Category Archives: PRAYER

Should we pray for God to “guide the surgeon’s hands?”

SHOULD WE PRAY FOR GOD TO “GUIDE THE SURGEON’S HANDS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

My dear friend, you have probably heard worried Christians praying in earnest, “God, please guide the surgeon’s hands… Give the physician wisdom….” Perhaps you have uttered those words more times than you can remember. Long ago, my family and I used to utter those words a lot. Let me explain to you why we discontinued this practice.

IGNORANT PRAYER

The professing Church is wanting of one group of people—proficient Bible users. The Church the Body of Christ, genuine Christians not mere professors, is also lacking one group of people—proficient Bible users. While there is much Bible quoting and reading, there is scant Bible understanding. Church members have not been taught how to study the Bible; they are instructed to do nothing more than pull out verses that fit their particular denomination or theological system. The church leaders have been taught the same at seminary, Bible College, and so on.

It would do us well to think about what we are going to say before we pray. Just as we would talk to a friend after contemplating some words to utter, we should approach God the same way. We do not just start repeating the first thought that comes to mind. Remember, we would not approach a friend by speaking random words, gibberish, irrelevant things. All too often religionists have trained us to pray most superstitiously. With total disregard for what God is doing today, we just start running off at the mouth, beating our gums, “Oh, God, do this for me, do that for me, I want this, give me that. Give me a brand-new BMW. I want a wife. Give me a promotion or raise at work. Help me find my lost keys.” We have to remember to pray in accordance with God’s will; we do not just start asking God for favors, treating Him like He is Santa Claus.

For a moment, think critically about the prayer request for God to “guide the surgeon’s hands.” Exactly how would He accomplish this? Would He send an angel? Would He just grab ahold of the specialist’s hands Himself? Would He control those hands like one manipulates a marionette? Suppose the surgery had complications—paralysis, amnesia, uncontrollable blood loss, maybe even death. Who would then be to blame? God, or the surgeon? Or, was God ever guiding the surgeon’s hands at all? Have I got your attention yet?

Now, consider the prayer for God to “give the physician wisdom.” Just how would God bring this to pass? Would He whisper into the doctor’s ear the biological and/or medicinal information necessary to render proper medical care? Or, would there be some inner impression or hunch? Upon close inspection, this request makes no sense. If the physician needs God to give him wisdom, then why did he spend all his money paying for his many years of medical training? It was all a waste then! If God will give the physician medical wisdom, I see no reason why God could not give me (or you!) wisdom to perform a surgery. I have no medical training, but I think God would impart it if I ever needed it. (Of course, I am being facetious. Think about it, that is what we are really saying when we want God give the doctors wisdom!)

What I find troubling is that God would reveal some information to a surgeon, information not found in the Bible. That means God is speaking to us apart from the Bible today. That means the Bible is incomplete, that there is some revelation from God today. That surgeon would need to write down the information because it would be inspired Scripture. You would say, “Brother Shawn, that is heresy. The Bible is complete. It lacks nothing.” I would say, “Amen,” but then again, it was not my idea to start saying that God gives people insight apart from His Book in the first place. Whoever says God is speaking today in a form other than the Bible, that person would indeed be the heretic. Such statements take the Bible’s authority away and put it in a man. So much for the phrases, “I follow Jesus, I do not follow man. I go by what the Bible says; I do not base my faith on someone’s opinion’s.”

INFORMED, INTELLIGENT PRAYER

What does it mean to pray intelligently? Must someone have an IQ of 150 to pray intelligently? No, it does it refer to brainpower, but to the quality of Bible doctrine underlying the prayer. So-called “Christian truth” today is often actually nothing more than pagan superstition, religious tradition, idle speculation. This is why there are tens of thousands of opposing sects all claiming to be “New Testament Christians.” They are not acquiring the proper information, sound Bible doctrine. They are too dependent upon preachers, theologians, and teachers. They need to study their Bibles more on their own.

Also see:
» How should we pray?
» Should we say “God bless you” after someone sneezes?
» Should we pray for safe trips and “traveling mercies?”
» Should we pray for sick people?

Is reciting a list of names “vain repetitions?”

IS RECITING A LIST OF NAMES “VAIN REPETITIONS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

A Christian lady once asked me whether or not I thought she was guilty of praying the “vain repetitions” that the Lord Jesus had forbidden in Matthew 6:7. Many, many years earlier, her college-student son had compiled a list of names of hundreds of friends and professors so she could pray for them all. Yes, she was still faithfully praying for every last person on that list… all those (20-plus!) years later. She had prayed for those people for so long that she had memorized the entire list, no longer needing to hold and read from it at prayer time! She could name every person with her eyes closed. Yet, after those two decades, she had begun to feel like it had become mindless, empty repetition. Was it really?

Firstly, I told her she, of course, could never give those people new names. Names could not be altered in any way. Also, she could never change the fact that God wants them all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). These were immutable, so she could not avoid reiteration entirely. Her son had lost contact with most of them many years ago. She does not have current information about most of them. What is she to do? I told her to simply pray like she always has concerning them. Some are undoubtedly still unsaved and still need Jesus Christ. Others have surely come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour by now. Still, most likely, they do not understand and enjoy His Word as they should. God will honor her prayers because I think she has genuinely petitioned Him for all of them repeatedly.

Secondly, I told her that the LORD God saw her heart, how He knew that she was really attempting to pray properly. The Christian sister understood Pauline prayer. She was not trying to recite mindless, traditional prayers that a denomination had given to her. She was not reading from some worthless religious prayer book like a heathen does even today. She was praying in faith, according to God’s will for the Dispensation of Grace, like an intelligent member of the Church the Body of Christ. She was not praying superstitiously, selfishly, arrogantly, ignorantly, pretentiously, et cetera. She was not showing off for everyone to see at church; she was praying privately at home. What a ministry she has, and we could all follow her example!

Thirdly, I told her that, while we cannot change God’s will, while we should be praying according to God’s will, we can expand our vocabulary so that we go beyond simple prayers such as, “I pray for their salvation” or “May they see the truth.” If we use other phrases, this will guard against any possibility of “vain repetitions.” Employing new expressions—while retaining the basic (Bible) ideas—will keep us from becoming mindless robots, repeating the exact same statements. There should be variety in our terminology, or it becomes monotonous and rote.

