Skip to content

Learning to Pray – Part 11&12

December 12, 2012

Weeks 11-12 – Dec 12, 2012 and Jan 2,2013

I. The Commands Related to Prayer

II. The Basis for Prayer

III. The Timing of Prayer

IV. The Posture of Prayer

V. The Helper in Prayer

VI. The Components of Prayer

VII. The Requisites for Answered Prayer

VIII. The Goal of Prayer

IX. The Sovereignty of God

X. The Need for Prayer

XI. Working with God through Prayer

1. God’s sovereign work and prayer

2. Praying for God’s work

We are now on weeks 11 and 12 of our study on prayer. I hope that this study has been beneficial and challenging.

What have you gained from our study? If, after 10 weeks of being instructed in the biblical model of prayer, the only benefit you can claim to have received is an increased understanding of prayer, then we have failed.

The intent of this study was not merely so that we could gain a biblical perspective on prayer. One of the early points about prayer was that the early church prayed! And we can say that their power in life and ministry was due to the fact that they prayed! The early church did not merely demonstrate a biblical understanding of prayer – they prayed! They took the biblical teachings and applied them to their lives – they prayed!

Chuck Lawless offered this:

Many churches talk about prayer, but they don’t really pray. The programs are there to teach prayer, but the passion to maintain prayer is woefully lacking. Subtly, many local bodies are lulled into prayerlessness. Healthy churches [i.e. healthy Christians], on the other hand, are genuinely praying.

Early in his ministry at Ash Street Baptist Church near Atlanta, Georgia, Pastor Randy Cheek sensed that God was leading Ash Street to a more aggressive prayer life. “I developed a personal conviction and passion that one’s prayer life must be more than several appointed times throughout the week,” said the pastor. “Prayer is a constant attitude of the heart toward a dialogue with Him.”

Over a few years, the church implemented new approaches to corporate prayer. In a beautiful room built specifically for the purpose of prayer, more than seventy prayer warriors participate in the church’s ministry. Community members have opportunities to submit requests via a “Community Prayer Needs” mailbox. A prayer telephone line operates twenty-four hours a day. Rev. Cheek found the impact to be phenomenal: “Unity has prevailed at Ash Street. You have heard the familiar statement, ‘The family that prays together, stays together.’ The same is true with this church. Through this emphasis on prayer I have observed a church standing together on the power of the Body of Christ at prayer. The Wednesday night prayer service is now what it was intended to be – PRAYER. (Discipled Warriors, pp. 156-157)

If, after 10 weeks of study, all you can say is that you understand what prayer is, then there is a problem. After 10 weeks we should be hearing that those in the church have been challenged to pray! Are you praying more? You may now have a more biblical understanding of prayer, but are you praying more fervently? Is prayer becoming an important part of your day?

Building upon what we have learned about prayer, that it is participation in God’s work, below is a summary of the things for which we should be praying.

1. Pray for unbelievers – their hearts to be prepared to the Gospel.

a)      Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. (Rom 10:1)

b)      Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men…in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tm 2:1–4)

c)      God desires to save the lost and works toward that.

(1)   Therefore, as mentioned previously, we must pray according to His will in accordance with what God is doing.

(2)   It is therefore, appropriate for us to pray for the salvation of unbelievers.

(3)   God may prepare their hearts for the gospel through their present circumstances.

(4)   We should pray that their hearts will be opened as they struggle through various issues.

2. Pray for other believers (those involved in God’s work to some degree).

a)      We must pray for all believers.

(1)   praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints…(Eph 6:18)

(2)   For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers…(Rom 1:9)

b)      Offer thanksgiving for all believers.

(1)   We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you… (Col 1:3)

(2)   giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. (Col 1:12)

(3)   Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… (Eph 1:3–5)

(4)   We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers… (1 Thes 1:2)

(5)   4 I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, 5 hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, 6 that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. (Phlm 4–6)

(6)   We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting… (2 Thes 1:3-12)

(a)    He thanked God for their growing faith…

because your faith grows exceedingly (v. 3)

(b)   He thanked God for their increasing love

…the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other… (v. 4)

(c)    He thanked God for their perseverance.

…for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure… (v. 5)

(d)   He thanked God for the signs of grace

…which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God… (v. 5)

(7)   Paul was thankful to God for the fact that God had saved them as was evident from the various signs of grace in the believers’ lives.

c)      Pray for God’s glory to be displayed through them.

(1)   5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 15:5–6)

(2)   that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thes 1:12)

d)     Pray that believers would have the power to bring God’s purposes to pass.

(1)   and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power (2 Thess 1:11)

(2)   We exist to glorify God; however, in our own strength we are incapable of doing this.

(3)   Therefore, we pray for other believers that they too might have the God-given enablement to bring God’s purposes to pass.

e)      Pray for their continued transformation into Christlikeness.

