Category Archives: Prayer Questions

Questions about Prayer: What Are the Different Types of Prayer?

 

The Bible reveals many types of prayers and employs a variety of words to describe the practice. For example, 1 Timothy 2:1 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” Here, all four of the main Greek words used for prayer are mentioned in one verse.

Here are the main types of prayers in the Bible:

The prayer of faith: James 5:15 says, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” In this context, prayer is offered in faith for someone who is sick, asking God to heal. When we pray, we are to believe in the power and goodness of God (Mark 9:23).

The prayer of agreement (also known as corporate prayer): After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples “all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). Later, after Pentecost, the early church “devoted themselves” to prayer (Acts 2:42). Their example encourages us to pray with others.

The prayer of request (or supplication): We are to take our requests to God. Philippians 4:6 teaches, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Part of winning the spiritual battle is to be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18).

The prayer of thanksgiving: We see another type of prayer in Philippians 4:5: thanksgiving or thanks to God. “With thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Many examples of thanksgiving prayers can be found in the Psalms.

The prayer of worship: The prayer of worship is similar to the prayer of thanksgiving. The difference is that worship focuses on who God is; thanksgiving focuses on what God has done. Church leaders in Antioch prayed in this manner with fasting: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2–3).

The prayer of consecration: Sometimes, prayer is a time of setting ourselves apart to follow God’s will. Jesus made such a prayer the night before His crucifixion: “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’ ” (Matthew 26:39).

The prayer of intercession: Many times, our prayers include requests for others as we intercede for them. We are told to make intercession “for everyone” in 1 Timothy 2:1. Jesus serves as our example in this area. The whole of John 17 is a prayer of Jesus on behalf of His disciples and all believers.

The prayer of imprecation: Imprecatory prayers are found in the Psalms (e.g., 7, 55, 69). They are used to invoke God’s judgment on the wicked and thereby avenge the righteous. The psalmists use this type of appeal to emphasize the holiness of God and the surety of His judgment. Jesus teaches us to pray for blessing on our enemies, not cursing (Matthew 5:44–48).

The Bible also speaks of praying in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:14–15) and prayers when we are unable to think of adequate words (Romans 8:26–27). In those times, the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us.

Prayer is conversation with God and should be made without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). As we grow in our love for Jesus Christ, we will naturally desire to talk to Him.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What Is the Meaning and Purpose of Saying Grace before a Meal?

 

“Saying grace” refers to the practice of thanking God for the food before a meal. It is also called “saying the blessing.” Such prayers follow the examples of Jesus and the apostle Paul, both of whom “said grace” before meals (see Acts 27:35).

Matthew records two instances of Jesus feeding thousands of people with only a small amount of food (Matthew 14:15–21; 15:32–38). In both these accounts, before Jesus “broke the bread” (started the meal), He gave thanks to God for it (14:19).

Apparently, giving thanks before a meal was Jesus’ customary practice. In Luke 24:13–35, on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, two of His followers travel to the village of Emmaus. Jesus joins them on the road, but they are “kept from recognizing him” (v. 16). Once they arrive at Emmaus, Jesus stops to eat with them. At the table, Jesus “took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them” (v. 30). Immediately, the disciples recognize Him; it was “when he broke the bread” (v. 35) and gave thanks that their eyes were opened.

Since we owe everything we have to God’s grace, the “free and unmerited favor of God,” it is appropriate to thank Him always (Ephesians 5:20). Meals provide a good time to pause and do just that. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:36).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: How and Why Should We Pray for Our Leaders?

 

The concept of praying for our leaders is not unique to democratic nations, and it did not begin with the United States’ National Day of Prayer. The Bible contains many commands to pray for our leaders—national and local, secular and religious.

Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:1–4, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” God told the Israelites in exile to pray for Babylon: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7). Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Paul requested prayer “for all the Lord’s people” and for himself that he would speak the gospel boldly (Ephesians 2:18–20).

Prayer is important. And it seems the Bible makes special mention of praying for those in positions of authority. Such authorities include government officials (international, national, and local) and pastors, church elders, school boards, school principals, employers, and the like.

We do not pray for our leaders simply because we are commanded to. Praying for them makes practical sense. Our leaders can affect the conditions we live in and have an impact on our families, our churches, our workplaces, our cities, and our countries. When those in authority are obeying the will of God, it is easier to “live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2). When evil men are in authority, our prayers for them are just as needed, as illustrated by William Tyndale’s last words as he was being burned at the stake: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”

Also, we do not pray for our leaders merely for our own benefit. Leadership can be a tiring task. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Leaders carry a degree of responsibility to their followers. They are often the targets of criticism and the go-to people in a crisis. If they are leading well, they are living their lives in service. We pray for them because we recognize the greatness of their task and because we are grateful for their willingness to lead.

So how should we pray for our leaders? First, if we are uncertain that they know Jesus, we should pray for their salvation. But whether or not our leaders are Christians, we should pray that God will guide them as they guide us. We should pray that they be wise and discerning and surrounded by helpful advisors. We know that God has placed our leaders in authority over us (Romans 13:1), and we can ask Him to use them as He will. We should also pray for their protection. When praying for pastors or ministry leaders, we can pray for them to have strength in the midst of spiritual warfare and to remain encouraged in the Lord. We can pray for their families, who often feel scrutinized and bear an extra load.

Briefly stated, we should mention our leaders before God in prayer and ask Him to have His way in their hearts, to support those around them, and to use their leadership to benefit their followers.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: Does God Answer Prayers?

 

The short answer to this question is, “Yes!” God has promised that, when we ask for things that are in accordance with His will for our lives, He will give us what we ask for (1 John 5:14–15). However, there is one caveat to add to this: we may not always like the answer.

We pray for a lot of things—some good, some bad, some really pointless. But God listens to all of our prayers, regardless of what we ask (Matthew 7:7). He does not ignore His children (Luke 18:1–8). When we talk to Him, He has promised to listen and respond (Matthew 6:6; Romans 8:26–27). His answer may be some variation of “yes” or “no” or “wait, not now.”

