Friday, June 17, 2011
The Gift of Prayer
For a while now, I have wanted to write a blog about prayer, particularly the wonderful truths that I have encountered while studying the Lord’s precious and profound words in the book of John. Prayer is such a deep and important topic, and I know that a few measly paragraphs probably won’t do it justice; even so, the subject of prayer is one that is very close to my heart. It has brought me through the darkest of days, and has literally helped me to heal. Prayer is the lifeline through which God connects and works in our lives.
God’s word and prayer are the 2 fundamental elements in a person’s walk with God. Both are equally important. God’s word guides us and transforms us, but prayer brings us into fellowship with God. In Revelation 3:20, God tells us that whoever opens the door to Him, that He will come inside and dine with him. I like to compare the Word and prayer to a sort of dinner fellowship with our Lord. His word is the bread that is broken, while prayer is the conversation had over supper. Prayer is such a powerful and intimate form of communication, and communion, with the living God. It is a great privilege to enjoy such communion, but much of the time we treat it as a common thing, or an inconvenient obligation. Often, we treat prayer as a list of needs and wants, but true prayer goes so much deeper. Few people realize how truly powerful prayer is, or how God uses our prayers to do His will on earth.
Jesus literally died on the cross that we may have fellowship with God, and enjoy the privilege of intimate communication through prayer – the kind that Jesus enjoyed with the Father while on earth. Mt. 27:51 tells us that, when Christ died, the veil in the temple – the veil which separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place – was torn, giving us access to God, so that we may approach Him in prayer.
There are so many elements to prayer, and Jesus had many things to say about it.
I was so blessed in my reading of John to find several wonderful truths about prayer, how God uses our prayers, and what it accomplishes in our lives. I hope that you will be just as blessed as I was.
In several places in the book of John, Jesus touches on the topic of prayer. Prayer not only helps to accomplish His will on earth, but also His will in our own lives. Certainly prayer is the cornerstone of our fellowship with God. Several things that the Lord commanded us to do are directly linked with prayer:
(1)Prayer and Abiding in the Lord
John 15:7,8 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you will be My disciples
Jesus commanded us that we are to abide in Him (John 15:4). John 15:7 and 8 elaborate on this, by saying if we abide in Christ, that our prayers will be answered. I suppose that we don’t often equate abiding in Christ with answered prayer, but the Bible does, and it makes sense. Prayer brings us into fellowship with God – the deeper our prayer life, the closer we become to God, and the closer we abide in Him. Here it says that when we abide in Him, our prayers are answered. This is because as we abide in Him, our will becomes aligned with His. Abiding in Him implies fellowship and communion – as we experience deeper fellowship, His desires become our desires.
The word abide here means “to dwell.”
1 John 3:24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in Him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us
We abide in Christ through obedience and fellowship; in fact, the Bible equates obedience with fellowship (1 John 2:3 – Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments) Indeed, Jesus said that if we love Him, that we will keep His commandments. When God’s word dwells in us, so does His Spirit.
When God’s word abides in us, through obedience, we bear fruit unto God. Through this, God is glorified in our lives. This has everything to do with prayer, and our fellowship with God, because the deeper we abide in Christ, through prayer, the more abundant our spiritual fruit. As we grow closer to God in prayer, our lives bear fruit to His glory, and our prayers are answered, because our will becomes aligned with His.
God is willing and eager to answer our prayers; as a matter of fact, He is glorified through answered prayer.
(2)Prayer, and bearing spiritual fruit
Jesus also told us that we are to bear fruit in our lives; in fact, we are warned against not bearing fruit:
John 15:2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He (the Father) takes away
This is the fruit of the Spirit. We are commanded to produce it, but how?! Through the Holy Spirit working in us, as we abide in Christ, through prayer.
John 15:16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you
In the previous verse, it states that God is glorified when we bear fruit. This verse says that as we bear fruit, God answers our prayers. In fact, it says here that God appointed us to bear fruit unto Him. As a Christian, I desire to bear fruit. We all want to please God, and have our lives be fruitful unto Him. Through persistent and diligent prayer, our lives bear fruit unto His glory.
