the answers we desire when we pray.
Last week, we began with the question—What is prayer?
I made the point that to some, prayer is no more than a position or posture. To them, it is us getting on our knees, folding our hands, bowing our heads, and closing our eyes. To others, it is rehearsed or memorized statements that can be said with the person praying’s heart and mind being completely detached. But is this true?
I am the type of person that likes to ask questions like—Why do we do this? Why do we get on our knees when we pray? Why do we close our eyes? Why do we bow our head? Why do we say the things we say? Now I believe that some of these things are good to do when we pray, but I also believe that we need to know why they are good and not just do them out of tradition or habit.
So, we also learned from this that just because somebody prays, it doesn’t mean that they know God or are a truly spiritual person. In fact, prayer is one of those things that even those who do not know God can do.
The truth is—religion (the bad kind) loves to pray. We see that the other religions of the world, like Muslims, Hindus, etc., pray much more religiously than most of us Christians do. Now based on what we know to be true, these other religions that pray do not know the one true and living God, right? So, the fact that someone prays does not make them godly or spiritual. In fact, Jesus taught us that hypocrites love to pray (We will cover this more this week).
So, we defined prayer from the New Testament and found that it is “intimately approaching God (coming face to face with Him) for the purpose of communicating with Him.” In short, we could define prayer as our communion with God.
You see, the word “communion” describes the union of two people. So, prayer is simply our coming together with God and enjoying fellowship with Him. This means that prayer is a part of the relationship that we have with God. And, of course, a big part of this relationship is that verbal communication that we have with each other. This means that prayer is so much more than our requests and petitions; prayer is the vehicle which drives our relationship with God. In other words, our prayer life is how we arrive at a healthy, vibrant relationship with the Lord because it requires us communicating with Him.
When asking people to pray before, I’ve gotten responses like— “I don’t know how to pray.” I’m like— “You obviously know how to talk. So why can’t you pray?” You see, praying is simply communicating with God like you and I communicate with any of us. It is not using words you don’t normally use or talking in a way you don’t normally talk. No, there is not some special thing about prayer other than you are communicating with someone whom you cannot see. Therefore, it requires faith to do so. But the communication with God itself does not require some fancy, unique talk.
But we learned that this is what Christianity is all about—relationship with God. Yes, it is not a religion, but a relationship. It is what the Lord intended from the very beginning when He created man. He wanted someone created in His likeness and image that He could come, walk, and talk with. He just wanted a family—He wanted a marriage and He wanted children. This is why the New Covenant that we have with God is described as the relationship between a Father and His children and a Husband and His bride.
Church, I said these things today because we need to know what prayer truly is. Once we know this and act on these truths, I believe we can begin to experience the power of prayer in our lives—because we know the One whom we are praying to. Amen? This is the first step in the protocol of prayer—basing it on relationship and not religion. Amen.
WHEN YOU PRAY
So, since we learned what prayer is last week; this week we will learn what prayer is not. In short, we will be looking at things we need to be aware of “when we pray.”
So, I want us to go over to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and look at a section of Scriptures where, as Jesus was teaching on the motives of the heart and us not just outwardly observing religious deeds, He begins teaching on our prayer lives. Therefore, when Jesus begins to tell us how to pray, He is primarily dealing with our motives for praying. And, church, this is an important part of prayer.
I made the point last week that we need to ask questions as to why we do the things that we do. Why do we get on our knees? Why do we fold our hands? Why do we close our eyes and bow our heads? If we do things like this when we pray, we need to know why we do them instead of just doing them out of tradition or habit.
Well, I believe we need to know why we are praying too, looking at our motives behind the things we are doing in prayer. This is what I believe Jesus was doing in Matthew 6:5-8—He was exposing the hypocrisy of prayer. He was revealing the hidden motives behind these religious prayers and exposing the error in it. And I believe these are things we need to address as well so that we can make sure that none of this hypocrisy is in our prayer lives. Amen?
Jesus begins in Matthew 6:5 by saying, “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”
Notice, first of all, that He said, “And when you pray…” So, Jesus opened up with this statement that assumes that we have a prayer life. In fact, He begins verses 6 & 7 with this same statement as well. So, in the mouth of three witnesses, this word ought to be established in us—that it is not a matter of if you pray; it is when you pray.
You see, most believers look at prayer as a suggested and beneficial thing to do but they do not see it as something God actually expects from us. But the truth is—prayer is not an option; prayer is a commandment! In fact, prayerlessness is actually sin! In First Samuel 12:23, the Prophet Samuel told the people of Israel, “Far it be from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you…” We can see this same mentality throughout the letters of the apostle Paul where he continuously talked about how he never ceased to pray for the churches. Paul also taught those he was writing to that they were to follow his example. In First Thessalonians 5:17 he told us that we are to “pray without ceasing.” In Ephesians 6:18, he said, “praying always…” Therefore, this unceasing and continuous prayer life that Paul possessed was also something he expected other believers to have as well.
So, when Jesus said, “when you pray,” He was assuming that we possess this unceasing and continuous prayer life. This shows us that prayer is to be an expected part of our life. Amen?
Then Jesus begins to tell His hearers that when we pray, we are not to be like the “hypocrites.” Now the hypocrites He was referring to were obviously the religious leaders of that day. So, what that shows us is that if those who were supposed to be the leading the Israelites in their religious functions were praying hypocritically, how easy do you suppose it would be for us to do the same?
Then notice that Jesus went on to say, “for they love to pray…” So, apparently hypocrites “love to pray.” This goes back to the point I made last week, when I said that just because someone spends time in prayer does not mean they are spiritual or know God. Jesus said here that even the most hypocritical believers love to pray. And Jesus goes on to say why they love to do it: it is because they love the praise of men. This goes back to what I said earlier when we always need to make sure we have no ulterior motives for praying.