(1)   God is glorified through each believer as they increasingly reflect the image of Christ.

(2)   The goal of all our prayers should be that they are conformed to the image of Christ.

(a)    being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:6)

(b)   28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom 8:28–29)

(3)   Christlikeness is a result of being transformed in our minds

(a)    1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom 12:1–2)

f)       Pray for increased knowledge of God’s love.

(1)   …that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:17–19)

(2)   …that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints… (Eph 1:15–21)

g)      Pray that Christlikeness will be demonstrated through love.

(1)   … that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:17–19)

(2)   12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, 13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. (1 Thes 3:9–13)

h)      Pray that their love will be united with knowledge and discernment. (Carson, 101)

(1)   And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment… (Phil 1:9)

(2)   …do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God… (Col 1:9–10)

i)        Pray that the believers would be empowered by the Spirit to fulfill God’s will. (Carson, 181)

(1)   Ability by the Spirit

(a)    that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man… (Eph 3:16)

(2)   Power to grasp the love of Christ

(a)    17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:17–19)

j)        Pray that they would walk worthy of the Gospel of of Christ. (Carson, 51ff)

(1)   Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thes 1:11)

(2)   … that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God… (Col 1:9–10)

k)      Pray that they would become blameless (beyond suspicion or blame). (Carson, 93)

(1)   … 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ…. (1 Cor 1:4–9)

(2)   …13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. (1 Thes. 3:9–13)

(3)   23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. (1 Thes 5:23–24)

(4)   …always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ… (Phil 1:3–6)

l)        Pray that the believers will be pleasing to God as a result of having a worthy and blameless lifestyle.

(1)   that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God… (Col 1:10)

m)    Pray that they would increase in good works.

(1)   2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you. 5 Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. (2 Thes 3:2–5)

n)      Pray that fruitfulness would result from their transformation in Christlikeness.

(1)   Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom 15:13)

(2)   …do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; (Col 1:9–10)

o)      Pray that their sanctification would result in spiritual resiliency/perseverance.

(1)   15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. (Jn 17:15-17)

(2)   11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy… (Col 1:11–12)

p)      Pray that they would be faithful in evangelism.

(1)   meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains… (Col 4:3)

(2)   …that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus…. (Phlm 4–7)

q)      Pray that they would experience the joy of obedience.

(1)   But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. (Jn 17:13)

(2)   Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.(Rom 15:13)

(3)   … 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man…17 that … that … that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:14–19)

r)       Pray for their strength during temptation.

(1)   Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mt 26:41)

s)       Pray that they would be united in mission and purpose within the local church.

(1)   21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me… (Jn 17:21–22)

(2)   5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 15:5–6)

t)       Pray for their safety/release.

(1)   So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying. (Acts 12:12)

u)      Pray for their general welfare (physical, spiritual).

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

v)      Pray for the restoration of health for repentant believers.

(1)   14 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. (Jas 5:14)

(2)   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. (1 Jn 5:16)

3. Praying for church leaders and missionaries (those specifically set apart for the work of the ministry).

a)      Pray for workers to be raised up. (Hiebert, 11)

(1)   Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (Mt 9:38)

b)      Pray for workers to be sent.

(1)   Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:3)

c)      Pray for church leaders and missionaries in the same way as you would for other believers (above).

d)     Recognize that Satan focuses efforts upon God’s servants in order to destroy their effectiveness.

(1)   Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mt 26:41)

(2)   And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. (Lk 22:31)

e)      Pray for sustained and increasing spiritual fitness and integrity (1 Tm 3:1-7).

(1)   Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure. (1 Tm 5:22)

(2)   Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably. (Heb 13:18)

(3)   nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock… (1 Pt 5:3)

f)       Pray for opportunities to proclaim the Gospel. (Hiebert, 12, 16)

(1)   2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. (Col 4:2–4)

(2)   18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel… (Eph 6:18–19)

g)      Pray for workers to be emboldened. (Hiebert, 13)

(1)   Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word (Acts 4:29)

(2)   that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak (Col 4: 4)

(3)   18 praying always… and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel… (Eph 6:18–19)

h)      Pray for opposition to be broken. (Hiebert, 17)

(1)   30 Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you. 33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen. (Rom 15:30–33)

(2)   1 Finally, brethren, pray for us…that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. (2 Thes 3:1–2)

i)        Pray for harm to be averted. (Hiebert, 19)

(1)   Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. (Acts 12:5)

j)        Pray that “greater” gospel works might be accomplished. (Hiebert, 21)

(1)   12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (Jn 14:12–13)

Learning to Pray – Part 9

December 4, 2012

X. The Need for Prayer

We are on week 9 of our study on prayer. This week we will explore the need for prayer – why do we need to pray?