Remember, “God who have all men to be saved” can be phrased numerous other ways—“That they would believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” “That they would trust the Gospel of Grace alone,” “That they would come by faith to Calvary’s cross,” “That they would be justified by simple faith in Christ,” “That they rely exclusively on Christ Jesus and His shed blood for forgiveness of sins,” “That they stop trying to work to please God,” “That they see their lost estate and see God’s solution in Christ,” “That they pass from death to life,” et cetera. You can even quote 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 in the prayer, that way it reinforces in your mind what the Gospel of Grace is (“Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day”). When one of those people on your prayer list later asks you, “What must I do to be saved?,” you will have trained yourself to quote 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. This routine will spare you the awkward silence of, “Uhhh, I do not know…!”

The above is what you should pray for non-Christian people. Now, let us briefly outline what you should pray for Christians. The part of God’s will about “come to the knowledge of the truth” can be rephrased:

  • “That they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, and walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God” (loose quotation of Colossians 1:9-10).
  • You can pray for them to be “strengthened with all might by God’s Spirit in their inner man” (loose quotation of Ephesians 3:16).
  • Or, “That Father God would give them the spirit [attitude/mentality] of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, that the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened” (loose quotation of Ephesians 1:17-18).
  • You could pray for “their love to abound more and more in knowledge and in all judgment, they would approve the things that are excellent, that they would be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ, that they would be filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (loose quotation of Philippians 1:11).
  • “That whatever they do in life, they would do all to the glory of God, doing it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (loose quotation of 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:17).
  • You could pray for them to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12).
  • “That they would give thanks in every thing, in every situation” (loose quotation of 1 Thessalonians 5:18).
  • You could also pray “That they would not quench or stop the Holy Spirit from working in their lives” (loose quotation of 1 Thessalonians 5:19).
  • “That they would abstain from fornication, and know how to possess their vessel in sanctification and honor” (loose quotation of 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4).
  • You could pray “That God’s Word would effectually work in them when they believe it” (loose quotation of 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
  • “That they would serve the living and true God and wait for His Son from heaven to deliver them from the wrath to come” (loose quotation of 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
  • You could also pray “That the Word of God would have free course in their lives” (loose quotation of 2 Thessalonians 3:1)—that means unhindered access to and reign over their lives.
  • You could even pray for them “not to engage in assemblies where there is false teaching” (loose quotation of Romans 6:17-18, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Galatians 1:6-9, and 1 Timothy 6:3-6).

These are some suggestions, and you are certainly not bound to repeat my words (paraphrases). What you are bound to, my dear friend, are the Pauline epistles of Romans through Philemon. See how Paul prayed, and go pray for and in accordance with that! That is God’s will!

Also see:
» Should we pray for sick people?
» What about the “sinner’s prayer?”
» How can I have an effectual prayer life?

Is Ephesians 3:20-21 a “name it and claim it” prayer promise?

IS EPHESIANS 3:20-21 A “NAME IT AND CLAIM IT” PRAYER PROMISE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Let us face it, dear friends. A lot of Christians are superstitious in their practice and shallow in their understanding. They are not thinking clearly because Satan’s evil world system (especially in religion) has dulled their senses. Some of the most ridiculous “Christian” beliefs and behaviors can be found in the realm of prayer. Unfortunately, people will carelessly grab prayer promises from the Scriptural record, with no regard for contexts (the most popular passages being Matthew 6:9-13, 1 John 5:15, James 5:14, 2 Chronicles 7:14, and Matthew 18:18-20). They assume they are safe in praying so long as any Bible verse even partly resembles their agenda and endorses their petition. What damage they do to God’s precious words!

Ephesians 3:20-21 is one such prayer passage so terribly abused: “[20] Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, [21] Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” While this is certainly part of a Pauline prayer, something directed to us as Gentiles (Romans 11:13), what should we make of it? Is it a promise that God will bless us beyond our wildest dreams?

Some have taken verse 20 to teach that we can ask for material blessings and Father God will give us even more than we could have even imagined. It is said that He can give us more physical healing than we have ever dreamed of receiving. It is claimed that God will give us more physical riches than we could have ever thought of asking Him for. Is this how we should view Ephesians 3:20? Let us consider what the Holy Spirit laid out in chapters 2 and 3, that which led up to Ephesians 3:20. All will then be clarified with absolutely amazing lucidity!

We begin at chapter 2: “[1] And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; [2] Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: [3] Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

This was our individual condition prior to coming to faith in Jesus Christ. We were dead in our trespasses and sins; that is, we were following Satan’s evil world system, spiritually dead in Adam and behaving like the sinners that we were. Thus, we deserved nothing but God’s wrath. However, there is a glorious contrast—praise God!

“[4] But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, [5] Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved; ) [6] And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: [7] That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. [8] For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: [9] Not of works, lest any man should boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

In stark contrast to our wretched state (verses 1-3), God in His great mercy and because of His “great love wherewith He loved us,” provided us a way to obtain forgiveness of sins and a right standing before Him (verse 4). He saved us by His grace through our faith in His Son’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for our sins (verse 5). Why did God crucify us with Christ, bury us with Christ, and resurrect us with Christ? To qualify us to share in Christ’s authority in the heavenly places (verses 6-7)! While God did not save us on the basis of our works, He saved us because He had some good works to do in and through us (verses 8-10). This is in stark contrast to our former dispensational status as Gentiles, when we were without God’s revelation and consigned to Satan’s kingdom.

“[11] Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; [12] That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:….”

In “time past,” prior to our Dispensation of Grace that began with Apostle Paul’s conversion in Acts chapter 9, God dealt with mankind on the basis of physical circumcision (Jew) and physical uncircumcision (Gentile). At that time, God was forming the nation Israel so He could save her from her sins and salvation and blessing would then flow through her to the Gentiles. That was God’s plan in the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12:1-3. However, when Israel refused to be that channel of salvation and blessing to the Gentiles—she rejected her Messiah, Jesus, at Calvary, and refused to accept Him in early Acts—God enacted a plan that He had kept hidden in Himself. He would temporarily go to the Gentiles without Israel’s kingdom. Through Israel’s fall salvation would go to the Gentiles. This is the purpose of Paul’s ministry.

