Category Archives: PRAYER

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?

How can I have an effectual prayer life?

HOW CAN I HAVE AN EFFECTUAL PRAYER LIFE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Friend, if you are familiar with sermons on prayer, you have heard at least once a reference to Elijah’s “effectual” praying. James 5:16-18 says: “[16] Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. [17] Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. [18] And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” Why did Elijah pray like this, what was so special about his prayer that God answered it, and how can we have our prayers answered of God? We answer these questions in our special-edition Bible Q&A article #300.

A preacher recently said that his ministry has received over 93 million prayer requests through the years. He estimated that there were “several million” answers to prayer. Yet, what happened to the tens of millions of prayer requests that went “unanswered?” Did God not deem them worthy of an answer? If you were to survey Christians about their prayer lives, there would be an overwhelming response and great concern about unanswered prayer. For example, the aforementioned preacher discussed how he had even prayed over a lifeless girl’s body, and how God never did bring her back! Why is it that people often pray for one outcome and the very opposite occurs?

To further complicate the matter, Jesus said He would do whatsoever we asked in His name: “[13] And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. [14] If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it(John 14:13-14). Matthew 18:19 is often appealed to regarding prayer: “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” And yet, when two Christians join in prayer, believing exactly what Jesus said, the verses do not work the way one would expect. Why?

Can you see why unanswered prayer is such a sensitive subject? What was to be a blessing is now a burden! What is going on? Does the Almighty throw away prayer requests? If our prayer requests go unanswered, then why bother to pray at all? Elijah in James 5:16-18 provides valuable insight into this most personal and most perplexing topic.

PRAYER: WHAT BELIEVERS DO

The Apostle James, writing to believing Israel (1:1), says in James 5:16: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Prayer, in the Bible, is something that “righteous” people do, that believers do, not lost people. That being said, there is no so-called “sinner’s prayer” in the Bible for lost people to pray to be saved. Saved people pray in the Bible.

If you were to take a concordance and find and consider the Bible verses concerning prayer (especially the contents of believers’ actual prayers), you would see that they were always mindful of God’s Word to them. God spoke to them first and then they spoke to God: prayer according to God’s will is absolutely, unquestionably, essential.

According to James, when a saved person prays fervently (intensely, wholeheartedly), that prayer is “effectual” (it will bring about the result that God desired). It will “avail much.” There is much profit in prayer, and James says that these believing Jews are to pray for one another, that they be healed. He provides an Old Testament example, Elijah. By the way, “Elias” is “Elijah’s” Hebrew name in Greek (the language of the New Testament Scriptures)—the Greek language does not have a “j” or an “h.”

Elijah lived in a time of great spiritual wickedness in Israel (the northern kingdom, the 10 northern tribes). King Ahab and Queen Jezebel made Baal worship the official state religion of the northern kingdom. This pagan idolatry seduced the Jews, drawing them away from JEHOVAH God (in direct violation of the first and second commandments of Exodus 20:1-6). As a believer and a prophet, Elijah knew God’s Word to him before he prayed to God.

PRAYER: ELIJAH’S MINISTRY

We read in 1 Kings chapter 16: “[29] And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years. [30] And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him. [31] And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. [32] And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. [33] And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.”

Yes, Ahab was a devilish king (the perfect match for devilish Queen Jezebel!!). As if his predecessor Jeroboam were not wicked enough, Ahab outdid him… and the other previous wicked kings of the northern kingdom, too! Ahab “did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him.” He married a pagan woman, someone who rejected JEHOVAH God, and then he built a house and an altar for the pagan god Baal in JEHOVAH’S land! He also made a “grove” (another place of false religious worship). “And Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.” The nation followed him in that error! This rank paganism is the context of the Prophet Elijah’s ministry. Now we begin to see why he prayed as he did in James 5:17-18.