The answer may be obvious – to some degree. When it comes to personal needs we know why we need to pray. However, when it comes to broader issues – issues not directly related to us – we largely ignore the need to pray in such situations.

Therefore, we must make sure that our prayer time is thoroughly biblical – that we are praying for all the issues for which we need to pray.

We will start with the most common reason for praying and progress to those issues which are often overlooked.

A. To obtain your needs

1. 7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Mt 7:7–11)

a)      The issue of personal needs is assumed in this passage. If you have need for “bread” ask the Father. If you have need for “fish” ask the Father.

b)      When Jesus taught his disciples to pray He emphasized that they were to have faith that the Father would lovingly provide for their needs.

2. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (Mk 11:24)

a)      In our materialistic world we have a tendency to take this instruction as all-inclusive – whatever you want it’s yours for the asking!

b)      However, Jesus never intended this verse to be a blanket promise for all our wishes.

c)      We are to pray in faith that the Father will supply for our needs.

3. Asking for one’s needs is probably the most frequently cited reasons for prayer.

4. Some however, may think praying for one’s self is selfish.

a)      There is nothing wrong with asking the Lord to supply for your needs.

b)      The mere fact that we pray about issues which concern us does not necessarily indicate that we are selfish.

c)      We are selfish when we:

(1)   only pray for ourselves;

(2)   pray for things which are not needs;

(3)   pray without submission to God’s authority.

5. Jesus encouraged us to pray to the Father for our needs and to believe that He would lovingly provide for us.

B. For guidance

1. Scattered throughout Scripture are examples of people who humbly went to God in prayer for wisdom.

2. Prayer for wisdom starts with humility because only those who recognize their need (lack of wisdom) will ask for what they are lacking (wisdom).

a)      Those who think they have got life figured out will not see their need for God’s wisdom.

b)      Are you willing to admit that you are lacking in the wisdom you need for daily living?

3. Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. (Ps 25:4)

a)      The request for guidance involves two issues: wisdom for life and guidance in decisions.

b)      Wisdom for life:

(1)   In Psalm 25:2 the Psalmist prayed that God would teach him His “ways” and “paths.”

(2)   However, God’s “ways” and “paths” were carefully delineated for him in the Law.

(3)   So, if God already revealed His “ways” and His “paths,” why did the Psalmist need to pray? Why did he not just read the Law?

(4)   The Psalmist prayed that God would help him to understand and apply God’s Law to his life.

(5)   We need to read God’s Word, but we must also ask the Holy Spirit to illumine God’s Word to our hearts so that we receive the instruction and make personal applications. If we do not do this, we merely gain head knowledge which is only useful in winning debates and arguments.

c)      Guidance in the decisions of life.

(1)   The second area in which we need guidance has to do with personal decisions.

(a)    Our choices must not be contrary to the teachings of Scripture.

(b)   Our choices may involve two or more viable options in which we need wisdom to select the best of the options.

(2)   Wisdom in light of Scripture

(a)    If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (Jas 1:5)

(b)   James spoke about trials which God permitted in order to bolster our faith.

(c)    In trying times we need wisdom to see how God is using those trials to mature us.

(d)   We must ask God to show us how He is using those trials to perfect in us the image of Christ which already has been revealed in His Word.

(3)   Wisdom during times of equally viable options.

(a)    Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. (Acts 16:6)

(b)   The Holy Spirit forbade their entry into Phrygia.

(c)    How this guidance came about we don’t know.

(i)     I would assume that it was partly through prayer and the internal witness of the Spirit.

(ii)   Considering the time frame, this guidance may have come through a more direct channel (revelation, prophecy).

C. To obtain power

1. Power to witness: And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)

2. Power to resist temptation: Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mk 14:38)

3. Prayer for strength: 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. (Rom 8:26)

4. Prayer for perseverance: Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. (Jas 5:13)

5. We should pray for divine enablement.

a)      In Acts 4:31 the believers prayed and received boldness.

b)      In Mark 14:38 Jesus commanded His disciples to pray so that they would not fall into temptation.

c)      In Romans 8:26 we are told that the Holy Spirit helps us in times of weakness. When we don’t know how to pray, He makes intercession for us, and we are strengthened.

D. To change ourselves

1. We often fail to think in these terms – prayer is designed to change us.

2. Though there aren’t a lot of verses which deal directly with the relationship between personal sanctification and prayer, this theme is implied in the above verses which deal with receiving spiritual enablement through prayer. As we learn to witness, to resist temptation, to be strengthened, and to persevere, we are growing in our faith.

3. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit (Jude 20)

a)      This verse makes prayer a necessity for personal sanctification.

(1)   Prayer is our responsibility.

