Perhaps the greatest written statement regarding prayer is found in the Epistle of James:
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops”. – James 5:14-16.
Of course, there is an unspoken assumption by James that his instruction is addressed solely to true believers – those who are already saved and Spirit-filed (Born Again). It is an essential reality that unless a person is truly Born Again (Spirit-filled), they are NOT in right relationship with God.
“You are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.” – Romans 8:9.10.
The infilling of the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God, The Spirit of Christ) is the fulfillment of Christ’s promise.
“I’ll ask the Father to give you another Advocate to help you & be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world can’t accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives WITH you & will be IN you”. – Jn. 12:16,17.
One of the great “Mysteries of the Faith” is that the ‘natural man’ cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God. They are merely foolishness to him. Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1Cor.2:14). The ONLY solution to this is receiving the Holy Spirit through the ‘new-birth’ (becoming Born Again) as Jesus explained to Nicodemus in the Gospel of John, chapter 5.
Naturally, communication is vital in any relationship. In Man’s relationship with God (Who is Spirit) we must be enabled to effectively utilize the ONLY means of correspondence in the spiritual realm. Many who are NOT truly Spirit-filled, Born Again believers often wrongly imagine that they are in right relationship (and therefore can communicate) with God. They perceive Christianity as a mere religion that rewards adherence to Christ’s teachings with right status with God. They ‘work out’ their faith in the flesh (not having the Spirit), wrongly thinking that such good works please God.
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied , and have cast out devils, and done many wonderful works in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I NEVER knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” – Mt. 7:22,23.
A lack of clear understanding about the spiritual realm causes much confusion and frustration regarding the proper reason for and use of prayer. Too few people realize that there is a distinct difference between the natural and spiritual realms. Some do not even acknowledge the existence of a spiritual realm. Many wrongly attribute supernatural phenomenon to mere fictional writings.
However, Scripture is clear that both realms exist, and that there is a constant struggle between them. Not everything natural is evil and things spiritual, good. Good and evil exists in both. But there is absolute right and wrong, According to Scripture, the spiritual realm controls the natural. Spiritual warfare is a constant, regardless of an individual’s discernment. Ignoring this reality doesn’t negate it.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph.6:12
Because of this truth, true believers must learn through constant exercise and increasing knowledge of spiritual realities. Without Christ we can do nothing, but IN Christ we can do all things (Jn. 15:5, Phil. 4:13).
Hopefully these truths are well established in the heart and spirit of every reader. Of course, the universal term for communication with God is ‘prayer’. Several intriguing questions about prayer were recently posted to a forum which actually inspired this article. Although a much more in-depth answer requires further personal research, a direct Scriptural quote has been provided HERE to respond to that query.
These five questions were asked:
- Why should Christians pray? – Because we are commanded to pray: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mt. 26:41. “So that our partnership in the faith may be effective in deepening our understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ”. Philemon 1:6.
- What should Christians pray for? How do Christians know if something is the will of God (to be prayed for or not)? – “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us …” Ro. 8:26. The Spirit helps us in our weakness. “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.” – 1 Cor. 14:14.155.
“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers & requests. With this in mind, be alert & always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Eph. 6:18. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Phil. 4:6.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” – Col. 4:2.
“… pray continually,” – 1 Thes. 5:17
- Why did Jesus pray? – The actual prayer of Christ in the Garden is recorded in full in the Gospel of John, Chapter 17. It is the best insight into WHY Jesus prayed. Also consistent with the reasons Jesus prayed, the Apostles encourage us to pray likewise.
“Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” – 1 Tim. 2:8.
“We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, & you in him, according to the grace of our God & Lord, Jesus Christ.” 2 Thes. 1:12. “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” – 1Pt.3:12.
“There are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit.” – Jude 19,20.
- Why is prayer not answered? – Prayer is ALWAYS answered! Often it seems like it is not due to the unanticipated ANSWER. When we ask for patience for example, God allows us to experience seeming intolerable circumstances to develop patience in us. Such ‘testing’ is for our edification. “If ye endure chastening, God deals with you as sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not?” – Heb.12:7. Mostly, we ask wrongly, and expect a different answer, not realizing that sometimes the answer is “No”.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.“ – James 4:3.
- How should we pray?- Believe God not only hears, but will answer. In sincere humility, secrecy, and originality. In other words, NOT for show or meaningless repetition. Remember, God knows what you want long before you attempt to petition for it.
“When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” – Mt. 6:6,7.
“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, BELIEVE that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – MT.11:24.
As has been stated above, this is NOT intended to be a concise and complete teaching on prayer. Hopefully though, it has competently addressed the questions posted to the forum. Since prayer is essentially communication with God, perhaps further reading and research will broaden awareness and facilitate a deeper and more meaningful prayer experience.
A final note: as in every correspondence, prayer should be perceived as a two-way communication. Allow time for God to respond, ‘listen’ intently with ‘spiritual ears‘. His is a ‘still, small voice’ (1Kings 19:12).
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” – Heb. 11:6.