When we abide in God, and bear fruit unto Him, He hears our prayers, and answers them. James 5:16 tells us that the fervent, effective prayers of a righteous man avail much. As we grow close to the Lord, He enables us to bear fruit, and in turn answers our prayers.
In no way do I believe that this verse is indicating that God answers our prayers based on anything that we do, or who we are – but this verse does suggest that God considers the condition of a person’s heart. The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is a perfect example of this. God listens to prayers that come from a heart that is in tune with His Spirit. A person cannot bear fruit apart from the work of the Spirit in his life; likewise, it is this same Spirit that guides us in our prayers:
Rom. 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us 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 groaning which cannot be uttered
There is a vast difference between works of righteousness and spiritual fruit. God enables us to bear spiritual fruit, that our prayers may be pleasing unto God.
When we bear fruit, we glorify the Lord. Likewise, He is glorified through answered prayer.
(3)Prayer enables us to do the works that Christ did on earth
John 14:12 Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son
Christ’s ministry on earth lasted only 3 years – but it did not end with His death; on the contrary, Jesus Christ has empowered us and equipped us to carry on this work. This is done, not only through our works, but also through the prayers of the saints....when Christ hears and answers them. Through prayer, Christ’s ministry continues on earth.
Here it says that we will do the works that Christ did, and even greater, because He goes to His Father. In other words, the ministry of Christ continues to be carried out through His people. The Father was glorified through the Son during His ministry on earth, and continues to be glorified through answered prayer.
No work is to be done without prayer. We know that when we set out to do any kind of ministry, that we must seek the Lord in prayer first – for His guidance and His blessing. We would never go about any ministry endeavour without prayer. After all, ministry is the Lord’s work, and if He is not in it, then it is futile.
When we pray, not only will we do those works that Christ did, but greater works – because it is not us who are doing them, but Christ working through us. When we make our petitions to Christ, and He answers them, the Father is glorified through the Son, because it is Christ who makes intercession for us at the right hand of the Father.
Our prayers are the catalyst by which Christ continues His ministry on earth. Only those ministry endeavours which are in line with God’s will, and are saturated in prayer, will be blessed by God, and used to further His kingdom. Through our prayers, Christ continues what He begun over 2,000 years ago.
It’s pretty amazing to think that Christ uses our prayers to accomplish His supernatural work on the earth. Not only does He equip us to pray, through the inner working of His Spirit, but He uses those prayers for His, and our, eternal glory.
(4)God answers our prayers so that our joy may be full
John 16:24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full
The word “ask” here signifies continually asking – praying without ceasing.
Here, the word “full” literally means fulfilled. The phrase “that your joy may be full” is in direct relation to the previous thought, “you will receive.” I find it absolutely wonderful that the Lord answers our prayers, in addition to all of the other reasons, that we may have joy. Indeed, there is a certain joyfulness and excitement in having our prayers answered by God. We serve a loving God, who delights in blessing His children.
Of course, all of this is impingent on what we are praying for, and the attitude with which we are praying. When we pray for God’s will to be done in our lives, for closer fellowship with Him, for understanding, or that He might bring salvation to our loved ones, etc. – these are the kinds of requests that God desires to grant, and when He does, it brings us great joy. Not only does the Lord hear us, but He also desires to bless us.
Luke 11:13 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?
Here, we are told that God gives us more than just material things – He gives us of His Spirit, the source of all blessing and joy. When we seek God first, everything else follows (Mt. 6:33). There is nothing wrong with praying for material blessing, but this is not what we are to place our happiness in. The joy spoken of in John 16:24 is not obtained by material blessing, but by the spiritual blessings that God bestows on us through prayer:
Eph. 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ
The closer we grow to God through prayer, the more we taste of the Spiritual blessings, the hungrier we become for them.
When we pray, we invite the work of God into every aspect of our lives – our hearts, our circumstances, etc., but it is not just about us. Through it, God is glorified, and through it, we receive His provision, His blessing, and His vision. I still marvel at the fact that He uses my prayers, which in the eternal scope of things are so insignificant – to carry out His amazing plans on earth, plans that He had before the foundations of the world were laid, and before I was even conceived. Through my simple prayers, God can move on around me, even on the other side of the world, and equips me and prepares my heart to carry out the Great Commission.
May we all remain faithful to pray.