(2)   Through prayer, we participate with God in His will for our lives:

(a)    For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son… (Rom 8:29)

(b)   As we pray, we build ourselves up, and we become more like Christ, which is the ultimate goal of our progressive sanctification.

E. To change others

1. Yes! We know a lot of people that need to change!

a)      Through prayer we can deal with those irritable people!

b)      Stop and read on.

2. In John 17 Jesus prayed specifically for His disciples and for those who would become disciples. His prayer was filled with issues relating to their and our sanctification: perseverance, protection from temptation, obedience, unity, and glorification.

3. Paul prayed for believers regularly

a)      For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… that He would grant you… (Eph 3:14-16)

b)      praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints (Eph 6:18)

c)      We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you (Col 1:3)

d)     For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you… (Col 1:9)

4. Usually, that which motivates us to pray for other people is when they inconvenience or offend us.

a)      When they aren’t an irritation we fail to pray for them (though they still have needs).

b)      Unfortunately, we think of prayer for others as a means of getting God to reduce our irritation or stress.

c)      Obviously, this form of prayer is short sighted and even selfish.

5. While an irritation or offence might drive us to God, we should not necessarily pray for their removal and our relief.

a)      God sent that irritation (in the form of a person) to work in us Christ’s image.

(1)   Remember:

(a)    My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (James 1:2–3)

(b)   And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God… to be conformed to the image of His Son… (Rom 8:28–29)

(2)   That irritating or immature or insensitive person is God’s instrument to mold you into the image of Christ – don’t be too quick to ask for their removal – ask for wisdom and God’s perfecting work in your own life.

b)      Furthermore, recognize that the other person has spiritual needs for which you should pray.

(1)   Their spiritual needs are demonstrated by the fact that they are irritating or offensive (they are yielding to sin).

(2)   Therefore, rather than praying with the desire that our irritation goes away, we should pray that he/she will be: 1) saved, or 2) if saved, conformed to the image of Christ.

6. There are many issues for which we should pray for other believers (and by extension ourselves). Therefore, we will devote another lesson to specifically answer for what we should pray.

F. For God’s Work (next week)

1. The last need for which we should pray relates to the issues of God’s work – what is He “focusing” upon in this day and age in which we live?

2. If we can figure out God’s primary work and how we are to participate in it, then we can and should also pray that God’s will is accomplished.

Learning to Pray – Part 8

November 21, 2012

Week 8

Previous Lessons:

I.  The Commands Related to Prayer

II.  The Basis for Prayer

III. The Timing of Prayer

IV. The Posture of Prayer

V. The Helper in Prayer

VI. The Components of Prayer

VII. The Requisites for Answered Prayer

VIII.  The Goal of Prayer

Today’s Lesson:

IX. The Sovereignty of God

In our series entitled, Growing Up God’s Way, we spent 4 lessons discussing the concept of God’s sovereignty. I would encourage you to go back and read them again so that you can refresh your thinking on this issue (Lessons 61-64).

Since we recently discussed the role of faith in prayer, we must also consider faith in light of God’s sovereignty. Faith is not a positive feeling; nor is it a positive belief that if you can imagine something it will come to pass. Faith is confidence in God. Therefore, let’s consider prayer in light of what the Bible teaches regarding faith in God’s sovereignty.

A. God is capable.

1.  Some biblical examples:

a)      Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. (Gn 18:14)

b)      Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me? (Jer 32:27)

c)      With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Mt 19:26)

2.  Many Bible verses attest that God is capable.

a)      He is omni-capable.

b)      When we studied about God we said that He is omnipotent.

However, though God can do all things we must remember that His ability has limitations:

B.  God’s ability is restrainedby His nature.

1.  God can do all things which are consistent with His nature – He cannot do what is contrary to who He is.

a)      in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began (Ti 1:2)

b)      …for God cannot be tempted by evil… (Jas 1:13)

2.  God can’t make a stone so large that He could not move it – this goes against His omnipotence.

3.  God cannot undo a past event. Undoing a past event goes against His justice (that there are consequences to our actions).

4.  God cannot make a wrong right.

Furthermore…

C.  God’s ability is not governed by mere desires.

1.  There are some things which God desires, which will never come to pass.

2.  who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tm 2:4)

3.  Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30)

D.  God’s ability is exercised in harmony with His decreed will (desire to do).

1.  Because God can, does not mean that He will.

2.  God can do all that He wills, but He will not do all that He can. For instance:

a)      Jesus can make children of Abraham from stones, but He will not (Mt 3:9).

b)      Jesus could have called 12 legions of angels to help Him, but He would not (Mt 26:53).

