PART 2 PRAYER
PART 2 PRAYER
CHAPTER 1 - Continued
What Is the Basis Or Condition For God Hearing and Answering Prayer?
Is the condition the same as for the Old Testament saints. Believe in God, receive the Spirit, and do what God says. Let’s find out.
C. During the Church Age
(From the Day of Pentecost to the Rapture of the Church)
What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come? In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:36-39)
The Church Age, the age in which we currently live began on the day of Pentecost. On this day, the indwelling or baptism of the Holy Spirit was poured out on 120 disciples who were waiting for the promise of the Spirit at Jerusalem. Jesus, while he was alive on the earth, spoke of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The pre-requisite for receiving the Holy Spirit was different for those living in the Church Age. It was not believing in God as he was revealed as in the Old Testament, but it involved repenting (acknowledge one’s sins) to God the Father and believing in one of the members of the trinity, Jesus Christ, who came to earth in the form of a man, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on a cross as a substitute of mankind paying the debt of sin owed to God the Father, rose again after three days, and ascended into heaven.
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. (Ephesians 2:18)
Those who repented and believed in him, following the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, would receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. By means of the Spirit a believer would have direct access to God the Father.
Just like the Old Testament saint the first two components of the condition which cause God to hear and answer our prayers is in place.
~ Repent (acknowledge one’s sins) to God the Father and believe in his son Jesus Christ.
~ Receive the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Here is where it gets tricky. The third component of this condition in regards to the Old Testament saint involved trusting in what God said, hiding it away in their heart, and obeying it. A person who operated in this manner would be said to be in communion with God. But for the New Testament saint this idea of communion with God (the Father) is described in a different manner.
Before I describe to you what this is about, I would guess that for many who attend church if they were asked what would be the third component of the condition that would allow our prayers to be heard and answered by God they would say that it would be to not commit overt sins (e.g. lying, cheating, adultery, extortion, homosexuality, lesbianism, drunkenness, etc.). I would agree that we as Christians should not be practicing these sins. However, is this the manner in which communion (fellowship) with God would be attained?
In order for the New Testament saint to have communion (fellowship) with God the scriptures indicate that there are three pre-requisites concerning this. The first one is found in 1 John.
If we confess:
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Sin is no longer confined to committing an overt act against a fellow Jew as in the Old Testament, but now it also has to do with what we think, our mental attitude. When we sin (mental, verbal, overt) in any area, we should confess by admitting oneself guilty to God the Father, who will forgive (remission of the punishment in time; restore fellowship with Him) us.
The second pre-requisite is also found in 1 John.
Keeping his word:
1 John 2:5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
The initial idea that might come to your mind when I say that you must keep God’s word is that this must mean that you must not commit certain sins according to a commandment as in the Old Testament. The word “keepeth” means to continually keep on keeping or giving watchful care to the word. In what sense?
We should be giving watchful care to the word as it provides for us an awareness of not only who we are, but of all of the spiritual realities which have taken place in our lives at salvation. Some of these spiritual realities are as follows.
- We are quickened by the Holy Spirit.
This means that by the power of the Holy Spirit we have been spiritually resurrected or another way of saying this is we have been made spiritually alive with Christ.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (Ephesians 2:4-5)
- Our old man is crucified with Christ.
Our old man refers to the sinful and corrupt nature that has been crucified with Christ on the cross through our identification with him. The body, which has belonged to or has been ruled by the power of sin, may now cease to be an instrument of sin and no longer be subject to its control.
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Romans 6:6)
- We are sealed with the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit comes into our life he is the seal (a stamp of ownership) indicating to God who is his. A seal can also refer to a down payment in the sense of having tasted the Spirit we have begun to taste the life of the future world that God had promised4 us.
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13)
- We are baptized into one body.
By the agency of the Holy Spirit, each of us has been suited to our appropriate place by means of the endowments (gifts) of the Spirit to constitute the body of Christ-the church.
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13)
- We have been made an heir through God.
We are no longer to be treated as servants, being bound by the oppression of the Mosaic Law, but as sons - members of God’s family. Because we are sons, we are also heirs as those who possess God himself, partake of his nature, and possess every blessing to which we are entitled.
And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:6-7)
- We are given eternal life.
Eternal life is the quality of life one experiences when God rules his/her life. This can also be called the Zoe life. It is also conceived of as life that never ends, because it comes from God5.