You see, the flesh just loves to pray these beautifully orated prayers when people are listening. It just loves to tell people things like how we spent hours in prayer and that if they have seen a breakthrough that we were praying for them. Pride is subtle thing. It desires the praise and glory of man.
Notice that Jesus said— “For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets …” So, these hypocrites loved to stand while they prayed.
Now first of all, I would like to preface this by saying that Jesus was not condemning people who stand while they pray. He was condemning those that did it “to be seen of men.” It is not wrong to stand while praying, but what is wrong is when one does it to attract attention to themselves. But there are other things to look out for when it comes to our posture in prayer.
As we’ve seen, prayer is simply communicating with God and is not a specific position or posture. Sometimes it is appropriate to bow our knees in reverence or close our eyes to focus, but we are not to get religious about it and say that we have to do these things every time. When we bow our knees, we are demonstrating our inward reverence and respect for our Father God. But just because we bow our knees does not mean that we are reverencing God in our hearts. It could just be a religious practice or something we do out of tradition. But I believe it is safe to say that if we never get on our knees and/or face before the Lord that we don’t truly see Him for who He really is (assuming we physically are able to do so). A proud person will not want to lie prostrate before the Lord, therefore, it takes humility to bow our knees and to lie on our face before the Lord.
But Jesus said that they also loved to stand “on the corners of the streets.” This describes the places where the most people would be. Therefore, it can apply to where the most people can hear them. Then the problem can be that when we are in front of others and in the spotlight, we can have a tendency to “perform.” And a lot of people look for this spotlight thinking— “Where can I pray so that the most people can hear me? or “What can I pray so that the more people would be impressed by me?”
And the entire problem with this (as Jesus goes on to say) is that they do it so “that they may be seen by men.” Again, this performance-based mentality is what is in view here. Jesus is not condemning any particular posture or any particular place of prayer. He is, however, condemning the motive behind many of these things.
I would also like to add that people not only pray “to be seen by men” but they also pray “to be heard by men.” One form of this is called “over the shoulder” prayers. This is prayer that is talking to other people over God’s shoulder. In other words, they act like they are talking to God, but are really saying what they are saying for the benefit of others in the room. For example, a pastor might pray— “God, thank you for all of those who showed up on time today”—while his underlying motive is to heap conviction on people who were late. In other words, He wasn’t really saying that for God’s benefit; he was saying it for the tardy one’s benefit. How about this example? Someone who comes to a prayer meeting and has a bill that needs to be paid, prays, “Father, you know about my need—my light bill of $159.99. I ask you to meet this need—my power bill in the amount of $159.99. Thank You, Lord, for being my provider—of my Georgia Power Company bill of $159.99.” Now we laugh when we hear that—but you understand that people do things like this. Let it not be so with us. Amen?
And here is the problem: As Jesus went on to say, “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”
You see, when our motives are wrong, then all those things we are looking for from others to receive will be the only rewards for our prayers, not the answers we desire. On the other hand, if our motives are pure and sincere, then we can expect our reward to be the answers to our prayers. But one has to make the decision: Do they want the answers to their prayers or the praises of people?
THE PRAYER CLOSET
Then in Matthew 6:6, Jesus went on to say, “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Now, after telling us how not to pray, He begins with the two words “But you, when you pray…” By using the words “But you…”, this is Jesus telling us how we need to pray in order to avoid these bad motives of the hypocrites. Then we see that He says, “when you pray.” Again, showing us that prayer in a Christian’s life is assumed and expected.
Jesus then goes on to tell us to go into our “room.” The original King James version uses the word “closet.” Now many have taken this verse literally to say that we need to clean out our shoes and clothes so that we can pray in our literal closet. Although this is an admirable attempt to fulfill Jesus’ instructions here, it is not what He meant. This word that used for “room,” the Greek word tameion, does not describe a closet, but rather a “bedchamber.” (And, of course, this does not mean that we have to go to our bedroom every time we are going to pray either.)
So, what is a “bedchamber?” A “bedchamber” is a place of privacy and intimacy in a relationship between a man and a woman. So, since prayer is literally the overflow of our fellowship & relationship with God, we must see the importance of having our own place of privacy and intimacy with Him. And just as things done in a bedroom are to remain private and personal between a husband and wife, likewise, our prayer life is to be a private and personal thing between us and God and not to be shared with others. Every relationship needs this special place. In fact, it is a good idea to have a “holy” room in your house that has been consecrated to your alone time with God—not that you only need to pray there, but it is a special place where you meet with God.
But, of course, Jesus was not advocating that every time we pray, we must go to our private place because that would nullify the rest of the Scriptures that tell us to pray all the time. We cannot get away every time we need to pray because we have places to go and people to see. First Timothy 2:8 says, “I desire therefore that men pray everywhere…” So, we can see that it is needful to have that private place, but the vast majority of prayer must be done while we are out in the world.
We can learn this from the greatest example of prayer that there ever was—Jesus! Throughout the four Gospels we can see how Jesus spent great amounts of time in prayer away from the people. In Mark 1:35 we are told— “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” In Luke 5:16, we see— “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” Matthew 14:23 says, “…He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray … He was alone there.” So, we can see from these examples that Jesus separated from other people in order to commune with God. He knew how to find that place of privacy and intimacy.
