Speaking Sound Doctrine


Divine Worship

VII.          Prayer

A.          An Act Of Worship: Prayer

Prayer is perhaps the purest form of worship.  From the heart, words of honor, praise, adoration, reverence, and thanksgiving are simply expressed.  In prayer, supplication is made to Him whom the speaker acknowledges as having the power to work in him and the sovereign rule over the universe.

Psalm 141:1, 2  LORD, I cry out to You; Make haste to me!  Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. 2 Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

1.      The Origin Of Prayer

a.        Seeking God

It begins with us to seek God.

Psalm 10:4  The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.

Psalm 14:1-4  The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. 3 They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one. 4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, Who eat up my people as they eat bread, And do not call on the LORD?

Isaiah 55:6  Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.

God desires that we seek Him, and only Him, not turning to spiritists and mediums seeking counsel from departed saints (Leviticus 19:31).

Isaiah 8:19  And when they say to you, "Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter," should not a people seek their God?  Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?

Prayer as an act of worship must be directed toward God.  Attempting to pray to Peter, Mary, or any other deceased saint is futility and sacrilege.  The dead have no knowledge or power to assist us (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

b.        Human instinct

In the third generation, men begin to seek the Lord.

Genesis 4:26  And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh.  Then men began to call on the name of the LORD.

After the fall, there is no indication that God contacts mankind commanding prayer.  Instead, as God places in some animals the instinct to migrate, He has placed in the heart of man the instinct to seek Him, so that men in the days of Enosh evidently take the initiative.

Acts 17:26-27  And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

Ecclesiastes 3:10, 11  I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

Here, the word "eternity" translates 'OWLAM {o-lawm'}.  The definition includes antiquity, futurity, longevity, perpetuity, or eternity (BDB), and English renderings here are variable and even conflicting.  Notwithstanding, it describes the everlasting, both throughout and transcending time (Psalm 90:2; 100:5).  Being made in His image, we are by nature able to recognize that there is something in us that endures beyond this physical world.

Without special revelation, we can acknowledge that God must exist through the observation of His glorious handiwork (Psalm 19:1-6) and because He has manifested Himself in us (Romans 1:18-22).  Recognizing this, it is reasonable for us to think that God cares about and requires something of His creation and that He hears us when we cry out to Him, though we do not necessarily understand how.  Although prayer originates in man, it is God who provides the channel.  He instills the intuition within us and so expects us to respond to Him willingly rather than under coercion from a divine edict.

2.      Prayer by definition

In the NKJ Old Testament, the verb "pray" most often translates the Hebrew PALAL {paw-lal'} meaning, "1) to intervene, interpose, pray 1a) (Piel) to mediate, judge 1b) (Hithpael) 1b1) to intercede 1b2) to pray" (BDB), (Genesis 20:7; Psalm 5:2).  It is almost always used in reference to petitioning God but in rare instances of a general request made to men (Isaiah 45:14).  Lesser used  is 'ATHAR {aw-thar'} meaning "1) to pray, entreat, supplicate" (BDB), (Isaiah 19:22), always used of prayer to God.

In the NKJ New testament, the verb "pray" most often translates these Greek words:

      PROSEUCHOMAI {pros-yoo'-khom-ahee}, which is "a religious technical term for talking to a deity in order to ask for help, usually in the form of a request, vow, or wish" (TBF).

      EUCHOMAI {yoo'-khom-ahee}, meaning: "1) to pray to God 2) to wish, to pray, to pray for" (JHT).

      DEOMAI {deh'-om-ahee} meaning: "1) to want, lack 2) to desire, long for 3) to ask, beg 3a) the thing asked for 3b) to pray, make supplications" (JHT), used of making a request to God (Acts 8:22) and to men (Acts 21:39).

The words cited above sometimes indicate generally requesting or petitioning another, as kings, rulers, or God.  However, the focus of this study is specifically on us speaking to God today.  Since He does not now converse with us in dialogue through dreams or visions, we pray to God with no tangible or perceived communicative evidence of His presence.  This is the situation with Hannah as she prays in her heart, apparent only by her lips moving (1 Samuel 1).  Prayer as such is a demonstration of great faith, as she is trusting that God cares and is listening yet with no special manifestation of His presence before her and without hearing His voice in response.  We will have more to say about prayer in faith when we consider our attitudes in prayer.  For the purpose of this study, this is the kind of prayer we will examine, not the generic expressions of desires, requests, or wishes that one might make to any other on earth (Genesis 12:13; 50:17; Luke 14:18, 19 KJV; Romans 9:3) or in Hades (Luke 16:27 KJV) or of heavenly beings praising God (Revelation 19:1-7) or of speaking to God in dreams or visions (Exodus 33:11-14) or through an angel (Genesis 32:29).

a.        Communication with God

In the beginning, God visits man in the Garden Of Eden, and His first recorded words to them are "be fruitful and multiply…" (Genesis 1:28-30).  It is not revealed how God manifests Himself, but it is evidently commonplace for God to walk through the Garden (Genesis 3:8).  On such occasions, man and his Creator converse, as it were, face to face, and Adam's first recorded words to God are, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked…" (Genesis 3:10).

God afterward continues to occasionally visit and converse with men upon the earth, as he does with Cain (Genesis 4:6-16).  God reveals Himself and speaks with the patriarchs and the prophets at His will (Hebrews 1:1), whether in dreams, visions, or some other unknown form (Exodus 33:11), but the intimacy mankind had with God in the beginning is lost after being driven from the Garden.

God no longer converses with men directly as He did with the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles.  He speaks to us now through His written word (2 Timothy 3:15, 16; 2 Peter 1:19, 20), and we speak to Him through prayer (Philippians 4:6 1 Peter 3:12).  Prayer is worship, and a man cannot please God without it.  Therefore, to neglect it is to sin.

b.        The need For prayer

Look carefully at DEOMAI.  Before the fall, man lacks nothing.  Wanting nothing, he desires nothing more.  Longing for nothing, he has no need to ask God for anything.  After the fall, man is hopelessly in need and therefore needs to pray.  We need to see this need.  In Acts 6:2-4, the need for prayer is urgent and given a higher priority than feeding poor widows.

B.          The Name of The Lord

1.      Calling on the name of the Lord: an appeal

In Genesis 4:26, the word "call" translates QARA' {kaw-raw'}. In the verb stem here (Qal), the meaning includes "to call, cry, utter a loud sound, to call unto, cry (for help), call (with name of God) … to summon, invite, call for…" (BDB).  This terminology appears in the Psalms in connection with worship (99:6), thanksgiving (105:1), supplications (116:4), and offerings (116:13-18) to God.

Bible scholars speculate that the book of Job documents events very early in human history.  If this is true, then the appeals of Job, produced in his anguish, are perhaps some of the earliest prayers uttered (Job 10:9; 16:17; 42:10).

In Acts 2:21, Peter quotes Joel 2:32, "And it shall come to pass that whoever calls [QARA'] on the name of the LORD shall be saved."  Peter uses the word EPIKALEOMAI {ep-ee-kal-eh'-om-ahee}, and its meaning includes, "…to invoke, to call upon for one's self, in one's behalf, any one as a helper, as my witness, as my judge, to appeal unto, to call upon by pronouncing the name of Jehovah, an expression finding its explanation in the fact that prayers addressed to God ordinarily began with an invocation of the divine name" (JHT).  With this word, Ananias tells Saul to be baptized, appealing to God for forgiveness (Acts 22:16), and Paul later appeals to Caesar, seeking protection and justice (Acts 25, 26).

2.      Praying in the name of the Lord: with His authority

Returning to Genesis 4:26, the word "name" translates the Hebrew SHEM {shame}, and it means an exact designation for one, in token of ownership, regarding its reputation and fame, as his representative, especially as embodying the revealed character of one and to act according to it (BDB).  Thus, the Mosaic priests and Levites and the prophets are said to serve "in the name of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 18:5, 7, 20, 22).  Likewise, David, appalled at the defiance of the Philistines and for the sake of the reputation of Israel, approaches the battle with Goliath "in the name of the Lord" (1 Samuel 17:45, 46).  These are acting with the authority of God (Psalm 118:10-12).  Similarly, Mordecai acts "in the name of King Ahasuerus," that is, by his authority (Esther 8:10).

Returning to Acts 2:21, the word "name" translates the Greek ONOMA {on'-om-ah}, and Thayer explains: "the name is used for everything which the name covers, everything the thought or feeling of which is aroused in the mind by mentioning, hearing, remembering, the name, i.e. for one's rank, authority, interests, pleasure, command, excellences, deeds etc.)."  We are baptized (Acts 2:38), we preach (Acts 9:47), and we do all things (Colossians 3:17) by His authority.  Praying in the name of the Lord is to do so by His authority and according to His divine character and will (Ephesians 5:20).

