PART 7 PRAYERS - Does God hear and answer our prayers?
PART 7 PRAYER
Before We Ask God for Anything, What Should Be the Basis of Our Prayers?
Have you ever attempted to pray and didn’t know what to pray for? Have you ever wondered when you prayed, did God really hear what I had to say? Have you ever thought that prayer was just a waste of time? My answer to these questions is yes, yes, and yes.
For most of my Christian walk, I can honestly say that I didn’t like to pray in a corporate setting. It seemed as if everyone had a prayer for whomsoever or whatsoever that went on and on and on. Did the person they prayed for healing get healed? Did the person they prayed for concerning salvation get saved? Did the person they prayed for that God would help them get a job get a job? For me, I wanted to see some results of some of the prayers offered right away.
Another issue I had with corporate prayer was how long it lasted. Depending on how many believers attended, it could’ve gone on for over an hour. Even when I attempted to pray alone, I found that my requests were short, very short.
Since, what I just said were about my younger years in ministry, I believe I’ve learned a little bit more about prayer in my formative years than I did then.
What we’ll take a look at next is a verse that exemplifies what each of us could pray for. Please turn you Bibles to the book of Philippians.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
The Apostle Paul was instructing the Philippian believers to Be careful for nothing (that [there’s] to be such confidence in God as to free the mind from anxiety, and such a sense of dependence on him as to keep it calm).53 But in everything (for every event, prosperity and affliction alike;54 everything in reference to the supply of your wants, and the wants of your families; everything in respect to afflictions, embarrassments, and trials; and everything relating to your spiritual condition. [There’s] nothing which pertains to body, mind, estate, friends, conflicts, losses, trials, hopes, fears, in reference to which we may not go and spread it all out before the Lord.55) by prayer (approaching God in respect to one’s needs) and supplication (an earnest sharing of our needs and problems) with thanksgiving (thankfulness; an attitude arising from a remembrance of God's goodness in the past and a realization of his blessings in the present56) let your requests (of definite and specific things) be made known (expressed) to God.
This is essentially saying that every member of the assembly of the saints can and should go to God in prayer with unreserved confidence knowing that there’s nothing too great or too small to bring before Him. However, what this verse also says is that before we pray our mind should be free from anxiety.
Why is this the case?
Let’s go to the book of Psalms and find out.
If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
If I regard (recognize and cherish) iniquity (worldly thoughts, corrupt desires, and iniquitous purposes57) in my heart (life) and am unwilling to confess and forsake them, then God won’t hear (answer; listen to) my prayers.
As we can see, prayer isn’t just about asking God concerning someone or something. It has to do with what kind of thoughts in our mind are we entertaining. If they happen to be worldly, then our prayers will not be heard by God the Father and thus we’re just wasting our breath.
Let’s take a look at another verse that’s from the book of James which seems to support this perspective.
Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
When we ask for certain things in prayer, and they’re not granted by God, the reason for His response of not allowing us to receive them could be because they were asked amiss (from wrong motives with a view toward self-indulgence and carnal gratification.58
So, what we’ve learned is that the key aspect of prayer isn’t what we pray for, but whether our mental attitude, speech, or actions are godly. Before we pray to God the Father, we should simply be self-reflective of our thoughts, words, and actions. If we’re aware that we’ve been occupied with worldly thoughts then we should confess (admit wrong) them to God the Father. Conversely, for any inappropriate words or actions that we have expressed toward someone, we should admit guilt to the person we have offended. However, if after we’ve confessed known sin and don’t recover, then we’ll go right back to thinking, speaking, and doing in the same manner. You might be thinking, what does it mean to recover? Keep on reading and you’ll find out.
It’s unfortunate that in many churches the emphasis is on doing, doing, and doing. We get involved in this or that but what we think remains the same. The following verse from the book of Jude tells us what should be the focus of the church.
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
The Apostle John was speaking to the beloved (the divinely loved ones), instructing them to building themselves up (establish themselves more firmly) in the most holy faith (seek to establish themselves most firmly in the belief of the doctrines59 of the Christian faith). What are some of these doctrines you ask? Some of them are the gospel of Christ, the Trinity of one God in three persons each of whom is deity (has divine attributes), the Incarnation of Christ, Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection, etc.
And as important as these truths are, there’s another one that’s often neglected. It’s learning about the new person God has made us to be at salvation along with how to replace carnal ungodly thoughts with the divine perspective of such as revealed in the Word of God. This is what I mean when I say we need to recover. The old ways of thinking needs to be replaced with the new spiritual way of thinking.
John concludes this verse by saying praying in the Holy Ghost. What this is, is prayer which takes its life and power from the Holy Spirit.60 Wow! Did you get that? Before we pray, we should be operating in the life and power of the Holy Spirit.
In order to live this way, we need to enter into a spiritual state that’s described in the book of 1 Thessalonians.
