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An Acronym to Help You With P.R.A.Y.E.R.

 Prayer consists of P.R.A.Y.E.R

Prayer in a dark sunset 

P-etition: “Daniel made his petition three times a day” (Daniel 6:13)

R-everance: “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28)

A-doration: “My lips will praise You” (Psalm 63:3)

Y-earning: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6)

E-xpection: “Elijah…prayed fervently that it might rain” (James 5:17)

R-equests: “Let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

 

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Warren W. Wiersbe on How To Pray Effectively: 5 Principles from John 17

Today, May 3rd, 2012 is the National Day of Prayer. On this day I’m posting an excellent excerpt from a book on how to pray from Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe. He bases this book on the “real Lord’s prayer.” What we have traditionally called “The Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6 is the way Jesus taught his disciples to pray. However, in John 17 we get a glimpse into the prayer life of Jesus on His way to the cross and back to glory with the Father. The best way we can learn about prayer, is to do a careful study of John 17, and see firsthand how, what, and why Jesus prayed. Without further ado – enjoy Wiersbe’s observations about our Lord’s famous prayer from John chapter 17.

These things Jesus spoke; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said. ’’Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee.” – John 17:1

“Lord, teach us to pray!”

This request from one of the disciples (Luke 11:1) gave evidence of real spiritual insight. We must learn how to pray. While praying is as natural to the Christian as breathing is to a mammal, even breathing must be studied and practiced if it is to be correct. Singers and public speakers work on their breathing so that they get the most out of their voice and don’t injure it. The fact that we have been praying since childhood is no guarantee that we really know how to pray effectively.

John 17:1 Gives us some Guidelines to Follow for Effective Praying:

(1) Posture is not important

Was our Lord kneeling or standing when he offered this prayer? We don’t know. All we do know is that He lifted up His eyes to heaven (see John 11:41). Most people bow their heads and close their eyes when they pray, but Jesus lifted His head and focused His eyes on heaven. Many people fold their hands when they pray, but I don’t find this practice anywhere in Scripture. In fact, the Jews were accustomed to lifting up their hands, open to God, expecting to receive something! (Note 1 Kings 8:22; Nehemiah 8:6; Psalm 28:2; and 1 Timothy 2:8.)

Many different prayer postures are recorded in the Bible, and all of them are acceptable. Some people bowed their knees when they prayed (Genesis 24:52; 2 Chronicles 20:18; Ephesians 3:14). When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, He began by bowing His knees (Luke 22:41); He then fell on His face as He talked to the Father (Matthew 26:39). It was Daniel’s practice to kneel when he prayed (Daniel 6:10), but King David sat when he talked to God about the promised kingdom (2 Samuel 7:18). Abraham stood when he interceded for Sodom (Genesis 18:22). So there are many postures for prayer.

The important thing is the posture of the heart. It is much easier to bow the knees than to bow the heart in submission to God. While the outward posture can be evidence of the inward spiritual attitude, it is not always so. Again, the important thing is the posture of the heart.

(2) We Pray to the Father

The biblical pattern for prayer is to the Father, in the name of the Son, in the power of the Spirit. Jesus addressed His Father six times in this prayer. (Some people say “Father” or “Lord” with every sentence that they pray. This is a bad habit that should be cured.) Four times He simply said “Father”; the other two times, He called Him “Holy Father” and “righteous Father” (verses 11 and 25). From this, I gather that it is not wrong for us to use suitable adjectives when we address our Father in heaven. However, we must be careful to mean what we say and not overdo it.

We address the Father, of course, because prayer is based on sonship. In what we traditionally call “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13), Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father….” Jesus never prayed “Our Father.” We noted in chapter 1 that Jesus had a different relationship to the Father because He is the eternal Son of God. He said, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (John 20:17).

We hear people addressing their prayers to the Son and even to the Holy Spirit. Is this wrong? When Stephen gave his life for Christ, he saw Jesus in heaven and addressed his prayer to him: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (Acts 7:59). I know of no prayer in the Bible addressed to the Holy Spirit. Since our prayers are addressed to God, and since Father and Son and Holy Spirit are all in the Godhead, technically we can address our prayers to each of them. However, the biblical pattern seems to be that we pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, and through the power of the Spirit.

