PART 1 PRAYER - Does God hear and answer our prayers?
PART 1 PRAYER - Does God hear and answer our prayers?
I believe that prayer is one of the most misunderstood topics in the church today!
In some churches, a prayer session takes place before the message has been preached, and in others a prayer session takes place immediately after the message. Still for other churches, there’s a designated time or times for the assembly to gather together for prayer. There are even segregated prayer times, some for men only and others for women only. But one thing is for certain, there are many misconceptions about prayer.
If I were to ask you, when you pray to God the Father, what do you ask for? I wonder what you’d say. Below are some examples of what you might say.
- God, I pray that you’d find me a girlfriend or boyfriend.
- God, I pray that you’d help me find a job.
- God, I pray that you’d help me with my finances.
- God, I pray that you’d heal so and so.
- God, I pray that you’d replace my boss at work with someone else.
- God, I pray that you’d open up a door so that I could go on the mission field.
- God, I pray that you’d send someone to preach the gospel to so and so.
- God, I pray that you’d light a spiritual fire under my husband or wife.
- God, if it is your will, I pray that you’d help me win the lottery. If you do, I’ll quit my job and serve you all the rest of the days of my life.
- God, I pray that you’d keep me healthy.
- God, I pray that you’d get back at that person, who has wronged me for no reason.
Have you asked God for any of these requests? I know I have.
Are these the type of requests we should be asking God for?
Is there a basis or pre-requisite condition which allows for our prayers to be heard and answered by God?
Any idea, what Jesus prayed for?
If we could answer these questions, we’d have a much deeper insight as to this topic. Are you ready to learn more about this subject? If you are, then let’s begin.
What Is the Basis or Condition for God Hearing and Answering Prayer during the Age of the Gentiles?
The Age of the Gentiles - A Period of time from Adam and Eve to the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt under Moses
The first thing I’d like you to become aware of in regard to prayer is this.
What is the basis or condition for God hearing and responding to our prayers?
I didn’t mention anything in respect to, what should we be asking God for? I believe that too often we’re focused on the what and not on the condition which grants us an audience (an open ear) from God. Some might believe that there’s no condition. Just pray to God and He’ll choose whether to listen to what was said and provide an answer in regard to it. But what if there’s a condition which causes God to hear and answer our prayers, wouldn’t you want to know what it is? This is what we’ll initially set out to find.
Maybe the first glimpse of determining what this condition is will be found by looking at some verses which pertain to the life of Noah.
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
A man named Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord. This word grace refers to the favor of God toward sinful man. Another way of saying this is, God revealed Himself to Noah, and Noah believed in Him. When Noah believed in Him, the Scriptures didn’t say anything about God coming into his life by means of His Spirit. So, in what manner, if any, does the Holy Spirit come into an Old Testament saints’ life, when they professed belief in God as He revealed Himself to them? This might help us in determining what the basis is for God hearing and answering our prayers for the New Testament saints. Let’s take a look a few Scriptures which might help to provide us with insight in this regard.
Genesis 41:38 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?
After Joseph, the son of Jacob, interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, Pharaoh said, can we find such a man as this in whom the Spirit of God is? This verse says that Pharaoh was aware that the Spirit was in Joseph’s life. In what sense?
The next person we’ll take a look at was the first king of Israel.
1 Samuel 11:6
And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly.
At this time in his reign, there was a conflict between the Ammonites and the people of Jabesh-Gilead. When Saul heard the report about this conflict, the Scriptures state that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. It’s interesting to note that the Spirit is referred to as having came upon Saul. What does this mean? In the Hebrew, these words mean to descend mightily upon, to rush upon, and to pass upon.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
To help provide further clarification about this aspect of the Spirit, let’s take a look at Psalm 51:11. After King David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband Uriah, he asked God to take not the Holy Spirit from him. In this instance, it was made clear that the Holy Spirit could be removed from the life of an Old Testament saint. We can infer that if a person lost the Spirit this was another way of saying that the Spirit ascended from him/her. Some commentators state that the residency of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament saint was non-permanent (non-on-resting), whereas the residency of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament saint is permanent (referred to as the indwelling).