And then Jesus said something that is super important— “And when you have shut your door …” There are at least two possible meanings to this phrase: One is “and when you have made sure that you have cut off any signs of hidden ulterior motives.” You see, sometimes Christians will leave their “door” (i.e. connection to people) open so that others can hear or see them praying. This is what the hypocrites of Jesus’ day did. They left their “door” open so that they could be seen of men. But the other possible meaning is “and when you cut off any possible distractions or interruptions.” This is very important to understand in regard to your alone time with God. When you commit to separate yourself with God the enemy will throw everything he can at you to distract you. The phone will ring, the baby will cry, the dog will start barking, etc. He will fight that alone time with God more than anything else. And he will not only do these external things, but he will also begin to war on your mind. Yes, during those times your mind will drift, and you will think of everything in the world that you could be doing outside of fellowshipping with God. You will think about decluttering your garage, calling your aunt that you have not talked to in forever, or how your bedroom needs to be repainted. Things that you normally would not think of will just miraculously come to mind in these private times with God. So, what we must do is “shut the door”—close off any outside distractions and interruptions! If you must turn your phone off, then do it! If you must turn the lights off and pray in the dark, then do it! Do whatever it takes to spend time with God and to stay focused on Him during that time.
So, after you and I go to our place of intimacy with the Lord and close the door, Jesus said, “pray to your Father who is in the secret place …” This phrase shows us that God dwells in that secret place of privacy. But this phrase “the secret place” carries with it a lot of awesome truth!
We learn from the 91st Psalm that the promise of divine protection and blessing is found by those who dwell in this secret place. Psalm 91:1 says, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” You see, many claim the promises found in Psalm 91 as their own, but this first verse is the key qualifier for the rest of the promises contained in the Psalm.
Do you remember that passage of Scripture where Jesus said to His disciples- “the place that I go you cannot go…”? Well, while the common consensus was that He was talking about God’s presence in heaven, I believe Jesus was mainly talking about God’s presence here on the earth. In other words, He was talking about the secret place—that place of intimacy where no one could go with Him. Now they could certainly have that private place with the Lord—just them and Him. But they could not follow Him into His prayer closet because that was only reserved for Him and His Father alone.
So, we can see that the secret place is that spiritual place where the Father is. It is that place where just you and He go to spend time with one another. In other words, it is His manifest presence that you and I deliberately choose to enter into as we commune with Him. Amen!
We see this throughout the Psalms as well, where the Hebrew word translated “secret” in Psalm 91:1 is used. Let’s look at some of them:
So, we can clearly see here that the secret place is the secret place of His presence! On top of that, this verse says that this is the place where we are hidden in this secret place.
You see, this shows us that one of the primary keys to living the blessed, victorious and abundant life God has promised us, is to live in this “secret place” of fellowship with the Lord. We must learn how valuable that time in the “secret place” is! This is the time where we can take a dip into the manifest presence of God and, as Psalm 91 goes on to say, we will live an extremely blessed and prosperous life! The closer we get to God the more blessed we will be because God is a blessing!
But the point Jesus was making in Matthew 6:6 is similar to what He taught us in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector found in Luke chapter 18. In this Parable, Jesus told of these two individuals who went to pray before God, and He said that the Pharisee stood and prayed “thus with himself.” (See Luke 18:11).
You see, when we pray to be seen of men or with these impure motives, we are praying with ourselves and not with God. God dwells in the place of privacy and sincerity. He wants it to just be us and Him. He seeks such as these to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Then finally, Jesus provides the promise to those who pray to the Father in the secret place at the end of Matthew 6:6--“And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” When we pray and fast in a secret manner so that it stays between us and God and avoid the temptation to broadcast it to everyone, God says He will reward us openly. That means He will give us the answer to those prayers in a public way for others to see. God rewards humility and then He broadcasts it! Amen!
Let’s now look at Matthew 6:7 where Jesus went on to say, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”
So, after the third and final time of saying, “And when you pray,” Jesus said for us not to “use vain repetitions as the heathen do.” The phrase “vain repetitions” literally means “to speak without thinking or to say meaningless and mechanically repeated phrases,” and this is certainly something that those who do not know God tend to do.
Now it is important to note that Jesus did not intend for us to think that any repetitive type of prayer was wrong, just the “vain” kind of “repetitions.” You see, it is not wrong to repeat your petitions because both Jesus and Paul did it (Matthew 26:36-36 & Second Corinthians 12:7-8). According to Jesus, a prayer becomes a “vain repetition” when the motivation is that someone thinks they will be heard for their many words. And while not many people think this is what they are doing, they are.
You see, it is easy to pray just a little longer and say more things because we believe if we word it just right or fill up more time, that God will answer our prayers. We can’t work our way to get God’s blessing. God only responds to our faith, not our works. You have heard of the phrase “praying through.” Some people have the mentality that if they pray long enough God will finally answer their prayer. This is not true! Praying through affects us, not God. If you could get to a place of faith where you believe God heard you the first time and loves you enough to provide, you can get the same results praying once. This is what Jesus was warning against—that underlying belief system that we will be heard because of what we say or how much we say it.
But “vain repetitions” range beyond just this—they are also the prayers where we are just babbling words that have no heart behind them. We must make sure that when we are praying that we are sincerely thinking about what we are saying. It is easy to let our mouth move, and at the same time, let our mind run down the street. When this happens, we can simply be using “vain repetitions” and our prayers will not avail much.
You see, many believers become so accustomed to their own phrases and prayers that they just come out of their mouth mechanically. All of us have one routine prayer in our system; and once we get rid of it, then we can really start praying.
For example, some Christians have a routine prayer for the blessing at dinner. They will repeat the same prayer over every meal that they pray for. This is a vain repetition! Praying over our meals is a sacred thing. It is supposed to be a time where we thank God for the food that we are about to eat and where we ask Him to make it fit to enter His temples. All of our prayers need to be full of our hearts and our minds. We must learn to commune with God a lot like we would with other people.