Nowhere in this prayer does our Lord mention the Holy Spirit. He had in His Upper Room discourse taught the disciples about the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-13). Jude 20 instructs us to pray “in the Holy Spirit,” which seems to relate to Romans 8:26, 27, verses that every serious prayer warrior should ponder. We cannot expect God to answer unless we pray in His will (1 John 5:14, 15). We discover the will of God primarily through the Word of God (Colossians 1:9, 10), and it is one of the ministries of the Spirit to teach us from the Word (John 16:13, 14).

The fact that prayer is based on sonship suggests that the Father is obligated to listen when His children call. In fact, it is more than an obligation: it is the Father’s delight when His children fellowship with Him and share their needs. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11). The Father’s heart reaches out in love to His own, and He longs to share good things with them. And the better we know our Father, the easier it is to pray in His will.

(3) We must be Yielded to the Father’s Will

A storm passed over the Florida coast and left a great deal of wreckage behind. The next day, as the men were cleaning up their little town, one man said, “I’m not ashamed to admit that I prayed during that storm last night.” One of his friends replied, “Yes, I’m sure the Lord heard many new voices last night.”

Prayer is not like those little red boxes we see in buildings and occasionally on street corners, marked USE ONLY IN EMERGENCY. I enjoy sharing good things with my children, but if they only spoke to me when they were in trouble or in need of something, our relationship would quickly deteriorate. Unless we do the will of God, our living will negate our praying.

“Father, the hour has come….” What hour? The hour for which He had come into the world. The hour when He would die on the cross, be buried, rise again, and finish the great work of redemption. You may trace this “hour” in John’s Gospel.

John 2:4 – Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour has not yet come.

John 7:30 – They were seeking therefore to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.

John 8:20 – These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come.

John 12:23 – And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

John 13:1 – Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

John 17:1- Father, the hour has come….

I think it was Phillips Brooks who said, “The purpose of prayer is not to get man’s will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth.” If we want to pray in the will of God, then we must live in the will of God. Prayer is not something that we do; it is something that we are. It is the highest and deepest expression of the inner person.

It is this profound relationship between practice and prayer that helps us understand such promises as Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” A superficial reading of this promise would lead you to believe that God is a doting Father who plays favorites with those who pamper Him. But that is not what this promise says. If we delight in the Lord, and seek to please Him in everything, then something is going to happen to our own desires. His desires become our desires. We start to say with our Lord, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34). Our praying, then, is simply the reflection of God’s desires in our own heart.

There is a price to pay when we sincerely pray in the will of God. Jesus was about to receive the cup from His Father’s hand (John 18:10, 11). The Father had prepared the cup, and the hour had come. But Jesus was not afraid. Peter tried to protect the Master, but Jesus rebuked him. “The cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11). We need never fear the will of God; and, if we are in the will of God, we need never fear the answers He gives to our prayers. If a son asks for bread, will he receive a stone? If he asks for a fish, will his father give him a snake?

Living in the will of God makes it possible for us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This command obviously doesn’t mean that we are to go around mumbling prayers. Our real praying is expressed by the desires of our heart. If our lips frame requests that are different from the desires in our heart, then we are praying hypocritically. God does not hear words; He sees hearts. So, when we live in the will of God, the desires of our heart should become more and more godly; and these desires are really prayers that constantly ascend to the Lord.

Jesus lived on a divine timetable. When He told His disciples He was going back to Judea to help Mary and Martha and Lazarus, the disciples protested. “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” What was our Lord’s reply? “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” (John 11:8, 9). He knew that He was safe in the Father’s will, and that they could not kill Him until His hour had come.

God in his mercy can and does answer “emergency prayers,” but He prefers that we be in constant communion with Him. (In fact, if we seek to live in His will, we will have fewer emergencies!) If prayer is an interruption to our lives, then something is wrong.

The fact that we sustain an attitude of prayer does not mean we avoid regular times of prayer. It is the regular occasion of prayer that makes possible the constant attitude of prayer. We do not enjoy Thanksgiving dinners or holiday feasts at every meal; but we are able to enjoy those special times because we have eaten our regular meals three times a day. We begin the day with prayer; we pray at mealtime; we lift prayers to God during the day as the Spirit prompts us; we close the day in prayer. Like our breathing, our praying becomes so much a part of our lives that we are often not conscious of it.

(4) The Glory of God should be our Primary Concern

“Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee.”

The word glory is used in one form or another eight times in this prayer. What does it mean?