What was it that caused the Spirit to depart from Saul? As evidenced by King David’s prayer to God that He not remove it in regard to the sinful decisions which he made, not only was the committing of sin an issue, but the lack of repentance regarding it.
Now that we have a better understanding as to the status of the Spirit for those who lived in the Old Testament, the next question to consider is this.
Did everyone who believed in God, as He was revealed in the Old Testament, receive the on-resting Spirit?
And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
Let’s go back and take a look at the person who we initially introduced, that being Noah. In Genesis 7:1 God called him righteous. The word righteous indicated that he had continual communion or fellowship with God. Communion or fellowship indicated that Noah was occupied with the divine perspective which he heard from God and appropriated it for himself, thus he was able to have a spiritual perspective toward himself, others, and the circumstances of life.
Genesis 6:22 Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.
God communicated to Noah what it was He would have him do, and Noah would respond positively to His instructions.
Genesis 6:3 And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
Because of mankind’s wickedness, God instructed him to warn the people of the world of a coming disaster involving a catastrophic flood. Mankind was given one hundred twenty years in order to decide to respond to God’s provision for safety. At an appointed time, Noah was instructed to build a vessel called an Ark, which would provide safety for those who would heed to his warning of an impending disaster.
Unfortunately, only Noah and his immediate family chose to reside in the place of safety. Along with them, God instructed Noah to bring into the Ark two of every species of animals. Finally, the day came when it rained on the earth for forty days and nights destroying all mankind. After another seven days had gone by Noah, his family, and all of the animals departed from the Ark onto dry land. God blessed him and his family. He even made a covenant with him stating that He would never again destroy mankind by means of a flood.
What do you think? Did Noah receive the on-resting Spirit? While the Scriptures don’t say as such one could assume that he did because as was stated earlier he was righteous. So, here’s the ultimate question to consider.
Could we conclude that everyone who believed in God in the Old Testament received the on-resting Spirit?
It would appear that the on-resting Spirit could be received based on three conditions
- The person believed in God as He was revealed.
- The person believed in what God said, hiding the word away in their heart along with mentally reflecting upon it.
- The person obeyed God’s instructions.
Now, you have a better understanding as to whether the on-resting Spirit was received by everyone who believed in God and for those who did receive Him as to whether His abiding was permanent. As for another question.
Is there any clue that might serve as the basis for God hearing and answering Noah’s prayer?
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any example mentioned of Noah praying to God. However, it’s interesting to note that God had a basis or condition for using him in regard to building an Ark.
What was this condition?
The condition was that Noah was righteous. He heard God’s Word, believed it, contemplated it, and obeyed it. Could we assume that the same condition for God using him is the same condition which would cause God to hear and answer what was asked of Him? I don’t know if we can emphatically make this connection yet.
The next person we’ll take a look at did pray to God. Let’s see if God heard and answered his prayer. Please go to the book of Romans.
Romans 4:3-11, 13, 18
Romans 4:3-11 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:
Romans 4: 18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
When God visited Abraham, he believed in Him and what He promised. This belief in God as He was revealed along with His promises which pointed to Christ, was the basis for him being accepted as for righteousness (crediting payment to one’s account; acceptance with God; the man whom God had declared innocent in his court, and who therefore was in a right relation with God1). His belief in God and His promises was the prerequisite needed in order for him to have an opportunity to have communion with Him.
Remember, belief in God doesn’t determine that fellowship with Him will occur, but it’s the prerequisite that must take place in order for there to be a possibility that fellowship with God might become a reality. God sporadically communicated to Abram and Abram believed what He heard and hid away these thoughts in his heart. Abram’s occupation with God’s Word (declarations) served as the basis for his behavior and obedience to His directives.
Genesis 12:1-2 Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
God told Abram to leave his country and depart unto a land that He would give him. He also told him that he would make of him a great nation, and that in him all families of the earth would be blessed. It was apparent to Abram that if he was going to have descendants, then he must have an heir, a son. So, Abram went on a journey not knowing where exactly to go, but trusted in God to get him there.