In the closing verses of the sixteenth chapter of 1 Kings, we learn of the ascension of a new king in Israel (the northern kingdom)—Ahab. As Aquila and Priscilla made a great husband-wife ministry team for the LORD in the New Testament Scriptures, Ahab and Jezebel made a great husband-wife “ministry” team for the Devil in the Old Testament Scriptures! Ahab and Jezebel encouraged the common Jews to worship the pagan god Baal: Ahab built a house for Baal, an altar for Baal, and a grove (trees carved into poles used as a heathen shrine). Later on, Jezebel did not think twice about eliminating competition—she killed the prophets (messengers) of JEHOVAH, even attempting to slay Elijah!

Israel’s decline into paganism under Ahab and Jezebel, both in its leadership and general public, caused the Holy Spirit to move in the Prophet Elijah and confront Ahab: “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1). Of all judgments, why did Elijah select a drought?

Elijah knew that Israel’s operating system was the Mosaic Law. Moses had said in Deuteronomy 11:16-17: “[16] Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; [17] And then the LORD’S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.” Elijah simply studied his Bible to find out what JEHOVAH would do in response to Israel’s pagan idolatry, and Elijah prayed for that to happen.

With idolatrous Ahab and Jezebel leading Israel, Baal (devil) worship infiltrated the northern 10 Jewish tribes. The seventeenth chapter of 1 Kings states that Elijah the prophet confronted Ahab, and told him that it would not rain for some time. Over 600 years earlier, JEHOVAH had warned Israel through Moses that, if the nation embraced heathen religion (idolatry), a drought was imminent and Israel’s crops would fail (Deuteronomy 11:16-17). Elijah simply prayed in line with what God was doing with Israel concerning the Mosaic Law—if Israel failed to keep the Law, if she worshipped and served other gods, she would be cursed of the one true God.

The drought came, just as Elijah prayed and Moses predicted. It affected Elijah, but God miraculously took care of him using ravens and a poor widow woman (1 Kings 17:2-24). By the time chapter 18 opens, it is “the third year” of the drought. God instructs Elijah to go to Ahab and say on His behalf, “I will send rain upon the earth” (verse 1). There is a “sore [severe] famine” in the land, but God says that it is coming to an end. Ahab does not repent at God’s Word through Elijah (unbelieving Ahab is ignorant of Deuteronomy 11:16,17). Instead of confessing his sin of idolatry, or encouraging Israel to do likewise, Ahab searches desperately for food for the horses and mules, that all the beasts not die (verse 5). Ironically, Ahab, guilty of corrupting Israel, asked Elijah in verse 17, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?”

While we must now break away from the story of Elijah, Ahab, and Jezebel (you can read the resolution in 1 Kings chapters 18-21), we will return to the subject of unanswered prayer, its cause and cure.

When God made the covenant of Law with Israel at Sinai, Moses made it very clear to them that they had to obey all of God’s commandments to receive His blessings (Exodus 19:3-6). If they broke that contract, He judged them, not to get even but to reform them (which reformation they usually refused). According to chapter 20, verses 1-6, the first two of the Ten Commandments forbade Israel from worshipping and serving other gods, and from making graven (carved) images. During the reign of evil Ahab, Elijah prayed for a drought because that is what God said He would do in the case of Israel’s idolatry. A drought came and lasted 3½ years (cf. James 5:16-18; Luke 4:25,26).

What if Elijah had prayed for a global flood? That would have certainly gotten Ahab’s attention! After all, did God not promise in Genesis chapter 6 that He would flood the world because of its wickedness? Certainly. Why did Elijah not behave like today’s “name-it-and-claim-it” proponents, grabbing random verses, ripping them from their contexts, attempting to make God grant his selfish desires?

Firstly, Elijah recognized the dispensational boundary between Genesis chapter 9 and his day. God was not dealing with Israel on the basis of the promises He had made to Noah and his contemporaries. Genesis chapter 6 was not God’s Word to or about Israel. However, Deuteronomy was God’s Word to and about Israel, and because Deuteronomy was in God’s will for Israel, Elijah prayed in accordance with it. Secondly, God promised never to flood the world again (Genesis 9:8-17). Had Elijah not recognized these two facts, had Elijah not recognized God’s Word to him (as a member of the nation Israel), his prayer would have gone unanswered and he would have been disappointed and confused.