1 Thessalonians 4:1-4
1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.
As you have received (learned) of (from) us (Paul, Silvanus, and Timotheus) how you ought to walk (behave toward one another) so as to please God, so this quality of life should increase more and more.
2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.
For you know what commandments (instructions) were in this regard (as to how you should live).
3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:
Whatever these commandments were, they pertain to a process that is God’s will for us called sanctification, which would help them abstain (to be completely set free) from fornication (sexual immorality). Did you know that there are two aspects to sanctification. The first work of sanctification is in overcoming the propensities to evil in our nature, checking and subduing the unholy habits which we had formed before we became Christians; the second part of the work consists in cultivating the positive principles of holiness in the soul.61
4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;
What was it that these Christians needed to do so that the tendencies toward sexual immorality would be subdued? They needed to know how to possess their vessel in sanctification and honour.
The word possess means to exercise self-control or to gain mastery over. Over what, over their vessel? The word vessel means the body, the place where the sin nature resides and which is also a receptacle for the soul. This question remains. How does a Christian gain mastery over his body, where the sin nature resides?
This is found in the book of Roman, chapter 12. If you remember, we took a look at this back in chapter 3. But because of its importance, I’m going to reiterate it again here.
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
The Apostle Paul was strongly urging the believers at Rome to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God. The words living sacrifice in Greek means to present your body as those who live by the Spirit. The word holy means purity and freedom from sin.62 But in the next verse that follows, he says that this can’t happen unless you follow a certain divine prescription. Let’s go there and find out what this is.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
And be conformed to this world. The word conformed means to not put on the form, fashion, or appearance of. The appearance of what? The appearance of the world. The word world means the standards of the world; as much opposed to the spirit of genuine Christianity.63
But rather be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. The word transformed means to appear as new persons with new habits. How is this accomplished? This is accomplished by the renewing of your mind.
The words renewing of your mind mean a complete change for the better of the believer’s mental process. Another meaning is that God transforms our minds and makes us spiritually minded by using His Word. As you spend time meditating on it, memorizing it, and making it a part of your inner man, God will gradually make your mind more spiritual.64
So, there we have it, our scriptural confirmation. When we confess known sin, learn God’s perspective about any area of weakness from His Word by memorizing, meditating upon it, and applying it, we’ll be operating under the rule of the Spirit. And when the Spirit agrees with what we’re being occupied with in our mental attitude, He will actively co-labor with us.
With that said, what I’d like to leave you with is an article on the basis of prayer. Enjoy.
PRAYER: WHAT’S YOUR MOTIVE?
One of the most suspenseful features of a mystery novel is not just figuring out “who-done-it,” but why that person would have done it in the first place. As you hang on every page and search for clues, you scrutinize each scene and wonder why they made certain statements, why they were talking to that person, why they were seen leaving a certain place, and so on. [It’s] mental gymnastics trying to figure out some of the clues, but when the author [explains] all the clues to your cliffhangers, you feel such relief and satisfaction. Finally, the whole book makes sense as you comb through your memories of how the drama unfolded.
However, one overlooked aspect in the drama of our Christian life is often our motivation for doing things. This can be true of our actions, but my focus for today will be on our motivations in prayer. Our prayer closet is often the place where we reveal ourselves most fully as we make our requests and deepest desires made known to God. Since our daily actions and attitudes spring from our time with God in prayer and devotional Bible reading, it only makes sense to begin here. You could say [it’s] the first “domino” of your day.
Many Christians realize that asking God for anything through prayer must be done by faith. When we realize our need of His wisdom, we can receive grace in order to sustain us through the trials of life.
While we understand that our heart must be filled with faith, we must also examine our heart to ensure that it is not influenced by the wrong motivation. We know that doubt will quench our faith in God, but did you know that a wrong motivation in prayer will also stop God’s attempt to answer our prayer?
Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. – James 4:3
God acknowledges that we have come to Him in prayer, perhaps even believing that [He] can and will grant us our petition. However, this verse states that [it’s] possible to ask for something for the wrong reasons. The phrase “ask amiss” means that we have asked God for something in a faulty manner. In this case, the faulty manner could be that our heart [isn’t] right with God and we ask in the wrong spirit. [We’re] not the first ones to experience this problem: “And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit [wasn’t steadfast] with God (Psalm 78:8).” When our lives reflect disobedience, we indicate through our actions that our heart [isn’t] aright nor our spirit in step with God. It demonstrates our selfish desires, yet prayer is intended to be unselfish. Even when we pray for ourselves, the goal is to glorify God in the answer. This is a pure motivation that also serves as a filter to help validate our request for our needs.
Therefore, [there’s] a possibility that our prayers are simply acts designed to satisfy our personal pleasure rather than to be used for the glory of God. God wants to give us our request, but not for selfish reasons.