3.  It seems too common that when Christians want something they simply quote a Bible verse pertaining to God’s ability, assuming that God’s ability is assurance of His willingness.

a)      For example, someone might have a physical ailment (i.e. cancer) and he might say, “With God nothing will be impossible.”

b)      However, just because nothing is impossible with God does not mean He will do it.

c)      While God is able to do anything consistent with His nature, He does not do many things which are consistent with His nature, because He does not want to (has not determined) do them.

4. Because God can make a barren woman conceive, does not mean that He will.

a)      Because God made Sarah conceive a child, does not guarantee that God will allow every believing woman to conceive children.

b)      Because God has blessed some women with many children, does not mean that God will bless all women with many children.

5.  Because God has blessed some Christians with high-paying jobs, does not mean that God will bless all Christians with high-paying jobs.

6. Because He can keep us from being in an automobile accident, does not mean that He will.

7.  God will only do what He plans.

a)      I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. (Job 42:2)

(1)   Notice that Job speaks of God’s ability in reference to His purpose (will).

(2)   God can do anything that is consistent with His nature, but He is also self-restrained by His own will.

b)      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” (Is 46:10)

c)      being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11)

d)     …it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Phil 2:13)

E.  God’s will does not necessarily mean His urgency.

1. God determined to bless Abraham with a child (Gn 12). However, God allowed 25 years for that promise to come to pass (Gn 21).

2. God determined to bless Abraham’s descendants (Gn 12-17). Yet, God allowed 400 years of captivity before He began to unfold His promise to them (Gn 15:12-16).

3. God determined to bless Jacob and his sons through Joseph (Gn 37; 50:19-20). But, God allowed Joseph to be imprisoned for 13 years before its fulfillment.

4. God will conform us to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29-30). God allows us to go through many painful experiences in order to mature us, even though these experiences will not bring about a completion of God’s goal in this life (1 Jn 3:1-3).

F.  Praying God’s will (Carson, A Call…, p. 199).

1. He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Mt 26:39)

2. For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 3:14)

a)      The Apostle Paul linked His prayer for the believers to the truths of God’s sovereign grace (chs. 1-2).

b)      The apostle praised God for His sovereign grace in saving the recipients in order to add them to the new person He was making (i.e. the church).

3. What God was doing He was doing for the praise of His glory.

a)      to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. (Eph 1:6)

b)      that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. (Eph 1:12)

c)      who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Eph 1:14)

d)     that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:7)

e)      to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:21)

4. Therefore, Paul’s prayer for them, which involved their maturity following their salvation, was in harmony with God’s purposes.

5. All of this teaches us that we need to rest in God’s sovereignty, recognizing that He is working according to His wisdom and according to His time.

a)      This is designed to produce patience in us.

b)      And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Rom 5:3–4)

c)      Therefore, when we pray, we must recognize that God has larger plans than we do.

(1)   He is working for eternity; He is working according to His plan for His glorification which involves our glorification.

(2)   We must pray in light of His sovereignty, that He is working out His plan for His glory for the good of His people.

6.  Faith is confidence in God. Therefore, we must pray trusting God is working for His glory and our good.

a)      D. A. Carson (p. 200) said:

We quickly learn that God is more interested in our holiness than in our comfort. He more greatly delights in the integrity and purity of his church than in the material well-being of its members. He shows himself more clearly to men and women who enjoy him and obey him than to men and women whose horizons revolve around good jobs, nice houses, and reasonable health. He is far more committed to building a corporate “temple” in which his Spirit dwells than he is in preserving our reputations. He is more vitally disposed to display his grace than to flatter our intelligence. He is more concerned for justice than for our ease. He is more deeply committed to stretching our faith than our popularity. He prefers that his people live in disciplined gratitude and holy joy rather than in pushy self-reliance and glitzy happiness. He wants us to pursue daily death, not self-fulfillment, for the latter leads to death, while the former leads to life.

b)      We may not always know how His will works out in the present (until it happens), but we know how His will works out for the future. This confidence leads us to pray.

Grieving the Spirit

November 14, 2012

Ephesians 4:30 says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

Paul said this in light of his discussion regarding unwholesome speech directed towards fellow believers. To use unwholesome speech with other believers results in grieving the Holy Spirit.

Notice that the Holy Spirit can be grieved, vexed, brought to sorrow, etc. This tells us that the Holy Spirit is a personal being who has emotions and thus can be vexed due to our disobedience.

That is a significant verse since cults, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, say that the Holy Spirit is only a force, not a personal being. However, they are unable to explain how an impersonal force could experience grief or sorrow, which are emotions felt by personal beings.

Other biblical verses verify the idea that the Holy Spirit is a person who is emotionally affected by disobedience.

(1)   Is 63:10 But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; So He turned Himself against them as an enemy, And He fought against them.”

(2)   Acts 5:9 Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?”

These verses clearly tell us the Holy Spirit is a person. He is the third person of the triune God – there is one God, who eternally exists in three persons. All are equal in glory, majesty, and power. All are deserving of worship.

