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Bible verses about Prayer According to God's Purpose
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Jeremiah 15:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To paraphrase, God is saying, "Jeremiah, I know Moses prayed for the nation when I was about to blot them out. I know Samuel promised to continue to pray for the nation. But this time it will be different. My will is set this time. No amount of praying for them will change My will this time. So don't bother!" (See Exodus 32; Numbers 16:41-50; I Samuel 12:19-23.) Jeremiah prays for the nation because of the examples of other prophets before him. Yet, God is gently telling Jeremiah that He hears his prayers for the nation, but this time the answer is a firm, "No."

God hears our prayers, but when He changes what He says He will do, it is because He wills to change. We have no power to make God change His direction, but we should feel free to ask according to His will. Perhaps our fervent prayers will cause God to reconsider what He is about to do. God decides whether and when He will change, after He hears us. He can choose to change His own mind—and He has changed His mind—after fervent prayers on many occasions. Moses' prayers, the prayers of the Ninevites, and many other examples in the Bible testify that He will change. In this case, though, God is simply explaining to Jeremiah that this time, in this circumstance, He will not alter His course of action.

Staff
Should We Pray for the World?


 

Matthew 12:34   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Apply this to our speech with God. What are our prayers to Him like? What comes pouring out of us is our heart—either that or God's Word is not true. What we are is revealed to God by what we say to Him in our prayer. We cannot hide it; we cannot be two-faced with Him.

Prayer is speaking to God what comes out of our heart. Even as this proverb Jesus gives is directed toward men, it is also true concerning our speech toward God. What we are comes out.

God wants His will done in every aspect of our life, and He wants our prayers to be according to His will. When we ask things according to His will, our requests stand the best chance of being answered positively. Why? Because, in effect, they are His thoughts coming back to Him. His thoughts having become lodged in our heart, we are now sending a part of Him back to Him.

We need to be careful not to think of this as a magic formula of some kind, as if we say certain words and out comes the desired thing. This is prayer—speaking God's words back to Him. These prayers have the best chance of being answered positively because it pleases God to see His children develop in His image. He then responds out of His love, even as we would to a child who pleases us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?


 

Luke 11:1-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This passage is devoted to one major objective: to instruct us concerning our perception of God the Father.

  1. He is not a reluctant stranger who can be bullied into bestowing His many gifts simply because of our many words. That is not the issue for being persistent.
  2. He is not a malicious tyrant who takes vicious glee in the tricks that He plays on His subjects—by giving a scorpion rather than an egg.
  3. He is not an indulgent grandfather who provides everything that is requested of Him. He does not spoil His children.
  4. He is our heavenly Father who graciously and willingly bestows good gifts when they are needed in answer to prayer.

The key is "good gifts when they are needed." God's good gifts may come a little bit at a time. Sometimes, we are not even aware that it is occurring, yet He has been supplying the very thing that we asked for. Somehow or another, we are not sharp enough spiritually to see it.

The parable clarifies one aspect of why we must be persistent in prayer, but there is another that deals with our perceptions of God's power and His purpose and how our requests fit into them. Unfortunately, we often misunderstand God's role as Creator and tend to think of Him narrowly as being our Benefactor. He is both Benefactor and Creator. However, we tend to emphasize the Benefactor aspect, while He tends to emphasize the Creator aspect. So when we feel a need, and our desire is great because we feel that the need is urgent, we want our desire filled immediately because we see it as the answer.

We may be absolutely correct that it is the answer and that what we are asking for is good in God's eyes—it is according to His will. However, there is more to our request from God's point of view. He lives in a different timeframe than we do; time does not mean the same thing to Him as it does to us. In addition, His perception of our request is different because He is looking at it from the vantage point of His purpose rather than from our limited goals, which are often to have relief, strength, a gift, or power so that we might be able to serve Him better. The request may be good and entirely justified, but God is still looking at it differently than we are.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Persistence


 

Luke 11:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

People often give up because a request is "repeated." The requester cannot allow himself to become discouraged merely because his first or second request is denied. He must be persistent. The Greek word translated as "persistence" means "shameless," suggesting freedom from the bashfulness that would stop a person from asking a second time. Knocking once does not indicate perseverance, but "continued" knocking does.

God often answers us after long and persevering requests. He hears prayers and grants blessings long after they appear to be unanswered or withheld. He does not promise to give blessings immediately. He promises only that He will do it according to His will and plan. Although He promises to answer the prayer of the faithful, often He requires us to wait a long time to try our faith. He may allow us to persevere for months or years, until we are completely dependent on Him, until we see that there is no other way to receive the blessing, and until we are prepared to receive it. Sometimes, we are not ready to receive a blessing when we first ask. We may be too proud, or we may not comprehend our dependence upon Him. Maybe we would not value it, or the timing for it may simply be wrong. If what we ask for is good and accords with God's will, He will give it at the best time possible.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Friend


 

Luke 11:9-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

First, we must humbly ask according to His will, not our own pleasures (James 1:5-8). If something we ask for is contrary to God's plan, no amount of persistence will force Him to give in (James 4:3). When requesting anything of God, most people often stop asking when He does not immediately intervene. Human nature is easily discouraged because it thinks on a physical plane, but with God all things are possible. We need to be optimistic that God has heard and will respond in a good and faithful manner (I John 5:14-15).