This corrected view of Elijah’s prayer thus adjusts our view of prayer.

PRAYER: BELIEVING AND SPEAKING GOD’S WORD TO YOU

Elijah believed God’s Word to him. He had a dispensational view of the Scriptures: he did not “name and claim” for Israel verses that God had not spoken to or about Israel. Elijah’s prayer life was patterned after God’s Word to the nation Israel, of which he was a member. There was pagan idolatry in Israel; Deuteronomy 11:16-17 predicted that God would shut up the heaven and prevent rain from watering Israel’s crops; and Elijah’s will was to pray in perfect accordance with JEHOVAH’S will. Elijah was not disappointed because He did not try to make God do something He never said He would do. If only the average church member could take to heart and practice the integrity with which Elijah handled the Holy Bible.

Prayer meetings and prayer requests prove most people are asking God to do something He never said He would do for us. No wonder there are so many unanswered prayers! People are grabbing Israel’s verses, promises God made to Israel, and making as though those verses are to or about us. Preachers talk about literally raising the dead as Jesus did; or literally laying hands on sick people as Jesus did and having them miraculously recover without medical intervention; or God miraculously adding zeros to the end of our bank accounts as He did with Abraham, Isaac, Job, and King Solomon; or God sending angels to protect us as He did with the apostles, the kingdom of Judah, and Peter.

Dear friends, unanswered prayer is not because God is unable or uninterested. Remember, we cannot limit God but we cannot force Him, either. Still, God is God, and He can limit Himself. If He says He is not going to do something, we would be unwise to think that we were God by making Him do what we want.

Once, I spoke with a dear Christian woman who was confused about prayer. She was surprised to learn that the so-called “Lord’s Prayer” had nothing to do with us in the Dispensation of Grace. Yes, strange as it sounds, a prayer that 99.9 percent of Christendom has repeated, and still repeats, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over as though it affects us, is actually a prayer that has nothing to do with what God is doing today! While many use that prayer as a model prayer, they have not studied their Bibles to learn there are four model prayers especially for the Body of Christ. (For more info, please see our study on “The ‘Lord’s Prayer’” linked at the end of this study.)

When a Christian comes to understand dispensational Bible study, his or her prayer life falls apart. It happened to me, and many others I know. They learn that they were either praying like Israel (the “Lord’s Prayer”) or praying like heathen (mindless, repetitious, man-made prescribed prayers). It will be a happy day in the lives of millions of Christians when they learn that God’s spokesman to them is the Apostle Paul, “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). They will save themselves years upon years, yea decades, of confusion, heartache, and disappointment. (Still, the vast majority of professing Christians rebel at dispensational Bible study, refusing to break their erroneous prayer habits because that would contradict long-held tradition.)

Beloved, it bears repeating—prayer is designed to be a response of God’s Word to you. Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, are God’s Word to you, so if you are unfamiliar with God’s Word to you, you will be praying apart from God’s will. You will not see God work because you will not know what He is doing. Indeed, dispensational Bible study revolutionizes your Bible understanding and your prayer life.

Elijah could no more make God bring in a global flood as in the days of Noah, than we can make God fulfill Israel’s verses in our Dispensation of Grace. As Elijah recognized the dispensational boundary between his day and Noah’s day, so we acknowledge the dispensational boundary between Elijah’s day and our day. As a friend and coworker in the ministry always says, “We have never been big enough a day in our lives to make God do something He is not doing.”

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “Continuing instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). Certainly, prayer is a vital part of Christian living, but unfortunately, too many believers pray like Israel or like heathen. There rarely is any genuine Christian prayer, so there rarely is any answered prayer!