If I were talking to you, you would think I was crazy if every other word out of my mouth was your name, like “Robert, I ask you for … Robert, would you give it to me … Robert, I thank you for hearing me …” Others automatically transform into Elizabethan English when they pray, saying their “thou’s, thee’s, etc.” Simply put, this is just praying religiously. It is not a sin, but we need to strive to go to new levels in our prayer lives. Prayer is simply communion with God and although we are to pay God more respect than we even do other people, we don’t need to be distant in our dialogue with Him. Simply put—if I talked to others like I talk to God, would they think I’m weird?
One of the Ten Commandments is that we are not to take the Lord’s name in vain. This does not only mean to say those bad phrases. It just simply means to speak the Lord’s name in an empty manner. A couple of examples would be saying, “Oh my God!” or “Good Lord Almighty.” Even saying these things is speaking the Lord’s name in an empty manner. A good rule of thumb to go by would be to evaluate whenever we are using the Lord’s name whether we are talking to God or about God. Some believers use the name of Jesus very loosely in their prayer times. We need to make sure we are never speaking His name emptily whether it be in a joking manner or in a religious manner.
Finally, in Matthew 6:8, Jesus says, “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”
Jesus is saying here that God already knows what we are going to ask Him for, so why do we have to continually ask for something and pray these long drawn out prayers. I am convinced the reason why some people pray these long drawn out prayers is because that is the only time they pray, and they feel like they have to go through certain things to get God’s favor. We will be more confident to make these short requests if we are praying continuously because we know God’s been on the line all day. It is like, if I never talked to my rich aunt, but I need something from her, would I be confident enough to call her up and get right to the request? No, I would feel obligated to go through the formalities of small talk until, 30 minutes later, I could ask her for what I needed. On the other hand, if I talked to her every day, I would feel more confident in calling her up when I needed something and getting straight to the point. My point is—having a constant and continual prayer life breed’s confidence.
This is why I say that the vast majority of our prayer time should be fellowship, praise, and worship! A very minimal amount of prayer should be asking God for our needs to be met. We should be spending more time asking for others needs to be met—first spiritually, then naturally! But with so many, prayer time is enveloped with our own needs and our own desires. If we would just seek first the kingdom of God through seeking first the King (i.e. fellowship, praise, and worship) and His servants (i.e. interceding, etc.) then we would not have to worry about our own kingdom because it will be taken care of.
Now, in conclusion, a question I have always had is—If God already knows what we have need of before we ask Him, then why do we even have to ask? Why doesn’t He just do it? This is a good question, and one that we need to understand in our charismatic circles …
You see, in our modern day charismatic, word of faith and grace circles, I believe we have taken certain truths (that are indeed truths) and developed unscriptural doctrines out of them. Let me explain …
Within the past few decades, we have increased in our understanding that we are not waiting on God to do anything. We have come to find out that He has already done everything He is going to do through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And while these are truths that need to be understood, we have somehow minimized the importance of prayers and supplications at the same time. We have not learned to balance the asking part with the believing part.
In most of the radical teachings that have come out concerning faith and grace, it is implied that asking is unbelief because you are somehow not believing He has already done it. But if that were true, then that would nullify countless Scriptures in the New Testament that specifically tell us to ask. Let me give you just a few of them …
Now that is quite a few New Testament Scriptures concerning asking, isn’t it?
But it’s important to understand that the Greek word used for “ask” has several different derivatives in its definition such as “to beg, request, plead, desire, crave, and demand.” So, you can see from this definition that asking can mean anything from “begging” to “demanding.”
Now biblical asking is not in any way “begging or pleading.” We are told to ask in faith, which is being firmly convinced that what you are asking for is God’s will and/or that He loves you enough to give you the desires of your heart. To “beg” God is a totally unscriptural and ineffective way of asking.
On the other hand, when we ask we are not to get in the other ditch and start demanding things from God like we are bossing Him around. Some have gotten over into this and are void of honor and respect for their God. While it is Scriptural and necessary to remind God of what He has said (not that He has forgotten, but because it is good for us), we are not to do it in a disrespectful manner.
So what is the balance? We are to ask in faith—understanding the will and heart of our Heavenly Father, but we are also to ask in a humble and respectful way because He is our God as well as our Father.
With all of this said, the basic meaning of this Greek word for “ask” is what you normally think of when you think of “asking.” As a matter of fact, if you look up every time this Greek word is used in the New Testament, you will find that in instances in the Gospels and the Book of Acts it just simply meant to make a request. I say all of this lest we try and over-think what this word “really” means in order to back up our pet doctrines. It means what you would think it means.
So, since we have a scriptural precedence for “asking” under the New Testament, we need to ask ourselves some questions: When is it appropriate to ask? What are we supposed to ask for? How do we ask for it?
So, let’s start by answering the question that we started out this teaching with: Why do we have to ask? The reason why we need to ask even though God already knows what we have need of before we ask is because it is a matter of legalities. Let me briefly explain …
God created this world and then delegated His authority to the first man, Adam. Psalms states that the heavens are the Lord’s, but the earth has He given to the sons of men. Adam, through willful disobedience, handed over that authority to the enemy, but Jesus came to win back that authority for all of those who are in Him. So, God, through Jesus Christ, has freely given to the church His authority. And since He has given us the dominion on the earth, it is up to us to see His will come to pass on the earth. He has set it up so that if His will is going to come to pass it will have to come to pass through human beings. Therefore, things come to pass that are His will when physical human beings exercise their right to ask, demand, and command. This is why we must ask for things. It’s because God has put us in the driver’s seat. Tell me He’s not a faith God😊
In Matthew 18:18, Jesus told us that whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. And if you look at the following verse, prayer is the understood subject.