Second, we must seek to know our true motives and God's will regarding the request. We seek to find out what we must do to bolster our faith with works (I John 3:22). Do God's promises include the blessing we ask for?

Third, we must knock. We must persevere, be persistent, pressing the matter until we receive it (Hebrews 4:16). We should faithfully go to God repeatedly, until He responds to our prayers and grants what we ask of Him—if it is according to His will.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Friend


 

Luke 11:9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This section contains instruction important to praying effectively. Verse 9 is written in the present imperative tense. It means to keep on doing something that one is presently doing. "Keep on asking." "Keep on seeking." "Keep on knocking." This fits exactly with what precedes it in the illustration of the persistent friend.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Persistence


 

Luke 18:2-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus compares God, not with a good man, but with a godless man to emphasize the vast difference between this unjust judge and the righteous God. The conduct of the unjust judge exposes the chaotic and corrupt judgments in which he had prostituted himself. No one can compel him to do anything because he feels no regard for anyone, including God. He acts purely out of self-interest. Yet, if this unjust judge could avenge a widow whom he disdained, how much more will the righteous God avenge his elect (Jeremiah 11:20)?

This parable reveals God's willingness to hear and answer the supplications of His elect (Luke 18:7), responding when they are offered according to His will. The word "avenge" (verses 5, 7-8) implies the working out of His vengeance in justice, not in retaliation. If God's elect are wrongly treated, they can be sure of vindication. So, if the unjust judge because of a selfish irritation avenges a troublesome widow, how much more will the selfless God come to our aid? We can expect substantially better treatment from a God of lovingkindness than from a heartless judge.

The widow, who speaks only five words, does not prevail because of her persuasive plea but because of her persistence. Sometimes too many words reveal a scarcity of desire or a lack of purpose. Jesus tells us long prayers and useless repetitions will not make God hear us any better (Matthew 6:7). He already knows our needs (verse 8).

God has assured us that He hears and answers prayer. We must have the faith of Christ that God can provide what we need, enjoys hearing us ask according to His will, and desires to give us abundantly what we should have.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Widow


 

John 17:9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus gives the prayer in John 17 specifically for His disciples and for a specific reason. It was not the time to pray for any other than His disciples. However, this does not mean that Jesus never prayed for anyone but a disciple!

If we are supposed to pray only for converted brethren but not for our unconverted countrymen, how can we follow Jesus' many other examples and commands about this topic? For example, Matthew 5:44-45, 48:

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. . . . Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

What a statement! He says praying for people outside the church is part of what defines us as children of our Father in heaven! Those who hate us and spitefully use us are certainly not fellow church members or converted believers, yet our Savior commands us to pray for them! There is perhaps no clearer passage on this topic!

In fact, how many of those whom Jesus prayed for and healed were "in the church" or had God's Spirit? Probably none of them! How many were worldly sinners? Certainly most of them, maybe even all of them!

Later, while hanging on a stake, Jesus practices perfectly what He preaches, once more praying for people of the world: "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). What clearer example could we have?

In fact, though Jesus did not participate at all in any of the world's evils, He lived His life among the people. As the son of a carpenter, He interacted with the public constantly. He never shied away from the people of the world. He enjoyed people, weddings, and parties enough to be accused—falsely, of course—of being "a glutton and a winebibber." He felt comfortable accepting an invitation to dinner at the house of a Pharisee—He was even bold enough to invite Himself to dinner at the home of Zacchaeus, an ill-reputed tax collector.

How do we fare among the world? Are we comfortable with our "unconverted" neighbors? Would we accept dinner invitations and attend social occasions? Jesus, our Elder Brother, did. Jesus was not like the Pharisees—the very name means "the separated ones"—who acted "holier than thou." Yes, we should separate ourselves from the ways of the world. Yes, we should live a holy life (I Peter 1:15-16). After all, we have the Holy Spirit. But we should not be like those "who say, 'Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!'" (Isaiah 65:5). God says of them, "These are smoke in My nostrils."

Staff
Should We Pray for the World?


 

1 Timothy 2:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Intercession" is exactly the same Greek word as is translated "prayer" in I Timothy 4:5. It has an interesting etymology that instructs us on an important aspect of prayer. The word, a verb, is entugchanein.

It began to appear in Greek centuries before Christ, meaning simply "to meet a person," as if a person would meet another along the way. However, through the centuries, the word took on a somewhat different meaning. Eventually, it meant, not just "to meet," but "to meet and converse." This is natural because, if a person falls in with another along the way, he usually does not ignore the other but strikes up a conversation.

Then, as time went by, it began to take on yet a different meaning: "to have intimate fellowship with the person." To this point, the word describes how to have a right approach to God. In practical fact, it illustrates that we are not conversing with God from a distance. We are so intimately associated with Him that we are His children. This word is describing an intimate family relationship. God is not way off on the top of a mountain somewhere. Even as early as Deuteronomy 30:14, He says, "The word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart"!