So, if we are not to pray like Israel, and not to pray like heathen, how then should we to pray? Just as Elijah let God’s spokesman to him, Moses, teach him how to pray, we turn to God’s spokesman to us, Paul, and let him teach us how to pray. However the Holy Spirit prayed for us through Paul, how Paul prayed in the Holy Spirit for us, is how the Holy Spirit will pray for other Christians through us, how we ought to pray in the Holy Spirit.

Friends, Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, make it so plain what God is doing today. His will has been clearly revealed, and we are to study those books and make it our will to pray that His will be accomplished. We are not making God doing anything, but rather reminding ourselves of what He already said He would do. Romans 1:8-12, 1 Corinthians 1:4-8, Ephesians 1:15-23, Ephesians 3:14-21, Philippians 1:3-11, Colossians 1:3-12, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 2 Timothy 1:3-5, and Philemon 4-6 are all instances of how the Apostle Paul prayed for other Christians. The Berean Bible student will study and consider them, and adjust his or her prayer life accordingly.

Firstly, Paul thanked God for other believers. He constantly reminded himself that he was not alone in the Christian ambassadorship. Other people were in the world also suffering for Jesus Christ’s sake, but God’s grace was working in them and so it would work in him in spite of the opposition. He was continually mindful that, as an apostle, God had commissioned him to take care of the Church the Body of Christ. The grace saints in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, Thessalonica, and in other cities and regions, they were his fruit. It was important that he thus constantly remind himself of God’s Word to him and them, that he see that God’s will for him be accomplished regarding them!

Secondly, Paul prayed that these Christians grow spiritually. He did not want them to be “babes in Christ,” but fully mature sons of God! The Apostle wanted them to “come unto the knowledge of truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He wanted them to understand the doctrines of grace as he had come to know them from Jesus Christ Himself. He prayed that God’s grace would work mightily in them to produce the life of Jesus Christ in and through them! He wanted them to understand God’s power, that the power of God that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, would work in them when they would believe those grace doctrines.

Let us study Pauline prayer in greater detail.

PRAYER: THE SPEECH OF THE SOUL IN LIGHT OF THE RENEWED MIND

All too often today prayer is reduced to mere posture and procedure—kneel at the railing, or enter your prayer closet, cross your heart, close your eyes, bow your head, use prayer beads or prayer wheels, and recite what you have read in a prayer book. Dear friends, prayer at its fundamental level is none of those things. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Are you going to stay kneeling literally every moment? Should your eyes be closed every second? Is your head to be bowed 24 hours a day, seven days a week? If prayer is kneeling, closing eyes, and bowing heads, then yes, yes, and yes. The truth is, prayer in the Bible is not some formalistic practice, so no, no, and no!

When barren Hannah prayed to the LORD, she told the priest Eli, “I have poured out my soul before the LORD(1 Samuel 1:15). David wrote to Israel, “Ye people, pour out your heart before him (Psalm 62:8). Romans 10:10 says, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” The “heart,” our soul, our innermost being, is that which we use to believe God’s Word. Prayer is speaking to God what is in our hearts, and if we have studied and believed our Bible, then we will be speaking to God what He told us. Again, this is consistent view of prayer, regardless of dispensation.

Brethren, we are to be constantly reminding ourselves of Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. Meditate on these things” (1 Timothy 4:15). Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things” (2 Timothy 2:7). Day in and day out, we should be thinking about God’s Word to us, reminding ourselves of what He said to us. This is Pauline prayer. This is answered prayer.

PRAYER: HOW OUR APOSTLE PAUL LEARNED TO PRAY

Rabbi Shaul was one of the most educated Mosaic scholars of his day. From a very early age, he had studied the Mosaic Law. Learning those Old Testament scrolls, he came to understand that whenever his people Israel suffered any sickness/plague, war, calamity, et cetera, it was divine punishment. He noted how Israel’s conversion and prayer resulted in God removing the problem.