So, from this we can see the authority that has been freely given to us by God on this earth. Whatever is bound on earth is what will be bound in heaven. Whatever we loose on earth is what will be loosed in heaven. Notice that in both cases it starts on earth and then heaven follows. This is how God has set it up! He has given us the authority on the earth and so whatever we bind and loose through prayer is what will be bound and loosed in heaven.
You see, when Jesus said, “Knock and it shall be opened to you” He was showing us this same principle: We have to knock in order for the doors to be opened. Why doesn’t God just open doors on His own? Why do we have to knock first? It is because of this structure of authority God has set up on the earth …
A good question is then—Why would He have set things up this way? I believe one of the main reasons is because it is simply His nature to do this.
You see, God is the epitome of a gentleman. This is demonstrated the best in the fact that He has given us the free will that He has. God is not one to intrude and make anybody do anything they don’t want to do. Therefore, He wants us to invite Him into our lives. He wants us to invite Him to do what He already desires to do for us. You see, God’s greatest desire is to be desired. And one of the greatest ways that we invite Him is through simply asking (or you could say petitioning Him).
So, today we’ve seen several things that we need to understand “when we pray.”
These are just a few of the things we need to know “when we pray.” Prayer is not us standing in the synagogues (i.e. church) and in other places where people can see us. God is the One we are praying to, not them. So, we go to that “secret place” and pray to Him who is unseen. Prayer is not us using a bunch of words. It is us using that K.I.S.S. principle—keep it simple saint--for when we make it simple and simply have communion with Him, receiving from Him becomes simple as well. Amen.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:7-8, “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.”
How many of you have asked for something and didn’t receive, sought for something and didn’t find, and knocked and it wasn’t opened? The truth is—None of us have. I know there are a lot of us that think that we have, but if Jesus said that everyone who asks receives, then in my book, that’s true and all our experiences are not.
Yes, either what Jesus said is true or it’s not—and, church, I don’t believe Jesus was mistaken when He said this. No, I believe it is far more likely that we are mistaken in how we are hearing what He said. In other words, Jesus was likely referring to a different kind of asking, seeking, and knocking than what we have in mind when we think of these things. No, it’s asking the way that He taught us. It’s seeking the way we see it described in the Scriptures. It’s the kind of knocking that the Lord considers knocking, not what we think knocking is.
Let me give you an example of this: I’ve been in my office before and people have come to the door of the church office and knocked and I didn’t hear them knocking, and because I never heard them, I never opened the door. I wonder if that’s ever happened with us and the Lord. I wonder if we’ve knocked but it was not a knocking that He heard, so the door never got opened for us.
How about the asking part? Have you ever had someone come to you asking for something and they did it in a way that you considered inappropriate, and because of that, you didn’t give it to them? Now I am not implying that we need to say “pretty please” to the Lord in order to get our prayers answered. I’m simply making the point that our idea of asking and God’s idea of asking might not be the same. That is why we need to study to show ourselves approved in order to find out what the Lord has told us about prayer and how to see the answers to those prayers because I believe that if we ask, seek and knock the way the Lord intended, we will be heard by God and receive the answers every time just like Jesus said here. Amen?
I make this point, not to have us go back into our past and try and figure out why we didn’t receive what we asked or to feel condemned about these times. It is simply to help us understand that there is indeed a protocol to experiencing the power found in prayer to where we do indeed receive the answers to our prayers.
So, this is what we will be learning starting today as we begin a new series about prayer. And I am entitling this series— “The Power and Protocol of Prayer.”
Now the reason I am entitling this series this is because these are two very important things that I believe we need to understand about prayer: We need to first know that there is indeed power in prayer. When you and I pray to the Father in Jesus’ name, heaven and earth can be moved to see results when, in the natural, there seems like there is no way things could ever change. So, prayer—the kind God has intended—is powerful, and it requires faith to know this.
So, let’s turn over to James 5:13-18 and look at a section of Scripture that talks about the power that is in prayer:
James starts in verse 13 by saying— “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.” What does he say to do when we are suffering? Let him pray! He doesn’t say— “Call up your friends and get them to pray for you.” No! He says that we are to pray for ourselves.
Not interpreting it this way would be the same as interpreting the next part as “Is anyone cheerful? Let him ask somebody else to sing a song for him.” That would be ridiculous! If you are happy then you sing a song. Likewise, if you are going through something then you pray.
James is not saying that you should never ask somebody else to pray for you because of what he goes on to say in verse 14 but, as a general rule, we should take the responsibility to pray and trust in the Lord ourselves. You see, it does not take a lot of effort to ask people to pray for you when you are suffering. Immature believers will pass the buck on to somebody else and lean on their faith to see their breakthroughs. They will run to the phone before they run to the throne! So many times, when we are having hardships, we become too focused on our self and begin to call everyone we can think of to get them to “agree” with us in prayer. If you look ahead to verse 16 James tells us where our focus should be. He says, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” When we are going through something, we shouldn’t call everyone up to get them to pray for us. Instead, we need to call everyone up to pray for them! When you focus on praying for others that are going through similar struggles you will reap the answers to your prayers. Love never fails!
In verse 14 James went on to give us the example of a sick person calling for the elders of the church to anoint and pray for them. Now this does not contradict what we talked about from the previous verse. The word “sick” here describes someone that is extremely weak—even to the point of being bedbound. Thus the reason he had to call for the elders to come to him. So this describes someone who is too weak to believe for themselves. Just as Moses needed help to keep his arms lifted, so those that are extremely sick sometimes need friends to pick them up and tear the roof open for them to get their miracle.