Let’s look at one example from the Word of God. In Matthew 20:20, the Bible tells us that the mother of two of Christ’s apostles, James and John, came to Jesus “desiring a certain thing of him.” The Lord listened to the mother’s request as she stated that she would like for Jesus to grant permission for her sons to sit on each side of His throne when the Lord would reign as King. Jesus replied, “ye know not what ye ask.” Jesus would not grant such a request because it was done for all the wrong reasons. While the mother was sincere in her petition and clearly believed that He would be able to grant such a request, the answer she desired would only benefit her sons, and would not glorify God.
The petition was asked out of love for self rather than out of love for the [Savior]. Additionally, it was a request that went against the teachings of Jesus Himself. As He continued His response, He reminded the disciples that those who would be the greatest among them would be those who humbled themselves as ministers and servants (Matthew 20:27-28). Having great authority over men was of little value in the eyes of Jesus. Even though Jesus had all authority over all things (Matthew 28:18), He took this opportunity to demonstrate once again that He Himself was a minister sent to give His life a ransom for many. The mother’s request for her sons to receive commendation, position, and favor was not in keeping with the spirit and teachings of the Lord.
Like you, when I [pray,] I want a response to my prayers. I desire to receive the “something” that I’m asking for – words to share with a friend who is hurting, the knowledge I need to lead and manage projects at the office, the strength to help out around the house, the right attitude when faced with frustrating situations, and many (very many) more things I need throughout the day. What can I do to ensure that I get all those “somethings” that I need from God? Is it possible to filter my motivations to ensure that [they] align with the heart of God? Fortunately, God’s [Word] explains how I can be sure that my heart is [alright] and my spirit is [steadfast] with God:
Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up. For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. – Psalm 5:1-4
In this text, there are three basic aspects to David’s prayer: God’s assurance, our attitude, and God’s answer. God promises to answer our prayers when we practice these three attitudes in our lives. Psalm 5:3-4 captures the aspects of reverently approaching God as the King, looking “up” by faith, and abstaining from the wickedness which He abhors.
Let’s really dig out this truth. Here are some examples of some in the Bible whose experiences reveal God’s response to improper and proper motives in prayer:
- Saul – I Samuel 14:37; 28:6
Reason: Saul was disobedient – I Samuel 15:18-19
Reason: Saul was selfish by wanting to look good before the people – I Samuel 15:30
Reason: Saul’s pride caused him to reject God’s word – I Samuel 15:16, 23, 26
Result: God did not answer his prayer
- Ezra – 8:21-23
Reason: To seek direction from God
Reason: To determine the right action to take
Result: “He was intreated of us”
- Moses – Deuteronomy 9:9-19
Reason: To receive a message from God
Reason: Because of great sorrow over sin
Result: “…the Lord hearkened…”
- Esther – 4:16
Reason: Because she was facing death
Reason: Because God’s people were facing extinction
Result: God gave the victory
- Nehemiah – 1:3-4
Reason: Because of the needs of others
Reason: Because of his sorrow for Jerusalem
Result: Revival – read chapters 8-9
From these examples, we can see that the ultimate purpose of prayer is so God can be glorified in the answer. As in the example of Saul, selfishness will ensure that you are left without any grace or guidance from God. However, the other examples established the principle that it is completely acceptable (and expected) for Christians to pray for themselves or for things that will benefit them as long as the motivation is correct (Matthew 6:11). Of course, how and when God answers that prayer is still determined by His own desires, but per this text you can be assured that He WILL answer.
Nevertheless, [it’s] incumbent upon Christian to examine the motivations of their prayers. Are there times when the things we seek in prayer are more for our personal benefit than for the glory of God? Do we pray for appointment to leadership positions so we can receive honor, or do we seek things to further the cause of Christ? Our motivation in prayer is very important. If we are only motivated by selfishness, our petition will be denied and rejected. However, [we’ll] receive whatsoever we ask of God when we are motivated by a desire to see God glorified. Check your motivations at the door of your prayer closet. Be sure that your heart and spirit are set aright and [steadfast] with the Lord!65
53Barnes’ Notes. Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006. BIBLESOFT. WEB.14 July 2022
54Jamieson, Faucet, and Brown Commentary Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005. BIBLESOFT.
WEB. 14 July 2022
56UBS New Testament Handbook Series Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005. BIBLESOFT. WEB.
14 July 2022
57The Biblical Illustrator 2002, 2003, 2006, 09 February 2016
59Barnes’ Notes. Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006. BIBLESOFT. WEB. 17 July 2022
60The Pulpit Commentary Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006. BIBLESOFT. WEB. Access Date
62Wuest's Word Studies.
63Adam Clarke's Commentary.
64The Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989, 18 July 2022 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
65Dr. Joe Martin. “PRAYER: WHAT’S YOUR MOTIVE?” 19 July 2022
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