3.      The names of God

a.        In Old Testament scripture

      'ELOHIYM {el-o-heem'}, meaning: "1) (plural) 1a) rulers, judges 1b) divine ones 1c) angels 1d) gods 2) (plural intensive - singular meaning) 2a) god, goddess 2b) godlike one 2c) works or special possessions of God 2d) the (true) God 2e) God" (Genesis 1:1).

      'ELOAHH {el-o'-ah}, (singular) meaning: "1) God 2) false god" (Deuteronomy 32:15).

      'EL {ale} meaning "1) god, god-like one, mighty one 1a) mighty men, men of rank, mighty heroes 1b) angels 1c) god, false god, (demons, imaginations) 1d) God, the one true God, Jehovah 2) mighty things in nature 3) strength, power."  As the origin of the words listed above, it generically refers to great and powerful ones.  Hence, distinguishing modifiers often accompany this word when referring to God: "the most high God" (Genesis 14:18), "the Almighty God" (17:1), and merciful, jealous, faithful, great, true, excellent, living, gracious, compassionate, and powerful.  These speak of His character, which we will examine later in more detail.

      YEHOVAH {yeh-ho-vaw'}, meaning: "Jehovah – 'the existing One' 1) the proper name of the one true God 1a) unpronounced [in Jewish display of reverence]."

      'ADONAY {ad-o-noy'}, meaning: "1) my lord, lord 1a) of men 1b) of God 2) Lord – title, spoken in place of YAHWEH" (all definitions BDB).

These terms are frequently used together: YEHOVAH 'ELOHIYM (Genesis 2, 3) and 'ADONAY YEHOVAH, (Genesis 15:2, 8) translated "Lord God."  In most English Translations, the word translating YEHOVAH is in all upper case letters.

b.        In New Testament scripture

      THEOS {theh'-os}, meaning: "1) a god or goddess, a general name of deities or divinities 2) the Godhead, trinity 2a) God the Father, the first person in the trinity 2b) Christ, the second person of the trinity 2c) Holy Spirit, the third person in the trinity 3) spoken of the only and true God 3a) refers to the things of God 3b) his counsels, interests, things due to him 4) whatever can in any respect be likened unto God, or resemble him in any way 4a) God's representative or viceregent 4a1) of magistrates and judges."

      KURIOS {koo'-ree-os}, meaning: "1) he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord 1a) the possessor and disposer of a thing 1a1) the owner; one who has control of the person, the master 1a2) in the state: the sovereign, prince, chief, the Roman emperor 1b) is a title of honour expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants salute their master 1c) this title is given to: God, the Messiah."

      DESPOTES {des-pot'-ace}, meaning: "1) a master, Lord" (all definitions JHT) (Acts 4:24).

These terms are also sometimes used together: KURIOS THEOS (Luke 1:32, 68) and DESPOTES THEOS (Jude 1:4), also translated "Lord God."

4.      "The Lord"

The word "Lord," translating KURIOS, is a generic term of respect.  It is clearly sometimes used of God the Father (Luke 1:32; 2:15, 22; 10:21), sometimes of God the Son (Romans 1:7; 15:6), sometimes of God the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:15-18), sometimes of the Godhead (Acts 4:24; 17:24), and often of men (Matthew 25:14-30; 1 Peter 3:6).  The same is true of the Hebrew word "'ADONAY."  As for all words with multiple meanings, the context will determine the sense.

C.          The Character Of God

A deep study on the character of God is beyond the scope of this study.  However, this brief overview reminds us of the magnificent attributes of the one whose presence we approach when we pray.

1.      Glory

Spiritual beings are not like humans.  Though God is described in scripture with physical human features (Amos 9:8; Psalm 18:6; 2 Chronicles 6:4), the terminology is only accommodative.  Paul reveals in principle the difference between the earthly and the heavenly in 1 Corinthians 15:35-53.  Man is unlike God as an acorn is unlike an oak tree.  We do not yet know the form of the spiritual body, but we know we are changed to be like Him in the resurrection when all things physical are destroyed (1 John 3:22; Peter 3:10-12).  The exceeding glory of the Lord is beyond our ability to comprehend.

Psalm 145:3-5  Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable. 4 One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts. 5 I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, And on Your wondrous works.

2.      Power (omnipotence)

Power that can speak the universe and life within it into existence has no limit (Psalm 33:6-9; 1 Timothy 6:13-16; Hebrews 11:3).

Revelation 4:8-11  The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within.  And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!" 9 Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: "You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created."

3.      Wisdom

A dissertation on divine wisdom is found in Job 38-41 where God details the wonders of space, galaxies, stars, planets, mountains, rivers, oceans, and all manner of life – they are all by His design.  The study of a single biological system impresses upon us His wisdom.  The DNA molecule is His fingerprint.

Proverbs 3:19  The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; By understanding He established the heavens.

Isaiah 40:28  Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary.  His understanding is unsearchable.

Romans 11:33-36  Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 For who has known the mind of the LORD?  Or who has become His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?

1 Corinthians 2:7  But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory….

1 Timothy 1:17  Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

4.      Eternal, above time

Physical man is bound to the natural habitat God created.  In 1 Corinthians 15:42-58, the word translated "natural" is PSUCHIKOS {psoo-khee-kos'}, meaning "of or belonging to breath" (JHT).  Our word, "nature," is from Latin and pertains to birth.  However, gender is irrelevant to God (Matthew 22:30), no one gave birth to Him, and He does not need to breathe air to live (Genesis 2:7).  He created the natural world and is therefore above it. 

The physical universe consists of matter, space, and time, which, before its creation, did not exist, yet God is there (Genesis 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:9).  The universe is also temporary, yet God remains (Hebrews 1:10-12).  Now time is the progression of infinitesimal moments under the sun that mark change, but with God, there is no change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).  Eternality is more than always existing; it transcends time, so God sees the future the same as He sees the present and the past (2 Peter 3:8). 

Exodus 3:14, 15  And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" 15 Moreover God said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.  This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.'"

Psalm 90:2  Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God….  4 For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night.

Isaiah 57:15  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,…."

5.      Everywhere (omnipresence)

God is spirit (John 4:24) and therefore not bound to the physical limitations of time, space, and matter, as is His creation (Acts 17:26).

Psalm 139:7-10  Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.

6.      Foreknowledge

Old Testament prophets often speak of future events as if they have already occurred (Isaiah 53).

Isaiah 42:9  Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.

Isaiah 46:10  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."

7.      Knowledge, infinite awareness (omniscience)

God has placed in us an intellect capable of mental impulses that we do not need to verbalize in order for God to know (1 Corinthians 4:5).  We are how we think (Proverbs 23:7), and God will judge accordingly.

Psalm 44:20, 21  If we had forgotten the name of our God, Or stretched out our hands to a foreign god, 21 Would not God search this out?  For He knows the secrets of the heart.

Luke 16:15  And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts…."

Hebrews 4:13  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

8.      Sovereignty and justice

Authority without retribution is no authority at all.  God is ruler supreme, and His integrity cannot allow persistent rebellion to go unpunished (Romans 2:2-11).

Revelation 11:15-18  Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" 16 And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying: "We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned. 18 The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth."

9.      Love

Love not demonstrated is not love (1 John 3:16-18).  We know how love for our fellowman should be displayed.  How much more God's immeasurable love is supremely manifested in what He does for us.

a.        Mercy

God demonstrates His love by withholding His wrath.

Jeremiah 31:3  The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.

Psalm 136:1-26  Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!  For His mercy endures forever….

b.        Patience

God demonstrates His love by allowing us time to obey.

2 Peter 3:9-15  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance…. 14 Therefore … be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation….

c.        Grace

God demonstrates His love by bestowing favor to the undeserving (1 Thessalonians 2:16, 17).

Romans 5:5-8  Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

d.        Care

God demonstrates His love by sacrificing for our needs in compassion.

Philippians 4:19  And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 2:6-18  But one testified in a certain place, saying: "What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him?"  9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone….

10.   Unity in three persons

Scripture reveals that there are three persons in God.  In the beginning, God says, "Let us make man in our own image" (Genesis 1:26), and the Hebrew word here for God, 'ELOHIYM {el-o-heem'} is plural.  This is not to say there are three Gods or that He is only one with alter egos, but rather, there are three who are God.  These three persons are clearly distinguished as separate beings, particularly in the account of Christ's baptism.  Luke states that "The Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, 'You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.'"  Here are three unique persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The Father is God (John 6:27); Jesus is God (Colossians 2:9); the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3, 4).

Acts 2:33  Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth....

Acts 10:38  You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power....