And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (John 5:11)
- We are seated together with Christ in heavenly places.
God the Father has raised us up from spiritual death to spiritual life — from a death to sin to a life of righteousness, being made alive and raised spiritually with Christ. He has also caused our spiritual position to be in heavenly places in Christ, who is seated at the right hand of the Father as our Head and Representative. We are admitted to exalted honors in virtue of our connection with him. Even now our life and thoughts are raised to the heaven lies where He reigns6.
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6)
- We are God’s handiwork.
For we are God the Father’s workmanship (denotes a work of art or masterpiece; spiritual handiwork), being made a new spiritual creature in which there is a moral and spiritual renewal for good deeds, which God has prepared beforehand a path of good works that He will perform in and through us as we choose to walk by faith.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10)
- We are fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God.
Whether Jew or Gentile, we are members of the same family of God, being entitled to the same privileges, and regarded by him as His children.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19)
- We are complete in him.
This completeness includes the furnishing of men with all that is required for their present (i.e. to be richly furnished with the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit7) salvation.
And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power (Colossians 2:10)
- We are sanctified.
The will of God, which was for the sanctification of men, was accomplished through Jesus atonement for sins on the cross. When we believed in Christ, we were placed in a sanctified state meaning that we are in a permanent and continuous state of salvation into which we are brought and in which we live.
… Jesus… For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren (Hebrews 2:9, 11)
- We are known by the Lord.
We are marked by God so as to be recognized by him as his; and this mark also serves as a perpetual reminder to us that they are not our own8. The mark or impression serves to identify what is sealed, together with its owner, and to specify its purpose or function.
Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. (2 Timothy 2:19)
- We are reconciled to God the Father.
For the unbeliever, this reconciliation refers to a changed relationship between God and a lost world. The means of reconciliation is Jesus Christ, who was given as a propitiation for the sins of the world, which removed the rebellious and sinful man’s enmity toward God, thus satisfying His justice.
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, … (Romans 5:10)
Jesus has made it consistent for God to pardon. He has made atonement so that God can be just while he justifies the sinner, who repents and believes in his Son Jesus, who by the agency of his Spirit, overcomes the unwillingness of the sinner to be reconciled, humbles his pride, shows him his sin, changes his heart, subdues his enmity against God, and secures in fact a harmony of feeling and purpose between God and man, so that they shall be reconciled forever9.
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18)
- We are translated into the kingdom of His Son.
God the Father rescues us from the dominion (the spiritual power by which mankind is held) of darkness and places us in the kingdom of his Son.
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son (Colossians 1:13)
The third pre-requisite is to have a divine perspective concerning those areas of weakness (e.g. jealousy, fear, anxiety, sexual lust, covetousness, hate, … etc.) which inhibit us.
Renewal of the mind:
Suggested Reading: Romans 12:1-2
We are to yield ourselves as those who are alive from the dead, appearing as new persons with new habits by means of a complete change for the better of our mental processes (the changing into new views and feelings that results in the restoration of the divine image) so that we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is.
God transforms our minds and makes us spiritually minded by using His Word. As you spend time meditating on His Word, memorizing it, and making it a part of your inner man, God will gradually make your mind more spiritual. If the world controls your thinking, you are a conformer, if God controls your thinking, you are a transformer10.
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Hebrews 13:5)
Let’s say we have a weakness in regards to being jealous. The word jealous means to have a feeling of resentment against someone because of that person's rivalry, success, or advantages11. How can we overcome this? We can overcome this by finding out how God would have us to think in this regard? A verse that provides us with the divine perspective in this area of weakness is found in the book of Hebrews. It says that we are to be content (depending on God’s providence; happy; satisfied) with what God has given us. We should memorize and meditate upon this verse so that when a situation arises where jealous thoughts try to creep in we can apply these thoughts in their stead. As we appropriate and reflect on them throughout our day an amazing thing happens, which causes us to have communion with God. What is that you ask?
The Holy Spirit fills us with himself. What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?
Be filled with the Spirit:
Ephesians 5:18 …but be filled with the Spirit;
To be filled with the Spirit means that the Spirit fills us with himself so that we can express the nature of the Spirit filled life. When the Spirit fills us with himself, we are able to evidence his spiritual qualities of:
~ Love - (self-sacrifice for the benefit of the one loved).
~ Joy - (inner rejoicing which does not depend on circumstances, because it rests in God’s sovereign control of all things12).