Verse 15 goes on to describe what gets the results when these elders anoint the sick with oil in the name of the Lord. He says, “And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” You see, it was not the oil that brought the healing; it was faith and the Lord! Someone might say, “Wait a minute Trey! Jesus is the healer, not us!” That’s right…but Jesus Himself attributed peoples healing to their own faith. He said to the women with the issue of blood— “Your faith has made you whole!” The healing power comes from God, but our faith is what grabs hold of that power and takes it for its own!
Then after James describes the prayer of faith in reference to healing, he begins in verse 16 to explain that there are also times that we need to pray earnestly and fervently for some things. You see, there are those times and circumstances that we are to pray the prayer of faith—which is, praying one time and believing we receive—but there are also times that we need to pray continuously with perseverance.
At the end of verse 16 James gives us a tremendous promise concerning those persevering kind of prayers. He says, “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” The words “effective fervent” are the translation of the one Greek word energeo. This describes a prayer that is continuously active and energetic (This word is where we get our English word “energy” from). In other words, it is a prayer that does not lose its passion and zeal. But rather, it is a prayer that remains full of energy and power after time. The word that is translated “prayer” in this verse is deesis which makes this a poor translation. The word deesis describes the requests and petitions in our prayer times. A better translation would have been “supplication.” James says that the energetic, fervent petitioning of a righteous man “avails much.” The word “avails” comes from the Greek word ischuo and describes “inherent power”—that is, “the power that one possesses.” So, the way you could translate “avails much” is— “possesses a great amount of power and ability.” Wow! Do you see that? James is saying that the continuous, fervent, and energetic supplications of a righteous man (or woman, of course) possess awesome power!
Someone might be thinking- “What kind of power?” Then James gives us an example of the Prophet Elijah in verse 17 & 18. He starts off by saying that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.” The King James Version says that he was “a man subject to like passions as we are.” What James was trying to get across to us was that Elijah was just a regular person like us. He was subject to the same feelings and emotions as any human being. In other words, he was not “superhuman.” He was just “human!” He had his ups and downs just like we all do. So, James’ point was this—that we do not need to look at the answered prayers of Elijah as unattainable because, after all, he was a man of God. No, we are not any less than him! As a matter of fact, what we have is greater than what he had! Jesus said in Luke 7:28 that there was no greater prophet than John the Baptist. And that would include Elijah! But the most amazing statement in that verse is what Jesus said next— “but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” That would include everyone who is born again! Jesus was saying that everyone under the New Covenant has something better than what John the Baptist, Moses, and Elijah had! Wow! Now that does not mean that we have done greater obviously, but it means that we can do greater!
The difference between Elijah and us is that, first of all, Elijah walked with God (which is a lesson in itself) and second, James says that “he prayed earnestly” (The Greek text actually says that “with prayer he prayed.” This was a Hebruism and denotes that he prayed earnestly.) James is giving a great example of how the “continual energetic petition of a righteous man possesses a great amount of power!” When James “prayed earnestly” that it would not rain, it did not rain for 3 years and 6 months! The tremendous power that was made available through his earnest prayer was that it did not rain until (vs.18) he prayed again! His prayer stopped the course of nature and then started it back again!
But I want you to notice that this phrase— “the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”—is a specific kind of prayer. So, guess what else is required in order to experience the power in prayer? It is understanding how prayer works.
You see, it is not just our own idea of prayer that avails much; it is the kind of prayer that God reveals to us in His Word that has this mountain moving potential. In other words, in order to be more effective in our prayer lives and to see its potential power, we must learn God’s protocol for this powerful kind of prayer.
The word “protocol” describes an official procedure, a system of rules, or we might say a proper way of approaching someone or something. How many of you know that God has given us a way of how to approach Him and a procedure of how to approach prayer itself? He most certainly has! There are rules He’s put into place that get the best results in this area.
So, this prayer protocol is a big part of what we are going to learn in this series: What prayer is; what it’s not; how to do it; etc. In short, we are going to learn how prayer works and how to see the answers we desire when we pray.
So, as we enter into this study, I want to begin this week with this question—What is prayer? In order to tap into its power and learn how it works, we first need to know what it is, right?
WHAT IS PRAYER?
So, what is prayer? If I were to ask you this question, what would your answer be? To some, prayer is no more than a position or posture. To them, it is us getting on our knees, folding our hands, bowing our heads, and closing our eyes. To others, it is rehearsed or memorized statements that can be said with the person praying’s heart and mind being completely detached. But is this true?
I am the type of person that likes to ask questions like—Why do we do this? Why do we get on our knees when we pray? Why do we close our eyes? Why do we bow our head? Why do we say the things we say? Now I believe that some of these things are good to do when we pray, but I also believe that we need to know why they are good and not just do them out of tradition or habit.
For example, I’ve heard Pastor Robert use this as an analogy, that when he was a child, his family would say “grace” at the dinner table, saying that cookie cutter prayer, that “God is great, God is good, Let us thank Him for our food …” but it never dawned on him that God actually was great and that He really is good.
You see, I believe people say a lot of things when they pray, but they do not truly realize what they are saying. Here is another example—a lot of us have it engrained in us that when someone sneezes, that we say, “Bless you.” It’s just good manners, right? But why is that good manners? I know there is a back story to why we do bless someone when they sneeze, but are these things biblically based and necessary?
Now I am not trying to get you or your children to stop acknowledging someone who sneezes. I just think we need to ask questions like this so that we are not doing things simply out of tradition with no understanding as to why we are doing them. I think prayer has a lot of those “Bless you’s.” I believe people do certain things under the guise of prayer simply because it,s what was modeled to them, it’s how they’ve been trained, or it’s just tradition.