With our finite minds, it is difficult to comprehend how God can be one (Deuteronomy 6:4) yet there be three individual persons of God.  For insight into this, consider John 17:11, 21, 22.  Jesus prays that the apostles may be one as He and the Father are one.  He is speaking of unity.  The same language is used of marriage: "They shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).  On many occasions, Jesus states that He is not acting independently of the Father but in strict, exclusive accordance with His will (John 5:30; 8:42; 12:49; 14:10).  Notwithstanding, the will of the Father is also the will of Christ (Ephesians 1:1-12).  The Holy Spirit's work is likewise congruent to the Father's and the Son's (John 16:12-15; 2 Peter 1:21).  By this precept then, anything authorized in the Father, is also authorized in the Son and the Holy Spirit.  They work not independently – yet not even cooperatively – they work coincidentally.

To illustrate, observe what the Bible says about the resurrection of Christ.  First, in proof of His divinity, it states that Jesus rose from the dead by His own power (John 10:18).  However, in other passages, Jesus is said to have risen by the power of the Father (Galatians 1:1).  Yet again, He is said to have risen by the Spirit (Romans 8:11).  In divine unity, the power of Christ, the power of the Father, and the power of the Holy Spirit are the same power (John 10:30, 17:10).  There is no inconsistency here, "Because what the Father does, the Son does likewise; creation, and all other external works, are ascribed indifferently to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit" [W. J. Sparrow-Simpson, The Resurrection And The Christian Faith, 1968].

John 5:19-30  Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner."

What the Father says, hears, knows, purposes, and performs, the Son and the Holy Spirit do as well and vice versa.  The honor and glory of one is also that of the others (John 5:23; 1 Corinthians 4:3-6).  To deny one is to deny the others; to abide in one is to abide in the others (1 Corinthians 12:12, 13; 1 John 2:22-24).  To know one is to know the others (John 14:6-26).  Many passages that speak of the fellowship of God will bring this out as well:

1 John 1:3  What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

Notwithstanding, the roles of the persons of God are different.  The Son is the sacrifice, not the Father or the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit, not the Father or the Son, is the Helper sent to the apostles.  Though each person of God performs a different function, They are still one in perfect fellowship.

John 14:26  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

We more easily understand that which is complex or abstract if we can compare it to something familiar.  However, if we attempt to perceive God by human analogies, we might unwittingly adopt a false view of His character.  For example, God cannot be compared to a business management chart where the Father is the chief executive officer with Christ and the Holy Spirit as inferiors reporting to Him.  Though the Son has a submissive role before the Father, He is nevertheless on equal terms with Him (Philippians 2:5-8).

It seems impossible for us to relate anything in the physical world to the character of God.  Analogies to the closest earthly relationships, such as marriage, fail at last.  Only through faith can we accept that which we cannot comprehend through natural reason (Hebrews 11:3).

The term "Trinity" has been adopted from the Latin "trinitas," to indicate this threefold character of God.  Although the word does not appear in scripture, it is an accommodating term depicting the Godhead:

Matthew 28:19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

2 Corinthians 13:14  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

Acts 5:29-32  But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men.  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.  Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him."

D.         Christ: God's Anointed Among Us

1.      The Only Begotten Son

We have a common understanding of sonship in our family relationships; sons originate from their fathers from generation to generation.  We are not to think of God the same way we think of man.  The spiritual relationship of Christ to the Father is not like the physical relationship men have with their sons (Numbers 23:19; Isaiah 55:8, 9).  The term "only begotten Son" is not to be taken in the sense of a relationship of origin.  Christ did not become the Son of God as by conception; He is the Son of God by appointment.

Acts 13:33  God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus.  As it is also written in the second Psalm: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You."

The word "begotten" here and everywhere referring to Christ appears in the perfect tense, which "views action as a finished product" (DM).  All other occurrences (e.g. Matthew 1:2-17; 1 Corinthians 4:15) are in the aorist tense, expressing simple action at a point in time past (DM).  The distinction is subtle, but the present denotes a condition (to be something) whereas the aorist denotes an event (to do something).  "It is best to assume that there is a reason for the perfect wherever it occurs" (DM).

W. E. Vine states, "With reference to Christ, the phrase 'only begotten from the Father' ... indicates that, as the Son of God, He was the sole representative of the Being and character of the One who sent Him....  It suggests relationship indeed, but must be distinguished from generation as applies to man" (Hebrews 7:3).

      "Only begotten" indicates a closeness, an intimacy in sharing all the Father's councils and affections.  It expresses eternal unity and divine love:

John 1:18  No one has seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

      "Only begotten" is to be understood as preciousness.  The value of the gift, the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross, lies in His Sonship, not His incarnation:

John 3:16  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

      "Only begotten" brings to bear the full revelation of the will and character of the Father.  His justice and grace is conveyed through Him whom He sent: Jesus Christ, the object of our faith. 

John 3:18  He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

If we want to better understand the character of God, we only need to look at the compassionate and zealous earthly ministry of Jesus; He is "the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person" (Hebrews 1:3).  The phrase "express image" translates CHARAKTER {khar-ak-tare'} meaning "1) the instrument used for engraving or carving 2) the mark stamped upon that instrument or wrought out on it 2a) a mark or figure burned in … or stamped on, an impression 2b) the exact expression (the image) of any person or thing, marked likeness, precise reproduction in every respect, i.e. facsimile" (JHT).  To see the traits of the Father, just observe the traits of Son: His perfect representative (Matthew 21:37, John 12:45; Colossians 1:15).

John 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

All such descriptions of the persons of God as Father and Son are only accommodative language to reveal His qualities.  The term "Father" speaks to God's sacrificial love, care, provision, protection, discipline, authority, and our origin.  The term is used of the Christ as well (Isaiah 9:6).  The term "Son" speaks to God's incarnation, representation, faithfulness, intimacy, and our brotherhood.

2.      Our mediator

Note our relationship with God through Christ revealed in scripture:

Ephesians 2:18  For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

The word "through" translates DIA {dee-ah'}, and the meaning includes "by the means of,… the ground or reason [for] something,… on account of,… because of…" (JHT).  We do not pray "through Jesus," as if He relays the message; instead, we are able to petition the Father directly because of the atonement by His blood (Ephesians 2:11-17).

1 Timothy 2:5  For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.

The word "mediator" translates MESITES {mes-ee'-tace}, meaning "1) one who intervenes between two, either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or form a compact, or for ratifying a covenant, 2) a medium of communication, arbitrator" (JHT).  Though sometimes described as a "go-between," Christ does not provide a buffer while angst between us and the Father is maintained but a channel, providing reconciliation (Hebrews 9:11-15).  As arbitrator, an effectual mediator fully represents and understands the interests of both parties at odds.  Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, perfectly fulfills this (Hebrews 2:9-18;

1 John 2:1  My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.  And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

The noun "advocate" translates PARAKLETOS {par-ak'-lay-tos}, and the meaning includes "…called to one's side,… to one's aid,… one who pleads another's cause with one, an intercessor,… of Christ in his exaltation at God's right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins,… in the widest sense, a helper …" (JHT).  This is related to EPIKALEOMAI, "to appeal unto," examined earlier.  When we pray in faith at the Father's throne, Jesus is, as it were, standing beside us, His arm around us, vouching for us, helping us, comforting us (Hebrews 7:25).

Since God is one, Jesus, the Son, is both mediated and mediator, both justified and justifier, both appeased and appeaser, both reconciled and reconciler, both the sacrifice and the one to whom it was offered (Romans 3:21-26; 1 Corinthians 5:18-21).

E.          The Attributes of God in Prayer

Consider the significance of the attributes of God as relates to our prayers.

1.      God is holy

Recognizing the glory and the power of God, we ought not approach Him in a casual or frivolous manner.  His majesty and sovereignty should instill awe.  We are not on His level that we should address Him in prayer with nicknames and engage Him in amusing anecdotes.  Prayer is a time for serious reflection and sober-mindedness (Psalm 33:8; 89:7; 111:9; Hebrews 12:28; 1 Peter 1:13-17; 4:7).

2.      God is approachable

We are humbled realizing that it is the creator of the universe whom we address.  A man would approach kings of ancient world empires unbidden only at the risk of losing his head (Esther 4:11), and modern world leaders are unapproachable, yet the door to the throne room of the God of infinite glory stands open for all to freely enter and bring a petition (Hebrews 7:25; 12:18-24).

3.      God is always available

As Jesus while on earth is never too busy or too tired to listen to the distressed and over-burdened in any situation, our God in heaven is likewise always ready to receive our petitions (Psalm 4:3).

4.      God knows what we need

God is continually aware of everything that is happening to us, so He knows in His wisdom the things we need before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8).

5.      God is in control of today and the future

What has happened in the past is no obstacle to God; He knows what lies ahead and responds to us from a greater perspective.  He accomplishes His will, and no human actions can thwart it (Isaiah 40:21 – 41:4).