Learning to Pray – Part 7

November 14, 2012

Week 7 – Nov 14, 2012

I.  The Commands Related to Prayer

II.  The Basis for Prayer

III. The Timing of Prayer

IV. The Posture of Prayer

V. The Helper in Prayer

VI. The Components of Prayer

VII. The Requisites for Answered Prayer

Review: In the previous lesson, we learned about the requisites of answered prayer. Let’s see how many conditions you can remember from our time together:

As___________ God C_____________ of sin
K____________ God’s will F_______________ others
O_____________ to God Th________________
C_____________ of the Spirit Sin_____________
S_______________ to God Dil_____________
Hu_________________ U_________ in the local church
F____________ in God

 

VIII.  The Goal of Prayer

A. How would people respond if you asked them to identify the ultimate goal of prayer?

I would imagine that most people think that the ultimate goal for prayer is the receiving of answers.

Whether we have a godly view of life or a selfish view, do we not think that the ultimate goal in praying is to receive that for which we are asking?

“My will be done…” When we pray with selfish motives do we not think that the goal is to get what we want?

“Your will be done…” Even when we pray with altruistic motives do we not think that the goal is to have that for which we are praying?

However, the ultimate goal of prayer has to be bigger than the mere answer.

The ultimate goal of prayer must match the ultimate goal or purpose for life.

What is the ultimate goal for all of life?

B. The glorification of God

The ultimate goal of prayer is demonstrated in various prayers and statements in the Bible.

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all. (1 Chr 29:11)

After they had taken up an offering for the Temple, David prayed to God.

He said that everything belongs to God. Therefore, the power, glory, victory, and majesty belong to God.

David’s prayer acknowledged the fact that ultimately God will be glorified by His creation.

Help us, O God of our salvation, For the glory of Your name; And deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins, For Your name’s sake! (Ps 79:9)

The Psalmist prayed for deliverance. But the goal of his prayer was not merely for deliverance.

The goal of his prayer was that God would be glorified through their deliverance (“Your name’s sake”).

When God answers prayer He is glorified because answers to prayer come from Him.

And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (Jn 14:13)

God answers prayer.

Answers to prayer glorify the One who answered the prayer.

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (Jn 15:7–8)

Obedience is the requirement for answered prayer.

Answered prayer results in God’s glorification.

God is glorified through our fruitfulness:

Being devoted to His Word results in obedience to His Word which results in answered prayer.

All of this fruit results in God’s glorification.

Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him… (2 Thes 1:11–12)

Paul prayed that they would walk worthy of their calling.

Paul did not view the answer to his prayer as the end goal.

The ultimate end of Paul’s prayer was that Jesus would be glorified through their Christian growth and fruitfulness.

“The Christian’s whole desire, at its best and highest, is that Jesus Christ be praised.” (Carson, p. 57)

“It is always a wretched bastardization of our goals when we want to win glory for ourselves instead of for him.” (Carson, p. 57)

“Our pilgrimage as Christians need not be very far advanced before we ruefully recognize that even our best service, motivated by the highest zeal, is regularly laced with large doses of vulgar self-interest.” (Carson, A Call…, p. 58)

God must be the center of our lives, the ground and the goal of our existence.

This includes our motives in prayer.

Our prayers must be given with the pure motive that God will be glorified through the answer He deems fit to give.

C. The Believers’ glorification and joy.

Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him… (2 Thes 1:11–12)

Notice the last phrase: “you (be glorified) in Him.”

Has Paul softened his view? Is there room for self-aggrandizement?

God will not share His glory (Is 42:8).

We will be glorified (Rom 8:30) in the sense of being made perfect in Christ’s likeness.

Even now we are being transformed into His likeness, in ever-increasing glory. (2 Cor 3:18)

“When we glorify God, we are not giving him something substantial that he would not otherwise have. We are simply ascribing to him what is his. But when we are glorified, in the sense just described, we are being made more like him, we are being strengthened or empowered to exhibit characteristics that we would not otherwise display.” (Carson, p. 59)

The fact that we become like the One we glorify fills us with overwhelming joy.

The primary motive of our prayers should be that God is glorified.

As we seek to glorify Him in everything, even our prayers will be uttered with the increasing desire to see God glorified in the situations and circumstances for which we pray.

As we contemplate God’s glory, we become more like Him, which further glorifies Him.

This helps us to better understand the issue of praying according to God’s will.

Only when His will is accomplished is His glory established.

Therefore, we should fervently desire His will to be accomplished, not ours, so that He is glorified.

Jesus’ Example or the Apostles’ Example?

November 9, 2012

Some teachers use Jesus’ example as their primary evangelistic model. Ron Comfort formed his evangelism instruction after Jesus, and entitled it, “The Way of the Master.”

