Biblical Prayer: God promises to answer all prayers…
Exodus 22:23, 27b; Psalms 91:14-15, 34:15, 17; Zechariah 13:9
Psalms 37:4-5; 65:2
Isaiah 58:9, 65:24, 30:19; Jeremiah 29:11-14, 33:2-3
Matthew 18:19-20; Mark 11:23-24
More About Biblical Prayer
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Exodus 22:23, 27b; Psalms 91:14-15, 34:15, 17; Zechariah 13:9 (9/19/08)
The saddest words I ever hear at church are "God didn't answer that prayer." This sentence makes me sad for two reasons. First, it means that God chose not to deliver whatever was requested, and the speaker was disappointed, hurt, or angry – sometimes all three. But second, it shows that the speaker has some basic misconceptions about prayer.
The Bible contains many promises that God will always answer the prayers of his people. We are reading six of them today.
- Prayer is not a way of aligning God's will with mine; it is a way of aligning my will with God's. Jesus didn't come away from His prayer in Gethsemane saying, "God didn't answer that prayer." He said, "Get up. Let's go."
- Prayer is a petition, not an order blank. An answer that I didn't want and don't like is still an answer.
- God never ignores the prayers of believers; however, sometimes God can't give me what I want; and sometimes it takes a long time before He can sort things out. I once prayed about something constantly for 16 months before I got an answer; I assume God was working on the problem in the meantime, but it was a hard problem. Even then I wasn't crazy about the answer; oh, well.
Today’s Prayer: Dear God, Give me grace to accept your answer, whatever it is. Amen.
Psalms 37:4-5; 65:2 (9/22/08)
God always answers prayer, one way or the other. Many passages suggest that if you do what God wants you to do, God will grant your petition. That seems kind of mercenary, at first glance, and I have read books and heard conversations that dismiss these passages on the grounds that "they reflect a primitive understanding."
Here's an alternative: maybe these passages reflect an extremely sophisticated understanding of my relationship to God. If I, with all my heart, want to do what God wants, then I am very likely to get what I want, because what I want will be completely aligned with God's will. What did Jesus say? "Here's what I want – but nevertheless, thy will be done." More than what he himself wanted, Jesus wanted God's will be to done. And that, he got.
Today’s Prayer: God, Help me to know what you want. Then help me to do it. Amen.
Isaiah 58:9, 65:24, 30:19; Jeremiah 29:11-14, 33:2-3 (9/23/08)
It isn't just the psalmists who say that God always answers prayer. The prophets say the same thing. Jeremiah, the gloomiest prophet of them all, was about half-way convinced that the Israelites had lost their position as God's Chosen People, but even he reports that God promises to answer prayer.
Today’s Prayer: God, You know what help I need better than I do. Help me. Amen.
Matthew 18:19-20; Mark 11:23-24 (9/24/08)
Hebrew and Greek do not have the forms "thou, thee, thy, thine." They do have the forms, "you, y'all." Between archaic forms and failure to distinguish singular from plural, most English translations obscure which "you" is meant in the original language. Most of the time, this isn't a problem, either because the context is clear, or because it doesn't much matter either way. Sometimes I think it is a problem, especially in the promises that God will give us what we pray for.
Many Bible readers are puzzled by today's passages. I believe there are three keys here. First, we need to pray in the name of Jesus. This means praying exactly the way Jesus would pray, for exactly the things He would pray for. It does not mean saying "inJesusnameamen" at the end of an un-Christlike prayer.
Second, it means praying for things that are or would be endorsed by the larger Christian community. You don't have to tell any other person what you are praying about, but you might consider whether other Christians would agree that what you are praying for is appropriate.
Finally, Jesus had absolute confidence that God would give him good gifts. Pray with absolute confidence in God.
Today’s Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, Make me more like you. Amen.
More About Biblical Prayer
The Purpose of Prayer
Conversations with God – Abraham
Conversations with God – Moses
Conversations with God – David and Solomon
Adoration: Sing to the Lord a New Song
When God Speaks
God promises to answer all prayers…
… Except the prayers of the Wicked. But if the Wicked repent, God hears them, too.
Sometimes the answer is “No.”
The disciples talk about prayer.
How Not to Pray
How to Pray: Effectively
How to Pray – Privately
How to Pray – Corporately
Copyright 2008, 2011 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved.
Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the
author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the
Bible-study participants. Thanks to the
Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers
for their support and enthusiasm. All
errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.
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