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Prayer:  How should we pray?

Gary Googe Dec 16

What a very important question! It is not surprising that we find that the disciples of Christ asked this same question.

Luke 11:1

1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. [Emphasis added]

In the verses that follow this question, we have what has come to be called “The Lord’s Prayer.”  This incident is also recorded in Matthew 6:9-13.  The reality is that this was not “the Lord’s prayer,” but a prayer Christ gave for His disciples to pray.  What might best be called “The Lord’s prayer” is found in John 17 where He prayed just hours before His crucifixion.  But the prayer recorded in Matthew 6 and Luke 11 was given for Israel during our Lord’s earthly ministry.  You’ll find that I address all this and more in another article on our website called, Prayer:  Is “The Lord’s Prayer” a model prayer for us today?

When it comes to prayer for us today, as with all of Scripture, we always need to approach such things from a dispensational perspective.  If we don’t, it is inevitable that we’ll have a misunderstanding of some things.

II Timothy 2:15

15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]

In other words, what does the apostle Paul teach us as members of the body of Christ in this present dispensation about prayer for today? Rightly dividing means we must avoid confusing God’s commands and promises to the people of Israel and others with those He’s given to us.  We are not Israel, even spiritual Israel.  We are what is called the body of Christ! We, therefore, need to focus our attention primarily on those things directed to us.

I Corinthians 12:27

27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. [Emphasis added]

Israel and the body of Christ are by no means the same.  I’m afraid most people don’t realize this.  Christ’s earthly ministry and message was different and directed to the nation of Israel.  The Lord stated this plainly.

Matthew 15:24

24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [Emphasis added]

Even the apostle Paul tells us this.

Romans 15:8

Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision [Israel] for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: [Emphasis added]

Again, many of the things Jesus taught in His earthly ministry were to Israel, not us today.  For instance, we are not under the authority of the things given in the Mosaic Law.

Romans 3:19

19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. [Emphasis added]

Romans 6:14-15

14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. [Emphasis added]

It is the Apostle Paul who is called a teacher of the Gentiles.

II Timothy 1:11

11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. [Emphasis added]

Paul had a special position of authority in relation to us today.  We can rightly say he is our apostle.

Romans 11:13

13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [Emphasis added]

Why would he make such statements if they didn’t have some special and applicable meaning?

Romans 15:16

16 That I [Paul] should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. [Emphasis added]

Paul ministered to Israel, but God had a special position for Paul that most people simply do not understand.  Anything we read in the Bible that conflicts with Paul’s teaching [and there’s a lot] is not to us and for our application.  There are things in his teaching that overlap, being for Jews and Gentiles, but there are many other things that do not.

Acts 9:15-16

15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he [Paul] is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. [Emphasis added]

There are many things in Paul’s writings that are exclusively addressed to us today, as there were many other things that were exclusively addressed to Israel.  Sorting these things out is called rightly dividing the Scriptures.

With the exception of a few things Paul taught during what we might call the transitional period [like ministering to the Jew first and those things pertaining to spiritual gifts], other things Paul taught are to be taken as words from our Lord to us for our application today.

I Corinthians 14:37

37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I [Paul] write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. [Emphasis added]

One of the most important general concepts for you to know that praying is to always to be personal.  We are warned about it being vain repetition and focusing on quantity instead of quality.

Matthew 6:7

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. [Emphasis added]

But that is exactly what has become of that which is often called the Lord’s prayer, that prayer that’s cited in Matthew 6:9-13.  There are things in that prayer that do not relate to us today at all.

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

As you’ll see in this article, this prayer has several things that conflict with God’s teaching that has been given for our application in our time.

Reciting memorized prayers and reading prayers from prayer books is practically meaningless.  Prayers need to be personal.  Prayer needs to be much like a conversation we’d have with someone we know and respect.  It is also not designed to be limited to requests.  Our prayers should include such things as praise and thanksgiving.  But to get a fuller look at the subject of prayer, let’s note some important principles to always bear in mind regarding our prayer life.