So, we need to understand that just because somebody prays, it doesn’t mean that they know God or are a truly spiritual person. In fact, prayer is one of those things that even those who do not know God can do.
That’s right—religion (the bad kind) loves to pray. We see it is with the other religions of the world like Muslims, Hindus, etc. who pray much more religiously than most of us Christians do. Now based on what we know to be true, these other religions that pray do not know the one true and living God, right? So, the fact that someone prays does not make them godly or spiritual. In fact, Jesus taught us that hypocrites love to pray (We will cover this more next week).
So, I say all of this to say that there are types of prayer that are absolutely ineffective and not a clear reflection of someone’s healthy relationship with God. On the other hand, there is a right kind of prayer that holds tremendous power to move heaven and earth.
So, my heart in this teaching is for us to discover how to be more effective in our prayer lives, and also to put into our hearts a desire to do more of it. Amen?
So, let’s now look at the word commonly used for “prayer” in the New Testament. It is the Greek word proseuche. It comes from two Greek words:
The first word is pros which literally means “unto or towards” and denotes “facing” someone or something. Now while it can describe simply turning towards something or someone who is at a distance, it is also used to describe drawing near and coming face to face with that person or thing. I believe the latter description is what is intended when it comes to prayer. Why? It is because God specifically told us in this New Covenant to draw near to Him (James 4:8) and to come boldly before His throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). And the reason we can do this is because we who once were far off, have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13).
So, I see this word pros describing to us the proximity of prayer. We boldly draw near and come “face to face” with God. This is a big difference between “Call Him up, call Him up, and telling Him what I want” (that’s a song, by the way) and going to see Him in person, which is what we are invited to do.
It is also interesting to note that the Greek word used for “worship” uses this same prefix pros also. So, to me, this prefix describes a place of intimacy that whether one is praying to God or worshipping Him, directly drawing near and face to face with Him is a prerequisite.
So, when I pray, I ought not to see what I am doing as I’m way down here and He’s way up there somewhere and I hope if I shoot some of these buckshot prayers into the heavens, one of them will hit. No, this describes to me that I can approach the God of the Universe and face Him personally and intimately. It is me entering into His throne room and presenting my worship, petitions, fellowship, etc. to Him.
Now the second word included in “prayer” is euchomai which means “to wish, desire or pray.” The root word describes making a vow or oath. Now a vow or oath is not a request, is it? No, these are statements, not requests. So, what would “euchomai” describe? This word would describe not only our requests and petitions; this would also include, simply, our conversations with God.
You see, most people only see prayer as petitions, but let’s look at a couple of verses that clearly do not agree with that theology--Philippians 4:6 & Ephesians 6:18.
In both of these passages, the apostle Paul used the phrase “prayer and supplication.” Isn’t it interesting that Paul makes a distinction between “prayer” and “supplication”? The word “supplication” literally describes fervently asking God for things. So, prayer is obviously not just our requests.
So, since I just made the point that at the root of prayer is a “vow,” and vows denote making a commitment or a promise to someone, when does one generally make these statements? These statements of commitment (i.e. vows) generally come during our times of worship of, and fellowship with, God. Therefore, this second part of our literal definition of prayer shows us that prayer involves our fellowship with God and our praise & worship of Him.
SO, WHAT IS PRAYER AGAIN?
Herein lies the difference between what prayer truly is and what man has considered it to be: Prayer, in its purest form, is simply our communication with God based on the relationship we have with Him. It is not just us petitioning Him for our needs to be met (although this is one aspect of prayer) but includes fellowshipping with Him through simply talking to Him.
So, in light of this, allow me to give you my definition of prayer: Prayer, literally, is “intimately approaching God (coming face to face with Him) for the purpose of communicating with Him.” In short, you could define prayer as our communion with God.
You see, the word “communion” describes the union of two people. So, prayer is simply our coming together with God and enjoying fellowship with Him. This means that prayer is the relationship that we have with God. And, of course, a big part of this relationship is that verbal communication that we have with each other. This means that prayer is so much more than our requests and petitions; prayer is the vehicle which drives our relationship with God.
Now as I made the point of earlier, we can pray and not have a relationship with God, but we cannot have a relationship with God and not pray.
Yes, we have a lot of people who can pray up a storm and spend lots of time praying, but they don’t know God. But how can you and I know God without communicating with Him? We can’t. Sure, we can know about Him—learning things that teach us who He is—but in order to know Him and have this personal relationship with Him, we must communicate with Him through prayer.
So, it is for this reason that I see prayer not as our relationship with God, but as the vehicle that drives our relationship with Him. In other words, our prayer life is how we arrive at a healthy, vibrant relationship with the Lord because it requires us communicating with Him.
Aren’t the relationships that we have with one another driven by good, healthy, and constant communication?
Now when it comes to, say, the relationship between a husband and a wife, while it is good to have special times with our spouse, the vast majority of the time involved in a relationship is not going on dates. This is only a fraction of the time that a husband and wife will spend together.
So, although these date times are wonderful and necessary, relationships are not all about intimate contact and romance. We cannot have these intimate moments with our spouse all of the time, can we? The majority of our time spent in one another’s presence is in the other type of time that I described earlier—the times involving other necessary things such as our children, jobs, hobbies, etc.
You see, the downfall of many married couples is that although they go on the occasional “date” and have the occasional “intimate” moments, they do not make the effort to strengthen their relationship with their spouse during the daily affairs of their life. They do not really communicate. They do not touch. They only practice these things when they go on dates and when they have special moments. But by learning to “practice their presence” during these times where distractions are present is what takes a relationship from being just normal to becoming great!