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word translated “glory” means “weight, that which is important and honorable.” (Paul’s phrase “an eternal weight of glory” in 2 Corinthians 4:17 carries this idea.) In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “glory” means “opinion, fame.” Theologians tell us that the “glory of God” is the sum total of all that He is, the manifestation of His character. The glory of God is not an attribute of God, but rather is an attribute of all His attributes! He is glorious in wisdom and power, glorious in His mighty works, and glorious in the grace He bestows upon us.

You have probably noticed that “The Lord’s Prayer” teaches us to put God’s concerns before our own. We pray “Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” before we bring up our own needs-daily bread, forgiveness, and protection from sin. When our praying centers on the glory of God, we see our needs and requests in proper perspective. Matters that seemed so important have a tendency to shrink to their proper size when measured by the glory of God.

Whatever we pray about, in the will of God and for the glory of God, will be granted by our heavenly Father. When we are available to bring glory to God “on the earth” (verse 4), then God is available to provide what we need.

Was Jesus praying selfishly when He said, “Glorify Thy Son”? No, he was not. To begin with, He had shared that glory with the Father “before the world was” (verse 5). When He came to earth in His body of flesh, He veiled that glory. Peter, James, and John saw it on the Mount of Transfiguration (John 1:14; Matthew 17:1-8), but it was not revealed to anyone else. When our Lord asked the Father to glorify Him, He was only requesting the return of that which was already His.

But something more is involved. The glorification of Jesus Christ meant the completion of the great work of salvation. In this prayer, Jesus spoke as though His work on the cross were already finished. “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given me to do” (verse 4). If Jesus Christ had not been glorified, there could be no salvation for sinners today. The Holy Spirit would not have been given. There would be no church, no New Testament, no Christian life. While our Lord did pray for Himself, it was not a selfish prayer; for He also had us in mind.

And, after all, it cost Him His life on the cross for this prayer to be answered. By no stretch of the imagination could you call it selfish.

God answered the prayer of His Son. “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus…” (Acts 3:13). In Peter 1:21 we are told that the Father “raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory….” There is a glorified Man in heaven today! In Jesus Christ, deity and humanity share glory. This assures us that one day we shall share God’s glory, for “we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Jesus Christ has already given His church the glory (verse 22). The tense of the verb in Romans 8:30 has always astounded me: “…whom He justified, these He also glorified.” We are just as much glorified as we are justified, but the glory has not yet been revealed. All of creation, now travailing because of sin, is eagerly awaiting “the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19); for only then will creation be set free to enjoy “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

“If God answers this request,” we should ask ourselves, “will it bring Him glory? And what will this answer look like when Jesus comes again?” I have discovered that testing my prayers by the glory of God is a good way to detect requests that are selfish and short-sighted.

(5) We must Pray in Faith

Suppose the Master had looked at His situation through human eyes alone. Could He have prayed as He did? No; it would have been impossible.

Suppose He looked back on His years of ministry and evaluated that ministry from a human point of view. It would have looked like failure. He had very few followers, and His own nation had rejected Him. Humanly speaking, His work had failed. Yet He prayed, “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given me to do” (verse 4). By faith, He would be that “grain of wheat” planted in the ground, and He would produce much fruit (John 12:24).

Or, suppose He had looked around. What would He have seen? A small band of men, all of whom would fail Him in one way or another. Peter would deny Him three times. At that very hour, Judas was bargaining with the Jewish council and selling the Master like a common slave. Peter, James, and John would go to sleep in the Garden when they should be encouraging their Lord. And all of the men would forsake Him and flee.

Yet by faith, Jesus prayed, “I have been glorified in them” (verse 10). By faith, He prayed for them as they would be sent into the world to share the Gospel message. In spite of their past failures, these men would succeed! “I do not ask in behalf of these alone,” He said to the Father, “but for those also who believe in Me through their word” (verse 20). These weak men would invade a world that hated them and bring many to the feet of the Savior. Jesus saw all of this by faith.