Does this mean that we can’t learn from Peter or Paul? Does this mean that Peter and Paul were less effective – that they could have had better results if they had tried harder, or did things differently?

To answer that, we need to consider our idea of “effectiveness.” Sometimes evangelistic strategy is presented with an underlying assumption that our effectiveness will be as good as our example, as long as we follow the rules. However, the only way we have to measure evangelistic effectiveness is through numbers – responses to the Gospel. Yet, nowhere in Scripture do we see that God expects any of His servants to be as effective as another (1 Cor 3:6). We are, in fact, rebuked for comparing one of God’s servants with another (1 Cor 3:7). So we need to discard the idea that if we follow a pattern we will have similar results.

Secondly, consider the issue of capability? If God intends all believers to be equally effective, why did He not equally equip all believers (1 Pt 4:10; Rom 12:4; 1 Cor 12:4; Eph 4:16)? Some believers are simply more capable because of natural or spiritual giftedness. Therefore, it may be unreasonable, for instance, for a believer to expect that he should be able to effectively reason with learned men as Paul did in Athens (Acts 17). He may not be gifted to do so. On the other hand, he may be better equipped than Paul. Therefore, it is possible that a student may actually be better than the examples he follows.

What of personal growth? Does it not seem reasonable that as we grow as believers we also grow in our ability to evangelize? If so, then our earlier efforts will be more “ineffective.” Will God hold us responsible for early ineffectiveness due to immaturity? Does He expect us to be seasoned evangelists the moment of conversion? Will souls really be lost simply because, as spiritual infants, we were not as able to communicate the Gospel?

I ask you these questions to force you to think about God’s sovereignty. God will build His church (Mt 16:18); this demands the conversion of souls. God will bring about His plan. God will sovereignly work through our abilities and lack of abilities. God will work through our maturity and our lack of maturity. He will work through our obedience – and even disobedience. Without a proper view of God’s sovereignty, we will have a skewed understanding of what evangelism is, how it is to be accomplished, and for what we are responsible.

Lastly, consider the issue of power. Though the Apostles were less capable than our Lord, they were not lacking in effectiveness. Jesus promised to go with them (Mt 28:19-20). He promised to empower them (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:5, 8-9). The Holy Spirit empowered them (Acts 2), and worked through their testimony to convict the hearers (Jn 16:8-11). Jesus was continuing His soul-saving work through His Spirit-energized workers. The Apostles were continuing in the Way of the Master, because the Master was still working (through them)! The souls which were saved through the Apostles’ ministries were a result of Jesus’ soul-saving ministry through the Spirit.

So if the Holy Spirit is empowering and working through frail and imperfect servants, the issue of evangelism is not one of method, technique, or practice. Evangelism is, first and foremost, God’s work through His workers. “As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” – none were missed through human failure (Acts 13:48).

Therefore, the issue is how can we cooperate with God in His work? Will we be obedient? What should we say so that the Spirit will draw people to Jesus Christ? When we tell the truth the Spirit will save people – he will save more through some servants, less through others, but He will save.

Profiting from Proverbs 14:15-18

November 8, 2012

Week 26

Living in Wisdom – con’t (14:1-32)

Proverbs 14 addresses the topic of living in wisdom.

In verses 1-7 Solomon implored his son to live according to wisdom. In verses 8-15 he addressed the issue of living by faith and not sight.

Our natural inclination is to live according to our own wisdom which has been shaped by our sinful natures and worldly philosophies around us – thus, we tend to live by what we see and experience.

However, God’s wisdom is higher and better than our worldly wisdom.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. (Is 55:8)

The problem is that God’s wisdom goes against our preconceived notions and the approved so-called wisdom of our culture. Therefore, it is necessary to have faith. We need to trust God so that we will live according to the wisdom contained in His Word in order to experience the blessings which come from obedience.

Contrasting Social Behaviours and Consequences (vv. 15-32)

In verses 15-32 we have a section which contrasts the behaviour and consequences of the upright with those of the wicked.

The structure of this section is easy to discern. Verses 15 and 18, being parallel in thought, constitute a frame for the other two verses which are linked together through their internal descriptions.

15 The simple believes every word, But the prudent considers well his steps.

16 A wise man fears and departs from evil, But a fool rages and is self-confident.

17 A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, And a man of wicked intentions is hated.

18 The simple inherit folly, But the prudent are crowned with knowledge.

This section begins at the beginning – the thought life of the “simple” in contrast to that of the “prudent.” Verse 15 says, “The simple believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps” (v. 15). We already discussed this verse as the concluding verse for the previous section. However, this verse also fits nicely into the beginning of this section. That is why Waltke calls this verse a janus verse – a verse which functions as an archway from one section to the next – as it concludes one section it prepares the reader for the following.