We are to habitually pray under the influence of the Spirit of GodAmong other things, this tells us we are to pray as God has directed us to pray.

Ephesians 6:18

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit [in God’s will], and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; [Emphasis added]

Prayer is to be a daily habit.

I Thessalonians 5:17

17 Pray without ceasing. [Emphasis added]

Romans 12:12

12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; [Emphasis added]

If prayer didn’t impact outcomes, what would be the point of praying except to praise and give thanks? The fact is that God tells us to pray because He does respond to our requests.  Even if we don’t get what we request, that is still an answer.  But our prayers can affect outcomes.  Paul and others provide us with great examples of the importance of prayer.

Colossians 1:3

We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, [Emphasis added]

I Thessalonians 1:2

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; [Emphasis added]

To pray frequently is A WORK we must do.  It is labor that demands personal discipline to do it.  It helps to even take the time to create a prayer listI’ve had one on my computer for many years that I frequently update.

Colossians 4:12

12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. [Emphasis added]

Prayer is simply a believer speaking to God.

Prayer is an integral part of the Christian life.  Having access to God through prayer is a privilege we should not neglect that belongs only to believers.  The only thing God wants to “hear” from an unbeliever is an expression of his faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as the sole basis for his salvation.  Again, prayer is a privilege for believers.

Ephesians 2:18

18 For through him we [believers] both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. [Emphasis added]

Because the Spirit of God lives within us, we have such close access.

I Corinthians 6:19-20

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. [Emphasis added]

We are told that faithfulness in prayer is one of the ways in which we glorify God.  Prayer doesn’t demand a particular place or posture, but it does demand our faithfulness.  You can pray at any time and at any place about anything.  Because God knows your thoughts, you don’t even have to pray out loud.  You also don’t have to close your eyes to pray.

What are the main things we should pray for?

As we grow in our knowledge of the Lord, our prayers are going to be more in tune with His will.  Through such spiritual growth we come to have the mind of the Lord on many things.  This means we come to see the things of life as He sees them.

I Corinthians 2:16

16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we [believers who’ve taken on His thinking through growth in His word] have the mind of Christ. [Emphasis added]

We should pray that people would come to have a knowledge of Christ and His thinking through their study of the Scriptures.

I Thessalonians 2:13

13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. [Emphasis added]

We are to pray for the growth and maturity of other believers.

Again, Colossians 4:12

12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. [Emphasis added]

The people of Israel were an earthly people with an earthly future.  In our case, we live on Earth alright, but as member of what is called the body of Christ our home and our eternal future is in heaven.

Ephesians 1:3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: [Emphasis added]

Philippians 3:21

20 For our conversation [our citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. [Emphasis added]

There’s no place in all the Bible where heaven is promised to the people of Israel.  For them, their future is associated with a new Earth.  There are many passages that speak of their future being of heaven, but not in heaven.

Certainly, He promises to sustain us while we’re here on Earth, but our eternal future as members of the body of Christ is in heaven.  For all these things we should always give thanks to Him in prayer.

Philippians 4:19

19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. [Emphasis added]

We are to pray regarding our needs. 

Having provided the greater needs, we can certainly expect Him to meet our lesser ones.

Romans 8:32

32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? [Emphasis added]

One of the most common things you’ll ever hear people praying about in public prayers is that of forgiveness of sins.  But is that something that needs to be a prayer request? No way! All our sins have already been forgiven.  We don’t need to ask for something we already have.  That was provided for us when Christ paid the complete penalty for our sins on the cross.

Ephesians 1:7

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; [Emphasis added]

Colossians 1:14

14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: [Emphasis added]

This is why we don’t need to confess our sins for forgiveness as per God’s promise to Israel as a nation.  Unlike so many think, this verse has nothing to do with us.

