by Rod Jackson
All verses are quoted from the NASB anything in [square brackets] is added by me for clarity.
Is Prayer Important?
"Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned;" Colossians 4:2-3
"rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer," Romans 12:12
So we should be devoted to prayer. This means that it is important to pray!
Who should pray?
"The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous." Proverbs 15:29
The bible is clear that a person is only righteous by Faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, only Christians are righteous. They are the ones who should pray. The only real prayer a non-Christian should pray, is the prayer of conversion (to become a Christian).
"The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight." Proverbs 15:8
"He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination." Proverbs 28:9
I have heard non-Christians tell me, that they tried praying and it didn't work. Well I wonder why... :)
"HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT. FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL." 1 Peter 3:11-12
So we can see that God answers the prayers of genuine Christians, but not of non-Christians or hypocritical "Christians".
"You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered." 1 Peter 3:7
An abusive husband, God will not answer the prayers of.
"You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures." James 4:3
People who are greedy and treat God like a Santa, He does not answer their prayers either.
"Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 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 earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit." James 5:13-18
Elijah was a righteous person and he prayed and it stopped raining for 3.5 years. So we've seen 2 examples of where God doesn't answer evil prayers and 1 example where God does answer a righteous person's prayer.
"And He [Jesus] also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: `Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: "God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get." But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.' " Luke 18:9-14
Therefore not one's own righteousness, as "tax-gatherers" were not "righteous". This shows that it is the prayer of a person who is righteous by faith in God. Not someone who is "righteous" by the deeds they have done.
How should the righteous pray?
"Then He [Jesus] said to them, `Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, "Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him"; and from inside he answers and says, "Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything." I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 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. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 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?' " Luke 11:5-13
"Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, `In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, 'Give me legal protection from my opponent.' For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, 'Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.'" And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:1-8
So we should be persistent in prayer. Not giving up.
"So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes." Daniel 9:3
"Now while I [Daniel] was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God, while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering. He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, `O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding. At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.' " Daniel 9:20-23
In the above example Daniel starts to pray and the angel Gabriel comes to him during His prayer. Gabriel left at the start of Daniel's prayer and arrived while he was still praying. Now consider the another prayer of Daniels -
"In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar; and the message was true and one of great conflict, but he understood the message and had an understanding of the vision. In those days, I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks. I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all until the entire three weeks were completed. On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, while I was by the bank of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult. Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. But I heard the sound of his words; and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground. Then behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said to me, `O Daniel, man of high esteem, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you ' And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, `Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future.' When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless. And behold, one who resembled a human being was touching my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke and said to him who was standing before me, `O my lord, as a result of the vision anguish has come upon me, and I have retained no strength. For how can such a servant of my lord talk with such as my lord? As for me, there remains just now no strength in me, nor has any breath been left in me.' Then this one with human appearance touched me again and strengthened me. He said, `O man of high esteem, do not be afraid Peace be with you; take courage and be courageous!' Now as soon as he spoke to me, I received strength and said, `May my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.' Then he said, `Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come. However, I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince.' " Daniel 10:1-21
Here we see that Gabriel again leaves as Daniel starts to pray. However Gabriel is delayed by opposing spiritual forces, and it takes him 3 weeks to come to Daniel. Daniel would not have known that, Gabriel was delayed expect that the angel told Daniel when he finally got there. Therefore one should be persistent in prayer.
"Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, `Sit here while I go over there and pray.' " Matthew 26:36
"And He [Jesus] went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, `My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.' " Matthew 26:39
"He [Jesus] went away again a second time and prayed, saying, `My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.' " Matthew 26:42
"And He [Jesus] left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more." Matthew 26:44
Jesus prays the same prayer 3 times.
"Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me [Paul] from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I [Paul] implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, `My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." 2 Corinthians 12:7-9
Paul prayed for the messenger of Satan to be removed from his side, 3 times. So we have seen 2 examples of righteous people praying the same prayer more than once, not giving up.
"And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." Matthew 6:7-8
So meaningless repetition is not the same as not meaningful repetition. As it is ok to persist in prayer, but one is not heard because of their "many words".
"When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." Matthew 6:5-6
Also we should pray in secret, in the "inner room".
