Chapter 12: THE BIBLICAL PATTERN
IS FOLLOWED IN PRAYER
by Alvin Jennings
Members of the
church of our Lord are taught to pray. Any Christian who loves
God surely will consider prayer to be a most essential evidence of
love for God and a right relationship with God. Since there are many
abuses of prayer one may pray and still not have assurance that God
hears and accepts his or her petitions.
LOVE FOR GOD AND
The Pharisees loved
to pray, but their prayers were not acceptable to God (Matthew 6:5;
15:7-8). Their long prayers, uttered to be heard and praised by men,
received no reward from the heavenly Father. Empty repetitions in
prayer do not reach the ears of God; words without thoughts may
please men but they are a mockery to God. "God hear- eth not
sinners: but if a man be a worshipper of God, and do his will, him
he heareth." There must be proof that we love God before we can pray
acceptably (1 John 3:18).
Evidence that we
genuinely love God is shown when we believe in Jesus Christ and obey
his commandments (1 John 2:1-5). To know Christ and to keep his
commandments is not grievous (1 John 5:3). This involves believing
(1 John 3:23; 5:1), turning from sin (1 John 3:6), confessing faith
in Christ (1 John 4:2,15), being born again into God's family (John
3:5, Acts 2:38, Romans 6:1-6), and striving to observe all things he
commanded until death (Matt. 28:20).
our loved for God in obedience, we are cleansed of sin by the blood
of Christ, and are added to the family of God, the body, the church
of Christ (Acts 2:47; Galatians 3:26-27). After Christ established
his church in 33 A.D., there is no record of any man being told to
pray until after his sins were washed away through obeying the
gospel (see 1 Peter 1:22). For this reason, in churches
of Christ no "mourner's bench" or "altar to pray through" will be
found. Prayer is a privilege for those in the spiritual
family, the church, rather than the means of entrance into it.
are not saved through prayer from their alien sins (those sins of
their former lives before they came to Christ), yet they must come
in a prayerful, penitent and humble attitude like Saul of Tarsus did
(Acts 9:11) when they inquire what they must do to be saved (Acts
2:37-38). After obeying Jesus' commandments for salvation (Mark
16:16), then prayer is a daily essential in the personal life of
every Christian (1 Thessalonians 5:17). It is also prominent in the
worship assemblies of the saints. Through repentance and
prayer, forgiveness of sins is obtained by the child of God -
forgiveness for his shortcomings continued from day to day through
ignorance, weakness or negligence (Acts 8:14-24).
FOR WHAT DOES THE
In addition to
praying to God for forgiveness (1 John 1:9), members of Christ's
church are to pray for "all things" (Philippians 4:6) which would
include the following:
1. Adoration, and
Praise of God. God's holy name is to be hallowed when we pray (Matt.
6:9). We thus place God where he belongs - far above us,
majestic, perfect, sinless, great, pure, ever-present kind and good.
"We are dust" (Psalm 103:14) and worthless in relation to the
Almighty God, ever-to-be adored.
Thank God for everything! For the gift of the Holy Spirit, for the
gift of God's love, for Christ, his church, our Christian brothers
and sisters, our families, and all God's innumerable blessings. Many
Psalms are outpourings of gratitude in prayer (see Psalms 8, 9, 30,
35, 103, 117, and 118 as examples).
3. Wisdom. God will
grant wisdom to those who ask (2 Chronicles 1:1-13; James 1:5). We
gain knowledge of God's will through a study of the Scriptures (2
Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17; Psalm 111:5), but the ability to discreetly
use the knowledge comes through prayer.
Members of the churches of Christ pray for preachers and teachers of
the gospel and for elders (2 Thess. 3:1). They pray for all
Christians (Colossians 4: 2-3; Hebrews 13:18) as well as for
government officials and rulers (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Jesus
taught us to love our enemies and to pray for them (Matt. 5:43-45).
Christ died for us "while we were yet sinners" (Romans 5:8), so it
behooves his disciples to love and pray for all men, including them
that persecute you."
5. Deliverance from
Temptation. Jesus told his disciples to "watch and pray, that ye
enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the
flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41). He said further in the model
prayer, "And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the
evil one" (Matt. 6:13). God does not tempt us (James 1:12-16), but
he does allow us to be tempted. He will not "suffer you to be
tempted above what you are able to bear; but will with the
temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to
endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).
6. Peace. The world
needs peace today, but it cannot be obtained in the many ways by
which man has sought it in the past. Read Philippians 4:6-7 for
God's way to obtain a lasting peace.
7. Unity. Jesus,
the Head and founder of the true church, prayed that all disciples
who believe on him might be united together with each other, the
same as he and his Father are "one" (John 17:20-21). Since the
prayer life of Jesus is an example for members of his church, we
should pray for all Christians to be one, to be "perfectly joined
together" in one mind, in the one body, the church (1 Cor. 1:10-13).
Divisions over names and doctrines are sinful and we are commanded
to avoid the party spirit within the church. We should therefore
pray fervently that denominational divisions be utterly and quickly
destroyed. If we "obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29) and speak
only "as the oracles of God" (1 Pet. 4:11) there will be unity in
the one body, the church for which Christ died and to which he adds
the saved (Acts 20:28; 2:47). Truth and unity constitute a great
part of Jesus' prayers to the Father.
When we pray "in
faith" and "according to God's will," God will hear us and will
answer our prayers (Matt. 7:7-11; 21:22; 1 John 5:14). Some who pray
are not heard because they ask for things to gratify their own lust
(James 4:1-3). Prayers must be honest, sincere (Psalm 17:1; Isaiah
29:13) and humble (Luke 18:14).
There is "one God,
and one mediator between God and man, himself man, Christ Jesus" (1
Tim. 2:5). In spite of this plain teaching in the Bible, today the
religious world recognizes literally hundreds of mediators. Some say
to pray through Mary; others say, "No, pray through Mohammed" or
some other prophet or man. Friend, there is no priest on earth
through whom God is approached. Pray to God through the one he has
appointed (Heb. 4:14-16; Col. 3:17; John 14:4).
Can you give a
biblical example of prayers that were not acceptable to God?
What Bible teaching
regarding prayer is violated by praying memorized prayers with (or
Does God hear and
answer prayers of those who have not obeyed the gospel of Christ,
and who are not in the spiritual family, the church?
Can you give any
Bible reference for women leading in a public prayer in assemblies
when men were present? What does this suggest about church
leadership today in the light of such passages as 1 Timothy 2:8-12?
Name some things
for which Christians are to pray.