6.      God has the desire to act in our lives

God has not divested Himself of the affairs of men today but is active in the world and is "able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us" (Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9; Ephesians 3:14-21).

7.      God cannot be deceived

In pretense, we might deceive a brother to believe that we are upright by our speech, but God knows when our heart does not align with our words (1 Samuel 2:2, 3; Psalm 34:11-16; 145:18-20; Matthew 23:14).  The fact that God knows our thoughts should bring comfort to the believer but fear to the pretender.  Insincerity will ultimately be found out (Acts 19:13-16), and a prayer in hypocrisy will surely draw the wrath of God.

8.      God is sympathetic

      Our Lord understands us.

Hebrews 4:14-16  Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

For this reason, we can never declare to God that He cannot know what it is like to be man.

      The Holy Spirit intercedes for us.

Romans 8:26, 27  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. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Here, intercession translates ENTUGCHANO {en-toong-khan'-o}, "to ask for something with urgency and intensity" (LN).  Moreover, groanings translates STENAGMOS {sten-ag-mos'}, "to groan or sigh as the result of deep concern or stress" (LN, Matthew 9:36; Mark 7:34).

The point is not that the Father does not always understand what we mean unless the Holy Spirit explains it to Him.  Instead, we do not need to worry if the right words fail us sometimes; God of all knowledge listens to our heart.

9.      God is faithful

When we come to God reverently with a contrite heart, we are speaking to a caring, patient friend and compassionate redeemer.  We can fully trust that He will never deceive us, betray us, abandon us, or deal treacherously with us (Hebrews 13:5, 6; 1 Peter 5:6,7).

10.   God loves us

God's love is beyond compare (Romans 5:5-8); it is immeasurable and unfathomable (Romans 8:31-39).  His love, expressed by the Greek AGAPE {ag-ah'-pay}, is the love for the undeserving – that always seeks the highest good of others.

11.   God is worthy of our worship

God is worthy of our worship and prayers (Philippians 4:20).

2 Samuel 22:4  I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.

F.          Whom We May Address

1.      God: the Lord, the Father

We often express our prayers by addressing God as the Father specifically, as in many biblical examples (Psalm 89:26; Isaiah 63:16; 64:8; Matthew 6:9; 11:25).  However, we must not think that, if we address the Father in prayer, we are speaking only to Him to the exclusion of the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The unity of the Godhead cannot allow for this.

2.      God: the Son, Jesus Christ

Jesus is God and worthy of our praise and worship, and prayer is a means for this.  Therefore, when we pray to or petition the Father, we are necessarily also praying to or petitioning the Son.  Jesus is not merely overhearing it; He is a direct recipient.  The expressions are used interchangeably:

John 14:13, 14  Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. (NAU)

John 15:16  Whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

The question arises whether we have the authority on principle to address Jesus directly by name in prayer as we do the Father, yet recognizing that other persons of the Godhead are not excluded.  The answer to this is that, indeed, we do have this authority in scripture:

1 John 5:13-16  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. 14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. 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.

Religious authority is fundamentally founded upon either a recorded command or statement, an approved example, or a necessary inference in scripture or a combination thereof.  However, we do not need to have all three.  If we have authority for an action by an approved example, we do not need to also cite a recorded command in scripture for its validation.  If we have authority for an action by a recorded statement or necessary inference, we do not need to also cite an example of it in scripture for validation.

A command is expressed in the imperative mood: "Arise and be baptized."  A general statement is expressed in the indicative mood: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved."  However, a statement in the subjunctive mood indicates that which is possible or conditional: "If we ask" (1 John 5:14, 15).  If directly petitioning Jesus by name in prayer is possible and acceptable to Him, it necessarily infers that it is authorized.  The subjunctive also indicates that it is not mandatory that we address Him by name but only that we may.

Notwithstanding, we ought not think that, if we address Jesus in prayer, we are speaking only to Him to the exclusion of the Father and the Holy Spirit.  The Son's throne is the Father's throne is the Spirit's throne (Revelation 3:21, 22).

3.      God: The Holy Spirit

The Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit are God and therefore worthy of our direct worship, praise, thanksgiving, and supplication in prayer (Revelation 5:9-13).

Revelation 14:7  …Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.

4.      Attempts to validate addressing Jesus in prayer by example

We have authority by recorded statement and inference to address Jesus directly by name in prayer, and we do not need to also show an example of this in scripture to bolster it.  Besides, even if we could indeed find such an example, it would not be more authorized than what the statement and inference has provided.  Nevertheless, many brethren cite numerous scriptures claiming to show examples of it in defense.  A possible pitfall in this is "proof texting," where we are first convinced that something is right and then look for passages we think defend it.  This sometimes results in misapplying a scripture to support an idea that might indeed be true, which the passage does not actually prove.  This can also lead to doubt and confusion.  Like the Bereans (Acts 17:10, 11), let us now, without bias, soundly examine these.

a.        Acts 1:24

And they prayed and said, "You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen."

The impetus of this argument is that Jesus is assumed to be the "Lord" they are directly addressing in prayer.  However, as noted earlier, "Lord" is a generic term of respect, so the context must be consulted in each application.  Some have suggested that since Jesus chose Judas in the first place, they are beseeching Jesus specifically now to choose his replacement.  The character of God is neglected in this statement.  Jesus does nothing apart from the Father and the Spirit.  They, God, as one together, chose Judas (Luke 6:12, 13) and will likewise choose Matthias.  The argument is based upon supposition, and this is not an example of addressing Jesus in prayer by name.  We certainly have authority to do so, but this passage does not decisively support it.

b.        1 Corinthians 1:2

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.

The argument proposes that calling on the name of Jesus is to call out to Him, addressing Him directly by name.  In response, we earlier established that to call on the name of another is to make an appeal for their testimony.  It is not necessary that the one being requested is the one being addressed.  When Paul appeals to Caesar, he is not speaking to Caesar personally or addressing him directly.  We indeed have authority to address Jesus personally in prayer by name, but this passage does not definitively demonstrate it.

c.        1 Corinthians 16:22

If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.  O Lord, come! (NKJ)

The context indicates that the "Lord" is Jesus, also because it is the Son who is said to be coming in judgment, not the Father (Matthew 24).  The argument clams that "O Lord, come" is an example of a short prayer addressing Jesus by name.  In response, the statement translates MARAN ATHA {mar'-an ath'-ah} in the Greek, meaning, "1) our Lord cometh or will come" (JHT).  This is a transliteration of a phrase of Aramaic origin meaning "our Lord has come" (TDNT).  It has no declension and appears nowhere else in scripture, including the Septuagint, making it difficult to translate.  In fact, it is just transliterated again from Greek to English as "Maranatha" in the King James and New American Standard versions.  Other renderings include:

      Our Lord, come! (ESV and NET with footnote accepting "our Lord has come"),

      Lord, come! (CSB with footnote accepting "our Lord has come"),

      The Lord hath come! (YLT).

W. E. Vine describes the uncertainty of tense, whether past, "has come," or future, "will come," but he adds, "The character of the context, however, indicates that the Apostle is making a statement rather than expressing a desire or uttering a prayer" (WEV).  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia explains: "It was used by early Christians to add solemn emphasis to previous statement, injunction or adjuration, and seems to have become a sort of watchword; possibly forming part of an early liturgy."  Easton's Bible Dictionary indicates that the meaning includes, "our Lord is coming,"  suggesting, "Our Lord is coming, and he will judge those who have set him at nought" (EBD).  This finds similar expression in scripture:

Philippians 4:5  Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

James 5:8,9   You also be patient.  Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned.  Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!

There is ample doubt against confidently affirming that this necessarily infers a prayer of supplication addressed to Jesus by name.  We have authority to do so, but this passage does not necessarily prove it.

d.        Revelation 22:20 

He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly."  Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Like in 1 Corinthians 16:22, the argument affirms that John's response, "come, Lord Jesus," is another short prayer personally addressed to Jesus by name, imploring His return.  To answer, consider that the entire epistle is the record of a Revelation given to John in a heavenly vision (Revelation 1:1-11).  In this unearthly visitation, John has direct conversation with one of the twenty-four elders of heaven (7:13, 14) and with an angel (10:8-11).  From the throne, God Himself speaks directly to John (21:5-8).  Finally, Jesus, speaking directly to John through the mediation of an angel (22:6-20), says, "Surely I am coming quickly," to which, John replies, "Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"  This is not an example of men addressing Jesus personally in a prayer of faith with no communicative manifestation of His presence.  This is John speaking directly with Jesus in a vision.  We might call this "prayer" generically, in that it is a supplication to God the Son, but it is not the same as our prayers in faith without sight today.  This is not our proof text that we can address Jesus personally in prayer in worship today nor to otherwise speak to angels or to the elders of heaven, as John did.

e.        Acts 7:59, 60

And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin."