I John 1:9

If we [Israel] confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [Emphasis added]

So many wrongfully think of this promise as one for personal forgiveness, when it’s a promise to Israel that will apply in a coming seven-year period of history known as The Tribulation.  Our personal sins couldn’t be any more forgiven than they already are.  To think otherwise is to ignore what Christ did about them on the cross.  It’s this national forgiveness that the lost and unsaved people of Israel were told to pray for in the so-called Lord’s prayer of Matthew 6:12-15.

Our personal sins were all completely addressed at the cross of Christ.  It was all provided as a wonderful stroke of God’s grace for which we should always be thankful.  We’re even to forgive others as we’ve been forgiven—by grace.  How could you possibly be obedient to what is stated in this next verse if you don’t understand how you’ve been forgiven?

Ephesians 4:32

32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. [Emphasis added]

What about praying for healing? Is that something we are to pray for? The Bible does speak of this, even promising the outcome.

James 5:14-15a

14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; [Emphasis added]

But is this a promise to us today? Isn’t this entire book of James addressed to Israel?

James 1:1

1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. [Emphasis added]

I have articles about this promise and others like it on our website.

          Healing:  Can we expect God to heal today?

          Healing:  How should we respond to physical illness?

Always remember that even the apostle Paul prayed for healing three times over the same problem.  At no point was he alleviated from that illness.  God answered his prayers, but it wasn’t the answer he was wanting and expecting.  What he learned was that, in our present time, we are not in the same healing program.  Despite all the false claims, miracle signs and wonders are not being performed today.  So, the promises for instant healing in answer to prayer [like James 5:15] are not ours to claim today.  Again, you can get the details about this in these other articles I’ve written.

What we know now is that there’s a time coming when we’ll all get a new and perfect body like that of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Again, Philippians 3:20-21

20 For our conversation [our citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. [Emphasis added]

For the time being, when faced with physical illnesses, there are other promises we can claim.  Here’s an example of that.

Philippians 4:6-7

Be careful for nothing [stop worrying]; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep [guard] your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. [Emphasis added]

No matter what the suffering or heartache, this is a promise we can count on.  Because we, as believers, have the indwelling Holy Spirit, we know He will deliver us through, but not necessarily from, every adversity.  It is the peace of mind about it that He has promised so that worry, frustration, and more can be eliminated.

Our prayers should be primarily about spiritual needs.

Our time is to be occupied far more with the eternal things than the temporal ones.  You may have noticed that most “prayer meetings” are all about temporal matters.  While suffering for us and others is real, we need to spend most of our time helping people get ready for their eternal state.  Instead of praying for health and wealth, we need to be occupied with other far more important matters.  We can learn a lot about this from the apostle Paul’s prayer requests.  Let’s look at some of them.

II Thessalonians 3:1-2

1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:

And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men [people who oppose the truth of God’s word]: for all men have not faith. [Emphasis added]

Notice Paul’s prayers of thanksgiving regarding the impact God’s word was having in his ministry.

I Thessalonians 2:13

13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. [Emphasis added]

Paul wants believers to pray that people will be receptive to God’s word and the ministry they seek to have with them.  Who have you been working with and praying for along these lines? Aren’t we all to be praying for people who are without the salvation God offers to all through Christ? Aren’t we also supposed to be praying for the spiritual growth of believers both in and outside of our lives?

II Thessalonians 1:11-12

11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:

12 That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. [Emphasis added]

Paul knew that God wanted to utilize him and those to whom he ministered to reach others with the gospel and other truths from God’s word.

Philippians 1:3-6

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,

For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: [Emphasis added]

We have several wonderful examples of the kind of prayers Paul uttered in his ministry.  Shouldn’t we be making ours to be much like his?

Ephesians 1:15-20

15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,

16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,

20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, [Emphasis added]

Notice also what we see Paul’s companions praying about.  Here we have an important comment about Epaphras.

Colossians 4:12

12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. [Emphasis added]

Are your closest friends men and women of prayer? Shouldn’t the people you think of as your closest friends be people who pray often? Aren’t we all known most by the company we choose to keep?