The Holy Spirit caused Paul to write in Romans 11:11-14: “[11] I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. [12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? [13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [14] If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”

In Acts chapter 7, God actually set national Israel aside for a time, and began to consider the unbelieving Jews as Gentiles (who were all cooperating with Satan at this point). By chapter 9, Saul of Tarsus (leading that rebellion against Christ) met the ascended Jesus Christ and trusted Him as his personal Saviour. The ascended Lord commissioned (the now Apostle) Paul to go to all the world with a new message. Instead of forming Israel, God would create another agency in His overall plan for mankind. That is the Church the Body of Christ, made up of all believing Jews and Gentiles beginning with Paul and continuing onward to our present-day.

Going back to Ephesians chapter 2 to pick up additional insight: “[13] But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. [14] For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; [15] Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; [16] And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: [17] And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. [18] For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”

As Gentiles, we were once on the wrong side of “the middle wall of partition.” God was dealing with Israel on the basis of His covenants with her, promises not given to us Gentiles (go back to Ephesians 2:11-12). If Israel refused Jesus Christ in Matthew through John, as well as early Acts, how would we as Gentiles participate in God’s program? Everything was dependent upon Israel accepting Jesus and Him ushering in His kingdom on Earth where we Gentiles would benefit. Israel was overwhelmingly unbelieving but God was not caught by surprise. He had already figured out a solution long ago.

“But now…,” Ephesians 2:13 starts off. Beginning with Paul and the Body of Christ in Acts chapter 9, God broke down the distinction between Jew and Gentile (verse 14—as compared to verses 11-12). Rather than having a nation Israel and Gentiles, there was now “the Little Flock” (Israel’s believing remnant that would inherit God’s earthly kingdom—Luke 12:31-33) and the rest of the world known as Gentiles. Unsaved, lost Israel was really considered Gentile. There was believing Israel, and then there was the Gentile world (unbelieving Jew and unbelieving Gentile). From Acts chapter 9 onward, Paul was sent to all those unbelievers with a new Gospel, the Gospel of Grace, that they believe on Christ’s finished crosswork and be saved into the Body of Christ. What resulted was the nation Israel (now known as the “Little Flock”) and the Church the Body of Christ (made up of all believing Jews and Gentiles from the Apostle Paul’s salvation onward—see 1 Timothy 1:15-16). Notice how Paul highlights these two groups of believers as he closes Ephesians chapter 2.

“[19] Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; [20] And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; [21] In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: [22] In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

With the revelation of the mystery (secret) committed to Paul by the ascended Jesus Christ, we now see that the Church the Body of Christ is the second half of God’s overall plan for creation. God had already begun to form an earthly people, Israel, and had already begun to isolate believers to form “the Little Flock.” However, there was a heavenly people He had planned from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4; Titus 1:1-3). He told no one of that heavenly agency until the Apostle Paul. We will see that as we move into chapter 3 of Ephesians. For now, just understand that, in our Dispensation of Grace, God the Holy Spirit is living in a group of people called the Church the Body of Christ (verses 21-22 above). They will be His heavenly people in the ages to come, just as Israel will be His earthly people in the ages to come.

It would do us well to remember what Ephesians 1:8-10 said: “[8] Wherein he [God the Father] hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; [9] Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: [10] That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:….” Notice the issue of God’s purpose is to unite heaven and earth under the headship of Jesus Christ. It was the heavenly aspect that He kept secret until He revealed it directly to the Apostle Paul. We now learn about it through Paul.

As Ephesians chapter 3 opens, dear friends, the Holy Spirit continues talking about the Body of Christ being part of the secret Jesus Christ revealed to the Apostle Paul. For sake of brevity, we will read these verses without much comment. Remember our previous statements and it should be clear. Again, the issue is the Church the Body of Christ, and how it is the present-day group of believing Jews and Gentiles who will impact the heavenly places for God’s glory in the ages to come.

“[1] For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, [2] If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: [3] How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, [4] Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) [5] Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; [6] That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: [7] Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. [8] Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; [9] And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: [10] To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, [11] According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: [12] In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” (Be sure to see the Body of Christ is part of God’s “eternal purpose”—verse 11. It is something He had planned all along but never told anyone about until Paul. When we read Paul’s writings, we learn God’s secret will!)

“[13] Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” God is doing something amazing with Paul’s ministry, even though the Apostle is suffering in prison (technically, house arrest—Acts 28:30-31) for preaching the Gospel of Grace. Now, we get to the Apostle’s prayer. Read it through in one giant chunk to get its full impact. It gets very exciting!

“[14] For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, [15] Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, [16] That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; [17] That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; [19] And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. [20] Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, [21] Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

Did you see how verse 15 mentioned that God has a family in heaven and earth? Recall our earlier comments. That is a reference to the Church the Body of Christ (heaven) and the nation Israel (earth). Father God is going to use both agencies to glorify His Son in the future. We also read about this in Colossians 1:16-20, which time and space do not permit us to discuss here. What Paul is asking for in this prayer of Ephesians 3:14-21 is our empowerment, that the Holy Spirit would strengthen us so that we understand what God is doing today and cooperate by faith. God’s eternal purpose is so unbelievably wise, reaching up to the heavenly places, encompassing Jews and Gentiles (which were once divided, hating each other, and part of Satan’s kingdom).

Those final two verses of Ephesians chapter 3 (our question) are a doxology, Paul closing the prayer by praising God for His great wisdom and power. Read these verses again in light of all that we have just discussed: “[20] Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, [21] Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

The power that works in us (saved us from our sins and Satan’s captivity—Ephesians 2:1-3), the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and set him at God’s own right hand in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:19-23), that is the power God uses to “do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Would we have ever asked God to form the Church the Body of Christ of believing Jews and Gentiles? Never! Our little human minds are too weak and limited. Would we have ever thought God would use us pagan Gentiles to glorify Jesus Christ in the heavenly places throughout the endless ages to come? Never! Again, our puny human minds would have never devised such a plan. It is God’s wisdom, “the hidden wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:6-8). That is why “wise” Satan was so disturbingly shocked when he learned of the mystery revealed to Paul. It meant that his evil angelic cohorts occupying the heavenly places are going to be replaced by us! Horrors!!!!!