The argument claims that this is a clear and indisputable approved apostolic example in scripture of a prayer addressed personally to Jesus by name.  In response, the prayer under discussion in this study is an act of faith in which we speak to God when there is no special manifestation of His presence.  Examining the context, this is not the case.  Like John, Stephen is beholding a heavenly vision in which he directly sees Jesus and the Father (verse 55), and he, with the imperative, urges his opponents also to "look!" (verse 56).  This is not prayer like we pray, but Stephen is speaking directly to the Lord in a vision.  We can certainly address Jesus personally by name in prayer, but this passage is not an example of it.

f.         2 Corinthians 12:7-9

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."  Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The foundation of the argument rests upon assuming that the mode by which Paul pleads is a prayer of faith.  In answer, the Lord verbally responds personally to Paul.  Jesus does not vocally answer back to us when we pray.  It was common in those days for Jesus to sometimes have dialogue directly and personally with the apostles and others in dreams and visions (Acts 9:3-7, 10-15; 18:9, 10; 23:11; 2 Corinthians 12:1-4).  These instances, as with Stephen, are again not necessarily examples of prayers in faith as we pray today.

g.        1 Timothy 1:12

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry. (NKJ)

The argument maintains that Paul is here thanking Jesus by prayer, addressing Him personally.  In reply, a comparison of translations is revealing:

I am grateful to the one who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord… (NET)

I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord… (NRS)

Most all other English translations indeed read similar to the New King James, with the simple sentence (subject and predicate) presented as "I thank Jesus," where the verb is transitive, "to thank," and the object is "Jesus."  Conversely, in the two translations cited, it is presented as "I am grateful," where the verb is intransitive, "to be," (and there is no object).  The distinction in English is slight and should be negligible.  Nevertheless, when translations read differently, it is a signal to look beneath the surface.  This writer is not a linguistics or Greek language expert, but we can read the works of scholars who are.

The phrase translated "I thank" (NKJ) is CHARIS ECHO {khar'-ece ekh'-o}.  Let us look at the meaning of these terms (both from JHT).

      CHARIS (noun): "1) grace 1a) that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech…."

      ECHO (verb): "1) to have, i.e. to hold 1a) to have (hold) in the hand, in the sense of wearing, to have (hold) possession of the mind (refers to alarm, agitating emotions, etc.), to hold fast keep, to have or comprise or involve, to regard or consider or hold as...."

The verb ECHO is indicative, active, first person, present, singular: meaning the simple fact that I am persistently having, holding, possessing, keeping, or adhering to a thing.

The noun, CHARIS, is accusative, feminine, singular, common: which basically means it is the object of the verb; it is the thing I am having, holding, possessing, or keeping.

Conclusively, the phrase means that Paul is always having pleasure, holding gratitude, possessing favor, and keeping joy in the fact that Jesus has enabled him to the ministry.  This is accommodatingly expressed in the English vernacular as "give thanks to," but in the original, ECHO actually means the opposite of "give," and the object of the action is "thanks" or "thankfulness," not "Jesus."  This is similar to saying that I have gratitude for our fire department, which is a logical statement even though it is not addressed to them personally.

In sympathy for the argument, in all practicality, prayer to Jesus is the necessarily inferred eventual implementation of this gratitude.  Moreover, in 2 Timothy 1:3, Paul uses the identical phrase in saying "I thank God" ("I am grateful to God," NRS).  Thanking God and thanking Jesus in prayer are interchangeable and essentially the same thing.  We indeed have the authority to address Jesus personally in prayer by name, but this passage does not present a clear example of it.

Some brethren may criticize this examination and regard it as needless strife about words or even with ridicule, especially since the conclusion is the same anyway.  However, if unsound reasoning is tolerated in cases where it makes no difference and does not affect fellowship, then it is more likely to be tolerated when doctrine and fellowship are at stake.  Moreover, if we try to teach men the truth by misapplying scripture, we will never convince those who recognize the fallacy.  Fundamentally, we need to be mindful of what a passage really says before forcing it into application of an idea it does not actually support.

5.      Praise in prayer and in song

Some brethren who do not believe it is right to address Jesus personally in prayer by name will not sing hymns that speak of prayer to Jesus or that are worded as prayers to Jesus, but they will nevertheless sing praises to Jesus by name, as long as it is not stated as being a prayer.  This is inconsistent, because any practical distinction between praising Jesus in prayer and praising Him in song is indiscernible or contrived.  We are speaking to Him in either case (Ephesians 5:19).  Notwithstanding, if a brother believes it is wrong to address Jesus personally in prayer, he does not sin if he refrains from doing so or from singing songs indicating it.  However, he indeed sins if he does these things thinking they are sinful, violating his conscience (Romans 14:23) .

Some brethren claim authority for addressing Jesus personally by name in prayer on the basis of this inconsistency of others.  However, understand that demonstrating the inconsistency of others only demonstrates the inconsistency of others; it does not establish religious authority.

Moreover, brethren who deny the authority to address Jesus personally by name in prayer ought not be scorned, belittled, or ridiculed.  Instead, we can teach in patience and gentleness and not place a stumbling block in their path (Romans 14:1-4; 1 Corinthians 8:7-9).

6.      The prevailing condition of prayer in scripture

One possible reason some may resist addressing Jesus personally by name in prayer is because in the examples of scripture, prayer is addressed to "the Father" or otherwise to "God" or the "Lord," though sometimes expressed in the name of the Jesus (Matthew 6:9; Ephesians 5:20; Philippians 4:20; Colossians 1:3; 3:17).  This is how prayers in our worship services are typically stated, and we are most comfortable with what is familiar to us.

We may ask why one would want to address Jesus personally by name in prayer.  Any praise, supplication, confession, or thanksgiving we would offer the Son is due the Father and the Holy Spirit alike.  Moreover, the notion of talking to Jesus alone to the exclusion of the Father and the Holy Spirit is contrary to the unity of the Godhead.  This is not to say that we have no authority to address Jesus personally by name in prayer, but we should recognize that the Godhead three together is the inevitable direct recipient of our prayers.

G.         Who Can Pray?

1.      Gaining access, approaching the throne

Prayer comes only by the grace and mercy of God (Ephesians 2:4-10).

Romans 5:1, 2  Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

2.      God always hears but is only receptive to the contrite

Anyone can pray.  God is infinitely aware of everything men do, say, and think, including the ungodly and rebellious.  However, God is receptive to the prayers of those devoted in heart (Acts 10:1-4), but He rejects the pleading of the wicked (Proverbs 15:8, 29; 28:9; Isaiah 1:15).

Psalm 34:15-18  The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry. 16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. 17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.

Psalm 66:18  If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.

Isaiah 59:1-8  Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear….

He is attentive to all the contrite who seek Him with fear, though yet still in ignorance (Matthew 5:6).

Acts 9:10, 11  Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." 11 So the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.

H.         How To Pray

The Lord teaches us how to pray by His examples.  His disciples see Him praying often and apparently want to know more.

Luke 11:1  Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples."

We might think the disciples should already know how to pray by reading the Psalms, but The Lord does not rebuke them for asking.  His response is profound in its simplicity, the same as He teaches on the mountain (Matthew 6:9-13).  We just need to open our mouth and talk to God from the heart with spiritual mindedness. 

1.      What or for what we should pray

Observe some keynotes in the Lord's sample prayer.

a.        Praise

Acknowledge the majesty of the one to whom you speak:  "Hallowed be Your name."

b.        Confession

Admit your faults:  "Forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors."

c.        Anticipation

Express desire for God to fulfill what He has promised:  "Your kingdom come."

d.        Submission

Relinquish self-will:  "Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven."

e.        Supplication

Ask Him for what you need:  "Give us this day our daily bread.  And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one."

f.         Thanksgiving

Words of thankfulness seem to be conspicuously absent.  However, thanksgiving and praise are indivisible – one is the inevitable response and implied expression of the other (Psalm 18:49; 30:4, 12; 35:18; 69:30; 79:13; 92:1; 100:4; 106:1, 47; 147:7).  "For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever."

2.      Purposefully

We all have needs, and we need to pray with purpose, not only for our own needs but also the needs of others.

James 5:16-18  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. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

The original word rendered "effective, fervent," ENERGEO {en-erg-eh'-o} (from whence, "energy"), is a participle meaning: "1) to be operative, be at work, put forth power 1a) to work for one, aid one 2) to effect 3) to display one's activity, show one's self operative" (JHT).

In James 5:16, the original word rendered "avails" is ISCHUO {is-khoo'-o}, meaning: "1) to be strong 1a) to be strong in body, to be robust, to be in sound health 2) to have power 2a) to have power as shown by extraordinary deeds 2a1) to exert, wield power, to have strength to overcome 2b) to be a force, avail 2c) to be serviceable 2d) to be able, can" (JHT).

