Biblical Principles for Christian Maturity

John H. Stoll, Th.M., Ph.D

Copyright 1996, John H. Stoll

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Chapter 22 - How To Pray

Next to spiritual food from the Word of God, the important aspect of spiritual development for the Christian is prayer. We must pray because Satan seeks our downfall (Eph.6:12,13). Our Lord prayed (Mark 1;35), it is God's appointed way to receive blessing (James 4:2), and it leads to fullness of Joy (Jn.16:24).

In the immaturity of our faith, one may do poorly in prayer, but as we become more mature we learn to ask for and obtain those things which are more consonant with God's will for us, and thereby ask within His will (I John 5:14; John 15:7).

To help overcome our problems we need to pray. There has never been a sowing of God in the heart of His child, but what there has been an oversowing of Satan. Less time should be spent in trying to straighten out our problems and relationships with each other, and more time in prayer about the problems.

I. The Basis of Prayer: It is the foundation of approach to God (John 16:23). When we pray it is the prompting of our asking (John 14:13,14), and is the first condition of effective asking (I Peter 3:12; John 9:31; I Tim. 2:8). In light of our coming to God in prayer, there should be daily searching (Ps.139:23,24; Ps. 51; I Cor. 11:28-31). Prayer is also the exercise of Faith (Matt. 21:21; Mark 11:24; James 1:6,7; 4:13-15).

It is impossible for one to exercise real faith that God will grant something that is contrary to His expressed will in the Bible, or that we have reason to believe would not be for His glory (i.e. our character transformation into His moral qualities). The Holy Spirit after all, gives us the confidence that we need in asking, and we must be sure that we desire His leading in our prayers (Rom. 8:26;Jude 20; Eph.6:13; James 4:13-15; See esp. Jer. 9:24).

II. The Elements of Prayer: Two conditions are laid down by Christ for prayer (John 15:7): a) If you abide in me, and b) My words abide in you. Effective prayer is seen in I John 3:22. We receive what we ask because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. We cannot effectively pray when we harbor a bitter spirit (Mark 11:25,26).

Our approach to God is seen in a) Heb. 11:6 - "Believe that He is", and b) John 9:31 - "God does not hear (i.e. act upon) sinners, but only those who truly worship Him". Hebrews 10:22 tells us how we should draw near to God. His attitude toward His children is seen in Psalm 34:18 and 51:17, that He hears those who are who are of broken and contrite heart. We have access to God the Father, through the intercessory work of Christ, and by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:13,18; Rom. 8:16-26). Some prayers are lost because we do not seek the Lord's will or search Him out (Jer. 29:13).

A spirit of thanksgiving should accompany all our prayers (I Thess. 5:17,18). A Christian should engage in secret prayers (Matt. 6:6) as well as public prayers (Matt.18:19,20; Heb.10:25). There are a number of ways by which we are robbed of power in our prayers: James 4:3 - because we ask amiss; Ps. 66:18 - due to iniquity in our heart; Ezek. 14:3 - idols in our heart make a stumbling block (Note: an idol is anything that comes between us and God, and takes first place in one's life); Prov. 21:13 - an unwillingness to help others, then God won't help us. Vain repetition in our prayers is especially displeasing to God (Matt. 6:7,8).

Many passages in Scripture explain to us when and how we should pray: Ps. 5:3 - In the morning; Ps. 55:17 - Evening/Morning/Noon; Matt. 26:41 - We are to watch and pray since the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak; Luke 21:36 and Eph.6:18 - Pray always with all supplications; I Thess.5:17 -Pray without ceasing (this means to be in such an attitude before God, that we can be immediately in contact with Him through prayer); Heb. 4:16 - We are to come openly before the throne of Grace; James 5:13 - If any are sick, let them pray; Rom. 12:12 - We are to continue in prayer.

As to what we are to pray for, the Word gives us guidelines for this as well: I Tim. 2:2 - For kings and all those in authority; II Thess. 3:1,2 - For fellow believers; I Tim. 2:1 - For all mankind; Matt. 5:44 - For enemies and those who despise us; Phil. 4:6 - In everything by prayer and supplication; Ps. 51:1-4 - For cleansing from transgressions, iniquity, and sin (See: I John 1:9); James 1:5 - For wisdom; Ps. 19:12 - For cleansing from errors and secret faults; Rev. 22:20 - For the coming of the Lord.

III. Conclusion: The normal order of prayer for the Christian should be directed to the Father, through the cleansing work of Jesus Christ, and by the communion or help of the Holy Spirit (II Cor. 13:14). PRAYER IS THE SOUL'S SINCERE DESIRE.

Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends with God's children;
Help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing, His blessing to seek.

Take time to be Holy, the world rushes on;
Much time spend in secret with Jesus alone;
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

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