No wonder, dear friends, that Satan does everything he possibly can to hide the mystery from believers even today. The Devil uses religious tradition to keep people away from Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, and have them concentrate on everything else in the Bible! God’s power is being manifested today in mystery truth, Pauline truth. Christian lives are so weak and ineffective today because those Christians are not thinking properly. They are grabbing Israel’s verses, prophetic truth, and trying to make us follow something God is not doing today. May we beware of Satan’s underhanded tactics, and not be deceived by them!

As for making Ephesians 3:20-21 some prosperity gospel foundation, we distort the meaning of the passage entirely. What a shallow interpretation of such deep verses! There is not one word in the passage about material riches and superb physical health. Yea, remember, Paul is writing under Roman house arrest (Ephesians 3:1).

Awed by the wisdom that has been revealed in this study, dear brethren, we have no choice but to echo those wonderful words. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

Also see:
» Has God’s Word failed?
» Why are the heavens not clean in God’s sight?
» Why does the Book of Ephesians end with such a “dark” passage?

How should we pray for people enduring natural catastrophes and other tragedies?

HOW SHOULD WE PRAY FOR PEOPLE ENDURING NATURAL CATASTROPHES AND OTHER TRAGEDIES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Recently, a grace believer, a dear sister in Christ, told me that, since we understand what God is doing today, and what He is not doing today, that “we really cannot pray for anything for the people” in Texas and here in Louisiana who were recently devastated by Hurricane Harvey. As an afterthought, she added that we could at least pray for their salvation in Christ. Could we pray for them in more specific ways though? How should mature grace believers pray for people enduring hardships, especially natural disasters? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE CONFUSION

Dear friend, we can learn so much about a person’s theology by listening to them pray aloud. We can hear them talking directly to God, hearing what is on and in their heart. Their words show us where they are in their understanding of the Holy Scriptures. We can hear what Bible verses they are repeating back to God. Are they quoting verses written to and about the nation Israel, or verses to and about the Church the Body of Christ? That is, are they praying in light of what God did in the past, or what God is doing today? Stated another way, are they earthly minded, or heavenly minded? Are they “study[ing]… rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)?

The realm of prayer often abounds with superstition. Thus, a wise brother once rightly stated that we should especially guard our prayer life, lest superstition creep in. If we listened to the average Christian’s prayers over the course of a day or week, we would hear very little, if any, sound Bible teaching. No doubt there would be many nice-sounding terms and flattering titles, much theological speculation, and (of course!) snippets of assorted Scripture verses.

Yet, overall, the prayer would be shallow, meaningless, and ineffectual. I say this from personal experience, having listened to denominational Christians’ prayers—including my own (!)—for many, many years. Various and sundry strange ideas lurk in the minds of so many believers because they are so grossly misinformed or severely uninformed. They grab and quote Bible teachings without discretion, apart from context. Religion has done an unparalleled job in confusing them, and prayer exposes these mix-ups!

Whenever tragedy strikes, everyone really starts praying—even the so-called “non-religious.” They may not be churchgoers and/or they may not “believe in God” at all, but something inside them, some inexplicable urge, drives them to start speaking to any “god” who may be listening. While they do not understand why they want to pray (we do understand), they do it anyway. Hurricanes, mass shootings, bombings, burning buildings, tsunamis, automobile accidents, and so on, motivate people everywhere to pray. In times of danger, people trained in so-called “Christian” religion automatically start reciting the so-called “Lord’s Prayer,” “Our Father which art in heaven….” Others do a “Hail Mary,” “Glory Be,” or direct some other prayer to some other “saint.” As stated before, prayers get more fervent and more numerous in times of trouble! Empowered by great zeal, sincere people become distracted from what sound Biblical prayer really is and what it ultimately accomplishes. This leads to worse error.

For example, we in the southeastern United States are prone to hurricanes during summer and autumn. Many times I have seen “prayers for hurricane season” flyers or articles distributed. People beg God to spare them from these natural disasters. They do not want to suffer/die, see loved ones suffer/die, or lose their property. Hence, they read that prescribed prayer over and over and over, hoping God will grant them their wish. However, despite all that praying, hurricanes still come and destroy lives and property. Bible scoffers look and say, “Ha! Those ‘Christians’ are a bunch of superstitious ignoramuses! Just as we thought, there is no ‘God!’ They prayed for ‘God’ to spare them and no one was there to hear them! ‘God’ cannot help me any more than He can help them! Me joining ‘Christianity?’ No thanks!” As for the “Christians,” they are disappointed, defeated, and perplexed. “Where is God when I need Him? Is it my unconfessed sin? My worthlessness? His unconcern? Why was I ignored?”

Friend, it is harsh, but it is truth. We need to recognize and call out nonsense for what it is, to the intent we address and correct it. Not only is the scoffer being foolish. What is also foolish is the “Christian” uttering prayers that have absolutely nothing to do with what God is doing today anyway. It is silly to point to the faulty prayers of ill-informed religious people and use them to build a case against God. God is not involved in what they are praying; consequently, their prayers are in vain, to no purpose, meaningless. Had they prayed according to God’s will, they would have seen results not to disappoint. If God does not react or behave the way we want, we have no business telling Him He is wrong, lazy, or imaginary! There is no need whatsoever to be uninformed or misinformed concerning Christian prayer during times of trouble. If there is any doubt or confusion whatsoever concerning prayer, any fault or disappointment whatsoever touching prayer, the problem lies in people rather than God and the Holy Bible!

As stated earlier, when bad news is heard, people start praying. For what do they pray? They pray for injured bodies to be healed. They ask God for the serial killer’s apprehension. They pray there is no severe property damage. They ask God for financial difficulties to disappear. They pray for floodwaters to subside. They ask God for storms to dissipate quickly and/or not come their way. They pray for no one to be hurt. They pray for God not to let anyone die. They pray for no power outages, and no food or water shortages. They pray for their dying loved ones to live. It is assumed that Almighty God will perform miracles to show His love and goodness toward them. After all, there are Bible passages that demonstrate God’s miraculous power clearly visible in the lives of people long ago.

Understandably, today, people still want to see God’s activities with their physical eyes. There is the idea that “everything in the Bible is mine.” Since signs, miracles, and wonders belong to the nation Israel, and Israel appears in approximately 80 percent of the Bible, most of the Scriptural accounts involve God doing work before physical eyes. Think of Moses parting the Red Sea, the 12 Apostles healing sick bodies, the Lord Jesus casting out devils, fire and brimstone raining down from Heaven to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord Jesus calming the storm, Israel’s many military victories, water pouring forth from a rock, manna and quail falling from Heaven, floodwaters covering the globe in the day of Noah, and numerous other examples.