Philippians 4:13  I can do (ISCHUO) all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Prayer is powerful.  Unfortunately, sometimes we say that all we can do is pray, as if it is a last resort faint effort to a hopeless cause.  We should see prayer as something more than that.

Another misfortune occasionally observed in worship assemblies is when prayers are requested in our hearing but then never actually expressed by a leading brother.  We might offer an abbreviated blessing for "those who were mentioned" or "those for whom it is our duty to pray."  It is true that God knows our needs before we mention them, but we ought to take the time to lift up to God our brethren by name who need His help (Romans 1:9; 15:30; Ephesians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:3; Philemon 1:4).  Otherwise, do not bother saying anything at all to God and assume that His omniscience will suffice.  It is doubtful that requests so curt to a friend or civil ruler would be very well received, and we can expect the same of God.

Philippians 4:6  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

Here, the phrase "be made known" translates GNORIZO {gno-rid'-zo}, which means, "(1) as a causative: make known, reveal, declare" (TBF), as used of the delivery of the gospel message (Ephesians 3:3, 5, 10).  Although God already knows, He still wants to hear from us our specific desires.

1 Timothy 2:1-4  Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

3.      Constantly

Looking again at James 5:16, the verbs ENERGEO (to work) and ISCHUO (to avail) occur in the present tense indicating continual or recurring prayer with a persisting result.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Our Lord further illustrates that if unrighteous men can be persuaded by persistence, how much easier it should be to persuade God to help those who serve him:

Luke 18:1-8  Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2 saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3 Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.' 4 And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5 yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.'" 6 Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said. 7 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily…."

The two verbs in the phrase "she came to him, saying" are in the imperfect and present tenses respectively, indicating persistent and repeated action.  However, our Lord is not suggesting that we can ever wear down God until He finally and reluctantly lets us have our way.  Instead, He is urging us to pray as if this is what it takes.  The phrase "lose heart" translates EKKAKEO {ek-kak-eh'-o} meaning, "to be utterly spiritless, to be wearied out, exhausted" (JHT).  In 1 Kings 17:17-24, Elijah prays over a deceased child three times: an example of persistence.  We should never become weary of praying.

Luke 21:36  Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.

4.      Boldly

We should never feel embarrassed to approach God in prayer.  We should be ashamed of our sins but not for praying about them.  We are encouraged to pray for God's help and providence, but we should never feel timid about asking for it.

Luke 11:5-10  …Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, "Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him;" 7 and he will answer from within and say, "Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you?" 8 I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. 9 So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

Here, the word "persistence" (NKJ) translates ANAIDEIA {an-ah'-ee-die-ah'} meaning "(1) in a negative sense, as insensitivity to what is proper shamelessness, boldness, insolence;… (2) in a positive sense persistence, tenacious insistence without regard to time, place, or person" (TBF).  Though the word "persistence" is possibly a valid rendering for ANAIDEIA in the positive sense, it seems more reasonable that ANAIDEIA be taken here in the negative sense.  Whenever a word has multiple meanings, the context will determine which is indicated.  In this case, the verb "say" in verse 5 is in the aorist tense, meaning a single event at a point in time (DM).  Even though the friend seems to have little regard for his bad timing, the picture is not of a man repeatedly asking at the door but boldly asking at the door.  Therefore, as suggested by Danker, "The interpretation 'persistence' is less probable" (DANK).

It is helpful to know a little about the customs of hospitality at that time and place.  The law of Moses requires the citizens of Israel to show kindness, not merely to friends and family, but also to strangers (Leviticus 19:33, 34; Deuteronomy 15:7).  Many great examples of hospitality are seen in the Old Testament (Genesis 14, 18, 19, 24, Judges 19:13-21; 2 Kings 4:8-10).  There are certainly inns at the time of Christ where travelers could rest and receive food (Luke 2:7; 10:34), but the ready access to the abundance of late-night convenience stores and well-appointed hotels familiar to us is unknown to them.  By necessity, the hospitality of neighbors to a degree that would appear extreme to modern westerners is an essential aspect of their life (LBE, pg. 332).  Jesus teaches this kind of hospitality (Matthew 25:35; Luke 14:13, 14) and instructs His apostles in the limited commission to take no provisions but to rely upon the hospitality of others for food and shelter (Mark 6:7-10).  The same exhortations for hospitality are delivered in the epistles (1 Peter 4:9; Hebrews 13:2).

Returning to the context of Luke 11, Jesus often utilizes a figure of speech called "interrogation," which employs the rhetorical question.  In verse 11, He says, "If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone?"  The obvious answer is "no."  Jesus asks, "Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?" (Luke 12:25).  The obvious answer is "none."  The same rhetorical question, "Which of you…," is posed again in Luke 14:5, 28, and 17:7 with the same obvious answer.  This figure is utilized often in Luke 11.  The point is this: as inconvenient and brazen as it might be to ask a neighbor for bread in the middle of the night, who among them would have denied the request or complained like the character in the parable?  None; giving the bread is exactly what any of them would have done, and the reason is not because he is a friend but because it is just the right thing to do – for a friend or a stranger.  Hospitality is their custom, taken seriously, fulfilled with honor, and any insensitivity about it is not taken into account.  The Christian Standard version renders verse 8 in better alignment with these observations as follows:

Luke 11:8  I tell you, even though he won't get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his friend's shameless boldness, he will get up and give him as much as he needs. (CSB)

The "shameless boldness" is a product of the culture of hospitality among the devout.  Jesus is teaching us that God is likewise never put out with us when we pray, regardless how over-bearing we might think we are.  Instead, He is encouraging us to pray unabashed and unapologetically.  If an earthly friend will unprotestingly provide a little assistance no matter how inopportune, how much more will our heavenly Friend who never tires or slumbers willingly provide everything we ask or need?

Luke 11:11-13  If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!

Hebrews 4:16  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The word "boldly" translates the phrase "META {met-ah'} PARRHESIA {par-rhay-see'-ah}, meaning "with… 1) freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech 1a) openly, frankly, i.e. without concealment… 2) free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance…."  This word is derived from RHEO {hreh'-o}, meaning: "to pour forth" (JHT).  We can pour out our hearts to God; He is ready to listen.

5.      Confidently

We can pray in full assurance.

Ephesians 3:12  …We have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

1 John 3:19-22  And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

6.      Earnestly

In James 5:17, the phrase "prayed earnestly" translates PROSEUCHE PROSEUCHOMAI {pros-yoo-khay' pros-yoo'-khom-ahee}, literally: "he prayed a prayer."  This repetition of the root form is evidently a Hebraic idiom for emphasis (2 Samuel 7:27).  Our heart should be wholly into our prayer.

Luke 22:44  And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly.  Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Hebrews 5:5-8  …Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear,….

7.      According to God's purposes

We should not ask God to fulfill something that violates His will and character.  For example, we should not ask God to give salvation to the persistently rebellious (1 John 5:16).  Jesus certainly prays from the cross for God to forgive those crucifying Him.  However, forgiveness does not come to them but by God mercifully allowing them to live until Pentecost and their submitting at the words of Peter (Acts 2:36-38).  We should accordingly pray instead for opportunities and for God's patience, if it be His will.

Matthew 26:53, 54  Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?

8.      With open hearts

God knows our hearts anyway, but we need to welcome Him in when we pray.

Psalm 139:23-24  Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.

Our God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5).  Jealousy is not evil when it involves what is rightfully deserved.  God longs for our love and devotion to Him alone (James 4:5).  Though God knows our hearts, whether we love Him, expressing it reinforces our motivation, and He is pleased to hear it (John 21:15-1).

I.           When To Pray

At the beginning of this study, it is observed in scripture that God never commands men in early times to pray as if by edict.  The law of Moses also nowhere stipulates specific times of prayer, yet we see Daniel doing it with regularity – three times daily – evidently because he desires to do so (Daniel 6:10).  When Jesus feeds the people, He offers a prayer of thanks (Matthew 15:36).  This is also the custom of His disciples (Acts 27:35; Romans 14:6).  Are these examples binding on us?  Do we sin if we ever eat without pausing to pray first?  A better question to ask is why we would not want to.  God wants us to want to pray.  He does not desire ours prayers to come from a sense of fulfilling an obligation.  If we pray out of compulsion before we eat, we are doing it for the wrong reason, and our heart is not right.

In every account of the Lord's Supper, thanks is offered for the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine.  Is this binding on us?  Hermeneutics would say that the rule of uniformity of approved apostolic examples indicates that it is.  That is true, but again, is this really why we ought to be doing it?  When reflecting on the price paid for our redemption, we can only choose not to pray from a cold heart, and this is a greater problem than failing to observe a specified prayer-time (Matthew 24:12).