Verse 15 demonstrates that the “simple” person believes every word – he is gullible, easily swayed, and naïve regarding ideas. In contrast, the “prudent” person carefully regards “his steps” (his actions). The contrast is not a tight parallelism. The “simple” person is merely described by what influences him. He is easily swayed by outside voices; and ultimately, he embraces deceptive philosophies. However, ideas have consequences. Ideas affect one’s manner of life. The implication is that the naïve one is swayed into a manner of life because of his gullibility to ideas.

The “prudent” person, by implication is carefully evaluating ideas and positions, and in so doing, rightly orders “his (own) steps” in harmony with wisdom.

This verse cautions us from being quick to embrace ideas which are being promoted around us. Rather, we should take those ideas and filter them through a biblical grid to ensure their accuracy and reliability. Only when we have determined whether something is true according to Scripture, should we embrace it as truth. When we exercise such discernment, it should affect how we live. Prudent people understand theology, use it to evaluate philosophy, and develop practical and godly methodology.

Verses 16 and 17 illustrate the general teaching of verse 15. The lack of foresight of the “simple,” and the analysis of the “prudent,” results in two vastly different directions in life.

Verse 16 says, “A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages and is self-confident.” To follow up on the implication of verse 15, that the “prudent” personcarefully weighs ideas, we find that the “wise man” is one who “fears and departs from evil.” Prudent people are able to see issues and ideas in light of God’s Word; their fear of the Lord causes them to flee the evil and submit to God’s injunctions. True fear of God always results in fleeing from sin and evil.

Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding. (Job 28:28)

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil. (Pr 3:7)

The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate. (Pr 8:13)

…by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil. (Pr 16:6)

In contrast to the “wise,” whose actions result in self-preservation by shunning evil, the “fool” heads for disaster. A “fool” is a person who is worse than a “simple” person. A “simple” person is one who is naïve, unlearned or untaught (there may still be hope for him). However, a “fool” is one who has rejected God’s truth. So from verse 15-16 we see a descent. The “simple” person (v. 15), who gullibly accepts anything, becomes a “fool.” And this one “rages” and is “self-confident.” He becomes angry with God and those who agree with Him. This pride results in self-confidence which results in self-destruction.

Verse 16 demonstrates that the God-fearer does not overestimate himself, nor does he feel self-confident; whereas the cocky fool does not turn from evil.[1] Waltke said:

Paul admonishes the Christians at Philippi ‘to work out your salvation with fear and trembling’ (i.e. to express your salvation in spiritual growth in an active reverence in response to God’s grace) (Phil. 2:12).[2]

Believers will develop a healthy fear of God which will result in hating and shunning evil. Those who develop a self-confident, arrogant attitude will ignore the danger signs and plunge headlong into self-destructive self-expression.

Verse 17 is coupled with the previous (v. 16), and continues to describe the actions of the fool which come from careless indifference to ideas (v. 15). It continues the theme of folly: “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated.” This verse cautions the reader from being a “quick-tempered man” who acts impetuously. The one who is quick-tempered “acts foolishly.” This description shows that he is undisciplined and out of control. His emotions overrule his head which causes him to act irrationally and violently. Far worse, however is a person of “wicked intentions,” who is not impetuous, but rather deliberate as he calculates and executes his intentions. He works in cold-blooded animosity towards others.

This verse underscores the necessity to gain mastery over our emotions. There is a right and wrong time for anger. And even if we find the right time for anger, we may fail by allowing our anger to control our thinking and to affect how we treat others:

“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath… (Eph 4:26)

When simple people refuse to evaluate ideas and philosophies (v. 15), they become fools who become angry with God and truth, causing them to plunge headlong into destructive actions. Some fools may end up becoming so angry that it affects their entire being whereby they diligently plan and execute their wicked intentions.

Verse 18 brings us to the conclusion of the matter: “The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.” In verse 18, Solomon closes this section by again contrasting the “simple” with the “prudent,” this time focusing upon their end.

The prudent one, who submits himself to the teachings of the wise are metaphorically crowned: “Their internalizing of the revealed moral truths enables them to pick their way through danger and win dominion and dignity.”[3]

The fate of the “simple” is not so glorious. When simple ones refuse to live by the revealed truth of God they get caught in a lifestyle characterized by rebellion to God. The conclusion is that they “inherit folly.” Their lives are marked by shame.

Gaining a crown through living wisely is far better than inheriting further disgrace and shame. But living wisely begins by thinking wisely. We ought to pursue God’s truth. As we pursue and internalize knowledge, we will learn to live wisely. This wise living will result in honour from God (and possibly man).


[1] Waltke, pp. 595-596.

[2] Waltke, p. 596.

[3] Waltke, p. 597.