If our Lord had looked ahead, He would have seen arrest, conviction, and death on a cross. Humanly speaking, it was defeat; but by faith, He saw it as it really was-victory! He said to Andrew and Philip, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). Glorified! We would have said, crucified. But he looked beyond the cross to the glory that would come. “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

When we pray by faith, we start seeing things from the divine perspective. Faith enables us to see the invisible. Faith treats as present and accomplished that which God will do in the future. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

In my own prayer life, God is constantly seeking to bring me back to these fundamentals. It is easy for me to get detoured by some external thing, and my Father has to remind me that effective praying must come from the heart. I must repeatedly examine my relationship to the Father to make sure I am in His will, and that I want to be in His will. (“Doing the will of God from the heart,” Ephesians 6:6.) I must examine my motives: Am I praying so that the Father will be glorified or so that I might have my own comfortable way? Am I praying by faith, basing my requests on His Word?

Perhaps all of this seems to make praying appear very complex and difficult. Really, it is not. True prayer is the by-product of our personal “love relationship” with the Father.

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:21).

About the Author: Warren W. Wiersbe is the Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, Warren Wiersbe is the author of more than 100 books. Billy Graham calls him “one of the greatest Bible expositors of our generation.” The article above was adapted from Warren W. Wiersbe. Prayer: Basic Training. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988, 23-32.

 

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How To Pray Using the F-A-C-T-S Acronym By Hank Hanegraaff

“Your Father Knows”

 (*Article adapted from Hank Hanegraaff, The Prayer of Jesus, Nashville: Word, 2001, Chapter 3)

Over sixty years ago the famous fictional character named Jabez Stone hit the big time in the Academy Award winning movie The Devil and Daniel Webster. Stone wasn’t evil, but he appeared to be the unluckiest man in all of New Hampshire. Unlike men who have the Midas touch, everything he touched turned to gravel in his teeth. One day he couldn’t take it anymore. He had just broken his plowshare, his horse was sick, his children came down with the measles, his wife was ailing and he had just injured his hand. Although Stone was religious, that day he vowed he would sell his soul to the Devil for a shortcut to success in life.

The Devil obliged, and at the expense of his soul promised to prosper Stone for seven years. Outwardly, Stone’s life was immediately flooded with good fortune and all the trappings of success. Inwardly, however, his spirit had begun to shrivel up and die. He was about to gain the whole world but lose his very soul. As I watched the movie and read the famous story by Stephen Vincent Benet on which the movie is based, I could not help but think back to the haunting words of Jesus, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you” (Luke 12:20).

Like Stone, all of us have been tempted to look for shortcuts to success. And nowhere is this truer than when it comes to our prayer lives. We desperately want good fortune. We want a formula that will open up the windows of heaven and rain down its blessings. If you want to get right down to it, our prayers often sound dangerously close to the pleas of pagans, who constantly worry, saying, “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?” (Matthew 6:31)

Thus, before Jesus launches into the principles of prayer through the most beautiful, symmetrical, and majestic of all biblical prayers, he first warns his disciples against praying as pagans do. The last thing he wants his disciples to do is turn the prayer he is about to teach them into what the New King James version of the Bible describes as “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7). So, says Jesus, “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (vv. 7-8).

As the father of eight children, I can tell you that I sometimes know what my children need before they ask me. However, what I, as an earthly father, only sometimes know, our eternal Father always knows. There’s no need to pull out the prayer beads or attempt to wear God down by repeating the same prayers over and over. He already knows what you need before you ask him.

This statement by Christ inevitably leads to this question: Why bother praying if God knows what we need before we even ask him? I fear the very reason that this question is so often posed is that we have been conditioned to think that supplication is the sole sum and substance of prayer. The prayer of Jabez, now on the lips of multitudes, is an example of supplication.

It is great to ask God to “bless me indeed” so that I can be a blessing to others. It is glorious that God should ‘enlarge my border” so that I might reach more people for the kingdom. It is right to ask that God’s “hand might be with me” so that I might be led through the challenges of life by his sovereign control and not by chance. And it is proper to pray, “Keep me from harm that it man not pain me.” Prayer, however, is not merely a means of presenting requests, it is a means of pursuing a relationship with our heavenly Father.

As I write, the lyrics of a Country Western song, sung by Grammy Award-winning singer and song writer Paul Overstreet, wash through my mind.

‘How much do I owe you,” said the man to his Lord,

“For giving me this day, and all the days that’s gone before?

Shall I build a temple, shall I make a sacrifice?

Tell me Lord, and I will pay the price.

And the Lord said,

“I won’t take less than your love, sweet love.

No, I won’t take less than your love.