Prayer characterizes all godly men and women in scripture from the beginning to the end.  A few are cited here – examples that teach us when we ought to pray:

1.      Prayers of the psalmists

      Praising and thanking God (Psalm 138),

      Confessing sin (Psalm 51),

      Begging forgiveness (Psalm 25),

      Seeking protection and sustenance (Psalm 55).

2.      Prayers of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1)

      At a time of mourning and sadness of heart,

      Boldly acknowledging God's sovereignty and His promises,

      Confessing sin,

      Seeking to be heard, respectfully asking for mercy and success in the work of the Lord,

      Seeking grace and favor at the moment of addressing the king of Persia (Nehemiah 2:4, 5).

3.      Prayers of our Lord

a.        Occasions

      At His baptism (Luke 3:21): the beginning of His ministry,

      Often and regularly (Luke 5:16): as a habit,

      When facing important decisions (Luke 6:12, 13): choosing the twelve,

      With his disciples (Luke 9:28, 29): before His transfiguration,

      When taking meals (Matthew 15:26): always giving thanks.

b.        Recorded prayers of Jesus

John 11:40-44

The passing of Lazarus is a tragedy and disappointment.   Jesus prays when He raises him up:

      Thankfulness for being heard.

      Intercession for increasing the faith of loved ones.

John 17

Life brings change and challenges.  Jesus and His disciples are at a turning point at the last supper.  Jesus will soon go away, and His apostles are facing their task ahead.  Jesus prays:

      Giving glory to God.

      For faith through the revealed word.

      For unity and perfection of all the faithful.

      For preservation in God's name through persecution.

      For joy and sanctification by the truth.

      That they might know the love of God and for God and the faithful.

Matthew 26:36-44

Before His arrest, Jesus pours out His heart, facing extreme temptation, trial, and torture.  It appears that Jesus is manifesting weakness here.  Surely He should know, as He taught His disciples many times, that His suffering is necessary.  Why would He ask the Father if there is a way out, if by His divine omniscience He knows there is no other way?

The key to understanding this is to recognize that, while Jesus is fully God, He is also fully human, just like us – physically and emotionally – experiencing the same joy, disappointment, conflict, dread, and pain as we do, except without sin (Hebrews 2:9-18).

Hebrews 4:15  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 5:7-8  …who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.

Remember, it is not necessarily sin to have weakness.  Paul acknowledges weakness (1 Corinthians 2:3; 2 Corinthians 11:29; 12:9, 10).  Jesus delivers a mild rebuke when He asks, "Could you not watch with Me one hour?" (verse 40), but when He says, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (verse 41), this is not necessarily commentary on the condition of the disciples alone but on the nature of the flesh – even for Himself (Romans 6:19; 8:3; 1 Corinthians 15:42, 43).  Though Jesus is here showing a weakness inherent to the flesh, there is by no means sin or a lack of faith manifested in His words. 

2 Corinthians 13:4, 5  For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God.  For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.  Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith….

When we feel weak and vulnerable in our struggles, like Jesus, we should pray.  Weakness becomes sin only when, lacking faith, we fail to seek God in prayer and grow stronger through it (Hebrews 11:6).  We should never use the weakness of the flesh as an excuse for sinful behavior, saying "I'm only human."

Though Jesus has infinite knowledge, it is only by His human experience that He "learned obedience."  By His example, Jesus teaches us to likewise put the will of Father above all else.

From the cross:

      Supplication:  "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46).

At His ultimate oppression, Jesus adopts a prayer of David written from the pinnacle of his tribulation in which he affirms his reliance upon the Father (Psalm 22).  However, unlike David, the supplication of Jesus is rhetorical; He knows why He is forsaken – the iniquity of all mankind is in that moment laid upon Him (Isaiah 53:5).  With His words, Jesus is directing those listening to Him to the scripture prophesying with detail the events then in actual fulfillment.

      Intercession:  "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34).

When a carnal man would have prayed for vengeance against His enemies, the Son of God prays for their mercy. 

      Confession:  "Father, 'into Your hands I commit My spirit'" (Luke 23:46).

Jesus again appropriately adopts a prayer of David in which he acknowledges that deliverance is from Jehovah God for those who fear Him (Psalm 31:5).

4.      Prayers of the early Christians

a.        Occasions

      Continually and routinely (Acts 1:14; 6:4; 10:9; 16:13, 16),

      When appointing men into service (Acts 6:5, 6; 13:3; 14:23),

      When enduring persecution (Acts 12:5, 12; 16:25),

      Before miraculous manifestations (Acts 8:15; 9:40; 28:8),

      When overwhelmed with apprehension (Acts 20:36-38; 21:5, 6).

b.        Recorded prayers of the disciples

Acts 1:24, 25

The choosing of Matthias:

      Recognizing the omniscience of God.

      Confessing dependence upon God.

Acts 4:23-31

When Peter and John are released after their arrest:

      Giving glory to God.

      Acknowledging His sovereignty through the ages.

      Supplication, not to be spared persecution but to be servants through it.

J.           Our Attitude In Prayer

1.      Submission

James 4:4-10  Adulterers and adulteresses!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"? 6 But He gives more grace.  Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." 7 Therefore submit to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep!  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

2.      Humility

Luke 18:9-14  Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

3.      Sincerity

Hebrews 10:19-22  Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

4.      Patience

Psalm 37:4-7  Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. 6 He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday. 7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.

Psalm 40:1  I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry.

5.      In faith

James 1:5-8  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. 6 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. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

a.        Is God really there?

Prayer challenges our faith.  We have no special manifestation of God's presence or evidence of His response.

Hebrews 11:1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

However, faith is not built upon nothing.  We have ample evidence through God's creation and His revealed word that He is there, and if He is there, He can hear us.  However, when we become overwhelmed in suffering and trials, we are tempted to doubt.

Job wrestles with this.  He is convinced that God is condemning , oppressing, despising, and destroying him (Job 16:9-17).  He prays, but he is frustrated that God is apparently ignoring him (Job 13:20-24; 23:1-9; 31:35).  He perceives injustice in that suffering befalls the righteous while joy and prosperity comes to the ungodly who declare it is pointless to pray to an imaginary god (Job 21:7-15).  Notwithstanding, Job never ceases to trust (Job 13:15-18).

b.        Is prayer merely self-delusion?

Disbelievers and skeptics will declare that the discipline of prayer is a self-appeasing doctrine of convenience.  For instance, good things often come to the unrighteous, and the reverse is also often true.  Even those in false religion will claim that favorable events are God's answer to their prayer.  We recognize that fate and chance are still at play among all men (Ecclesiastes 9:11; Matthew 5:45).  So, how do we know?

      If the blessing for which we pray comes to pass, how can we be certain whether this is God's providence in response to our prayer or mere happenstance?

      If the blessing for which we pray does not come to pass, how can we be certain that this is because it is contrary to God's will and not just a matter of fate?

The answers to these questions cannot be derived in carnal reasoning but only by faith through the Spirit.  In fact, walking by faith rather than sight means that we do not need to know (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Remember, in all that God reveals to Job at the end of his ordeal, He never actually gives Job the explanations he demanded, and Job comes to understand that he does not need to know everything but only what God makes known (Job 42:1-3).

Deuteronomy 29:29  The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

K.          Hindrances

1.      An unforgiving spirit

Mark 11:25, 26  And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.

2.      A bad marital relationship

1 Peter 3:7  Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

3.      Doing evil

1 Peter 3:12  For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil."

L.          How we should not pray

1.      Never in self-interest

James 4:1-3  Where do wars and fights come from among you?  Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 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. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Matthew 6:7  And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do.  For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

2.      Never ostentatiously

Matthew 6:5, 6  And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Matthew 23:14  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers.  Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

3.      Never indignantly

Jonah 3:10-4:3  Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. 1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. 2 So he prayed to the LORD, and said, "Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country?  Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. 3 Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!"

4.      Never vindictively

Matthew 5:44  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you….

5.      Never judgmentally

Luke 18:11  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, "God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector...."

Prayer is not the avenue for delivering a rebuke to evildoers.  We must utter statements that are appropriate when we pray and remember specifically to whom it is we are speaking.  The unruly certainly need to be reproved, but prayer is not an expediency for that.

M.         The Purpose Of Prayer

Consider now the benefits of prayer and why we should pray.

1.      Expression leads to understanding

The Lord knows that if we will make the effort to express to Him a problem we are facing, the answer sometimes becomes intuitively clear.  For example, He recites a parable to Simon the Pharisee, and when He challenges him to explain it, the truth becomes obvious (Luke 7:40-43; reference Matthew 21:23-32).  Applying this in principle, prayer has the potential of providing us greater clarity.