Most experts say that the first and foremost key to a healthy marriage relationship is constant communication! They say that a marriage relationship is maintained, not by special occasions or date times alone, but through learning to consistently communicate throughout the day in and day out activities of life.
You see, after we begin our new life with our significant other, things tend to become busy and cluttered. Usually, during the time we are married, life begins coming at us real fast. Usually, we are beginning our careers—which take much of our attention and some of our energy. Then we have children—who demand all of our attention and take all of our energy. And these distractions of life never stop. So, if we are not careful, the time we spent successfully communicating with our spouse either before we were married or soon after we got married, can begin to suffer. This is when we must learn to cultivate a lifestyle of communication with our spouse even when other things are vying for our attention. This is when we must learn to keep those lines of communication open throughout the day for all seven days of the week.
So how does this apply to prayer? Well, God’s Word instructs us to pray without ceasing, does it not? So, when you view this command from the perspective of everything revolving around a personal relationship with God, First Thessalonians 5:18 is saying that God desires for us to remain in a place of constant communication with Him! Therefore, we can see that just as constant communication is important in any natural relationship, God apparently thinks that it is just as important in our relationship with Him as well.
You see, so many Christians who actually are successful in practicing communicating with God on a regular basis just talk to God during the special times they set aside for Him like; for instance, first thing in the morning. This is a good practice; do not get me wrong. But the problem is that after that time they spent communicating with Him in the morning, they hang up the phone with Him and do not talk to Him the rest of the day. This is, of course, unless they have an emergency. But, you see, what “praying without ceasing” means is that we do not ever hang up the phone! We need to stay on the line with Him all day long and keep those lines of communication open continuously!
And this constant communication is needful in all relationships. It is not just limited to the marriage relationship, but should be practiced in all aspects of a family. As a matter of fact, all of these things that we have discussed today that make up a good relationship between both a parent & child and a husband & wife are applicable to making any relationship prosper.
But while many of the things I just said apply to the marriage relationship, I truly speak concerning a Husband and a Father who passionately loves us. So, let’s become that bride that is passionately in love with our Groom—Jesus Christ! Let’s become that child that ministers to our Heavenly Father!
What a grand opportunity we have, for how can it be that our God desires to have a relationship with you and I!?! I tell you the truth, He desires this from you more than anything else you could do for Him! He, first of all, desires a personal relationship with you and then He wants for you to introduce others to Him for the same purpose. This is Christianity in its simplest terms— relationship with God!
THE PURPOSE OF PRAYER
And church, this is what it’s all about—having a vibrant, personal relationship with God! It is what the Lord intended from the very beginning when He created man. He wanted someone created in His likeness and image that He could come, walk and talk with. He just wanted a family—He wanted a marriage and He wanted children. This is why the New Covenant that we have with God is described as the relationship between a Father and His children and a Husband and His bride.
No, in the Garden, there was not anyone there who needed to be prayed through for salvation. There were not any bills that needed to be paid. There was not anything that they needed to ask God for. Yet they walked and talked with God in the cool of the day. So, since there was not anything they needed to ask God for, what did they talk to God about? They just came face to face with Him with the purpose of communing with Him! That is, they fellowshipped with Him and they also praised and worshipped Him. They had a relationship with Him! They asked Him questions and they listened to His answers. God did not create them for any other reason but to simply have a relationship with them. And if that is the original reason man was created, then we can be sure that that is God’s perfect will for us today.
Having this relationship with God (i.e. prayer) is the primary purpose of our salvation. We were not primarily created so that we can evangelize the world, but we were created so that we can intimately know the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Someone might argue, “How can you say that? Winning the lost is our primary objective as children of God!” I can say that because, again, why did God create Adam? It was not to win the lost, but it was to commune with Him. Revelation 4:11 says that all things were and are created for His pleasure. And mankind was one of God’s creations. So that means that we were created for the pleasure of God. So how do we bring pleasure to God? By worshipping Him, praising Him, thanking Him, and just simply fellowshipping with Him!
Jesus said in John 3:16— “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus came for one purpose— that we would have eternal life and not perish!
What is eternal life? Because I’ve got news for you: You are going to live forever either in hell or heaven! So “eternal life” could not just be living forever. Jesus describes eternal life in John 17:3— “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” The Father’s goal for sending Jesus was for us to come into intimate fellowship with Him and His Son! Eternal life does not start when we die and go to heaven. In John 3:36 Jesus said, “he who believes in the Son has everlasting life.” Not that he will have everlasting life but that he immediately possesses eternal life—which is, having a relationship with God the Father and God the Son.
Since having a relationship with God is the high call of every believer, then we need to act like it, and not be religious in our ways of praying. Prayer is not a position or a posture. Prayer is not having your head bowed and your eyes closed. Prayer is simply communion with God—whether it is walking, sitting, standing, eyes open, or eyes shut. Prayer is just talking to God and sometimes it is appropriate to bow our knees in reverence or close our eyes to focus when we are communing with Him but we cannot get legalistic about it and say we have to do these things every time.
You see, we need to think about why we do some of the things we do. Are we lifting our hands out of some traditional habit? Are we bowing our head because our Sunday school teacher, Sister so and so, said we should? And just because we begin our prayers with “Our Father” and end them with “in the name of Jesus” does not make it prayer either. We can go through all these religious formalities of prayer and never have those words enter the ears of God. It is not these external rituals that make our prayers acceptable. It is the attitude we have in our heart that God is looking at when we pray!
Church, I say these things today because we need to know what prayer truly is. Once we know this and act on these truths, I believe we can begin to experience the power of prayer in our lives—because we know the One whom we are praying to. Amen? This is the first step in the protocol of prayer—basing it on relationship and not religion. Amen.