The Prayer Series - Part 3

Jan 19, 2014
2Tim 4:16
At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.

Now here in contrast to the previous prayer for retribution, Paul prays for mercy upon those who abandoned him. Why the difference? Well we notice that Jesus forgave Peter even after Peter publically denied him, but Jesus did not forgive Judas. Under pressure Christians unintentionally don't always do the right thing. In fact even Paul, prior to his conversion, characterized himself as, "I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man". Yet at the time he felt he was acting in good faith with a clear conscience in the will of God, though he was mistaken. He goes on to say, "I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief." 1Tim 1:13 And let us not forget Jesus prayer on the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Luke 23:34 Why did he use that qualifier?

There are people who do evil intentionally, knowing what they're doing is evil. Without repentance, there is no mercy available for them, only judgment according to their works. But in the case people act unintentionally or in ignorance, more grace is available for them. And with a little enlightenment to the facts, or perhaps some rebuke, repentance is at hand and thus mercy.

Now consider if you had sinned against someone and if so, repent. But consider also who has sinned against you that you may pray that it not be charged against them on the judgment day.

Phm 1:6
I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

Have you ever noticed how your understanding of every good thing we have in Christ increases after you've been actively sharing your faith? That's been my experience. If you seek understanding, Bible study along only goes so far. But by sharing your faith not only will others benefit, but your study of the Word will become richer and fuller. You will gain further revelation of its meaning and application and grow in the depth of your convictions, not to mention also that through the experience you will be become more adept at sharing your faith and expressing your convictions.

I pray that God may prompt you to share your faith, providing opportunities to do so both among fellow Christians and with non-Christians. May he give you an alertness to such opportunities and plant something in your mind and on your heart to share to the edification of the listener. And pray likewise for yourself and your local body of believers.

Heb 13:20,21
Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

For many us it seems it would practically take something akin to a resurrection from the dead for us to portray competence, not to mention perfection, in every good work. But in view of Christ's resurrection from the dead, God is quite capable of actualizing that outcome. But lets us not neglect to pray to that end. Maybe you have noticed some fellow believer, perhaps even a spouse, whose attempts at doing good works you find to fall short in some aspects. Pray that God may work in them what his pleasing in his sight to the end that they would be perfected in every good work they do. If you don't pray, it may not happen. For what is implied in the prayer here, as also in many of these prayers, is that God has ordained that his actions in these matters are to be partly contingent upon you praying.

James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach [without finding fault], and it will be given to him.

It is not uncommon in the Christian community that when one asks others to pray for them concerning certain things, what that person often receives in return is criticism. But God is not so critical, not so fault-finding when it comes to answering requests made of him. And he often more than meets the need. For he desires what is best for us more than we do for ourselves, but he waits for us to ask. Ask God now to give you wisdom with respect to the particular circumstances you've recently encountered.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Prov 3:5,6
James 1:6-8
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Wishful thinking is not the same as a prayer of faith. Nor is it a prayer of faith to ask God for things which you doubt he is capable or willing to give to you. But then again neither is prayer ordering God around according to your own will. The idea is to pray confidently in accordance with God's will.

But confidence should not be gained by presumption. Rather the Word of God gives us insight as to God's will. And when we are confident of God's will, and the need or circumstances arise, then we confidently ask and receive.

Now consider one thing that you are confident is God's will, according to the Word of God, for which you see a need. Ask God about that.

James 4:2,3
You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

"pleasures" is the Greek word "hedone" where we get the word "hedonism" from, which is the pursuit of pleasure, holding that only what is pleasant or has pleasant consequences is intrinsically good.

The pursuit of pleasure can enslave a person, as it is written, "At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another." Titus 3:3 It can stagnate a Christian's maturing, as it is written, "The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature." Luke 8:14 Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23 And concerning prayer Paul mentions the example of widows, "Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives." 1Tim 5:5,6

Prayer requires self-denial in that one has to put aside one's own will and pray in accordance with the will of God. Thus Jesus prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."Luke 22:42

Now consider something which is God's will, but a subject, situation, attitude or action which is unpleasant to consider - taking you out of your comfort zone - and which perhaps you've been avoiding, and pray about it.

James 5:13
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.

It seems that James intends to contrast two conditions. But in fact suffering and cheerfulness are not mutually exclusive in the Christian life. For example in Acts 16:25 after they were flogged and put in jail, their feet being fastened in the stocks, "about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them." Thus it says, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1Thess 5:16-18

But perhaps what James is alluding to by "suffering" are times in which one's spirit is broken, as even Jesus experienced in the garden of Gethsemane, in which "being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."Luke 22:44 "A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken." Pr 15:13 But you know that "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise." Ps 51:17 And singing is not necessarily what's called for at such times since it is written, "Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart." Pr 25:20 But through somber and serious praying, intimacy is developed with God under such a state. For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones."Is 57:15 And this leads to encouragement and joy, as in the case of Jesus who "for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross." Heb 12:2

Whether you are cheerful or discouraged, think of something you might thank God for, and do so now. And if you have a broken spirit, pray about the related circumstance and that the Lord may strengthen and encourage your heart.