If we are going to have the right kind of fellowship and relationship with God in prayer, we have to understand that we are in His very presence. Looking at this humanly and physically, this is how He can rub off on us. We are in His fellowship, in His presence. He is not far off. When Christ gave His life for us, the veil of the Temple was torn from top to bottom, symbolizing that access to God was completely open to Him, and now we have this same access to the Father through Christ. We are right before His throne when we are talking to Him.

However, entugchanein continued to change. The change shows up in the noun form of the word, enteuxis, meaning "a petition to a king." It can be used in the sense of the king summoning someone into his presence or of someone presenting a request to the king. Putting these together, it sugests that we have "intimate access to petition the king." We do not have intimate fellowship with just anybody, but to the King of all the universe!

We have both privilege and power in prayer. This is where the concept "the power of prayer" comes from. Because we have the privilege to come before the King in intimate fellowship, we have access to His power. It is not that prayer itself has the power, but that we have access to the One who has the power.

This means we have to be extra careful what we ask God: He may give us what we ask, and we will be sorry. Mighty forces can be unleashed when we ask God for things. God's people have a responsibility to ask of Him things that are according to His will.

As a tool, prayer is to be used to accomplish a wide variety of things within God's purpose. It is to be used in regard to the things of this life. God wants us to pray about this life, as in supplying our daily need. However, He will primarily use it, not for this life, but for His eternal purpose, reproducing Himself and creating His holiness in us. His purpose is in preparing us for the Kingdom of God.

So be warned that His purpose will supersede ours when we pray.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?


 

James 5:16-20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Though he seems to be speaking about praying for those who are sick, the overall command is specifically to "pray for one another."

Further, James instructs us to confess our faults. The apostle does not mean that we should reveal every sin and foible to everyone in the congregation. He implies that we should confide our problems to a close, trusted friend so that he or she can help us by praying to God for help in overcoming it.

We should pray for one another, and it need not be known by others or even asked of us. We may notice a brother struggling with a problem, and rather than pointing out his flaw to others, we should get on our knees to petition God to come to his aid. The apostle James assures us that such a prayer, given seriously and thoughtfully, will make a difference.

The Jews say regarding prayer: "He who prays surrounds his house with a wall stronger than iron." Another of their sayings runs: "Penitence can do something, but prayer can do everything." To them, prayer is nothing less than contacting and employing the power of God; it is the channel through which the strength and grace of God is brought to bear on the troubles of life.

In the next two verses, James uses the illustration of Elijah to show just how effective righteous prayer can be. He chose Elijah because the biblical story of this prophet brings out his passionate - and sometimes still carnal - nature. Nevertheless, he prayed earnestly for drought, and God responded: No rain fell on the earth for three years and six months! When he prayed again for rain, God again heard and acted. What tremendous power can be unleashed through prayer that conforms to the will of God!

James 5:19-20 continues the theme. If we see a brother straying from the truth, and with the help of prayer, restore him to a right understanding, we may indeed be saving him from the Lake of Fire, from the second death! Such loving help is the essence of true outgoing concern.

John O. Reid
Out of the Abundance of Our Prayers


 

1 John 5:14-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A common—but only partly correct—idea about prayer is that its purpose is to get things from God and to change His mind regarding the course of events. As John says, if we ask according to His will, He hears, but it is in the other part where misunderstanding lies.

Answer this: Is our idea of God nothing more than that of a greater human parent? Perhaps few will admit to this, but it is nonetheless a reality. God the Father undoubtedly relates to us like a parent, and Jesus tells us to think of Him and address Him as our Father. So far, so good.

Now we must ask: What should a Father be like? We run into trouble here because all our examples of fathers are human, and every human father has been deficient in many ways. We are now dealing with a flawless Father, perfect in every way. He is eternal, perfect in wisdom, knows the end from the beginning, has unimaginable power, and does absolutely everything out of love. He does everything for the perfection and completion of His purpose, whether for us individually or for what He is working out universally.

We need to consider Isaiah 40:13-14 in relation to prayer:

Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has taught Him? With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding?

Now we must add a few thoughts from Psalm 139:1-7:

O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?

Considering these scriptures, is there anything—anything!—we can tell Him that He does not already know? Is there anything about our lives that He has not already thoroughly considered in light of what He wants to produce for our good? All too often our attitude in prayer about something emphasizes what we feel is our or somebody else's need rather than focusing on God's will. Which is more important: what this perfect, great God considers from His perspective or what we desire from our position of nearly blind ignorance of what is really needed?

Jesus says in Matthew 6:8: "Therefore do not be like [the hypocrites]. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." This verse leads into the model prayer, indicating that we should not pray with the idea that we are bringing something new to God. It also introduces the thought that the purpose of prayer is not to overcome God's reluctance to answer and give but rather to lay hold of His willingness to help us toward His perspective, the fulfillment of His purpose, and into His Kingdom. The overall emphasis in our requests, then, must be inclined toward His purpose and will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Eight


 

 




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