Once “Rabbi Shaul” became “Apostle Paul,” he was intensely persecuted. To Gentiles and Jews alike, he was a renegade Jew, a peculiar fellow. Formerly a religious leader who could not stand to even hear the name “Jesus of Nazareth,” now a “religious leader” who could not stand to be silent about the name of Jesus Christ! Now that he was not preaching Judaism, Israel was after him! Now that he was preaching an illegal religion, Rome was after him! Now that he was not preaching blasphemy, Satan was after him!

We read in 2 Corinthians chapter 12: “[6] For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. [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.” Satan afflicted Paul with something that constantly irritated him (there is Scriptural evidence that it was likely ophthalmic in nature). Three times Paul prayed to the Lord for deliverance, and Paul was shocked to learn the Lord’s answer.

The ascended, risen, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ revealed the mystery to the Apostle Paul over the course of nearly 35 years. This information was completely different from what God had revealed to the Old Testament prophets, the writings Paul had studied intensely when he was lost (see Romans 16:25,26, Ephesians 3:1-12, and Colossians 1:23-27). Now that God had ushered in a new dispensation, Paul had to think differently about God. He had to quit praying according to the old divine revelation, and pray according to the new divine revelation.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 12, after talking about the various visions and revelations of Jesus Christ he had, Paul discusses how he was humbled: “[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.”

“We know not what we should pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26b). Since there was more revelation from God coming, Paul was, in 2 Corinthians 12:8, not praying according to the new program. He was still thinking of God’s promise to deliver Israel from problems. Verse 9, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” There, in that awful, vexing circumstance, Paul learned one thing—God had given the grace, the capacity, to endure it. Rather than deliverance, Jesus Christ promised inner strength, inner fortification, inner power, to bear the trouble. Paul had to readjust his view of problems and prayer, and we will let him tell us how we should go about doing it.

It is no secret that there is much suffering in this fallen world: where there is sin, sorrow is sure to follow. But, because of prayer, there does not have to be misery. My heart truly goes out to people who are suffering and hurting, and who are confused about unanswered prayers for deliverance. It is with the utmost care that we remind them to look at their problems the way the Apostle Paul finally learned to look at his “thorn in the flesh.”

Initially, Paul, assuming it was harmful, begged the Lord three times for deliverance. Verse 9 of 2 Corinthians chapter 12 says, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” In other words, “Paul, I have something far better in mind for you than deliverance! You are weak but I am strong! I have already given you enough grace, an inner capacity, to handle your problem!” What was Paul’s reply? “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Paul finally saw the value in times of suffering. Jesus Christ’s power would bear him up. Rather than the troubles destroying him, He would use them to Paul’s advantage.

The Berean Bible student will notice, “He said unto me…,” a direct reference to God’s spoken Word. We have to see what God says to us. We find God’s Word to us about suffering in other passages such as Romans 5:1-5, Romans 8:18-28, 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. There are so many dear precious saints praying to escape their problems, when Jesus Christ has already said He wants to live in them in the midst of those difficulties! Let us now see how we are to pray in difficult circumstances.

PRAYER: A NEW WAY TO PRAY IN DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES

Many precious Christians all around the world, suffering various difficult circumstances, are fervently praying for God to remove those tribulations (remember Paul?). Yet, the troubles remain (remember Paul?). They wonder, “Does God love me? Do I have enough faith? Is there unconfessed sin hindering my prayers? Am I even really saved?” Such disappointment, misery, and confusion!

Beloved, remember, prayer is talking to God in light of His Word to you. The most basic fallacy in modern-day prayer-practice and prayer-preaching is to grab God’s Word to Israel, and make it apply to us. Whether it is “the Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13), or “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do” (John 14:14), or “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:19), none of these verses apply to us. God the Holy Spirit never gave us the Church the Body of Christ any such verses in Romans through Philemon. In fact, as we already saw in Paul’s epistles (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), we find God saying “No” three times to Paul’s prayer for deliverance.