People who go to church are often under the impression that God has not changed His dealings with man. Their mantra is, “What God did long ago, He can and still does today.” Obviously, though, when we think about it, what God did in time past is not what He is doing today in the but now. Do global floodwaters destroy all life forms today? (They once did, you know!) Is the Red Sea being miraculously divided now? (It once was, you recall!) Does manna rain down from Heaven today? (It once did, you know!) Yes, God did those things in the past. There is no doubt in this author’s mind that the God of the Bible can perform and did perform miracles for physical eyes to see. However, this author knows that, on the authority of the rightly divided Scriptures, God is doing something different today. (You are no doubt startled here, huh?) What if this author told you there was a better way to pray? What if this author would be delighted to share that information with you, friend?

AN ANSWER TO THE CONFUSION

How should we as grace believers pray during times of trouble? As Pauline dispensationalists, how should we pray in calamities? More specifically, how would God’s grace cause us to pray for those affected by such tragedies? Prayer is for Christian believers only. It is designed to bring the Word of God into our lives, to reinforce in our minds and hearts what God wrote to us in His Word rightly divided. Someone once aptly stated: “If we want to do God’s will, then we need to find out what God is doing today. When we do by faith what God is doing, then we are doing God’s will.” Now, dear friend, what is God’s will? How do we pray according to God’s will? Here are two very easy verses to consider.

First Timothy 2:3-4 says: “[3] For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; [4] Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” Regardless of the dispensation, God’s twofold general will remains the same. He wants each and every individual to have a personal relationship with Him through faith in His Word to them. While the divine message to mankind has changed throughout human history, Almighty God has always looked for individuals who have had belief, trust, in that divine revelation. This is the “saved” part of verse 4. Secondly, He wants each and every individual to, by faith, accomplish His work with Him. “Coming to the knowledge of the truth” (last part of verse 4) is learning more and more about what God is specifically doing at one particular time of human history (especially our modern-day).

Romans 11:13 says: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office.” This is the Apostle Paul writing: he is God’s spokesman to us. Therefore, if we want to know what God has to tell us, we need to listen to Paul’s words. The word “apostle” means “sent one.” The Lord Jesus said in John 13:20: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” Jesus Christ sent Paul to us. If we want to hear Jesus Christ’s words, we need to listen to Paul. Paul wrote 13 epistles, Romans through Philemon—the “Pauline Books of the Bible.” To reject Paul is to reject Jesus Christ. Let us heed the Pauline doctrine given us!

The Lord Jesus Christ revealed to the Apostle Paul some special divine truths, that Paul would then make them known to us Gentiles. Ephesians 3:1-2 says: “[1] For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, [2] If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:….” This information—“the Dispensation of the Grace of God”—was previously unrevealed to mankind. It was not known in the “Old Testament,” including the Four Gospels (Christ’s earthly ministry). God deliberately kept it secret until He revealed it to Paul. If we ignore Paul, like many do, we ignore information found nowhere else in Scripture!

In the Pauline epistles, the Dispensation of the Grace of God given to us Gentiles, we do not read about problems being miraculously taken away. There is no natural disaster reversal or sickness removal. God does not intervene in the lives of people to supernaturally deposit money into their bank accounts. On the contrary, we read Christians suffering “deep poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2). We read about an ill pastor, Timothy, whom God does not miraculously heal; Timothy must use medicine instead for his many ailments (1 Timothy 5:23). Paul himself suffered various bodily afflictions (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Galatians 4:13-15). He too had financial problems, deprivations, and other difficulties (2 Corinthians 11:22-28). We read about another sick Christian, Trophimus, with an unhealed body in 2 Timothy 4:20 (Paul’s last writing before death).

Actually, friend, contrary to what you may have heard in “church,” we Christians are guaranteed to suffer simply because we live in a world dominated by Satan. Acts 14:22 says: “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” And 2 Timothy 3:12: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” It makes no sense for us Christians to pray to avoid trouble… the Bible already said we will suffer trouble!

Non-Christians and Christians alike all live in a fallen creation. Sin has corrupted God’s original universe, which is why there is suffering (bodily pains, violent weather, famine, drought, disease, death, et cetera). Romans 8:18-25 tells us: “[18] For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. [19] For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. [20] For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, [21] Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. [22] For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. [23] And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. [24] For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?”

Contrary to popular belief, Christian living is not summarized as “everything will go your way, you will have constant peace, you will have endless prosperity, and you will always enjoy good health.” No indeed! God has not promised to shield us from war, sickness, natural disaster, financial ruin, physical death, and so on. Any of these evils can strike anyone without warning. The curse is random. God does not “select” people for specific punishments. Again, that was true in the past, in other dispensations, but that is not true today (more on this later). One day, God will lift the curse of sin from creation. He will give Christians new glorified bodies, ones that can never grow old, become sick, or die. Until then, though, we are not guaranteed a problem-free existence. We already saw several Bible passages that proved this to be true beyond any shadow of a doubt. But, how can God let us go through such troubles without deliverance? Is that not cruel? Why is there no physical working of God to rescue us from our troubles?

Under the Law of Moses, the Old Covenant, God punished the nation Israel with curses when they failed to obey Him. You can look at Leviticus chapter 26 and Deuteronomy chapter 28. The unbelieving, rebellious Jews suffered sickness, crop failure (drought and famine), infertility, military defeat, political oppression, and so on. God was angry with them. He was chastising them for their disobedience, trying to get them to reform their wayward behavior. Should we conclude this today? Is God punishing us today with troubles? People who do not “rightly divide the word of truth” do not understand that we are under a different program today. We are under Grace instead of Law (Romans 6:14-15). Rather than concluding that tribulations (troubles) are God’s judgment on us, we understand that those tribulations work for our benefit. During those difficult circumstances, we can we rely more fully on the Lord Jesus Christ!