Keep in mind that prayer is not our way of getting God to do what we want. Our prayers should be focused on things that honor and glorify God and reflect what the Bible clearly reveals God’s will to be (Luke 11:2). If we pray for something that dishonors God or is not His will for us, He is unlikely to give what we ask for. God’s wisdom far exceeds our own, and we must trust that His answers to our prayers are the best possible solutions.

Does God answer prayers?—When God says “yes.”

In the first two chapters of 1 Samuel, Hannah prays and asks God to give her a baby. She had been unable to conceive which, in biblical times, was considered a mark of shame for a woman. Hannah prayed fervently—so fervently that a priest who saw her praying thought she was drunk. But God heard Hannah, and He allowed her to give birth to a child.

Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:3). If you have prayed specifically for something and God has granted it to you, then you can be assured that it is His will. Nothing happens without God allowing it to happen (Romans 8:28).

Does God answer prayers?—When God says “no.”

In John 11, Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to heal their dying brother, yet Jesus allowed Lazarus to die. Why did He say “no” to these grieving women who loved Him so much? Because He had greater things planned for Lazarus, things that no one could possibly have imagined.

“No” is one of the hardest answers we can receive. But, once again, it is important to remember that God is all-knowing and is aware of the entire timeline of history. He knows every possible outcome of every possible choice in every possible situation; we do not. He sees the “big picture”; we see a partial brushstroke. Proverbs 3:5 says to “trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” When we get a “no” answer, we must trust that whatever we asked for was not God’s will.

Does God answer prayers?—When God says “wait, not now.”

Sometimes hearing “wait” is even harder than hearing “no” because it means we have to be patient (Romans 8:25). While waiting is difficult, we can be thankful God is in control and trust that His timing will be perfect (Romans 12:12; Psalm 37:7–9).

God wants the best for your life. He does not want you to suffer needlessly. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Be patient and know that He is your loving Father (Psalm 46:10).

Abide by Philippians 4:6 as you make your requests to God: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Then, when God responds, be prepared to accept His wisdom—whether or not you agree with His answer.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: Does Praying Scripture Have Greater Effectiveness than Other Prayers?

 

Some people have found that using Bible verses in their prayers is an effective way to pray. “Praying Scripture back to God” seems to help to focus the mind and to assure that the subject matter of the prayer is pleasing to God.

James 5:16 says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (KJV). First John 5:15–16 says, “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 asked of him.” The word effectual means “sufficient to produce a desired result.” Fervent means “constant, strenuous, and intense.” James and John are both telling us that for our prayers to be effective, they must be fervent, meaningful, and in agreement with the will of God.

One way to know that our prayers are the will of God is to pray specific Scriptures that express what is in our hearts. Scripture should not be used as some kind of magic chant, repeated mindlessly as though the words themselves had power. The power of prayer comes from God alone to a heart that is “fervent.” But when we find a command or promise that expresses what is in our hearts, we know we are agreeing with God when we use it as a prayer. It is, after all, His Word. The more we memorize and meditate on the Bible, the more it becomes part of us. The truth we have studied comes to mind when we are praying and is often the answer we are seeking. Often, when we don’t know what to pray, Scripture can give us the words. The Psalms contain hundreds of prayers, and many of them have already put our thoughts into words.

Jesus gives our best example of effectual prayer. His longest recorded prayer is His “High Priestly Prayer,” found in John 17. The first thing we notice is the oneness of spirit Jesus has with the Father. He begins by saying, “Father, the hour has come.” Jesus was not telling the Father anything He did not know. Rather, Jesus was acknowledging that they were in agreement. He spent so much time in fervent prayer that He knew the heart of the Father. That is the goal of effectual prayer: to understand the heart of God and align our wills with His. Whether by using our own words or those penned two thousand years ago, the key to effective prayer is that it comes from the heart and seeks the will of God.

Praying Scripture as an act of personal dedication is a good way to know we are praying effectually. For example, we can take Galatians 2:20 and use it as a prayer of consecration. Such a prayer might sound something like this: “Father, today I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. This life I live today I will live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” In praying this way, we take the heart of God and make it our goal. There is nothing magic in the words, but we can know we are praying within the will of God when we use His Word as our model.

We must be careful not to treat Scripture as though every passage was written specifically for our situation. We cannot take verses out of context simply because we want them to be true for us. For example, God promised Solomon “wealth, possessions, and honor” in 2 Chronicles 1:13. But we cannot pray that verse as though God had promised it to us instead. We cannot search for isolated verses that say what we want them to say and then “claim” them. There are times, however, when God impresses a certain verse on our hearts as His personal message to us, and we can and should pray about it.

If we try to apply every verse as though it directly affected our own lives, we would have problems with verses like 1 Samuel 15:3: “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them.” We must always read Scripture within its context and learn more about God from the principles we find. God may use that passage to speak to us about destroying the worldliness in our lives and leaving no remnant of it. In that instance, we could pray, “Lord, just as You told the Israelites to totally destroy everything that represented the evil of the Amalekites, I want to tear down any false gods in my life and leave nothing but You. Purify my heart as they purified their land.”

Effectual, fervent prayer can come from Scripture or from the depths of our own hearts. The goal as we grow is that the two become intertwined. Even on the cross in the midst of horrible suffering, Jesus cried out words from Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Many scholars believe He was quoting the entire passage as He hung on the cross, praying it back to God as an act of worship even in death. The more Scripture we learn and personalize, the more our prayers will reflect the will of God and the more effective they will be.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What Is the Importance and Value of Group Prayer?

 

Group prayer among Christians is important and rewarding. It has been this way from the beginning of the church. In Acts 3, when the disciples by the power of the Spirit were preaching and thousands were being saved, the church had a plan, and they carried it out in community. “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, NASB). Group prayer was important in the early church as something that bound them together as they carried out the Great Commission.

