Means of Growth: Prayer
Dennis McCallum and Gary DeLashmutt
Prayer is communication with God. We cannot imagine a "personal relationship" that is devoid of communication. Scriptural types of prayer include:
- Worship differs from general thanksgiving in that it focuses on verbal acknowledgment and appreciation of who God is, as opposed to what He does (See the Psalms, Romans 11:33). None of the New Testament words for worship are used to refer to a worship service (liturgy). The Old Testament concept of the worship service has been re-interpreted in the New Testament to mean serving God through Christian love, or thanksgiving (Romans 1:9; 12:1; Philippians 2:17,25; Hebrews 12:28, 13:15,16). However, there are examples of believers engaging in worship in the sense described above on an individual basis.
- Thanksgiving involves verbally expressing gratitude for what God has done (1 Thessalonians 5:18). This is emphasized heavily in the New Testament because a thankful attitude is an indicator of faith in God. Note that we do not thank God for all things, but we thank Him in all things. This is because God works even through evil things, although he is not the author of evil (Romans 8:28; James 1:13).
- Petition: asking for your own needs (Philippians 4:6).
- Intercession: asking for others' needs (Ephesians 6:18). This is prayer as ministry, which can alter the history of another person's life (Acts 12:5; Colossians 4:2-4; 1 John 5:16).
- Warfare: means opposing the devil through anticipating his "schemes" (2 Corinthians 2:11), and using the authority of Christ to confound him. This can be done for one's self or on behalf of others (Matthew 12:20; Ephesians 6:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3; 1 Peter 5:1-10).
Scripture indicates that in some cases, God will not act if we do not pray (James 4:2). Also, it should be noted that corporate prayer can be more effective than individual prayer (Matthew 18:19).
Several attitudes are necessary for effective prayer.
- You should pray in faith. That is, you should approach God with expectant confidence that He is able to act and that He wants to act. However, it is possible to pray in faith only when we know God's will. Unless Scripture speaks to your request in precept or principle, you are free to make your request, but it will not necessarily be granted. Prayers which are not according to God's will will not be granted, no matter how much persistence or faith is exercised (see 2 Corinthians 12:8-10; James 4:3; 1 John 5:14,15).
- Praying "in the name of Jesus" means that we pray according to his Word (see John 15:7; 1 John 5:14,15).
- Prayer should be honest and simple. Elaborate, showy, or memorized prayers are to be avoided, since they are impersonal and tend to make self instead of God the center of attention (Matthew 6:5-7).
- You should be alert when you pray, so that you will be sensitive to God's conviction and illumination, and so that you will be vigilant against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:18).
- Christ's prohibition against "meaningless repetition" should be understood in the sense of chanting, not persistence. Persistence in prayer is commanded elsewhere (Luke 11:5-10).
- The Bible does not explain why believers should fast. It seems possible that fasting may be effective for promoting concentration in prayer. It is also possible that fasting is simply the result of being too busy praying to eat (Acts 13:3). We must reject however, the notion that fasting makes prayer more effective by impressing God with the urgency of our request. The phrase "and fasting" in Mark 9:29 is not found in the better manuscripts. Note that "wrestling," "laboring" or "striving" in prayer should be understood as striving with the enemy, or with the flesh, not with God (Romans 15:30; Colossians 4:12).
Go through the following verses on prayer and distill the interpretation of each one.
- Matthew 6:5-13
- Matthew 7:7-11
- Matthew 18:19
- Matthew 23:14
- Matthew 26:39-42
- Mark. 9:23,24
- Luke 11:5-10
- Luke 18:1-8,11
- John 15:7
- John 14:13,14
- Acts 12:5
- Romans 8:26,27
- Romans 12:12
- Romans 15:30
- 1 Corinthians 14:16
- 2 Corinthians 12:8,9
- Ephesians 5:19
- Ephesians 6:18
- Philippians 4:6
- Colossians 3:16
- Colossians 4:2-4,12
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17,18
- James 1:6
- James 4:2,3
- James 5:14-18
- 1 Peter 3:7
- 1 John 5:14,15