A Voice in the
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit...(Jude1:20)
"..praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints; (Eph6:18)
Periodically someone will send me a "prayer request." Often the request has a note attached to it, suggesting that it be passed on to as many people as possible.
One of the mailing lists I'm on included in their current mailing a request for people to pray for them. The "flavor" of this request almost sounded like the Lord's effectiveness through their ministry was in proportion to "how many" people were praying. In other words, if 1000 people were praying, instead of 500, they would somehow be "twice as effective" in ministry.
One recent request to pray for some (particular) persecuted Christians included the prescription that, we need to get a whole lot of people praying for them, "just as the disciples were praying for Peter when he was in prison."
Many of these requests have the "sound" to them, such as is mentioned in "The Power of What?" (Issue 013) ...that "God's power is released" through prayer. That, somehow God is "limited" in what He can do if not enough Christians are praying. As though God may be wringing His hands in frustration, 'Oh, I wish more people were praying so I could do My will!' NOT HARDLY!! God says, "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,'(Isa 46:9-10)
That God released Peter from prison "in spite of" the prayers is obvious, since, when he arrived at the house and Rhoda "announced that Peter stood before the gate" they didn't believe her.(Acts12:15) And when they finally went and opened for him, "they were astonished."
These are not reactions of people praying in FAITH. Jesus had taught, "And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." (Mt21:22) James goes on to say about the person who prays without faith, "For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."(1:7)
Jesus' disciples came asking Him to teach them to pray. Were they looking, perhaps, as many today do, for some "secret formula" for EFFECTIVE PRAYER? That they could somehow have "power" in prayer? Most people look to the words Jesus gave, often labeled "The Lord's Prayer." But the primary instruction is discarded.
On the recent "Day of Prayer" a local TV news anchor showed herself praying up at the pulpit of some local church group, and then was grinning smugly after the clip had been played. Jesus said, "You shall not be like the hypocrites. They love...to be seen by men."(Mt6:5~) Many pray by slipping beads on a string. The more beads..the more prayers. We "non-pagans" repeat certain formulae before each meal, at the beginning of worship, for this or that occasion. Jesus said, "do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do."(vs7)
So, what is the key to prayer? "Go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place.."(vs6)
Prayer is an INDIVIDUAL THING. Just as "individuals" are Saved or lost before God, so is prayer and communion. (This is not to belittle group praying. That's another subject.) The best understanding of the nature of prayer can be found in Romans 8.
1) First of all, we must be "in the Spirit." "You are..in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you."(vs9a) And conversely, "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His."(vs9b)
2) We must yearn an intimate fellowship with God. "You received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God."(vs15-16) If you don't know whether or not you are a Christian, you are not. If you are, the Holy Spirit will let you know. There is fellowship. There is a "knowing" that you are His.
3) Prayer is accomplished BY the Holy Spirit. "For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the [Holy] Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."(vs26) As we are in fellowship because of the Holy Spirit, prayer goes TO GOD through the Holy Spirit.
However, Jesus, is also part of the prayer "process." Jesus' "job" right now is to "make intercession" for us.(vs27) Jesus knows our hearts, even better than we do, because He is "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."(Heb4:12-13) We "give account" to the Judge and Master.(Rom14:11-12,Mt25:14-19~)
This same Jesus, Who knows our hearts so well, also is in intimate communion with the Holy Spirit and knows His will.(vs27) He also is "one" with the Father (Jn17:21~) and knows His will (Jn4:34,8:29), and intercedes for us before the Father.(Heb7:25,1Jn2:1)
With this understanding, is it any wonder, then, that John could confidently affirm, "If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." The whole Trinity of the God-head is involved in the prayer! Jesus had taught, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him...the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things...whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you."(Jn14:23,26;16:23) True prayer will not be outside His will.
This kind of prayer does not come from singing 69 refrains of "Bless me Jesus" and "Allelujah," swaying and swooning, moaning and sighing, being "spirit-filled" and falling on the floor out of control, and making "claims" with God; telling Him what He "must do," ...acting like little gods.
Rather, it realizes God's holiness, and our finiteness, that "we do not know what we should pray for as we ought."(Rom8:26) Coming to Him as "dear children" imitate their parents.(Eph5:1) As "newborn babes desiring the pure milk of the Word."(1Pet2:2) Having the "mind of Christ."(1Cor2:16)