1 John 5:14-15 “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.“
I have a concern about prayer within the church. Far too long I’ve witnessed prayer being used as a catch-all for every trouble, every need, and every malady that affects our lives.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe prayer is crucial, it is the very lifeline necessary in the life of a believer. Without prayer we cut off our ability to communicate with God.
Where I see the error is in the approach. The concept of prayer is good if it is done under the right pretense and in the right spirit. Prayer can be contrary to God’s will, it can be obstructed by conflict, and it can be a scapegoat for action. I’ve witnessed people praying for others, only to find out the prayer was not received by them because they prayed to another god. We can easily say a prayer, but praying to the God not just any god is vital. I’ve had people who were muslim, new age, or even buddhist ask me to pray for them, in doing so I make sure they know who it is I’m praying to. My prayer initially isn’t one that entails getting their kids back, helping with housing or bills, the prayer is for their salvation and that they might know who the One true God really is. Everything else carries so eternal weight, unless through answered prayer it leads them to Christ.
I John 5:16 “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.”
John made it clear that praying for someone who has rejected the call of the Spirit on their life is a waste of time. You can pray until your blue in the face in hopes that God would guide them out of trouble, but if they have openly blasphemed the Holy Spirit by rejecting His call to repentance, everything else is just empty hope. You might try to relieve someone’s suffering by saying a prayer with them, but the hope is only temporary, eventually their rebellion and sin will only magnify their troubles.
When you pray, do you ask God according to your will or His will?
Our will is for long life, good health, continual healing, families unified, removal of bad decisions we’ve made, bad relationships, bad habits….etc.
It’s so easy to pray but we must ask ourselves a few questions when we do.
- Am I concerned more about God fixing me than I am about me doing something about it? The Word of God leads us toward life and godliness, if we choose to follow it. James 1:21-22 “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” If I over eat or simply eat poorly, I’m going to gain weight and and with that weight comes a host of other problems. Diabetes, musculoskeletal issues, edema, shortness of breath, and sometimes even more dangerous maladies like deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and stroke. I can pray and ask God to help me but am I willing to help myself? The Lord directs our paths, He imparts wisdom, and He ultimately leads us toward new life, but along the way, we have to allow the wisdom He has imparted to become a functional part of our lives. The classic saying that “God helps those who help themselves” is misleading. God not only helps those who can’t help themselves but it is the way He helps that people seem to take issue with.
- Is my will at the forefront of my prayer? When Jesus instructed His disciples on how to pray, He made it clear what our focus should be on. Matthew 6:10 “Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.” The will of the Father is a subject that has inspired great debate. The search for God’s will in regards to how we apply it in life is the prayer of the wise. For those that seek God’s will through prayer and petition, the first step is easiest, the second is a little harder to receive. The willingness to accept God’s revealed will can be difficult if it conflicts with a preconceived notion of what God’s will is. If God instructs us to travel to a distant land, live on meager rations, and give your life for a people that you do not know….this is a decision that is life altering and therefore requires a considerable investment. People can be willing to invest some time into prayer, but investing your life into God’s plan takes a bit more effort.
- Am I coming to God with humility? Coming to God is equated to approaching the altar of sacrifice. We sacrifice our time, energy, and our will into His sovereign care. If we approach His altar, which can be anywhere we choose it to be, then we must come with a heart of obedience. Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” The offense toward another is one that reflects a lack of love. I have a hard time being patient with those who are ultra liberal. I have an even harder time listening to their rhetoric. I struggle in knowing how to confront evil without showing a form of hatred. I don’t hate these people, I hate what they stand for, what they do, and what they promote. As people who God loves, I sense God’s love for them, it’s the foolishness that is hard to break through. If the Lord instructs me to love, I must love. Obedience before the Lord is a reflection of my love for Him. If I’m not obedient, I can’t say I truly love God.
James 5:16 “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
Why does the prayer of a righteous man or woman carry so much significance?
Righteousness is rewarded in two ways:
- When someone accepts the grace of God through Jesus Christ, they are given the righteousness of Christ as a reward. The righteousness of Christ is His perfection, we are made right in God’s eyes by the perfection that Jesus accomplished for us.
- When someone walks in righteousness, they walk according to God’s perfect nature. The moral law is reflective of God’s nature and therefore becomes the spiritual guidelines for honoring the Lord. Obedience stems from this concept as well as how we love God and others.
When a righteousness person prays, they are walking in the love of God. They are in tune with God’s will and purpose, and they’re hearts desire becomes synonymous with God’s will and purpose. If the Lord is leading and we are following, then it stands to reason that whatever we pray according to His will, it will be accomplished. Nothing can stand against God, therefore nothing can stand against His will. Our prayers are not answered because we are good people, God answers them because God is good and His ways are just.
This scripture in James has often been taken out of context in regards to physical healing. Confessing sin is to address a spiritual sickness, praying for one another is to place our spiritual well being back into the hands of God and realign our will with His, when we pray according to this standard, we are healed in our relationship with Him. It is by spiritual healing that we receive the greatest peace, joy, and comfort. We think that physical healing is a top priority but you can be the fittest person on earth and still be empty.
We talked about how to be effective in your prayers but what does effective prayer look like in its course over time?
Having the patience to wait on God’s plan can be one of the most difficult places to be in. We must remember, if God is not moving in how you thought He would, that doesn’t mean He isn’t acting.
Waiting is acting.
Isaiah 30:18 “Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.”
Sometimes the waiting is on us. If our hearts can receive all that we are praying for, the process of God preparing us can be difficult to receive. Sometimes God is preparing others. If we can’t appreciate fully were someone else is, we don’t fully understand what an answer to our prayers might do to their life.
The good news is, God knows what’s best for us and He acts accordingly. We hate to see people suffer but suffering produces godliness when it is initiated by God.
When we suffer for sin, we suffer according to the poor moral choices we make in life and remove ourselves from God’s perfect will.
Drawing close to the Lord helps bring clarity in the midst of suffering and our prayers also become better focused in regards to faith and trust.
Praying with good Intentions
Matthew 5:6-8 “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 by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 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. 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.
“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
If praying in the open to be seen by others is a form of spiritual hypocrisy, then a key element of prayer is honest, willful, humility before God.
I’ve always wondered why we need to pray if God knows our thoughts and what we will speak before we even say it. Psalm 44:21 “If we had forgotten the name of our God, Or stretched out our hands to a foreign god, Would not God search this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.”
If I bring my fears, concerns, or trouble before the Lord in prayer, I’m not instructing God in something He is unaware of. He is not only aware of my circumstances, He is probably very involved in my circumstances.
So why am I encouraged to pray about these things?
My heart tells the truth of how reliant I am upon God’s strength. I think prayer is more for us than it is for God. When we focus our attention on Him, when we kneel before Him and plead our cause or just listen, we humble ourselves before the Lord and recognize His sovereignty over all things. Prayer is important because it is a reminder of who is on the throne….and it’s not us.
We are encouraged to pray without ceasing in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, this would be very difficult to do and still live life if your prayer time was always in a closet or on your knees.
Prayer is a heart issue. It refocuses our hearts back toward Jesus when everything in life attempts to place the weight on us.
There is so much more about prayer that can be said, what seems to be more important is that you practice it, alone, collectively, whatever the circumstance it is a vital aspect of our spiritual walk with Christ and should not be neglected.