In Acts 4:31 group prayer is noted again, “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” God gave boldness to the whole group in their witness, in response to their prayer. They needed this power, as they were facing persecution.

In Acts 6:3–4, “But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” Prayer was one of the highest priorities of the church leadership.

The Holy Spirit is always praying in and through us “through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26), and Jesus taught the importance of personal prayer in secret in the inner room (Matthew 6). But group or corporate prayer has a place as well. Group prayer knits believers together and encourages the burdened. When a group of believers pray together, the result is unity, humility, thanksgiving, confession of sin, intercession, and discovery of God’s will.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What Does It Mean to Pray for Our Daily Bread?

 

The Lord’s Prayer, the prayer Jesus used to instruct His followers how to pray, is well known among Christians. Many recite it in unison as a form of liturgy; others meditate on each portion in their private time with God or view it is a model of the components of prayer. The prayer is recorded in Matthew 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4. One portion of the prayer says, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

The first, and most obvious, meaning of this request is that God would sustain us physically. Jesus was perhaps alluding to God’s provision of manna, which was given every day in the desert (Exodus 16:4–12; Deuteronomy 8:3; John 6:31). We recognize God as our provider and rely on Him to meet our daily needs. This does not mean that we expect God to literally rain down manna on us but that we understand He is the one who makes our work fruitful, sometimes even meeting physical needs in miraculous ways. Shortly after instructing His followers how to pray, Jesus talked to them about anxiety. He said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:25, 33). Interestingly, in the Lord’s Prayer, the request immediately preceding the appeal for daily bread is for God’s kingdom to come.

Requesting daily bread is not only about physical provision. It can also refer to asking God to provide for our less tangible needs. In Matthew 7:7–11 Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Good parents provide not only what their children need for physical life, but also for practical, emotional, and relational needs. God is the giver of good gifts (James 1:17). “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

God has already met our greatest spiritual need, that of forgiveness and restoration, through Christ (Colossians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21; John 20:31). But He does not stop there. Jesus calls Himself the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35). “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (John 1:4). Jesus says He came to bring us abundant life (John 10:10). Not only are we saved for eternity, but we also experience a restored relationship with God now. We seek Him daily, and He renews us day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). The branch is continually nourished by the Vine (John 15:5).

Yes, God sustains us physically and meets the less tangible needs of this life. More than that, He fulfills our spiritual needs. He is the bread that satisfies our spiritual hunger. He sustains our hearts. When we ask God for our daily bread, we are humbly acknowledging Him as the sole giver of all we need. We are living day by day, one step at a time. We are exercising simple faith in Him to provide just what we need, when we need it—for every area of life.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: Are People Who Claim to Talk to God Insane?

 

There is nothing crazy, ridiculous, or unreasonable about one person talking to another person. Prayer is simply conversation with our Creator. God is spirit, but He is also a Person, which means He has personality, with feelings, desires, and intelligence. He enjoys interaction with His creation, and when we choose to seek Him, He promises we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). The Bible is filled with conversations between God and people, beginning in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:17). God created man for fellowship, and conversation is a big part of that. He delights in us and wants us to delight in Him (Psalm 37:4, 23).

God Himself invites us to call on Him, and He promises to answer (Jeremiah 3:3, 29:12; Psalm 50:15; Ephesians 6:18; 1 John 5:14). Jesus taught us how to pray in what has become known as “The Lord’s Prayer” (Luke 11:2–4). His own prayer, recorded in John 17, is also a good example of heartfelt, intimate prayer between the Father and the Son. If we have become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, we can pray just as intimately and know that our Father hears us (John 1:12).

There are too many instances to cite of perfectly sane people talking to God. Some of the most noteworthy are Moses (Exodus 4:10), Elijah (James 5:17), David (2 Samuel 24:10), and Jesus (Matthew 11:24; John 17:1). Many great leaders of the past have relied on prayer to make their decisions. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and most of America’s Founding Fathers believed strongly in the power of prayer. Great scientists such as Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Francis Bacon, George Washington Carver, and Galileo also believed in prayer. None of these people could be classified as “insane.”

Those who walk closely with God also hear His voice speaking to them. God’s voice is rarely audible. He speaks into the heart of a person who is wholly committed to Him (Acts 8:29; 10:19; 2 Corinthians 12:9). He speaks through His Holy Spirit into the hearts of His children to guide, protect, and encourage them (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18). Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice” (John 10:27).

When we place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, God’s Holy Spirit comes to live inside our hearts (1 Corinthians 6:9). He helps us pray in a way that communicates our real heart’s desire to God (Romans 8:26). In John 14:26, Jesus told His disciples, “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Often, God’s answer to our prayers is already found in His Word. As we pray, the Holy Spirit brings His Word to mind, and we have our answer. Human beings never become all they were created to be until they learn to communicate with their Creator.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: If Jesus Condemned the Pharisees for Praying out Loud, Should We Pray Aloud?

 

There are several references in the New Testament to public prayers that are unacceptable, and it is true that Jesus condemned the Pharisees’ manner of praying. But Jesus Himself prayed out loud on occasion (see John 17), as did the apostles (Acts 8:15; 16:25; 20:36). Acts 1:14 says, “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Then in verse 24, the apostles prayed together to choose someone to fill Judas’ spot among the twelve. They were clearly praying together and out loud. So, the sin was not in the public nature of the prayer or the fact that people could hear it.

In Luke 18:10–14, Jesus gives this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Notice that the tax collector also prayed aloud, but his prayer was from a humble heart, and God accepted it. The sin of the Pharisees was not public prayer but a haughty spirit.

Later, Jesus says, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation” (Luke 20:46–47). Here the sin is not the audible nature of the prayer but its pretentiousness. Jesus condemns the hypocrisy of pretending to have a relationship with God while oppressing the very people He loves.