~ Peace - [restoration of right relationships between people13; the calm, quiet, and order, which takes place in the justified soul, instead of the doubts, fears, alarms, and dreadful forebodings14 (a strong inner feeling or notion of a future misfortune, evil15, etc.)].
~ Longsuffering - (patient endurance of wrong under ill-treatment, without anger or thought of revenge.16)
~ Gentleness - (unruffled disposition, to treat all with politeness, makes others around us as happy as possible).
~ Goodness - (gracious giving, no strings attached).
~ Faith - (faithful to one’s word and promises; faithful to God’s promises).
~ Meekness - (humility; submissiveness of spirit to God and man).
~ Temperance - (being able to say no to one’s own desires; mastery of one’s own desires and impulses).
Now you know what the components are of the condition for God hearing and answering our prayers. What are they?
~ To repent (acknowledge one’s sins) to God the Father and believe in his son Jesus Christ. The result of which is in the receiving of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
~ To learn about what sin (mental, speech, actions) is and confess (by admitting oneself guilty) it to God the Father.
~ To learn about, memorize, and meditate upon the spiritual realties which have taken place in our life at salvation.
~ To learn about, memorize, and meditate upon God’s divine perspective in regards to any area of weakness.
~ To be filled with the Spirit, thus evidencing His spiritual qualities to others.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t attend to the gathering of the saints and learn about the other biblical topics (e.g. forgiveness, redemption, justification, sanctification, eternal security, etc.) which are relevant to our walk with God. But what I also want you to realize is that our spiritual life at least initially shouldn’t be characterized by doing good works.
Unfortunately, for many churches one’s spiritual walk is exemplified by doing good for others and volunteering to please whatever it is that the leadership of the church is asking for. What happens in this case is the emphasis is on the outer and not on the inner. Recognition comes from man and not from God. Spiritual growth should start from within, in our inner person. As we grow, learning how to put off the old man and put on the new, we will be walking in the spiritual qualities of the Holy Spirit whose motivation is to serve God and others. When this occurs, our good works will be performed with the correct motives.
Now that we know the components of the condition that causes God to hear and answer our prayers, what else should we know about prayer? Some questions come to mind.
How long and how often should we pray for?
What should we pray for?
Should Jesus be our example as we seek to answer these questions?
Before we attempt to answer these questions, I would like to leave you with a personal story on prayer in the chapter that follows.
After I Got Saved and Eventually Went to Work for a Church There Were Three Things That I Had No Intention of Immersing Myself in
In 1976, I repented and believed in Christ as my personal savior. When I did, I was flooded with God’s presence. At this time, I was in a church that had the following belief system. They believed in the doctrine of Calvinism; that God predestined some to heaven and some to hell. There was a mandate that if you professed belief in Christ, you must be baptized in water in order to complete the salvation process. There was also the teaching that a believer should look the way God would have them to look. If you had long hair, then cut it, and make sure that you dressed up presentably. You also had to be careful not to make too much money. Being wealthy was frowned upon. Lastly, to live for God meant to live a moral life.
I can remember going to church, listening to a few hymnal songs, and then hearing a message from the pastor. Something was missing. The presence of God that I had experienced at salvation disappeared. I continued to attend for a while longer, but I sensed a void of the refreshment of the Spirit. Doctrinal differences were often the main topic at fellowship gatherings, while I can’t remember hearing any teachings on how to grow in Christ other than to attend church and make sure you follow the directives as mentioned earlier. Thinking anew about oneself in the light of God’s scriptural declarations, confessing known sin, and replacing carnal thoughts with Godly thoughts was unheard of.
I eventually left this church and asked God to find me a place where I could experience His presence once again. On a particular day as I was driving my car on one of the main streets in my home city, I recognized a guy walking on the sidewalk, who I used to hang around with, but hadn’t seen in a while. I pulled the car over and asked him how he was doing. He told me that his life had totally changed. He had become a born again Christian and was attending a church in the area. He gave me the address and time of the gathering to which I showed up at the next meeting.
When I walked into the facility what I noticed was that there were a lot of young people there. The pastor was also very young, probably about 26. He played the guitar and sang. The songs were alive. Something was different. After the pastor spoke, all I could say was wow. I didn’t understand most of what was said, but I was flooded with God’s presence. I knew that I had found my spiritual home.
