JESUS IS THE ANSWER TO PRAYER
Those saved on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1, 37-41), continued stedfastly in…prayers.” (Verse 42). Prayer was an important and vital part of the life of the first century Christian, both in daily living and in worship. Prayer should be equally important to every child of God today.
Jesus, the Son of God, availed Himself of the avenue of prayer on many occasions. He sought to pray to His Father in heaven (Matthew 6:9), when alone. (Matthew 14:23; 24:39). John 17 is an example of Jesus praying to His Father for Himself (Verses 1-8), for those whom God had given Him (Verses 9-19), and for those who would believe on Jesus. (Verses 20-26). This might more correctly be called the Lord ’s Prayer than Matthew 6:9-13. The prayers on the cross show an unselfish willingness to forgive, and are intercessory and submissive. (Luke 23:34, 46). If the beloved Lord, the Son of God, felt the need to pray, how much more should every Christian feel that need? Jesus called upon His disciples to pray, saying, “that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” (Luke 18:1).
Paul was a fervent believer in prayer. He prayed for others “always” (Romans 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:11), “without ceasing” (Colossians 1:9), and such like. He also asked the brethren to pray for him. (1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; Hebrews 13:18). Paul prayed for others to be saved (Romans 10:1), and he coveted the prayers of others for his own salvation (Philippians 1:19). He called on others to continue “instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2), and to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Read the entire epistle to see the emphasis Paul placed on prayer, and used by the Holy Spirit to teach all.
Prayer is learned. The prayer Jesus taught in Matthew 6:9-13 was in response to His disciple’s plea, “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1). Some prayers heard today reveal a need for the one praying to be taught to pray. For example, some “thank God for all the denominations, and/or religions.” These petitioners need to read John 17:20-23; 1 Corinthians 1:10; and more. Others are taught to “pray the sinner’s prayer.” However, sinners on Pentecost were not told to pray, but to “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,….” (Acts 2:37, 38; 16:30-33; 22:16; Romans 6:1-5). “Every one of you” means all of you. They were told to “Repent, and be baptized.” Not one word was said about praying the sinner’s prayer. Another prays, “thy kingdom come.” (Matthew 6:10). That was appropriate when Jesus uttered those words, for the kingdom was yet to come. (Matthew 3:1, 2; 4:17; 16:13-19; Mark 9:1). However, the kingdom came on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), A. D. 33, and was said to be in existence thereafter. (Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:9; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). We may thank God for the kingdom which has come, but not continue to pray for it to come.
God hears the prayers of the righteous. (1 Peter 3:12; John 9:31). He does not hear the prayers of sinners (John 9:31), except when one prays to know what to do to be saved. (Acts 10:1-4). Cornelius was not saved in answer to prayer, but when he did what GOD COMMANDED HIM. (Acts 10:5, 22, 31-48; 11:14, 18). Notice that he would be told “words, whereby thou and all in thy house shall be saved.” (Acts 11:14). His prayers brought Peter with the word of God to him, but it was his faith in Jesus and obedience to Him that brought salvation. (Acts 10:1-11:18; Hebrews 5:8, 9).
How then should the saved pray? In addition to what has been seen, one should “ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:6), “with the understanding” ( 1 Corinthians 14:15), “without wrath or doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8), “according to his will” (1 John 5:14), be “fervent” (James 5:16), and “come boldly unto the throne of grace.” (Hebrews 4:16). Christians should “In every thing give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), while being sure to “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” (Matthew 26:41). Saved petitioners should live so that prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7).
1 Timothy 2:1 exhorts that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.” Supplications is translated by some as “petitions” or “earnest requests.” It is a prayer for a specific need for self. Prayers are somewhat similar, or as one translator has it, “humble entreaties.” Intercessions are prayers on behalf of others. Giving of thanks needs no explanation. One could pray continually for the remainder of life and never properly thank God for all He has done for lost and unworthy man. Each of these prayers is seen in the scriptures. For example, Romans 10:1 is an example of prayer. The word of God primarily speaks of Paul interceding for others. (Romans 10:1; 2 Thessalonians 5:23; Philippians 1:4). Likely, the bulk of Paul’s prayers were in thanksgiving. (Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 6:17, 18; and such like).
Upon seeing a man give thanks for his food prior to eating, some mischievous boys asked, “Say, old fella, does everyone give thanks for their food before they eat?” He thought for a second, and then replied, “Nope, pigs don’t!” Children of the Almighty giver ought to give thanks for “daily bread” (Matthew 6:11), and for work and ability to labor to have food, while providing for others. (Ephesians 4:28). One should also remember to give thanks for food. (1 Timothy 4:3-5). Saints should also pray, “If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” (James 4:15). Even Jesus prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39). One famous television evangelist arrogantly proclaimed this to be a “cop out”, saying that he did not pray, “If thou wilt”, but said he, “I tell God what to do.” He obviously needed more study.
We should also pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44), for the saved (Romans 1:7-9), for churches (1 Corinthians 1:2, 4), for those who confess faults (James 5:16), and for self. (Acts 8:22-24). The saved need to pray for strength to overcome temptations. (Matthew 6:13; 26:44). Do not forget to pray when afflicted, and for others. (James 5:13-15).
Over the years, the position of one praying has been discussed. The attitude of one, rather than the position of one’s body seems to be the focus of the word of God. Observe, an inspired apostle (1 Corinthians 1:1; 2:4ff), said, “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also.” (1 Corinthians 14:15). Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24; Joshua 24:14). Emphasis in these verses is on the WHAT and WHO, not the how. Briefly, notice that Jesus said, “And when ye stand praying,….” (Mark 11:25). He did not tell them that they wrongly or sinfully stood praying, that they should have kneeled. Solomon “stood before the altar of the Lord, and prayed. (1 Kings 8:22ff, especially, verses 22, 26, 28-30, etc.). Following Jesus’ resurrection, some “bowed down their faces to the earth,….” (Luke 24:5). Must faces be bowed down to the earth? Jesus did not condemn the Pharisee for standing to pray, but for his arrogance. (Luke 18:10-14). Not all who bow their knees to worship are serious. (Mark 15:17-20, especially, verse 19). Jesus “kneeled down, and prayed” Luke 22: 41), “and fell on his face, and prayed.” (Matthew 26:39). Compare Acts 7:60; 9:40; 20:36; 21:5). It becomes clear that prayers were offered in various positions. Jesus stood up to read the words from Isaiah, closed the book, and after giving it to the minister, “sat down” and preached. (Luke 4:16ff, especially, verses 16, 20). Must preachers stand when reading the scriptures, and sit down when preaching? If so, Peter and the apostles only got it half right. (Acts 2:14ff). Must all worshippers get on their knees to sing, partake of the Communion, give, and for the sermon? What about those who cannot do so because of age or some infirmity, especially one amputated just below the waist, bound to a wheelchair? Must one who wishes to pray get out of bed, a car, off a lawnmower, etc., and get on his/her knees to pray? Beloved, do not read more into a verse than it teaches. Position in worship is not legislated. Content and attitude are specified. Worshippers should be careful in whatever position to approach God reverently, freeing the mind of all but the Great I Am. This takes discipline.
May worship, whether prayer or any other thing, be a normal part of life, and not an emergency petition to God. (Romans 12:12, “continuing instant in prayers….”). Learn to pray properly, “with the spirit, and…with the understanding also.” (1 Corinthians 14:15; John 4:24).