Then in Matthew 6:5, Jesus says, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” Again, Jesus is not condemning the fact that people prayed aloud, but that they were putting on a public display for their own benefit. Their motive—to be seen of men—was the problem. Such prayer is not real prayer, but empty words meant for the ears of other people (Hebrews 10:22). Proverbs 15:29 says, “The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”

In Ephesians 5:20, Paul instructs the church to “give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Communal prayer is one way a local church worships God and encourages one another. What Jesus condemns is arrogance and hypocrisy. For someone who is clearly disobedient to God to lead a public prayer as though he or she had much to brag about is the kind of hypocrisy that Jesus denounced. To use public prayer as a means of showing off or impressing others is wrong. But sincere prayer from a humble heart is always welcomed by God and can be an encouragement to those who hear it (Jeremiah 19:12; Psalm 51:17).[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What Is the Value of a Prayer Meeting?

 

From the very beginning of the church, Christians have gathered to pray (Acts 4:24; 12:5; 21:5). Prayer meetings are valuable for the church as a whole and for the individuals who participate.

Prayer is only for those who believe that God is personal and who want a personal relationship with Him. Christians know prayer works because they have encountered a God who declares, “Talk to me and I will listen.” The apostle John confirms this: “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 asked of Him” (1 John 5:14–15).

Through our prayers, especially with one another, we are demonstrating and validating the faith we have in Jesus. Andrew Murray, the great Christian minister and prolific writer, said, “Prayer depends chiefly, almost entirely, on who we think we are praying to.” It is through the discipline of prayer with one another that we develop a growing intimacy with God, and create a spiritual bond with one another. This is one of the most valuable aspects of praying with one another.

Another valuable benefit of prayer meetings is the confession of our sins to one another. Prayer meetings give us opportunity to obey the command to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Here, James does not necessarily speak of physical healing, but rather of spiritual restoration (Hebrews 12:12–13). He also refers to the forgiveness of God, which enables the believer to become spiritually whole again. James knew that the one who becomes separated from the flock is most susceptible to the dangers of sin. God wants His people to encourage and support one another in loving fellowship, mutual honesty and confession as we pray for and with each other. Such close fellowship helps provide spiritual strength to experience victory over sin.

Another great value of prayer meetings is that believers encourage one another to endure. All of us face obstacles, but by sharing and praying together as Christians, we often help others avoid “bottoming out” in their spiritual lives. The value of corporate prayer lies in its power to unify hearts. Praying before God on behalf of our brothers and sisters has the effect of linking one another spiritually. As we “carry each other’s burdens,” we “fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Where there is prayer, there is unity, which Jesus prayed so fervently for His followers to have (John 17:23).

More than anything else, prayer meetings bring about change. Praying with one another, believers can witness God produce miracles and change hearts.

A prayer meeting is a time of real value as believers seek a deep intimacy and quiet communion with God at His throne. It is a time of unity with fellow believers in the presence of the Lord. It is a time to care for those around us as we share their burdens. It is a time when God manifests His never-ending love and desire to communicate with those who love Him.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What Is a Prayer of Supplication?

 

We come to God in prayer for a variety of reasons—to worship Him, to confess our sins and ask for forgiveness, to thank Him for His blessings, to ask for things for ourselves, and/or to pray for the needs of others. The Hebrew and Greek words most often translated “supplication” in the Bible mean literally “a request or petition,” so a prayer of supplication is asking God for something. Unlike the prayer of petition, which is praying on behalf of others, the prayer of supplication is generally a request by and for the person praying.

The Bible includes many prayers of supplication. Numerous examples are found in the Psalms, for example. David’s psalms are filled with supplication for mercy in Psalm 4:1, for leading in Psalm 5:8, for deliverance in Psalm 6:4, salvation from persecution in Psalm 7:1, and so on. When Daniel learned that King Darius had issued an edict prohibiting prayer to any god but the king, Daniel continued to pray to God with prayers of thanksgiving as well as prayers of supplication for His help in this dire situation.

In the New Testament, Jesus tells us to ask for our daily bread in Matthew 6:11, which falls into the category of a prayer of supplication. In addition, in Luke 18:1–8, Jesus teaches us not to give up praying for what we need. In James, however, we find a balance: on the one hand we don’t receive because we don’t ask (James 4:2). On the other hand, we ask and don’t receive because we are thinking only of our fleshly desires (James 4:3). Perhaps the best way to approach supplications are to frankly ask God in all honesty as children talking to their kind-hearted Father, but ending with “Your will be done” (Matthew 26:39) in full surrender to His will.

After describing the need to take up the “full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13–17), the apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians (and us) to remain alert and to pray in the Spirit, “making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). Clearly, prayers of supplication are part of the spiritual battle all Christians are engaged in. Paul further exhorts the Philippian church to relieve their anxieties by remaining faithful in prayer, especially prayers of thanksgiving and supplication. This, he concludes, is the formula for ensuring that “the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7).

Here we see another crucial aspect of the prayer of supplication—the necessity of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who belong to Christ also have the indwelling Holy Spirit who is the one who intercedes on our behalf. Because we often don’t know what or how to pray when we approach God, the Spirit intercedes and prays for us, interpreting our supplications so that when we are oppressed and overwhelmed by trials and the cares of life, He comes alongside to lend assistance with our prayers of supplication as He sustains us before the throne of grace (Romans 8:26).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: How Can I Stop Being Nervous about Praying Publicly?

 

Many people find praying publicly or in a group to be a daunting prospect. Public speaking of any kind is one of the greatest fears experienced by people. Public prayer adds the extra pressure of the spiritual aspect and makes people even more nervous because of the potential impact public prayer may have on others. It should be remembered, however, that although prayer is commanded by God, public prayer is not. In fact, Jesus said when we pray, we should go into a room, close the door and pray in secret (Matthew 6:6). So the first thing to understand about public prayer is that it is not a necessity of the Christian life.

For those who want to join in praying publicly, there are several ways to reduce the nervousness that often accompanies the experience. First, it’s important to pray with a group of people with whom we are comfortable, those we are sure won’t judge us for our less-than-eloquent prayers. Praying with others can be a great comfort when we hear our needs being lifted to the throne of grace by those who care enough about us to do so. Others who hear us pray for them are similarly encouraged. A group of people who love one another and accept one another in love and humility will usually ease the fears of those who are nervous about praying in public.