Surely, God’s dealings with Israel and God’s dealings are different. In Israel’s program, calamity was a sign of disobedience and God’s punishment of it. However, when we come to this the Dispensation of Grace, problems are not something to flee. God is not mad at us; we are forgiven and accepted in Christ. We suffer trouble in this fallen creation, but we need to always be mindful that God promises to get us through our trying times, not take us out of them. In difficult circumstances, we need to repeat to Him in prayer what He told us in Scripture.

The “dispensations,” or sets of divine revelation that mankind is to believe and obey during precise time periods, change throughout time. Prayers are spoken according to God’s instructions specific to that time, so the contents of believers’ prayers vary from Genesis through Revelation. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). There is much profit in prayer today, provided that we pray in accordance with the “Dispensation of Grace” (Ephesians 3:2—Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon). Prayer reminds us of the Scriptures applicable to the current dispensation and our life circumstances: if we pray in accordance with a former dispensation (such as God’s Word to Israel), prayer will not impact our Christian lives as God intended, thus resulting in more unbelief, disappointment, and confusion.

Two of the best prayer verses for this dispensation is what our Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6,7: “[6] Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. [7] And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” What great memory verses!

We should “pray without ceasing” and “in every thing give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:17,18). Regardless of circumstances, we pray “in every thing,” and we are thankful “in every thing.” Remembering God’s Word to us about those circumstances will give us His wisdom and peace in those circumstances. We need to constantly think about God’s Word to us, whether about marriage, employment, schooling, parenting, finances, illness, or whatever—Paul’s epistles say something about all of these life topics. Start by reading Romans chapter 12, Ephesians chapter 4, and Colossians chapter 3. Beloved, when we pray the Pauline way, we will guard ourselves from frustration and bewilderment, and our prayers will “avail much!”

Friend, have you ever wondered why, even after people pray for angelic protection (citing Psalm 91:11-12), they are injured or killed in some accident? Or, why the sick die after they are anointed with “holy oil” and prayed over for healing (quoting James 5:13-15)? Or, why people pray for God to send them “miracle checks” in the mail to pay their outrageous bills (citing Deuteronomy 8:18), and they receive no such checks? Why prayers for vehicles, spouses, houses, job promotions, et cetera, usually never come about? (Unfortunately, these precious people lack dispensational Bible study, the key to Bible understanding, and desperately seeking a resolution to the confusion, they fall prey to “ministry” shams and scams.)

Paul’s epistles never mention guardian angels. Angels have no ministry to us: they do not serve us as they did Israel. Paul and his ministry companions suffered a variety of problems. No “guardian angels” rescued Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:22-27 (a passage replete with stonings, beatings, shipwrecks, ambushes, imprisonments, hunger, thirst, weariness, painfulness, poverty, nakedness, and cold)! After experiencing this partial listing of problems, Paul’s life ended… with evil Emperor Nero beheading him!

The Apostle’s extensive abuse and excessive torture endured over his 30 years of travelling, he undoubtedly had health issues (massive scar tissue, maiming, maybe broken bones and/or lameness). Some of his “infirmities” are in 2 Corinthians 12:10 and Galatians 4:13-15. How did Paul ever survive those hardships? How did he not give up? It was God’s grace working in him. He remembered God’s grace was sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). God’s grace was sufficient for ill Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23) and sick Trophimus (2 Timothy 4:20), and for the poor Macedonian Christians (2 Corinthians 8:1,2). This grace is sufficient for us too, and we are mindful of it when praying in our circumstances, good and bad.

Some have erroneously concluded that unless we use the same words Elijah used, we will not see results from God. The greater fallacy, however, is to mix our Dispensation of Grace with Israel’s Dispensation of Law. While we can pray for God to demonstrate Himself as when He did with Israel (signs, miracles, wonders), God will not do it because He never said it to us. As we saw “long ago,” God hearkened to Elijah because he was quoting Scripture that applied to him. Elijah valued (believed) God’s Word, he wanted God’s will accomplished, and because he prayed for God to do what He had already said He would do, Elijah saw God’s response!