Psalm 119:169-171  Let my cry come before You, O LORD; Give me understanding according to Your word. 170 Let my supplication come before You; Deliver me according to Your word. 171 My lips shall utter praise, For You teach me Your statutes.

2.      To survive temptation

We can modify our behavior to not put ourselves in situations where we know temptation will come.  However, temptation inevitably befalls us unwillfully.  At times like this, prayer is vital; note the instruction of the Lord:

Matthew 26:41  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (ESV)

The verbs "watch" and "pray" are in the present tense and imperative mood.  Moreover, the phrase "that you may not" translates HINA ME {hin'-ah may}, a negative conjunction indicating a purpose or goal: "in order that [not]" (TBF).  Furthermore, "enter" translates the verb EISERCHOMAI {ice-er'-khom-ahee} in the active voice.  It is used of a demon possessing a person, and the meaning includes, metaphorically, "of entrance into any condition" (JHT).  This nuance is well expressed by the CEB:

Matthew 26:41  Stay alert and pray so that you won't give in to temptation.  The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak. (CEB)

Therefore, Jesus is not here teaching us to ask God in advance to not let temptation come our way or even to let us not fall when it indeed comes.  Instead, He is saying that by being consistently occupied in prayer, we will not occupy ourselves with temptation.

We should always pray as a first response in the face of every temptation in order that the desires of the flesh cannot prevail.  Prayer has the purpose of foiling temptation.  Temptation itself is not sin (Matthew 4:1), but entertaining it and acting upon it is (James 1:14, 15).  To sin while engaged in faithful prayer is effectively impossible.

It is good to ask for God's providence regarding temptation and to ask for strength when it comes, but to ask God to take temptation away is perhaps to ask not according to His will.  We know that God does not tempt any man with evil (James 1:13), but He uses it to make us stronger (Romans 5:3, 4; 1 Peter 1:7).  We can also trust that "God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape" (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Prayer is one such escape route.

3.      An example to others

Faithful prayer is a demonstration of godliness.  We ought not pray with the purpose of being a spectacle, but we also ought not be ashamed if the world might coincidentally see us sometimes pray.  In prison, "Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them" (Acts 16:25).  After fourteen days at sea in a severe storm, Paul encourages 275 persons on board to take something to eat, and he gives thanks for it to God in the presence of them all (Acts 27:33-37).

4.      To obtain divine assistance

a.        God will bestow a blessing

We should pray believing that God will help us.  If we do not truly believe that God is willing and able to act in the affairs of men today – to heal the sick, to free the captive, to encourage the down-hearted, and to thwart the intentions of evil men – then it is pointless to pray.

Mark 11:21-24  And Peter, remembering, said to Him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away." 22 So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them."

What does Jesus mean when He says that by prayer in faith we can cast mountains into the sea?  It is sometimes easier to first determine what a statement does not mean and work from there.  Now we should not too quickly assign a statement as figurative in case the literal might be possible by God's miraculous power.  God once destroyed the whole world by a flood, so we must accept that the literal is here certainly possible for God.  Yet we never see the apostles in scripture literally casting mountains into the sea, and certainly no one is literally doing it today.  Besides, there is no purpose in the will of God that such a preposterous spectacle would possibly serve.  Therefore, it is sensible to apply a figurative meaning.

Some have speculated that Jesus is here revealing to them that they will someday be instrumental in God's vindication by calling for the destruction of the temple and specifically Jerusalem, "this mountain," which occurred in AD 70.  In support of this, some arguments are assembled from Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation about mountains and the fall of rulers.  However, this interpretation is contrived and is inconsistent with the actual spiritual work to which God commissions His saints today.  Scripture nowhere indicates that the work of the church includes involvement in God's vindication.  His saints are to teach the gospel – defending obedience and throwing down speculations and arguments against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).  His saints never pray for the demise of the ungodly (Acts 4:24-30).  God declares that vindication against corrupt regimes is His own work (Hebrews 10:30), and He orders His saints to stay out of the way (Matthew 24).  Besides, the Jerusalem destruction interpretation becomes disconnected when Jesus interchanges the metaphor of specifically "this mulberry tree" to make exactly the same point about faith in Luke 17:6.

It is reasonable that Jesus is simply using hyperbole (1 Corinthians 13:2).  At times in life we may face challenges that we think are insurmountable.  Suicides increase in our society because people, refusing to turn to God, become convinced that a solution to their problem is impossible.  However, with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26; Mark 9:23; 10:27; 14:36; Luke 18:27).  When we pray, we need to really believe that God will provide the answer that brings peace and restoration, no matter how dire our circumstance might be.  He is capable of making all things work together for good according to His purposes, and through faith, we can be certain that whenever favorable circumstances befall us, it is always from God.

Romans 8:28  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.

James 1:16-17  Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

b.        God always answers prayers

We sometimes hear well-intentioned brethren when they pray thank God for the many times He answers our prayers.  We need to thank God for His gifts, but there is never a prayer of the faithful that God does not answer, though sometimes perhaps He says "no," or sometimes He says "not now."  We might tend to think that when God grants our desire, He is answering favorably, but God always seeks our highest favor, even when He denies our request.

We do not always get our way, because it is not always best for us.  Parents know when their children ask for something that is not good for them.  Consider how much more God understands what is best for us.

      David asks that the son born to him in his adultery with Bathsheba might live, but this is not granted (2 Samuel 12:14-18).

      Jesus asks that His cup of suffering might pass away from Him, but this is not granted (Matthew 26:36-42).

      Paul asks three times that his infirmity might depart from him, but this is not granted (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

Sometimes we do not get our way because it is contrary to God's greater purposes.  No doubt Joseph is long praying for justice in prison after his ordeal with Potiphar's wife, but God has greater plans that he cannot yet see (Genesis 39–45).

To the skeptic, this might appear to be making excuses for God to justify to ourselves why He is not giving us whatever we ask as He promised he would.  However, the heart of faith accepts the will of God no matter what comes to pass.  God spares Peter when he is imprisoned by the Romans, but James is not (Acts 12).  As God allows some to become martyrs, we understand that the favors we request of God might not be fulfilled in this life but in the eternal life to come.

We must also remember that all the pain, suffering, and death in the world is a direct consequence of sin, of which we are all contributors (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 5:12).  Moreover, God owes us nothing; whatever we receive is by His sheer mercy and grace.  As Job painfully learns, we are in no position to make demands.

God commends Solomon because he asks for wisdom instead of selfishly asking for wealth, fame, power, or longevity.  In response, God gives him wisdom as well as all the riches of the world (1 Kings 3, 4).  In the end, the physical blessings do not serve him well (Ecclesiastes 2), and he falls out of favor with God (1 Kings 10, 11).  The things of the world ought not be the desires of our prayers (1 John 2:15-17).

God is not our honey pot, but He gives us everything we need (1 Timothy 6:17).  If God gave to every saint what in the weakness of the flesh we would inevitably ask, we would never become ill, and if we did we would receive healing and certainly never grow old or die.  People would never mistreat or disappoint us, and we would always be safe and prosperous.  This is not fitting in a world that is destined to destruction (2 Peter 3).  The corruption and injustice in the world has the benefit of making us feel like strangers and sojourners here and making us long for heaven where God wants us to be with Him eternally (John 14:1-6).

N.         Prayer: Collectively and Individually

1.      Individually: the examples of Hannah

In Hannah we see the nature of righteous prayer exemplified (1 Samuel 1:4-18).

      Her situation is part of God's plan, which she cannot see.

      She addresses God with reverence and humility.

      She ardently empties herself, disclosing her heart with a solemn vow.

      She expresses her desire as a complaint, but she does not blame God with injustice because of her situation.

      She does not ask for vindication or for misfortune to befall her adversary.

      She does not request the blessing only for self-interest but ultimately for the Lord's.

      She prays with genuineness, not intending to attract the attention she receives.

      Praying with trust, her anxiety is relieved.

She keeps the vow she prayed (1 Samuel 1:21-28) and praises God again in prayer for His providence and His sovereignty (1 Samuel 2:1-10).

2.      Collectively: the examples of the early church

Unsurprisingly, Luke records many instances of collective prayer among early church gatherings.

Acts 4:24-31  So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them…. 29 Now, Lord,…  grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word…." 31 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 12:5  Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.

Acts 13:1-3  Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

Acts 14:23  So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

1 Timothy 2:8  I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;

3.      Expediency

In order to pray as a group, only one person must be speaking at any given time.  If two or more are speaking at the same time, confusion results (1 Corinthians 14:26-33).  Unavoidably, some brother will need to either be assigned or volunteer to lead the prayer while the others listen, pray along in heart, and confirm.  The one praying can use a microphone.  The church has the authority to write together a list of all the things they want to pray about, and the leader can use this list while praying.  If we are doing nothing other than praying, all these means and methods are authorized.




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