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.

The primary precondition of prayer is not how fervent your are, nor how much you pray, but rather whether you are righteous. It's written, "surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." Is 59:1,2 God will not pray attention to our prayers unless we first deal with what is most important to Him, namely dealing with our sin. And if we are righteous, still the most important subject of prayer is sin and its effects.

You may recognize a number of ways in which you or someone else needs healing - least of all in a physical sense. For the greatest affirmities are not physical but spiritual. Thus after healing a man lame for 38 years, Jesus said to him, "Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." John 5:14 Yet too frequently Christian's prayers are exclusively about the physical and material, neglecting the truly deep seated issues in the spiritual realm - issues of sin and corruption of one's spirit.

Now if we are righteous and we do pray, there is yet one more element James speaks to make one's prayers prevail - namely to be effective, fervent. While being expressed by two words here, these are actually a translation of a single Greek word "energeo", which means to work and from which we derive the word "energy". Most of the references to this word in the Bible speak of God working in us. Thus there's a cooperation involved as Paul states elsewhere, "To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily." Col 1:29

Now do the work of prayer. Labor in it, speaking first to God about your sin and its effects in your life, and pray for others along that line.


1Peter 1:3-5 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade— kept in heaven for you,
who through faith are shielded by God’s power
until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
This living hope, this anticipation of going to heaven, receiving our inheritance, should be so evident in our lives that it would invoke others to ask us about it. Thus Peter writes, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." 1Peter 3:15b Furthermore inherent in saving faith is the sense of eternal security. For God shields the elect by His power such that their inheritance is guaranteed. In fact those who don't have this security characteristically doubt whether in fact they will be ultimately saved, and thus don't generally have the kind of hope expressed here.

Granted that only those who endure to the end will be saved, but enduring to the end, the perseverance of the saints, is part of the whole salvation package one receives, having been born again. Endurance in faith is part of the new nature. Thus verses which correlate behavior and salvation are not about losing salvation but rather about diagnosing whether one has it to begin with. "For everyone born of God overcomes the world" 1John 5:4

1Peter 4:7
But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.

For those with the perspective that the end of all things is at hand, many things are perceived as not so important and not so serious. For example the world considers having a family to be very important, yet Paul says, "those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away." 1Cor 7:29-31 So also Jesus says, "do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." Mat 6:31,32 These are small things - minor issues.

Therefore if you take seriously the idea that the end of all things is at hand, consider what kinds of things you should seriously pray about? For what should you seriously be watchful in your prayers? Pray not only for that which is temporal, but much more for that which is eternal.

1Peter 5:10
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

A little suffering is good for the soul. James writes, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4

Now pray for someone who is suffering, that God may develop in them a spirit of endurance, being strengthened with conviction in some area of their life, being brought to completeness in their Christian character, well-founded upon the Word of God. And look for visible results of the answer to your prayer.

1John 3:22
And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

As noted previously concerning James 5:6 and Isaiah 59:1-2, God listening to us is much a function of coming to Him on His terms - namely forsaking sin, the converse of which is keeping his commandments and doing things that are pleasing in his sight. But let us not have the viewpoint that we do what he wants in order to get what we want. Rather the idea is that the content of our requests should be in relation to doing what he wants.

Thus in the midst of carrying out his commands and living a lifestyle pleasing to him, you'll find it necessary to make requests of God in order to accomplish those objectives. What John has uncovered here is that God is faithful in answering such prayers.

Consider a command God has given you in the Bible, or consider what constitutes a life which pleases him, and make a specific request for something you find lacking but necessary to accomplish that goal.

1John 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.

That is, if you notice a Christian sinning, and that Christian is open to correction, then pray for them. The promise here is that God will act upon your prayer and deal with the situation. The sin unto death is a condition in which the "Christian" so strongly resists correction as to attribute the working of the Holy Spirit to the devil. That is, "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace."Heb 6:4,6 In fact "It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: A dog returns to its vomit, and, A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." 2Peter 2:21-22

Now the content of your prayer may be anything from asking for a gentle correction as in Gal 6:1 "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently", to Paul's request concerning a sinning Christians in 1Cor 5:5 "deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." It seems to largely depend on how compliant the person is to correction and how gross the sin.

Now consider a Christian whom you notice is sinning, and pray for them along these lines.

3John 1:2
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.

Here's a prayer you can simply cut and paste into your next email to a friend. If they are doing well spiritually, then pray also that they may prosper in other areas life.

Rev 8:3,4
Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.

It also mentions in Rev 5:8 that the "golden bowls full of incense are the prayers of the saints." So also David prayed, "May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice." Ps 141:2

While there is much stench which comes from the world, our prayers give God pleasure. How are our prayers viewed in heaven? An angel approached a man who would become the first Gentile Christian and said to him, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God." Acts 10:4 Such is the destiny of our prayers.