Genesis 15:2-4 And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. :
Genesis 15:7-8 And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying,:
Genesis 15:18 Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
A period of time had gone by, and a Word comes to him from the Lord in a vision. God told him that He was His great reward. Abram prayed (made a request) in the form of a statement saying to God that the one born in his house was his heir. It was as if he was asking God if this was the son, who was to be the heir. God responded to him and said, no. Abraham prayed again in the form of a question asking God about the promise of the land inheritance. God told him that at some future time this land would be given to his seed. God heard both prayer requests and answered them. The first request will come to pass during Abram’s lifetime while the second will not. This isn’t the only time Abram prayed to God. There’s another incident when he prayed to God. Let’s see if God heard and answered him in this case. Please stay in the book of Genesis.
Genesis 20:7, 17-18
Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine. So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. For the Lord had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.
While Abram was on his journey to the land that God promised him, he arrived at a place known as Gerar, whose king was called Abimelech. Somehow the king became aware of Sarah’s (Abram’s wife/half-sister) beauty. And finding out by Abram’s own admission that she was his sister, he sent servants to bring her to him, presumably to wed. The Lord however intervened and told Abimelech by means of a dream that she was Abram’s wife, and therefore not to touch her. He’s further told that if he doesn’t return her back to Abram, the consequences will be death for both himself and his family. Upon hearing this, King Abimelech immediately returned Sarah to Abram. Abram in turn prayed for the king. Evidently, God heard his prayer and bestowed two blessings upon the king. First the consequence of death was removed and second the lesser consequence of prohibiting the women of the king’s house from having children was lifted.
I’ll ask the same question as I did in the last section; what was the basis or condition which caused Abram’s prayers to be heard and answered by God?
If this still isn’t clear yet, let’s take a look at one more person in the Old Testament whose name is Moses.
Exodus 3:2, 6; 10:12-19
The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses out of a burning bush. It’s possible that it was at this time when Moses believed in Him. Moses was then made aware of his calling, which was to bring his brethren out from their slavery to Pharaoh in Egypt. He was instructed to go to Pharaoh and ask him to let His people go. Moses, after much resistance, goes before Pharaoh being accompanied by his brother Aaron and asked him for the release of his people, to which Pharaoh said no. This began the ball rolling in regard to the sending upon the Egyptian people various plagues, which hopefully would convince Pharaoh to change his mind. So, God instructed both Moses and Aaron in this regard.
Exodus 1:12-19 And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, even all that the hail hath left. And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such. For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the Lord your God, that he may take away from me this death only. And he went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the Lord. And the Lord turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt.
One of the plagues which had a devastating effect on the economy of the Egyptians was the plague of locusts. They ate all of the herbs of the land along with all of the fruit of the trees. Pharaoh realizing that these terrible plagues were the result of his refusal to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, he called for Moses and Aaron. When they came before his presence, he asked them to pray to their God to stop this plague. So, Moses left Pharaohs’ presence and prayed to the Lord concerning this request. The Lord heard and answered his prayer and stopped the plague.
So, here we are again.
Is there some basis or condition that has become clear to you, which caused God to hear and answer Moses’ prayer?
I think it’s starting to become clearer. Should we make an educated guess and then determine if what we’ve concluded is confirmed by looking at the lives of other individuals from the next age? Well, here it is. The initial basis for having one’s prayers heard and answered is the person must have believed in God, when he appeared before them or communicated with them. Secondly, we can assume that at some point in this person’s life they received the on-resting Spirit. Third, that they trusted in what God said, hid it away in their heart, and obeyed it.
By the way, what I wanted you to notice was that God’s instructions for each person was different. There was no set pattern of obedience. The plan of God was unique for each person. Noah was asked to build an ark. Abram was told that his seed would receive a land inheritance and that he was to leave the place where he dwelt and depart unto the land that God had given him. Moses was told to ask Pharaoh to release his brethren from their captivity.
Is this same protocol true in the age that follows, the Age of Israel?
Let’s find out in the next chapter.
1UBS New Testament Handbook Series Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 1 April 2012 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com
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