All the treasures of this world could never be enough,

And I won’t take less than your love (Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, “I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love,” Pegram, Tenn.: Scarlett Moon Records, 1999).

The point of the lyrics, which deal not only with the relationship of a man to his Lord but with the relationship to his wife and a mother to her son, is that relationships are cemented not just by giving and getting but love and communication.

The fact that I often know what my kids are going to ask before they open their mouths does not mean I don’t want them to ask. Rather, I long for them to verbalize their thoughts and feelings. That’s how our relationship blossoms and grows. Likewise, if we are to nurture a strong bond with our Creator, we must continually communicate with him. And prayer is our primary way of doing just that. A memorable way of prioritizing the principles of such communication through prayer is found in the acronym F-A-C-T-S (F-A-C-T-S discussion adapted from Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis, Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House Publishers, 1997, 288-90; A-C-T-S used widely many years).

(F)AITH

Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. Put another way, it is the object of faith that renders faith faithful. The secret is not in the phrases we utter but in the coming to know ever more fully the One to whom we pray. Since God is awesomely revealed in his Word, the prayer of faith must always be rooted in Scripture. Prayer becomes truly meaningful when we enter into a relationship with God through Christ. We can then build on that foundation by saturating ourselves with Scripture. As R.A. Torrey so wonderfully expressed it:

To pray the prayer of faith we must, first of all, study the Word of God, especially the promises of God, and find out what the will of God is…We cannot believe as that is not faith but credulity; it is “make believe.” The great warrant for intelligent faith is God’s Word. As Paul puts it in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (R.A. Torrey, The Power of Prayer, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981, 123-24).

Jesus summed up the prayer of faith with these words: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you” (John 15:7). 

(A)DORATION

Faith in God naturally leads to adoration. Prayer without adoration is like a body without a soul. It is not only incomplete, but it just doesn’t work. Through adoration we express our genuine, heartfelt love and longing for God. Adoration inevitably leads to praise and worship, as our thoughts are focused on God’s surpassing greatness. The Scriptures are a vast treasury overflowing with descriptions of God’s grandeur and glory. The Psalms, in particular, can be transformed into passionate prayers of adoration.

Come, let us worship and bow down;

Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture,

And the sheep of His hand. – Psalm 95:6-9 NASB

 (C)ONFESSION

Not only do the Psalms abound with illustrations of adoration, but they are replete with exclamations of confession as well. Those who are redeemed by the person and work of Jesus are positionally declared righteous before God. In practical terms, however, we are still sinners who sin every day. While unconfessed sin will not break our union with God, it will break our communion with God. Thus confession is a crucial aspect of daily prayer.

The concept of confession carries the acknowledgement that we stand guilty before God’s bar of justice. There’s no place for self-righteousness before God. We can only develop intimacy with the Lord through prayer when we confess our need for forgiveness and contritely seek his pardon. The Apostle John sums it up beautifully when he writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

 (T)HANKSGIVING

Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more basic to prayer than thanksgiving. Scripture teaches us to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4). Failure to do so is the stuff of pagan babblings and carnal Christianity. Pagans, says Paul, know about God, but “they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (Romans 1:21).

Carnal Christians likewise fail to thank God regularly for his many blessings. They suffer from what might best be described as selective memories and live by their feelings rather than their faith. They are prone to forget the blessings of yesterday as they thanklessly barrage the throne of grace with new requests each day.

That, according to the Apostle Paul, is a far cry from how we should pray. Instead we ought to approach God “overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7) as we devote ourselves “to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (4:2). Such thankfulness is an action that flows from the sure knowledge that our heavenly father knows exactly what we need and will supply it. Thus says Paul we are to “be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks on all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16-18; also Eph. 5:20).

(S)UPPLICATION

We began by noting that prayer begins with a humble faith in the love and resources of our heavenly Father. Thus prayer becomes a means through which we learn to lean more heavily upon him and less heavily upon ourselves. Such faith inevitably leads to adoration as we express our longing for an ever deeper and richer relationship with the One who knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. The more we get to know him in the fullness of his majesty, the more we are inclined to confess our unworthiness and to thank him not only for his saving and sanctifying grace but also for his goodness in supplying all our needs.