"In His [Jesus'] teaching He was saying: `Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows' houses, and for appearance's sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.' " Mark 12:38-40
So we have seen 1 example where the pharisees prayed meaningless prayers that God is not impressed with.
Where should the righteous pray?
"If I [God] shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place [the Temple]. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually." 2 Chronicles 7:13-16
This was God's commission to King Solomon, when he dedicated the Temple to God.
"And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, `It is written, "MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER"; but you are making it a ROBBERS' DEN.' " Matthew 21:12-13
"Then they came to Jerusalem. And He [Jesus] entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. And He began to teach and say to them, `Is it not written, "MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS"? But you have made it a ROBBERS' DEN.' " Mark 11:15-17
"Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling, saying to them, `It is written, "AND MY HOUSE SHALL BE A HOUSE OF PRAYER," but you have made it a ROBBERS' DEN.' " Luke 19:45-46
So the Temple is to be a house of prayer. Jesus cleansed the physical temple, but we can also understand the temple to be the "temple of the body". The body of Christ is the church, so the body of Christ is to be a "house of prayer". But also the individual Christian's body is a temple to God (the temple is where God's Spirit dwells), so the individual Christian should be "prayer filled".
Is it better to pray alone?
"After He [Jesus] had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone." Matthew 14:23
"After bidding them farewell, He [Jesus] left for the mountain to pray." Mark 6:46
"It was at this time that He [Jesus] went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God." Luke 6:12
In these examples above Jesus prays alone. Notice also that Jesus goes to a mountain to pray therefore the "inner room" (from Matthew 6:6) is not literal. Rather it just means a secret place.
"Some eight days after these sayings, He [Jesus] took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray." Luke 9:28
Here Jesus prays with 3 of His disciples.
"And it happened that while He [Jesus] was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, `Who do the people say that I am?' " Luke 9:18
This verse is most interesting because Jesus is praying alone in a crowd! This means that it is not the number of people around you that counts when one is praying to God.
Or is it better to pray in a group?
"Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.' " Matthew 6:9
Jesus teaches His disciples to pray "Our" Father, not "my" Father.
"They [Christian church] were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Acts 2:42
The early church met for prayer, this would be like congregational prayers.
"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven." Matthew 18:15-19
When Jesus above says "again I say to you", this means that He is repeating what He's already said. So this means that the 2 or 3 on earth agreeing to something is equivalent to binding and loosing on earth.
How often should a righteous Christian pray?
"pray without ceasing;" 1 Thessalonians 5:17
"With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." Ephesians 6:18-20
Christians should have an attitude of prayer. They should pray in the Spirit at all times, and without ceasing. Stephen Curtis Chapman sings a song called "Let us Pray". In it there is a section where the lyrics say - "When you say the word 'amen' it's time to start again". :)
"For this reason I [Paul] too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him." Ephesians 1:15-17
"I [Paul] thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now." Philippians 1:3-5
"For God, whom I [Paul] serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you." Romans 1:9-10
"I [Paul] thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy." 2 Timothy 1:3-4
"I [Paul] thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers," Philemon 1:4
There are 5 examples of the apostle Paul being regular in his prayers.
"We [Paul & Timothy] give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you," Colossians 1:3
Here is an example of Paul and Timothy always praying for the Colossian church.
"Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God." Colossians 4:12
An example of Epaphras praying for the Colossian church.
"We [Paul, Silvanus & Timothy] give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers;" 1 Thessalonians 1:2
Finally an exmaple of Paul, Silvanus and Timothy always praying for the Thessalonian church. Showing that the body is to be united and praying for each member.
Why should a righteous Christian pray?
Is God male or female? Neither God is Spirit -
"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:24
We fight spiritual forces -
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12
Some kinds of demons only come out with prayer -
"And He [Jesus] said to them, `This kind [of demon] cannot come out by anything but prayer.' " Mark 9:39
So one reason to pray is because prayer is a spiritual weapon that we use against spiritual forces.
"You are My [Jesus'] friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." John 15:14-15
Christians are Jesus' friends. You talk to your friends, therefore you should talk to Jesus. So this is another reason for Christian to pray to God.
"In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." Romans 8:26-27
Finally, the Holy Spirit will pray on our behalf. And the Holy Spirit knows exactly what is good for us and our needs. So we needn't worry as we know God is looking out for us!
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