Romans 5:1-5 tells us: “[1] Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: [2] By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. [3] And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; [4] And patience, experience; and experience, hope: [5] And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Earlier, we saw in Ephesians 3:2 that we are under the Dispensation of the Grace of God. God’s attitude toward the world today is “grace and peace.” Each and every one of Paul’s epistles opens with “grace and peace” (check the first chapter of every Bible Book, Romans through Philemon). This is God’s present message to the world, the nations, the Gentiles. As stated previously, we only find that worldwide “grace and peace” message in Paul’s epistles. The rest of the Bible is legalistic, Law-oriented, Israel-focused. We must be sure to keep these Pauline and non-Pauline sections of the Bible separate, or we run the risk of confusing God’s various instructions to mankind throughout history. Either we recognize Paul’s apostleship to us, or we start grabbing Bible verses not to and about us.

Second Corinthians 5:19-21 says: “[19] To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. [20] Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. [21] For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” God is not out to “get” anyone today, “zap” someone today, or “strike” someone today. He is offering all nations “grace and peace” through Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork. When we see trouble in the Dispensation of Grace, it is not God pouring out His wrath. God’s wrath will follow our dispensation, yes, but there is no divine wrath today.

Rather than concluding that disaster means God hates us, we should see those trying times as opportunities to enjoy inner peace, strength, and proper thinking. Romans 5:8 says, “For God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” If we want to look at God’s love for us, we look to Calvary rather than our circumstances. In Christ, God has given us (believers) internal provisions to strengthen us. Tragedies do not have to destroy us. God will not change our circumstances, but He will change us inside as we endure those circumstances. That is grace prayer, praying according to the Dispensation of Grace, reinforcing in our minds what the Dispensation of Grace entails.

Notice 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “[16] For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. [17] For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; [18] While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Dear friends, despite our outward circumstances—whether good or bad—the “inward man” is being “renewed day by day.” The outward body is weakening, aging, and dying, but the inward body is growing stronger. Sound Bible doctrine renews our mind on a daily basis, causing us to think about our problems the way God Himself does (go back to Romans 5:1-5, quoted earlier). You may also check Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 4:23, and Colossians 3:10.

Ephesians 3:16 tells us how the Spirit of God works: “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;….” The Spirit of God works from the inside out. He takes sound Bible doctrine that we study and believe, and works in us. First Thessalonians 2:13: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” The internal work of God the Holy Spirit will produce outward behavior. Watch grace move from internal to external.

Ephesians 4:28 instructs: “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” Rather than God the Holy Spirit miraculously raining money down from Heaven so those less fortunate can have their necessities met, He will work in Christian people who have the resources (time, money/goods, energy) to meet those needs. Friend, let me tell you something I have learned from personal experience. When you learn of a certain person in need, and you pray about that person long enough, you will find yourself meeting that need. You pray about a poor person long enough, and you will find yourself giving to help. You pray for a sick person long enough, and you will find yourself visiting that individual. You pray for a lost person long enough, and you will find yourself sharing the Gospel with that soul. (You doubt me? Try it and see!) See, friend, prayer is designed to activate God’s Word in the believer’s soul. Once the will is moved by sound doctrine, the physical body will move accordingly!

While more could be said, we want to wind down and summarize. Concerning people enduring tragedies, there are really two classes of individuals for whom to pray. There are lost people (non-Christians) and there are saved people (Christians). What should we pray for them? Again, what is God’s will in this current dispensation? Go back to 1 Timothy 2:3-4 from earlier. Firstly, God wants all lost people to be saved by grace, trusting in His Son (Jesus Christ) and His finished crosswork as sufficient payment for their sins. This is the Gospel of the Grace of God. Secondly, God wants all Christians to know the truths of His Word today, how grace works in our lives as believers. This is the Message of the Grace of God. Both parts of God’s will involve grace—justification by grace through faith, and sanctification by grace through faith!

Lost people can replace their lost material possessions, but they cannot replace their soul after losing it in Hell (Matthew 16:26—“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”). More than anything, during or after tragedy, we need to pray that these lost people be saved from their sins now, that they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ now. We pray this, and one of two things will happen. Either we will eventually go out and personally share the Gospel with them, or God’s Word will work in other Christians and they will share the Gospel with them. (Try it and see!)

Now, let us talk about praying for Christians enduring tragedy. Satan will use their misfortunes to distract them from God’s love in Christ. In Romans chapter 8, the Holy Spirit speaks of a “who” exploiting difficult circumstances to cause us Christians to believe those problems mean God does not love us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35). The “who” is Satan using various life problems to divert our attention away from God’s Word. We need to pray for our Christian brethren enduring calamity to remember God’s love for them commended at Calvary. They do not need to be saved from their sins—they are already justified in Christ. Now, they need to be saved from erroneous thinking. The Holy Spirit needs to enlighten and strengthen them with God’s grace, mercy, peace, and joy. With those truths in mind and heart, they can get through anything! 🙂

“[7] And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. [8] For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. [9] And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [10] Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong(2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Also see:
» How does God intervene?
» How can I have an “effectual” prayer life?
» Should we pray for sick people?

How can God hear all the prayers of all Christians?

HOW CAN GOD HEAR ALL THE PRAYERS OF ALL CHRISTIANS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Friend, have you ever wondered how God can hear the prayers of millions of Christians all around the world? Are these words not all thoroughly jumbled by the time they get up to Heaven? All the speculation aside, does the Bible provide any light on this subject? Let us see!

At its most basic level, prayer is an “inner-man” issue. Long before words are uttered using physical lips and literal tongues, a heart attitude (thoughts) forms those words. Thus, technically speaking, before any audible voice (vocalization) occurs, God reads the human thoughts underlying the prayer. Scripture says that God “knows” and “tries” the hearts of men. The idea here is an intimate evaluation or examination. Above all, He is looking for faith, any soul that trusts His Word: “But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Notice how God scrutinizes the heart of every person:

  • 1 Kings 8:39: “Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men; )”
  • 1 Chronicles 28:9: “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.”
  • 2 Chronicles 6:30: “Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men: )”
  • Psalm 7:9: “Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.”
  • Proverbs 15:11: “Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?”
  • Proverbs 17:3: “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.”
  • Proverbs 21:2: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.”
  • Matthew 9:4: “And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?”
  • Mark 2:6-8: “[6] But there was certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, [7] Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? [8] And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?”
  • Luke 5:22: “But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?”
  • Luke 16:15: “And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”
  • Luke 24:38: “And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?”
  • Acts 1:24: “And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,”
  • Acts 15:8-9: “[8] And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; [9] And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”
  • Romans 8:27: “And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
  • 1 Corinthians 4:5: “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:4: “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.”

