This series of articles has been devoted to examining Biblical
ways of spending time with God. In this article, we will consider
spending time with God in prayer. But first let us define the word
prayer since it is a word not generally used in casual conversation.
Prayer is a word that cannot be exhaustively defined in a few words
because there are eight greek words translated into a form of the
word prayer. This is further complicated by english translations
which translate a particular greek word differently in a particular
passage of Scripture. In general, to pray is to address another
in order to praise, give thanks, or ask favors.
Several years ago my wife and I were in a court room. We watched
case after case go before the judge. After one attorney had made
his remarks, the judge said: "I have heard your prayer ..."
This story exemplifies the meaning of prayer. In the most general
sense, a prayer is an address or plea to anyone. For example, if
I ask a neighbor for a cup of sugar, it is a prayer (plea, request)
from me to the neighbor.
In respect to God, most prayers will include one or a combination
of the following:
2. ask favors and make requests
3. entreat/beseech (to call to our aid)
4. make supplication (express a wanting or need) for self and others
5. give thanks
6. confess sins, faults, weaknesses
7. ask forgiveness
Although some of the above listed items may be similar, I have
incorporated words which are often synonymous with "prayer."
The religious community is divided on certain aspects of prayer.
Although we cannot review each of these in this article, I have
selected three and listed them below.
On these matters I will attempt to omit my "opinions"
and "prejudices" and simply refer to the passages which
teach on these subjects. Since I am only human and far from perfect,
I invite you to study these questions and write the editor with
your thoughts - especially if you believe I have left out pertinent
Scripture that may shed light on the subject. The matters of controversy
I wish to briefly touch upon are:
1. In whose name should we pray?
2. Does God hear the prayers of sinners?
3. What confidence do we have in prayer?
In whose name should we pray? Some teach that we do not have to
pray in any name while others teach that we should pray in the name
of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus teaches his disciples
saying: "And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly,
I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give
you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will
receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:23-24). Throughout
John chapters 14-16 the disciples are repeatedly instructed to pray
in the name of Jesus. Furthermore, the Bible does not authorize
prayer in any other name than Jesus.
Does God hear the prayers of sinners? I have heard some people
say that all a person has to do is believe in Jesus - nothing else
matters. Well, if this is the case, then the demons who believe
in Jesus will be saved with the righteous (James 2:19). Moreover,
if this is true then anyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of
God can be a thief, murderer, pedophile, or anything else that is
sinful and expect God to hear and subsequently answer their prayers.
Concerning this question we learn in John 9:31: "Now we know
that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of
God and does His will, He hears him." So, if God does not hear
the prayers of sinners, then we must conclude that sinners will
not have their prayers answered by God. But this does not negate
the fact that God created the inner man to seek (grope) after Him;
therefore, all men can come to the knowledge of God to salvation
(Acts 17:26-28; I Tim. 2:4; Rom. 1:16).
What confidence do we have in prayer? Some folks hold the position
that as long as we pray to God and believe that we already have
that for which we ask, He will answer our prayer per our request.
If this were so, a righteous man praying that he would never die
would be immortal upon this earth. Not even the apostles had every
prayer answered as they wished. Paul prayed that his thorn in the
flesh be removed, but it was not. Concerning prayer, we are instructed
to have full confidence without doubting when we pray for wisdom.
God has promised that He will give Christians wisdom if they ask,
have faith, and do not doubt (James 1:3-8). For the other things
we ask of God in prayer, our confidence is that He hears us. John
says in I John 5:14: "Now this is the confidence that we have
in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears
us." So we have a two fold confidence in prayer. First, if
we ask for wisdom in faith without doubting, God will give us wisdom.
Second, if we ask for anything according to His will, we are confident
that He hears our prayer. With this two fold confidence from the
Father of lights who desires only good for His children, who or
what can separate us from the love of Christ? Nothing (Rom. 8:18-39).
Now let us briefly consider the benefits and results of thoughtful
and sincere prayer. Of course these are more numerous than we could
list here, but below are a few found in the Bible. Men have attempted
to obtain some of these blessings through philosophical humanistic
life styles, psychiatry, and drugs. But notice that they come through
1. acknowledgement and praise of One greater than man (Matt. 6:9)
2. necessities of life are supplied (Matt. 5:11, 33)
3. forgiveness of sin (Matt. 6:12; Acts 8:22; I John 2:1)
4. overcoming temptation (6:13; I Cor. 10:13)
5. freedom from worry and worldly care (Matt. 6:24-34; I Pet. 5:7)
6. freedom from anxiety (Phil. 4:6)
7. the peace of God (Phil. 4:6-7)
8. rejoicing (I Thess. 5:16-17)
9. a thankful heart (I Thess. 5:17-18)
10. wisdom (James 1:5)
11. confidence that all prayers are heard by God (I John 5:14)
How do Christians spend time with God? They spend time with Him
by praying about everything and anything - by praying without ceasing
(I Thess. 5:16-18). Think about this: If Jesus needed prayer to
maintain a spiritual relationship with God, to what extent should
I be compelled to pray?