Church gatherings were held three times a week. There were two services on Sunday, one in the morning and the other in the evening along with a bible study during the week. I attended these meetings faithfully for over a year. I slowly began to understand some of the doctrinal views of the church. They believed in tithing 10% of your income. Their view on the office (leadership) gifts was that there were no longer any apostles or prophets. The only office gifts which remained were those of evangelist and pastor-teacher. They also believed that the gifts of the Spirit were no longer in operation. Although, they did mention that at various times God in his sovereignty would allow a gift to be exercised, but this was the exception rather than the rule. They also focused on getting to know one self as we are known by God. In order to grow there had to be a change of mindset toward oneself. As I began to learn about these new truths, God’s presence became more and more operational in my life.
On one particular day, the pastor of the church told me there were plans to buy a building, which would be used for church related activities in the near future. He said that if this took place would I consider quitting my day job and go to work for the church in a multi-functional capacity (e.g. visiting church members, overseeing a bible study, coordinating outreach programs, etc.). I told him that when the time came, I would definitely go to work for the church.
Soon, a multi-functional property was purchased that had two buildings on it. This property had been originally owned by the Catholic Church being used to house nuns. I was approached and told that a building was purchased and that now was the time for me to make a decision as to whether I would quit my day job and go on staff for the church. To which I replied, yes, I would. I gave notice to leave my other job and soon I was involved with the day to day responsibilities of being what was called an outreach coordinator. Besides myself, there were three other staff hiring’s. A person from the assembly was hired to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner for staff. Another member of the assembly was hired on an as need basis for maintenance (e.g. plumbing, electrical, carpentry, etc.). Lastly, an assistant resident pastor was hired, who would oversee the day to day operation of the ministry.
As I proceeded to fulfill my responsibilities, there were three things that made me very uncomfortable, two of which I had no intention of immersing myself in. The first was being told that I had to sit next to the pastor in front of the congregation during church service. I never enjoined being in front of people in any capacity. The second was being told to conduct a bible study. I knew this would involve studying, and one of the things which I seldom did was read. I read very few books in my childhood. I found books boring, and as such a waste of time. Thirdly, I was told that I had to get up early in the morning and join the pastor for prayer, which would last for about one hour. My thought on this endeavor was not only what does one pray for, but why for an hour?
Over time, I began to appropriate, memorize, and meditate on God’s word which helped me to think differently about myself concerning these uncomfortable situations. Soon, the fear of sitting in front of the congregation was replaced with the anticipation of being called upon to speak before others a brief message. The apprehension of reading was replaced with the expectation of God unveiling to me personal insight from the word by means of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Prayer became the platform for starting out my day thanking God for who he has made to be and asking him to use me for others throughout my day for His service.
What I realized through all of this was that it’s not how old or how young the pastor is. It’s not whether the pastor is soft spoken, eloquent in speech, or outrageously loud. It’s not whether I agree with every doctrinal view that the church perpetuates. It all boils down to one thing.
Is the pastor in fellowship or communion with God or not, and if he is, does the teaching that comes forth from the pulpit teach me how to walk with God so that I myself might enjoy this same kind of fellowship or communion with Him? I didn’t say that it all boils down to good works or volunteering. The bottom line is, am I learning about who God has made me to be along with how to address my areas of weakness? If I’m learning how to decrease in being controlled by the old sin nature and increase in being filled with the Spirit, I will be prompted to do good works and volunteer without being coerced. Now you know about what my thoughts used to be like concerning reading books and prayer.
What else should we know about prayer? Some believers think that they must spend a certain amount of time in prayer each day. Others say that we should follow the example of Jesus, who separated himself at times from society in order to be alone to pray. Still others say that we should pray early in the morning as was the example of Jesus.
What we will attempt to do next is take a look at the life of Jesus and the lives of those, who were in the leadership positions of the early church and try to answer these questions that have been brought forth concerning prayer. Following this, we will contrast and compare what we have come up with.
In the next chapter, we will begin by trying to answer the question, how long and how often should we pray for?
4IVP Bible Background Commentary Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 01 February 2016 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
6Barnes’ Notes.Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, 02 February 2016 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
7Thayer’s Greek Lexicon Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, 02 February 2016 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
11Dictionary.com, 03 February 2016 ˂http://dictionary.reference.com>.
12Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament, 2000, 03 February 2016 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
14Adam Clarke’s Commentary Pc Study Bible version 5, 2004, 04 February 2016
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