Another way to ease the burden of nervousness is to pray silently in advance of the public session, asking God to direct our minds and hearts to Him and away from ourselves. When we direct our thoughts toward the Creator of the universe and allow ourselves to become immersed in His immense nature, we will find our thoughts and feelings about ourselves diminishing. Our concerns will be more centered on what God thinks of us, not what others think. God loves us with an uncompromising love, and if we belong to Him through Christ, He has put our sin as far from us as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and He invites us to come boldly before His throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). Being mindful that He does not judge us for our lack of eloquence will go a long way toward easing nervousness. Men look at the external, which includes the speech, but God sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

Finally, many people find that the sheer repetition of praying in public will ease the nervousness. Praying with others can be a very edifying experience, but ultimately prayer is the privilege of communicating with our heavenly Father who sees our hearts and knows what we need before we even ask. He doesn’t need to hear eloquence in our prayers in order to bless us and draw near to us. What He asks for is a contrite heart and a lowly spirit, things He will never refuse (Psalm 51:17), no matter how eloquent our prayers.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What Is a Prayer Closet?

 

After a short discourse on the follies of trying to appear religious in front of people, Jesus talks about prayer. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And 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” (Matthew 6:5–8). The Greek used here for “room” is tameion which means an inner storage chamber or a secret room. The point being, a public prayer, announced on a street corner, gives the pray-er all the attention he can expect to receive. A quiet prayer, directed at God and not passers-by, will reap spiritual blessings.

Some have taken the admonition literally. They set aside a room or a quiet corner in their homes, furnish it with a comfortable chair, table, Bible, and maybe a notebook, and use that corner for a regular prayer time. That’s certainly appropriate, but the fact that the room Jesus referred to most likely meant a pantry gives us a little more flexibility. A “prayer closet” might be a daily commute, a bench in the back yard, or the kitchen table. John Wesley’s mother is said to have sat in a chair and thrown her apron over her head as a sign to her kids to leave her alone. Jesus usually went to a secluded hillside. The point is that the “closet” is free from interruption, distraction, and listening ears.

Although there are good reasons to have a dedicated space for regular prayer—such as training the family to respect the quiet, and keeping prayer-related materials in one place—that was not what Jesus was referring to. The passage in Matthew 6 talks about performing religious acts for the purpose of allowing others to see. Any act, be it praying, giving, or serving, should not be done for the purpose of gaining approval from others. Praying, giving, and serving should be responses to our relationship with God and the mercies He has given us. If a specific, dedicated location encourages prayer, it should by all means be used. If the cab of a pickup or a quiet stretch of beach suffices, that’s perfectly acceptable.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What Is a Prayer Cloth?

 

There are several biblical accounts that are the basis for the modern practice of using a prayer cloth to assist the pray-er to receive positive answers to prayer. Matthew 9:20–22 tells the story of a woman who had suffered severe bleeding for twelve years. She managed to touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak, believing this simple contact would heal her. Jesus countered in verse 22, telling her, “… your faith has made you well.” In Matthew 14:34–36, men of Gennesaret had a similar thought. They called all the sick from the area and invited them to touch Jesus’ cloak. All who did were healed. Acts 19:11–12 relates how handkerchiefs that Paul had merely touched were carried to the sick, healing people of diseases and evil spirits.

Aside from the stories in the Bible, the first modern use of a prayer cloth may have been by the Mormons. As the practice faded in Mormonism, it grew in the Pentecostal church. It can now be found even in the Roman Catholic Church. Sometimes the cloths are anointed in oil or in the sweat of those who pray over it.

At its most innocent, the prayer cloth is merely a reminder that a group of people are praying for an ailing friend. The group may pray while holding the cloth, and then send the cloth to their friend, who keeps it near as a comfort. More disconcerting is the belief that the oil or sweat the prayer cloth is anointed with acts as a point of transfer that allows the blessings of God to enter the recipient. But the most disturbing trend is the use of prayer cloths as a fund-raising device among prosperity gospel televangelists. Such programs encourage viewers to send their name and address and perhaps a short prayer request. In return, the viewer receives a prayer cloth, instructions such as “place it in your Bible for one night” or “put it under your pillow” or “write your name on it,” and an envelope to return the cloth with a substantial donation. Variations on the prayer cloth include a “prayer fleece,” a “prayer cloud,” and coins. Some prayer cloths are designed specifically for financial gain.

There is nothing theologically wrong with sending someone a tangible reminder that friends are praying. There are, however, two major potential problems with prayer cloths. Acts 19:11 points out that the use of cloth in Paul’s ministry was “extraordinary.” Miracles are signs that a teacher is specifically chosen to reveal God’s word. Paul, a former enemy of the church, would have needed extraordinary miracles to confirm his new position as evangelist. But, with the completion of the Bible, we do not need signs gifts to identify God’s prophets. And God certainly does not need oil or sweat to more easily pass on the power of His Spirit.

Secondly, and most troubling, is the use of prayer cloths as a shameless money scheme. 2 Peter 2:2–3a reads, “Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words …” While Paul pointed out that the work a pastor performs does merit compensation (1 Corinthians 9:14), nowhere does the Bible infer that prayers and spiritual favors can be bought and sold.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What Is Sozo Prayer?

 

Sozo prayer, or Sozo ministry (from the Greek for “save” or “deliver”) is defined as “a unique inner healing and deliverance ministry in which the main aim is to get to the root of those things hindering your personal connection with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Sozo was created by a group of people from Bethel Church in Redding, California, and modeled after spiritual practices observed at revivals in Argentina. Sozo is strongly mystical in its approach and relies heavily on ideas about God and the Holy Spirit that are not based on biblical fact.