It is in the contest of such a relationship that God desires that his children bring their requests before his throne of grace with praise and thanksgiving. After all it was Jesus himself who taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And as we do we must ever be mindful f the fact that the purpose of supplication is not to pressure God into providing us with provisions and pleasures, but rather to conform us to his purposes. As we read in 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we have asked of him.”

SO, WHY ASK?

This brings us back to the question posed earlier: If God knows what we need before we even ask, why bother asking at all? My initial response was a reminder that supplication is not the sole sum and substance of our prayers. Fat from merely being a means of pursuing a dynamic relationship with him.

Furthermore, we should note that God ordains not only the ends but also the means. Thus, to ask, “Why pray if God knows what we need?” is akin to asking, “Why get dressed in the morning and go to work?” For that matter, if God is going to do what he’s going to do anyway, why bother doing anything? As C.S. Lewis once put it, “Why, then, do we not argue as the opponents of prayer argue, and say that if the intended result is good God will bring it to pass without your interference, and that if it is bad He will prevent it happening whatever you do? Why wash your hands? If God intends them to be clean, they’ll come clean without your washing them. If He doesn’t they’ll remain dirty (as Lady Macbeth found – cf. Shakespeare, Macbeth V, I, 34-57) however much soap you use. Why ask for the salt? Why put on your boots? Why do anything? Lewis provides the answer as follows:

We know that we can act and thus that our actions produce results. Everyone who believes in God must therefore admit (quite apart from the question of prayer) that God has not chosen to write the whole of history with his own hand. Most of the events that go on in the universe are indeed out of our control, but not all. It is like a play in which the scene and the general outline of the story are fixed by the author, but certain minor details are left for the actors to improvise. It may be a mystery why He should have allowed us to cause them by praying than by any other method.

He gave us small creatures the dignity of being able to contribute to the course of events in two different ways. He made the matter of the universe such that we can (in those limits) do things to it; that is why we can wash our own hands and feed or murder our fellow creatures. Similarly, he made His own plan or plot of history such that it admits a certain amount of free play and can be modified in response to our prayers (C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, edited by William Hooper, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1979, 105).

Lewis goes on to explain that God has ordained that the work we do and the prayers we utter both produce results. If you pull out a weed, it will no longer be there. If you drink excessively, you will ruin your health. And if you waste planetary resources, you will shorten the lifeline of history. There is, however, a substantive difference between what happens as a result of our work and what happens as a result of our prayers. The result of pulling up a weed is “divinely guaranteed and therefore ruthless.” Thankfully, however, the result of prayer is not. God has left himself discretionary power to grant or refuse our requests, without which prayer would destroy us. Says Lewis,

It is not unreasonable for a headmaster to say, “Such and such things you may do according to the fixed rules of this school. But such and such other things are too dangerous to be left to general rules. If you want to do them you must come and make a request and talk over the whole matter with me in my study. And then—we’ll see” (Ibid, 107).

While our Father knows what we need before we even ask, our supplications are in and of themselves an acknowledgement of our dependence on him. And that alone is reason enough to pray without ceasing.

 

*Hank Hanegraaff serves as president and chairman of the board of the North Carolina-based Christian Research Institute International. He is also host of “The Bible Answer Man” radio program, which is broadcast daily across the United States and Canada as well as around the world through the Internet at http://www.equip.org.

Widely considered to be one of the world’s leading Christian apologists, Hanegraaff is deeply committed to equipping Christians to be so familiar with truth that when counterfeits loom on the horizon, they recognize them instantaneously.Through his live call-in radio broadcast, Hanegraaff equips Christians to read the Bible for all it’s worth and answers questions on the basis of careful research and sound reasoning. Additionally, Hanegraaff regularly interviews today’s most significant leaders, apologists, and thinkers.

Hanegraaff is the author of award-winning best sellers, including The Prayer of Jesus, – from which the above article Chapter 3 “Your Father Knows” is derived, Christianity in Crisis, Resurrection and Has God Spoken? He has written many other acclaimed books as well, numbering in the dozens. He is a regular contributor to “Christian Research Journal” and “The Plain Truth” magazine. A popular conference speaker, he addresses churches, schools, and businesses worldwide. He is frequently invited to appear on national media programs to discuss a wide range of issues.

Hanegraaff and his wife, Kathy, live in North Carolina and are the parents of nine children–Michelle; Katie; David; John Mark; Hank, Jr.; Christina; Paul; Faith; and baby Grace–and the grandparents of five.

 

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