What is God’s will in this the Dispensation of Grace? “[God our Saviour] Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Today, God wants lost people to trust Jesus Christ (Paul’s Gospel; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4) to be saved from a devil’s hell, and He wants saved people to trust His Word to them (Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon; Romans 11:13) to be saved from a devil’s lifestyle!

Firstly, we should pray for lost people to be saved from their sins by trusting Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as the sufficient payment for their sins. Secondly, we need to pray for fellow Christians to learn how to understand and enjoy the Bible. Thus, we will be motivated to share the Gospel of Grace with lost people, and share dispensational Bible truths with Christians. God wants law-abiding leaders and citizens, godly husbands and fathers, virtuous wives and mothers, obedient children, hardworking employees, benevolent employers, and faithful saints who maintain the local assembly. Beloved, honestly, we Christians need to quit wasting our time praying denominational prayers and we need to start praying for these things! Just imagine such transformation!

When we pray for things and do not get them, it is not because God is unconcerned or unloving. Oh, dear saint, never entertain such foolishness! Unanswered prayer results when we demand He do for us what He said He would do only for Israel. Rather than praying as denominational tradition encourages—asking God to remove or protect us from problems (“give me good health, safe trips, ‘miracle debt cancellation,’” and so on)—we remember God’s attitude concerning contentment, that Jesus Christ strengthens us to handle all circumstances, good and bad (Philippians 4:11-13).

Father God is concerned, for He gave us His power to endure our difficulties. We find value in tribulations, for these troubles work patience, which works experience, which works hope, and hope makes us not ashamed, “because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:1-5). Troubling times remind us that we are weak, insufficient in and of ourselves; however, God’s grace, love, and power will get us through them. We rely more on Him, experiencing more fully and using the provisions He gave us in His Son: His peace consoles us in our difficult circumstances (2 Corinthians 1:3-11).

Our focus should not be on what we can see (physical circumstances), but, by faith, seeing what we cannot physically see—God’s Word working in us as we endure those troubles (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). “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” (Romans 8:18; see also verses 19-28). The indwelling Holy Spirit takes this sound doctrine that we believe and pray (Romans 8:26,27), and activates it (1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 4:12), causing us to not only understand it but enabling us to have the life the doctrine describes.

CONCLUSION

James 5:16-18: “[16] Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. [17] Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. [18] And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

Why did Elijah pray like this, what was so special about his prayer that God answered it, and how can we have our prayers answered of God?

Prayer, at its fundamental level, is talking to God in light of His Word to us. When saints in Israel’s program prayed, they saw visible manifestations of divine intervention. They saw angels, they saw miraculous healings and raisings of the dead, and so on, because that is what God said He would do for them (“the Jews require a sign;” 1 Corinthians 1:22). What did Jesus say to Israel? “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe!” (John 4:48). Actually, according to Jesus, anyone asking for a miracle today is really saying, “God, I need a miracle before I believe!”

Dispensational Bible study guards against such Bible mishandling. There are no such promises of signs, miracles, and wonders, given to us in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. Rather, God is working invisibly today. “We walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Today, God’s Word is working in us when we believe it, to “renew our minds” (Romans 12:2), to “renew our inner man” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Paul, our pattern, was never spared trouble. Rather, he had God’s power so that the trouble would not destroy him. This is our identity in Jesus Christ, our provisions in Jesus Christ, to handle all circumstances, good or bad (Philippians 4:13).

We should not use prayer as a “use-the-right-words-to-get-something-from-God” scheme. Prayer is simply an intelligent understanding to what God has already said in His Word, what He has already given us in Christ, and then believing and repeating it back to Him so that that Word works in us. Prayer is designed to be a blessing, not a burden as religious confusion makes it. Dispensational Bible study is thus critical to our prayer life, for without right division, we would have no prayer life at all! Let us never forget to pray the Pauline way! 🙂

Also see:
» How should I pray?
» Should I pray “The Lord’s Prayer?”
» Should I pray or speak in tongues?

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