Sozo prayer requires the presence of a mediator / guide, who is trained to walk participants through a time of prayer and reflection that is supposed to facilitate intimacy with God. Intimacy with God is definitely something to be sought; however, the method of attaining intimacy via a journey through the subconscious is questionable at best. Intimacy with God is achieved by Bible study, prayer, regular church attendance, and obedience, not by a mystical “journey” through our past. The Bible warns us to be discerning and wise, and not to be fooled (Hosea 14:9; Hebrews 5:14). The Bible and the Holy Spirit—not our subconscious thoughts or a fallible human being—are our connection to the counsel and the voice of God (John 17:17). Many types of ungodly mystical practices include the presence of a “spirit guide,” but the Bible tells us that our connection to the Father is a direct connection, mediated by Christ (1 Timothy 2:5) and guided by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). No other spirit guide is necessary.

The methods and practices of Sozo are of human invention and require human instruction, without reference to Scripture. In fact, Sozo is much closer to new age mysticism than to Christianity. Participants are encouraged into a mild trance state, while being “led” into a series of mental / emotional rooms or stages where, by connecting to their own deeper feelings and thoughts, they believe themselves to have a new experience with God. Whatever participants feel has happened to them, the Bible tells us it is dangerous to open ourselves up to something that has not been sanctioned by God (Ephesians 4:11–14). Preaching and teaching, evangelism, and the practice of anointing a person with oil, or laying hands on them, for instance, are all shown in Scripture to be spiritually safe and useful. But Sozo prayer does not have that kind of “backing”. It’s kind of like taking a drug that isn’t approved by the FDA. It might not damage you, but why take the risk?

In another part of the Bethel Sozo website, one of the goals of Sozo is to enable participants to “heal your relationship with God to enable you to fulfill your destiny.” But the Bible tells us that a Christian’s destiny is death to self and obedience to Christ through faith in His power and saving grace (Luke 9:23; Ephesians 2:8–9). The things that make us one with God are produced by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and a Christian does not need to be led on a mystical prayer journey to attain them. Every believer is conformed to Christ’s image by His power and has already been blessed with “every spiritual gift in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:3).

In summary, we do not believe that Sozo ministry / prayer is a godly practice or something that is needed, or helpful, for a believer’s fellowship with God. Sozo is much more closely related to mysticism and spiritism than to true intimacy with God. True intimacy with Him happens by illumination of the Word of God by the Holy Spirit and fellowship with Christ as we show love for the Father through obedience to and imitation of Him (Ephesians 5:1).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What Are Some Hindrances to a Potent Prayer Life?

The most obvious hindrance to effective prayer is the presence of unconfessed sins in the heart of the one who is praying. Because our God is holy, there is a barrier that exists between Him and us when we come to Him with unconfessed sin in our lives. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). David concurred, knowing from experience that God is far from those who try to hide their sin: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18).

The Bible refers to several areas of sin that are hindrances to effective prayer. First, when we are living according to the flesh, rather than in the Spirit, our desire to pray and our ability to effectively communicate with God are hindered. Although we receive a new nature when we are born again, that new nature still resides in our old flesh, and that old “tent” is corrupt and sinful. The flesh can gain control of our actions, attitudes, and motives unless we are diligent to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13) and be led by the Spirit in a right relationship with God. Only then will we be able to pray in close communion with Him.

One way living in the flesh manifests itself is in selfishness, another hindrance to effective prayer. When our prayers are selfishly motivated, when we ask God for what we want rather than for what He wants, our motives hinder our prayers. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Asking according to God’s will is the same as asking in submission to whatever His will may be, whether or not we know what that will is. As in all things, Jesus is to be our example in prayer. He always prayed in the will of His Father: “Yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Selfish prayers are always those that are intended to gratify our own selfish desires, and we should not expect God to respond to such prayers. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).

Living according to selfish, fleshly desires will also hinder our prayers because it produces a hardness of heart toward others. If we are indifferent to the needs of others, we can expect God to be indifferent to our needs. When we go to God in prayer, our first concern should be His will. The second should be the needs of others. This stems from the understanding that we are to consider others better than ourselves and be concerned about their interests over and above our own (Philippians 2:3–4).

A major hindrance to effective prayer is a spirit of unforgiveness toward others. When we refuse to forgive others, a root of bitterness grows up in our hearts and chokes our prayers. How can we expect God to pour out His blessings upon us undeserving sinners if we harbor hatred and bitterness toward others? This principle is beautifully illustrated in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23–35. This story teaches that God has forgiven us a debt that is beyond measure (our sin), and He expects us to forgive others as we have been forgiven. To refuse to do so will hinder our prayers.

Another major hindrance to effective prayer is unbelief and doubt. This does not mean, as some suggest, that because we come to God convinced that He will grant our requests, He is somehow obligated to do so. Praying without doubt means praying in the secure belief and understanding of God’s character, nature, and motives. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). When we come to God in prayer, doubting His character, purpose, and promises, we insult Him terribly. Our confidence must be in His ability to grant any request that is in accordance with His will and purpose for our lives. We must pray with the understanding that whatever He purposes is the best possible scenario. “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:6–7).

Finally, discord in the home is a definite obstacle to prayer. Peter specifically mentions this as a hindrance to the prayers of a husband whose attitude toward his wife is less than godly. “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7). Where there is a serious conflict in family relationships and the head of the household is not demonstrating the attitudes Peter mentions, the husband’s prayer communication with God is hindered. Likewise, wives are to follow the biblical principles of submission to their husbands” headship if their own prayers are not to be hindered (Ephesians 5:22–24).

Fortunately, all these prayer hindrances can be dealt with at once by coming to God in prayers of confession and repentance. We are assured in 1 John 1:9 that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Once we have done that, we enjoy a clear and open channel of communication with God, and our prayers will not only be heard and answered, but we will also be filled with a deep sense of joy.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What Is the Key to Effective Prayer?

