Prayer is the means of intercession between God and man.
The Israelites prayed to God through the temple and priests; now, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and Christ intercedes for us. When dedicating the temple Solomon prayed,
“.. have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you, that your eyes may be open day or night toward this house, the place where you have promised to set you name, that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this placed. And listen to the pleas of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen from heaven you dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.” (2 Chronicles 6:19:-21)
Earlier in Israel’s history, God promised more that just his presence would rest on a place. Israel was told, “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them … I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you.” (Leviticus 26:3) From 1 Corinthians 6:19, we know that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Post Christ’s resurrection and ascension, the Holy Spirit helps us pray and Jesus, our high priest, intercedes for us. (Romans 8: 34, Heb 4:14) The Spirit is able to help us pray because he “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words… and searches hearts,” (Romans 8:26-27)
Prayer is a time of communion with God and worship of him.
Prayer is a characteristic of a close relationship with God: “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth,” (Psalm 145:8). Though we do not sacrifice animals as they did in Old Testament times, even at that time, prayer was understood as an offering to God: “ Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” (Psalm 141:2).
When we pray we submit to the will of God, either in worldly desires, unsensible anxiety, or suffering.
Our prayers should be aligned with God’s will. Jesus taught his disciples to begin prayer with “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10) The Lord is not a magic genie who fulfills every vain, selfish desire. We may not be given what we ask for, because we wrongly ask for it so that we can satisfy our own passions (James 4:3) . Our fate is ultimately decided by God. We can plan and pray , but in the end our life is just a mist that vanishes and, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15 ) Even though God’s will may not align with our desires, this does not make petitioning the Lord of no value. We can be certain that he hears our prayer “if we ask anything according to his will,” (I John 5:14). Praying according to the will of God requires discernment. Many believers may lack discernment because there minds have been conformed to this world, and so their prayers will become worldly (Romans 12:2).
In Titus 2, older men, young women and young men are called to be “sensible.” With anxiety, an unsensible mindset can overtake us and worry that will not satiated. However, Paul in Philippians 5 commands, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” The result of praying rather than worrying is that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Anxiety is not to be taken lightly. We need protection against worry like any other spiritual attack, as we strive to trust God.
Praying for relief from suffering must also ultimately submit to God’s will. Even great suffering works for our good (Romans 8:28). An example is the apostle Paul who was given a “thorn in the flesh,” so that he would not become proud because of the visions and revelation of Scripture he had received. The thorn in the flesh was a “messenger of Satan,”; this was unjust suffering, not discipline from the Lord. Three times Paul pleaded to not have this suffering. God answered Paul’s prayer with “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Our answer should be as Paul’s; “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12) Even though Paul’s request and our own may not be answered in the way we want, to endure suffering, we must “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer,” (Romans 12:12).
Prayer is effective in God’s sovereignty.
Knowing God is sovereign may also tempt us not to not pray, because God accomplishes his will whether we pray or not. However, in Jeremiah 29, God said that Israel would pray for restoration. In the famous verse from Jeremiah, God speaks, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” The context is in the exile of Babylon.
“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29: 10-14)
The Lord was sovereign over the fate of his people Israel and that sovereignty included them petitioning Him in prayer.
Rather than being taught it does not matter if we pray, we are taught we should be persistent in prayer. Persistent is a stronger word than consistent or continuous, because the connotation is more of one of annoyance, that we will not stop until we get answer. In Luke 18, Jesus a tells parable of a persistent widow.
“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’“
It seems odd that Jesus would compare such a poor judge to God hearing our prayers. Here the Lord is using the argument of the lesser to the greater. Finishing the parable with an explanation, Jesus says, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.” If an unrighteous man will fulfill his duty if one is persistent, how much more can we trust the Lord will fulfill his promises if we continue to pray. However, Jesus finishes with the question, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” The question is not if God is faithful to answer our prayer, but whether we are faithful to pray.
We pray because of sin; we pray for forgiveness, relief, protection, and others’ sin.
Since the Old Testament, prayer has been the avenue of repentance; forgiveness for sin requires prayer. After dedicating the temple, that night God spoke to Solomon, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”( 2 Chronicles 6:19-21).
In the New Testament we see the same method of repentance, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9). Praying for forgiveness is going up to the throne of God asking for mercy for sinning and grace to resist future temptation (Heb 4:16). We have this privilege of approaching God’s throne because of Christ; Jesus is “able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God Through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them,” (Hebrews 7:22).
We must also pray in order to experience relief from any suffering we experience because of our sin. In Psalm 102, the writers petitions, “Hear my prayer, O Lord;let my cry come to you!… my bones burn like a furnace….I forget to eat my bread…my loud groaning…I lie awake… I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop… and mingle tears with my drink,… because of your indignation and anger;…for you have taken me up and thrown me down.”
To prevent further sin, there must be continuous prayer. Jesus on the night before his crucifixion left his disciples to pray and came back to see them asleep, he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation,” (Matthew 26 :40-41).
We do not just pray for forgiveness and sanctification for ourselves but for other believers. As Jesus intercedes to the Father when we sin, so we intercede for other believers who have sinned.
“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:14-16)
Prayer for other believers does more than develop our own sympathy and care for them but is effective. James gives the example, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit,” (James 5: 17-18).
We pray for the proclamation of the gospel and the glorification of God.
But godliness, or more so moral behavior, in of itself is of no value if no action is taken to serve the Lord, who has commanded us to spread the gospel. Paul in Ephesians tells believers to pray, “at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak,” (Ephesians 6:18-20).
God is the one who ultimately receives glory when the gospel is proclaimed and sinners poor in spirit repent and turn to Christ for salvation; “For the Lord builds up Zion; he appears in his glory;he regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer….the Lord looked at the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die,that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord,and in Jerusalem his praise, when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the Lord,” (Psalm 102: 16-22).
Post by Elsa Braun