Mt 5:44,45
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom 5:8 And "if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" Rom 5:10 But realize also that most of God's enemies never come to appreciate God's love, and that the manner in which he demonstrated His love is not something that most of God's enemies recognize as love. So also in the Christian life. Love your enemies, but don't expect them to appreciate your acts of love. In fact, just like with God's love, a Christian's love for his enemies is often viewed as hatred by them.

Concerning those who persecute you, remember that the apostle Paul formerly persecuted the church. But later he came to believe. So pray for your persecutors that "they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."2Tim 2:26

In fact Paul himself gives us an example of praying for those who persecute you in the very first prayer we started off in this series Rom 10:1 "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved."

Mt 6:5,6
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Jesus is not discouraging corporate prayer, but rather is discouraging an attitude of praying for the sake of making a show of oneself. Nonetheless this idea of private prayer makes the point. Do you pray in private as enthusiastically as you pray in public? If not, why not? In fact more generally one may evaluate their own motives for doing any activity in the Christian life by comparing one's public behavior to one's private behavior.

Of the religious elite of Jesus day he says, "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’" Mat 23:5-7

So in preparation for the judgment day remember, "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:11

Mt 6:7
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

Some religions today exercise mindless chanting. Likewise there are denominations which advocating repetitiously praying so many “Our Father”s and so many “Hail Mary”s, which is directly in conflict with what Jesus teaches here. Pray thoughtfully. Words are only relevant in so much as they have meaning. Don’t use them like magical incantations.

Matt 6:9-13

"This, then, is how you should pray:

Praise & Submission

Acknowledge His Position
"‘Our Father in heaven,
Acknowledge His Holiness -
His contempt of the presense of sin
hallowed be your name,

Acknowledge His Lordship (It's a kingdom, not a democracy)
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Supplication Ask for necessary provisions
Give us today our daily bread.
Deal with Sin
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ‘

This is a good example showing many of the elements of prayer. But in light of the verses which immediately precede this prayer (Matt 6:7 - about not babbling), many Christians miss the lesson here. For these verses are often misused as a sort of mindless chant. It's the meaning which is important to God. If you're not praying things which you mean, then you're not praying.
Notice the richness of the structure here. First the prayer acknowledges who God and is and what is our relationship to him. God is our Father, but is also Lord of the kingdom of which we are citizens, and by acknowledging this we are declaring our submission to him, and also doing so in praying this his will be done, as even Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. And we also acknowledge that he is holy and thus hates sin - indicating also our desire to repent of sin.

The request concerning our necessary provisions affirms our dependency upon him. And we need to deal with our sin in his presence, but taking on the same gracious attitude of forgiveness that he has, else we are not really children of God. And lastly we pray against temptations. Thus Jesus also instructed his disciples, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Mt 26:41

Pray though this prayer and consider each element personally.

Luke 18:9-14
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men— robbers, evildoers, adulterers— or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
I heard of this parable being taught to some children, and when they were done one prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like that Pharisee ..." Seems she missed the point - as do many of us. For often there may be more of the Pharisee in us than we realize.

Like the tax collector, we remember Peter's first prayer "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"Luke 5:8 The Pharisee doesn't seem to have such a sense of the degree of God's holiness. God, while he is gracious and forgiving, seriously hates sin and will not ultimately tolerate it.

Now chose which example of prayer to follow: that of the Pharisee or that of the tax collector.

Luke 22:42
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

If our prayers are not in subordination to God, then we are being insubordinate. Even Jesus struggled between doing his own will and that of his Father. He furthermore said, "I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me." John 6:38

"During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered." Heb 5:7,8 Prior to his incarnation in human flesh, Jesus never experienced the struggle we have in obeying God. And thus from the things he suffered, he learned the experience of obedience.

Obedience is never really experienced until the one you are in subordination to commands you to do something you don't want.

Consider under what circumstance (perhaps even now) in which you may have to pray as Jesus did, "Not my will, but yours be done."

Just prior to entering the Garden of Gethsemane from which he was taken to judgment, we have a record of Jesus' prayer in John 17. One of the outstanding aspects of his prayer was him speaking of his accomplishments - as if debriefing his Father concerning the mission on which he had been sent. The following is a listing of the accomplishments he mentioned:

John 17:
vs 4 I glorified you on the earth
vs 4 I have accomplished the work which you have given me to do.
vs 6 I revealed your name to the people whom you have given me out of the world.
vs 9 I pray for them.
vs 12 I protected them and kept them safe
vs 14 I have given them your word
vs 18 I have sent them into the world
vs 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me
vs 26 I have made known to them your name "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." 1John 2:6 So consider among these, what work God has given you to do; what responsibilities has he laid upon you as his servant and what he expects you to accomplish such that at the end of your life you may say, "I have accomplished the work which you have given me to do.", and that on the judgment day he may say to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!" Mt 25:21
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men." 2Cor 5:10,11a

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