Everyone wants their prayers to be “effective,” so much so that when we focus on the “results” of our prayers, we lose sight of the incredible privilege we have in prayer. That people like us can speak to the Creator of the Universe is itself an amazing thing. Even more astounding is the fact that He hears us and acts on our behalf! Now, the first thing we need to understand about effective prayer is that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ had to suffer and die on the cross to even make it possible for us to approach the throne of grace to worship and pray (Hebrews 10:19–25).

Although the Bible offers a great deal of guidance as to how we can deepen our communication with the Creator, effective prayer has more to do with the one doing the praying than it does with “how” we are to pray. Indeed, Scripture reveals “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16), and that the “eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer” (1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 34:15), and, again, “the prayer of the upright pleases Him” (Proverbs 15:8). Prayer saved the righteous Daniel from the lion’s den (Daniel 6:11), and in the wilderness, God’s chosen people benefitted enormously from Moses’ right standing with God (Exodus 16–17). The barren Hannah’s steadfast and humble prayers resulted in the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1:20), and the apostle Paul’s prayers even caused the earth to shake (Acts 16:25–26). Clearly, the passionate prayers of God’s righteous children can accomplish much (Numbers 11:2).

We need to make sure that our prayers are in line with God’s will. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14–15). Praying in accordance with God’s will is essentially praying in accord with what He would want, and we can see God’s revealed will throughout Scripture. And if we do not know what to pray for, Paul reminds us that as God’s children we can rely on the Holy Spirit to intercede for us, as “the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:27). And since the Spirit of God knows the mind of God, the Spirit’s prayer is always in keeping with the will of the Father.

Additionally, prayer is something believers should do “continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). In Luke 18:1, for example, we are told to pray with persistence and “not give up.” Also, when we present our requests to God, we are to pray with faith (James 1:5; Mark 11:22–24), with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6), with a spirit of forgiveness toward others (Mark 11:25), in Christ’s name (John 14:13–14), and as stated above, with a heart that is right with God (James 5:16). It’s the strength of our faith, not the length of our prayers that pleases Him to whom we pray, so we don’t need to impress God with our eloquence or intelligence. After all, this is almighty God we are praying to, and He knows what our needs are even before we ask (Matthew 6:8).

Also, we should make sure we have no unconfessed sin in our hearts when we pray, as this would certainly be an impediment to effective prayer. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2; Psalm 66:18). Fortunately, however, we know that “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).

Another barrier to effective communication with God is praying with selfish desires and wrong motives. “When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Rejecting God’s call or ignoring His advice (Proverbs 1:24–28), worshipping idols (Jeremiah 11:11–14), or turning a deaf ear to the cry of the poor (Proverbs 21:13) serve as additional obstacles to an effective prayer life.

Effective prayer is a way to strengthen our relationship with our Father in Heaven. When we study and obey His Word and seek to please Him, the same God who made the sun stand still upon the prayer of Joshua (Joshua 10:12–13) invites us to come boldly before the throne of grace and pray with confidence that He will extend His mercy and grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: Is Public Prayer Biblical? Is It Okay to Pray in Public?

Public prayer is an issue that many Christians struggle with. Since many believers were known to pray in public in the Bible, as did Jesus Himself, there is nothing wrong with public prayer. Many Old Testament leaders prayed publicly for the nation. Solomon prayed in front of the entire nation for them and for himself. There is nothing to indicate that this prayer was not acceptable to the Lord (1 Kings 8:22–23). After the return of the Israelites from the Babylonian captivity, Ezra was so overwhelmed by the knowledge that the Israelites had left the worship of the true God that he prayed and wept bitterly before the house of the Lord. So fervent was his prayer that it prompted “a very large assembly of men, women, and children” to gather with him and weep bitterly (Ezra 10:1).

However, the examples of Hannah and Daniel illustrate that it is possible to be misunderstood or even persecuted for praying publicly. As with all prayer, public prayer should be offered with the correct attitude and motive. From several scriptural examples comes a clear picture of acceptable and God-honoring public prayer.

Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, was childless for years, enduring the shame and persecution that childlessness brought to women in Bible times (1 Samuel 1:1–6). She went regularly to the Temple to beseech God to provide her with a child, praying fervently out of “great anguish and grief.” So heartfelt was her prayer that Eli, the priest, perceived her as being drunk (1 Samuel 1:10–16).

Here is an example of public prayer being misinterpreted. Hannah’s prayer was righteous, and her heart was in the right place. She was not trying to draw attention to herself, but was simply distraught and overwhelmed with the need to pray. Eli thought she was drunk, but that was his mistake, not her sin.

Daniel’s public prayer was an occasion for his enemies to persecute him and attempt to have him killed. Daniel excelled in his duties as one of the administrators under King Darius to such a degree that the King was contemplating making him head over all the kingdom (Daniel 6:1–3). This infuriated the other administrators so much that they looked for a way to bring Daniel down. They encouraged Darius to issue a decree forbidding his subjects from praying to anyone other than the King for the next thirty days. The penalty for disobeying was to be thrown into a den of lions. Daniel, however, continued to pray so openly to God that he could be seen at his bedroom window doing so. Daniel prayed in a way that not only was visible to others, but exposed him to his enemies. However, he clearly knew that God was honored by his prayer, so he didn’t give up his custom. He didn’t put the opinions and even the threats of men above his desire to obey the Lord.

In Matthew 6:5–7, Jesus gives two ways to ensure that our prayers are righteous. First, prayers should not be for the purpose of being seen by others as righteous or “spiritual.” Secondly, prayers should be authentic, as from the heart, and not just vain repetition or “empty phrases.” However, when compared with other Scriptures that show people praying in public, we know that this is not an exhortation to always pray alone. The issue is to avoid sin. Those who struggle with the desire to be seen as righteous and who notice that temptation creeping in during public prayer would do well to heed Jesus’ prescription to get alone and pray just to the Father who will reward in secret. Jesus knew that the Pharisees’ desire was to be seen by men as righteous, not really to talk to God. This statement about prayer was meant to convict, and is instructive for all Christians, but it does not mean that all prayer must be secret.