Since God is God, He knows every intricate detail in His creation. He is aware of every thought, whether good or bad. If He could create the heaven and the earth ex nihilo, spoken and brought out of nothing, and the Bible leaves no doubt about it, then nothing about His abilities should surprise us. If He designed and fashioned the first human heart from nothing—“heart” here is the innermost being, not the physical blood-pumping muscle—then He knows precisely how it operates. He knows where those thoughts/attitudes/feelings are stored and how to access them. This is an important concept that millions upon millions of church members need to learn even today.

We must be careful to not simply repeat words we find on a prayer card or in a prayer book. People around us can only hear those words that we speak, but God can see right into the heart. He knows whether we are sincerely communicating to Him, having a heart-to-heart conversation, or just guilty of following some religion’s demands. We can fool anyone and everyone into thinking we have good intentions—however, God is not deceived. He looks beyond audible words, right into our (invisible) thoughts, our innermost being. He knows whether we are thinking about His Word, willing to pray according to sound Bible doctrine, or simply mindlessly repeating some pre-written prayer just so we can gratify our priest, preacher, denomination. Remember this well, friend, remember this well! Again, remember this well, friend, remember this well!

There is something else to consider regarding the topic of prayer. Concerning believers in Christ, there is an indwelling Holy Spirit (third member of the Godhead). Earlier, we looked at Romans 8:27. Now we read it with the verse previous. The Bible declares in Romans 8:26-27: “[26] Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. [27] And he that searcheth the hearts [Father God] knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

God the Father searches (examines) the hearts, and the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we pray. Verse 34 says Jesus Christ sits at God’s right hand and intercedes for us as well. First Timothy 2:5 tells us, “For there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” We approach God the Father in prayer on the basis of the merits of His Son, Jesus Christ, and His selfless sacrifice on Calvary for our sins. This is the meaning of, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ(Ephesians 5:20).

Ultimately, prayer is an intricate collaboration between the three members of the Godhead. We pray to God the Father, approaching Him by the merits of God the Son, enlightened and empowered by God the Holy Spirit. All three Persons play a role in our prayer life. The Holy Spirit, who lives in the hearts of us Christians, knows our prayer before we even speak it. Furthermore, we do not have to worry about God having an “information overload,” or all the prayers being jumbled. The triune Godhead is all-powerful, so all three Members can process all of those millions of prayers every day, without any difficulty.

Also see:
» What about the “sinner’s prayer?”
» How do I pray with the Apostle Paul?
» How can I have an effectual prayer life?

Should a woman lead a group in prayer?

SHOULD A WOMAN LEAD A GROUP IN PRAYER?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The following scenario has become increasingly common in recent years. Whether at a Christian school, a local church, a ball game, or even the recent United States presidential inauguration, a woman will lead a group in prayer. To the delight of “feminists,” many swiftly defend this as “acceptable.” However, does it meet God’s approval? Remember, the Bible is the final authority—it speaks for Almighty God. Friends, rather than speculating, offering opinions (both yours or mine), or consulting some denominational hierarchy, we will turn pages in the Holy Bible and let God’s Word speak for itself. Then, we can all say, “Amen!” (“So be it!”)

People who encourage women preachers and “prophetesses” invariably appeal to 1 Corinthians chapter 11 for support. (You will usually find such women in “Charismatic” circles.) This passage is also heavily used concerning women leading a congregation in prayer. As you can see for yourself, friend, there is a woman most definitely praying in that passage: “[4] Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. [5] But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.” The larger context is actually verses 1-16. While time and space do not permit us to discuss that issue in its entirety here, please refer to our “women and head coverings” study linked at the end of this article.

CARNAL CORINTHIAN CHRISTIANS

The Holy Spirit’s words through the pen of the Apostle Paul paint a most horrid picture of the Corinthian saints. Chapter 3 of 1 Corinthians, the first three verses, sums up their problems most expressly: “[1] And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. [2] I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. [3] For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”

These Corinthians were saints of the Most High God, no doubt, but oh how they were so fleshly motivated, so mischievous, so sinful! Instead of letting the Spirit of God empower and correct them, they were operating independently of His will for them and His Word to them. Pagan philosophy had so corrupted them. Their minds confused, their hearts void of faith in God’s words, they had nothing but the flesh to fall upon. Indeed, how they fell… into spiritual error, folly, disappointment, and misery!

Beloved, we must not overlook the fact that Corinth was filled with the most immature Christians in all of Scripture. Sadly, if people today want to do something in “Christian religion,” they usually grab some practice or subject unique to the Corinthian assembly. For example, if a religionist wants to speak with the gift of tongues today, all he or she does is quote from 1 Corinthians chapter 14. If a female denominationalist seeks to be a preacher or prayer leader, all she does is cite “proof texts” from 1 Corinthians chapter 11 (above verses). Friends, just because the Corinthians were doing it does not automatically mean we should do it. The Corinthians’ behaviors, you will remember, certainly did not reflect spiritual maturity. They were definitely not models of Christian living, and yet they are treated today like they were! (The Corinthians also sued one another in pagan courts, denied Christ’s resurrection, made the Lord’s Supper a drunken banquet, boasted about their fornicating brother in Christ, and fought against and fragmented themselves. Should we follow them in these practices, too? Maybe we had better not be so quick to follow them in having women preachers!)

ROLES OF THE SEXES IN LOCAL ASSEMBLIES, IN BRIEF

Four Pauline Bible Books—1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon—deal with the operation of the congregation. These “Pastoral Epistles” outline the structure and functioning of the local Christian assembly in the Dispensation of Grace. If we want to see how a local grace church should be organized and maintained, we had better go to these four Books and apply them before the congregation collapses. We must be on guard, beloved, lest Satan ruin our assembly’s testimony!