So often we see Paul commenting about how he prayed for all these people to whom he ministered.  Isn’t that something we should all be doing? Shouldn’t we all be fully engaged in working to lead people to Christ and His word?

I Thessalonians 5:23

23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Emphasis added]

In nearly all Paul’s prayers, we see him praying for the spiritual growth and maturity of people.  We see practically nothing about material and physical things.

Ephesians 3:14-19

14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;

17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. [Emphasis added]

Then in Paul’s letter to the Philippians we see more of this.

Philippians 1:3-11

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, [Emphasis added]

Please notice the joy he experiences in association with his prayers.  He’s excited about praying for these people, knowing God’s answer to his prayers will have impact in their lives.

For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.

For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels [with all the same emotions as that] of Jesus Christ.

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;

10 That ye may approve things that are excellent [the things of life that have the greater value]; that ye may be sincere [genuine] and without offence till the day of Christ [the Rapture].

11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. [Emphasis added]

One of the greatest problems with believers in every generation is their shyness, even fear to speak out and to be bold in their representation of Christ.  I’ve seen that on Facebook.  It is amazing what you can learn about people and their priorities by looking at the things they post and don’t post.  How bold are you in your representation of Christ and His teachings, especially His teachings through the apostle Paul? Note what Paul prayed for concerning this.

Ephesians 6:19-20

19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

Is this truth of the mystery something you’re communicating to others? Unfortunately, most professed believers don’t even know what it is.  We are told here that it was because of his communication of this message that he was a prisoner.

20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. [Emphasis added]

Paul spent many years as a prisoner of Rome for his boldness with his gospel message.  So far as we know, he was even executed for his stand.  Could such things happen in America? What would your stand be if things came to that? Shouldn’t we all be praying for each other concerning this? Shouldn’t prayer about such things become a habit for all of us?

I Thessalonians 3:9-10

For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;

10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? [Emphasis added]

Romans 1:9-12

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;

10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.

11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;

12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. [Emphasis added]

We see more of the same in his letter to the Colossians.

Colossians 1:9-12

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: [Emphasis added]

Who are you praying for? Are these the kind of things you pray about? I hope you pray for this ministry.  The whole team of 4Us2UsMinistries.com needs your prayers.  What about your family members, as well as friends and acquaintances? Are you praying they’ll take a greater interest in the things of God? What about our civic leaders? Are you praying for them? Note what Paul says about this.

I Timothy 2:1-4

1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;

Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. [Emphasis added]

I think I’m safe to say that what prayer life most believers have doesn’t look anything at all like this.  I’m afraid that for most believers, prayer time is limited to what happens at the dinner table over food.  We certainly should pray over that, but the time we spend in prayer should not be limited to that.

I Timothy 4:4-5

For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. [Emphasis added]

Even if we think we don’t know what to pray regarding certain people or situations.  We should be encouraged to know that by what prayers we do offer, God intervenes to provide exactly what IS needed.

Romans 8:26-27

26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. [Emphasis added]

We find that Christ makes intercession for us in all our prayers to be sure that the right things are addressed in our prayers.

Romans 8:34

34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. [Emphasis added]

We should always yield to what God wants through our prayers.  We should all know that what He does in response to our prayers will be exactly what is needed.  What confidence that should give us all! We should not be concerned at all about how God intercedes to answer our prayers with exactly what should come forth.  Our will, our desires should not be our main concern.  Note Christ’s attitude about this in His prayers right before He was crucified.

Luke 22:42

42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. [Emphasis added]

Again, God knows exactly what should occur in response to our prayers.  We just need to get on with the praying, making it a part of every day.  We need to realize that our prayers are not meaningless babble but can impact people and history in marvelous ways.  I hope God’s word and my comments about it in this article will be used to enhance your prayer life.  Always know that your prayers can count for things meaningful, even having eternal impact as people get saved and grow spiritually because of the contribution your prayers made in their lives.  Why not begin with some prayer right now?

 

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