Public prayer should be God-honoring, selfless, and flow out of a true desire to speak to God and not to men. If we can pray publicly without violating these principles, we do well to pray publicly. If, however, our conscience forbids it, there is nothing less effective about a prayer offered in secret.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: What Is a Prayer Shawl?

The Jewish prayer shawl is a fringed garment worn by Jewish men on the outside of their regular garments in the synagogue, especially during morning, Sabbath, and other holiday services. The Hebrew name for this prayer shawl is tallit, which simply means a robe, a cloak or a sheet. The Jewish prayer shawl is usually made of wool or silk, is often long enough to cover most of the body, with special twined and knotted fringes attached to each of its four corners. In modern times it is not uncommon to see Jewish men wear a silk prayer shawl that is no more than a scarf around the neck. The ultra-Orthodox Jewish men wear the prayer shawl over the head when they recite the more important prayers.

Although the Hebrew word tallit is not found in Scripture, the biblical command for Israelites to wear a “fringed” or “tasseled” garment can be found in the Torah, in which God says to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God’ ” (Numbers 15:38–40). And also, “Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear” (Deuteronomy 22:12). So the original scriptural intent behind this fringed garment was to remind the Israelites of God’s commandments to them. According to Jewish understanding, the numerical value of the Hebrew word tzitzit (fringes) is 600. Each of the fringes contains 8 threads and 5 knots, making a total of 613. Based on rabbinical Judaism, this number corresponds to the 613 commandments contained in the Torah.

Jewish prayer shawls are being promoted and marketed quite heavily today in the Messianic and Hebrew Roots movements, and they have also begun to make their way into some mainline Christian communities as well. Some Christians believe that if the fringed garment is a garment that Jesus wore, it therefore should (must) be worn by Christian believers today, both Jewish and Gentile, if they are going to observe Torah in accordance with the laws that God commanded. To this it is important to say that believers in the Jewish Messiah should avoid getting caught up in unhealthy practices. It is one thing to recover the Jewish foundations of the Christian faith; it is quite another to follow observances or traditions that bind us and put us once again under a yoke of legal bondage.

God’s New Covenant people are not called upon or required to wear the prayer shawl or any other type of fringed garment. Sadly, however, many well-meaning Messianic and Gentile believers seem to confuse the idea of Torah with that of covenant and therefore fail to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The Law of Moses was given to the nation of Israel and intended to function as a “tutor” for receiving and understanding the Messiah’s greater instruction (Galatians 3:19–25). Followers of Jesus the Messiah, both Jewish and non-Jewish alike, are admonished not to revert to childish thinking but to understand spiritual matters with maturity (1 Corinthians 13:11, 14:20; Hebrews 5:12–14). Failure to make a proper distinction between law and gospel (grace) always leads to doctrinal confusion within the covenant community of God’s people.

Even the most zealous among the Jewish people were not able to bear the burden of the yoke of the Law of Moses (see Acts 15). We who follow Jesus the Jewish Messiah are now led by the Spirit of God as God’s sons and are therefore no longer subject to religious regulations that command us to “touch not, taste not, handle not.” We are now called to seek those things that are above, where the Messiah reigns from on high (Colossians 2:20–3:1). Followers of Jesus have a “better covenant based on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6), and the Law was only a shadow of a greater Substance that was promised by the prophets, namely Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:6).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Prayer: How Can I Become a Prayer Warrior?

Although the phrase “prayer warrior” is not found in Scripture, a prayer warrior is generally thought of as a Christian who prays continually and effectively for others in the manner of praying taught in Scripture. Therefore prayer warriors pray to Father God (Matthew 6:9) in the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16; Jude 1:20) and in the name of Jesus (John 14:13). To be a warrior in prayer is to engage in the spiritual battle and fight the good fight of faith wearing the full armor of God and “pray[ing] in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests (Ephesians 6:10–18).

While all Christians are to be prayer warriors, there are some people who feel they have a special and unique ability to pray and have been called by God to pray as their special ministry. The Bible never specifies certain people who are to pray more often, more diligently or more effectively than other Christians, and there are diligent pray-ers who are known for their emphasis on prayer. Paul commands that “requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone” (2 Timothy 2:1), and he says nothing that would indicate some people are exempt from doing so. All believers in Christ have the Holy Spirit who helps us communicate our prayer requests (Romans 8:26–27). All believers are to be praying in the name of Jesus, which means that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, that we trust in Him for everything, including His interceding with the Father for us in all things, and that we live and pray in accordance with God’s will. Praying in Jesus’ name does not mean merely adding “in Jesus’ name” to a prayer. Rather, it means praying in submission to His will.

As prayer warriors, we rejoice in all things and have a spirit of thankfulness for what God is doing in our lives and the lives of others, and our own spirits grow day by day as we come to realize the magnitude of our blessings. We know with certainty that God provided the breath we just took (Isaiah 42:5); that He has forgiven our past, present and future sins (1 John 2:12); that He loves us with an eternal love (Ephesians 2:4–7); and that we have a place in heaven with our Lord (1 Peter 1:3–5). Our hearts, then, are filled with joy and peace and overflow with love for God, and we want others to have this same love, joy and peace. Therefore we work for them by praying.

Effective prayer is indeed work. We have to learn to walk with God, so we meditate daily on Him and His ways in order to become more and more humble, an essential for effective prayer (2 Chronicles 7:13–15). We also study Scripture thoughtfully every day to learn what is pleasing to God and therefore what constitutes acceptable prayer. We learn to eliminate hindrances to prayer (Mark 11:25; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 John 3:21–22) and not to grieve the Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30–32). We learn that we are in a spiritual battle with Satan so we must pray for our own spiritual well being to maintain our strength and focus in praying for others (Ephesians 6:12–18).

Prayer warriors have a heart for God, a heart for prayer, a heart for people, and a heart for Christ’s church. Therefore we pray continually and trust that God answers each prayer according to His perfect will and in His perfect timing.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.