The following instructions were given to Timothy by the Holy Ghost through Paul in 1 Timothy chapter 2: “[8] I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. [9] In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; [10] But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. [11] Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. [12] But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. [13] For Adam was first formed, then Eve. [14] And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. [15] Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

Did you notice how the subject shifted from men (verse 8) to women (verse 9)? Verse 8 issues specific commands to men in the assembly; the remaining verses of the chapter instruct women. Whom does the Holy Spirit through Paul think should lead prayer in the local church? Whom does the Holy Spirit believe should lead teaching in the local assembly? Notice, we are not interested in what denominations say, preachers think, church members guess, or theologians assume. We are, however, interested in what God the Holy Spirit says. He says in verse 8: “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” Friends, if you take exception to that, if you disagree with that, then you are not arguing with me. You are contradicting the Holy Spirit! You are rebelling against the Holy Scriptures! You are treading on dangerous spiritual ground! You are on your way to ruining your Christian life and your local assembly! Beware! Beware! Beware! Beware!

Considering what we read from the Bible, we can draw the following conclusions. If a Christian man is present in the room, the Spirit-filled woman will step aside and let him teach or pray. God the Holy Spirit will never, ever, EVER lead a woman to dominate a local church (or even a marriage). When we find female bishops and women pastors, we have actually found people who are, despite what they claim, contrary to Scripture. God’s Word says bishops are to be “the husbands of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6). Unless this verse is talking about a lesbian couple, then we can see that the office of a bishop is reserved for men. Scripture also says deacons are to be “the husbands of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:12). This office is also restricted to men. There may be female preachers and “deaconesses” in religion. However, in the Bible, there are only male bishops and only male deacons.

Friends, when we find a female Bible teacher who makes a conscious decision not to teach men, we know that the Holy Spirit leads her. Again, according to the verses presented in this study, the Spirit of God will never cause a woman to teach a Bible class with one man present, let alone many men. The same is true concerning group prayer. Her flesh will cause her to lead, but not God’s Spirit. Others’ flesh will encourage her to lead, but not God’s Spirit. God’s Spirit will never cause a Christian in the Dispensation of Grace to outright contradict or disobey a verse in the Pauline epistles.

Men who sit under women Bible teachers—quite frankly—are spiritual wimps. I know that is harsh, but I make no apologies in declaring it. Men are utterly negligent concerning their God-given role if they sit under women teachers and female preachers. They have miserably failed, not only other men, but also all the women in the assembly who could have benefited from a Spirit-filled man leading them. I would not doubt those men are ignorant of the Scriptures; hence, they feel women are “more qualified” to be in authority. I think it not an exaggeration to say that that woman is probably more skilled in the Scriptures than all those men combined. Still, a female teacher of men, or a female prayer leader of men, is not God’s design. Beloved, if we think we know better than the Creator, we are quite the fools! Those men had better get into the Bible, and have some “guts” to lead the group in prayer or study! If they do not, souls are in jeopardy of unspeakable damage and ruin!

At this point, I am quite sure that some of our readers are fuming. They are quite upset with me—nay, they are upset with the Bible. They have come across verses that challenge and threaten to abolish their theological system. They may have already read Scripture that condemns what they are doing in their own churches, schools, or Bible studies. Yet, they keep on their wayward course because it is better to “stay with tradition” than admit wrongdoing. We choose not to follow their route. The Word of God is right, and we uphold the King James Bible as the inerrant, infallible, inspired words of God. Let those divine words contradict whomever they will contradict. “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). We serve God not men (Galatians 1:10)!

Friend, just so you not misunderstand, I will include some additional insight for clarification. A woman praying in and of itself is not wrong. Women praying is not sinful. The Bible does not disapprove of this. A woman leading a group of women in prayer is totally acceptable. That issue is not currently under discussion here in this study. What we were concerned with here is: Should a woman lead prayer in a mixed group (a crowd of women and men)? The Bible’s answer is that a woman should not be leading a “mixed” group of men and women with regards to prayer and teaching. It is God’s arrangement in creation that the man (or husband) should lead and the woman (or wife) should follow. My friend, there is no put-down of women. Please get that crystal-clear in your mind. The attack on women is when we ignore their God-given role and make them usurp the God-given authority of the man. We are encouraging them to do something God never designed them to do!

Now, with the record made clear by the Scripture, we all say, “Amen!”

Also see:
» Must Christian women wear head coverings?
» Should women serve in the ministry?
» Are Galatians 3:28 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 contradictory?

Should we pray if it is God’s will?

SHOULD WE PRAY IF IT IS GOD’S WILL?

by Shawn Brasseaux

In great sincerity, some Christians ask God to reveal to them His will about certain matters in their lives. They want to know if it is His will for them to go to this particular place on vacation, or if it is His will for them to go to that job or neighborhood, or if it is His will that they do certain things (marry, have kids, move house, et cetera) at particular times in life. Should we do this? Let us look at the Bible!

The fact of the matter is that God has not revealed these things to us. Scripture never clearly indicates what specific job we are to take, where we are to live specifically, where we are to go to school specifically, what specific vehicle we are to buy, and so on. Whatever God has revealed in His written Word, we are to take that doctrine and apply it to life. God has not made every decision for us! That is the liberty of grace! God does not treat us like children, making every choice for us.

Notice how the Apostle Paul took the doctrine that God had revealed to him, and used his brain to apply those verses to life. Paul was not acting independently of himself; he knew God wanted His Gospel to be preached, lost people to be saved, and Christian people to be edified in Jesus Christ. Yet, Paul did not pray for God to make decisions for him as to how he should accomplish them. Paul took the doctrine he did know and applied it to life as best as he could. As an adult son of God, Paul made decisions that pleased God.

  • 1 Corinthians 2:2: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
  • 2 Corinthians 1:15: “And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit.”
  • 2 Corinthians 2:1: “But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:1: “Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone;”
  • 1 Corinthians 16:12: “As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time.”

Beloved, we are to take the sound Bible doctrine that God has revealed in His Word to us, the Pauline epistles (Romans through Philemon), believe them, and apply them to life as best we can. If we make a mistake, we fix it. Growing in grace comes with making mistakes; the goal is to better understand and apply Bible verses every time. Find more verses to apply to the situation, and better apply the verses you already know. Contrary to Calvinistic claims, God has not made every decision for us in eternity past. He has not designed every detail of our life in advance. He has given us free will; He will never take away our free will. Let us make choices that honor and please Him.

Also see:
» How do I pray the Pauline way?
» What is the Lord’s will for my Christian life?
» What were Urim and Thummim?