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Bible verses about Prayer
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Religious people use a catchy statement to encourage people to pray: "Prayer changes things." While it is undoubtedly true that prayer plays a part in changing things, we need to modify our understanding of this because it is true only if our prayer agrees with God's will.

This quotation on prayer comes from an article, "Prayer or Fate?" that appeared in The Christian Worker:

God in His sovereignty has ordained that human destinies may be changed by the will of man. This is at the heart of the truth that prayer changes things, meaning that God changes things when men pray. Someone has strikingly expressed it this way: "There are certain things that will happen in a man's life whether he prays or not. There are other things that will happen if he prays, and will not happen if he does not pray."

Are these concepts biblical? James writes:

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." (James 4:13-15)

Although this verse does not directly concern prayer, it does deal with an aspect of God's will, which is far more important than any prayer we might ask during an entire lifetime. The King James Study Bible comments: "This one is a fool, for he thinks he knows something that he doesn't. He presumes he has the resources to control his destiny." Does God just sit on His throne waiting for us to ask Him before He acts? Who is sovereign? Who controls our destiny? We cannot even be sure of our next breath!

Proverbs 27:1 weighs in on this issue, "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth." Jesus also teaches on it in Luke 12:16-21:

Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry." But God said to him, 'You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

All three of these passages illustrate how limited man's judgment is on things in which God's will is involved. How do they fit into prayer? Can a prayer literally change a person's destiny? Yes, but only if we understand what prayer is for. The basic thought in these three passages is that a Christian is foolish to leave God out of his thinking and planning.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Eight


 

The purpose of prayer is not to "get" things from God, but to give us access to Him so that we can be in His presence and be conformed to His will. Of course, this involves a measure of getting from God. However, when the motivation for prayer is getting, the wrong intent greatly alters its outcome. When we make our request to God, we are expressing our will and maybe also His will. Those prayers that agree with His will are answered.

If our will and His match, we will receive what we ask for in due time, but if they do not match, our request has no chance of being granted. Granting such a request is outside the parameters of His love. He will never grant something He has determined conflicts with the purpose for which He is preparing us. Doing so would be an admission that His original intention for calling us was ill-conceived and a repudiation of His own wisdom and purpose.

Thus, for men to say that the will of man can change and mold human destiny and that prayer changes things reflect only a vague scrap of truth. Does not John 3:3 say that "unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God"? This is man's destiny, and who determines that? The only truly correct answer is God—or He is not sovereign in His creation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Eight


 

A major purpose of our prayers is not to change God's will but to urge Him to accomplish His will in His own time and manner. What does the model prayer instruct us? "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). This clear instruction has not changed since Jesus gave it. When we pray, we should present our need to God, and there is nothing wrong with going into detail and presenting it as we see it. Then leave it with Him to deal with in His good time and way because He already knows what He wants to accomplish and when. At best, we look through a glass darkly upon these matters.

In short, prayer is a primary means that God has set up to communicate the blessing of His goodness to His people. Even though He has purposed and promised His blessings, He has also commanded us to seek them, which is both a privilege and duty. He intensely desires that His thoughts become our thoughts because by this we reflect His image in our character and witness of Him before men. Much of the communication of His thoughts to ours takes place in prayer.

The chief concept to understand is that prayer is not dictating to God in order to get but the heartfelt manifestation of the attitude of worshipful reverence, dependency, and need. Because proper prayer is like this, the one who prays in this manner is submissive to God's will, and he is thus content with God supplying his needs according to the dictates of His sovereign pleasure. Such a one will not resort to demanding impatience, or to whining, morose, or bitter self-pity. He will know that he has placed his request into the best hands possible, and everything is under control and proceeding exactly as it should.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Eight


 

Where or how does this fit into prayer? We can begin to see this more clearly by examining what we are supposed to do in prayer. A serious study of the psalms, many of which are prayers—along with Jesus' model prayer in Matthew 6—will disclose many of its necessary elements.

First, we should honor God in prayer. We must recognize Him for what He is, the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, the great and almighty Creator, Father, Provider, Healer, and Savior. Such honor recognizes His universal dominion and sovereignty and, at the same time, acknowledges that we are the created and dependent ones humbling ourselves before His awesome majesty. Prayer glorifies God because we are stating our dependency. This is amplified because prayer is an exercise in faith, which always glorifies Him.

Prayer is worshipping God. We are prostrating ourselves before Him, calling upon His great name, and recognizing His power, omnipotence, omniscience, immutability, wisdom, mercy, and grace. Interestingly, Jesus called the Temple, in which God dwelt, "a house of prayer" (Luke 19:46). We now are temples of His Holy Spirit in which he dwells (I Corinthians 3:16).

Can we grasp it? Prayer is for our spiritual blessing as a major means of growth in grace because God's blessings flow to those who humble themselves before His sovereignty. Prayer is a daily verbal exercise in humbling ourselves before Him by forcing us to admit our humanity, inadequacy, dependency, and need. It is an admission we are not self-sufficient. We desperately need a vital relationship with God and all that He will give us, if we have caught the vision of the gospel and want to succeed in achieving His purpose for us. His gifts flow to the humble because they will submit to God's will if they know it, and God will reveal it to the humble. It is a measure of His blessings to them.

If we compare the purity and extent of God's greatness to our humanity with all its physical, spiritual, moral, and ethical frailties, we must recognize how ignorant, shortsighted, weak in character, unfeeling, uncaring, hard, bitter, complaining, and self-centered we are. We need a specialized kind of help, and its only source—if we truly want to change—is God. Surely, if we are open to it, this humbles us.

Prayer brings us into God's presence to honor, worship, and glorify Him. It is designed to humble us by making us recognize His greatness and our creaturehood each day. God also appoints it so we can seek our physical needs, giving Him another opportunity to evaluate what we hold dear, "[f]or out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34).

Prayer is not for informing God of something of which He is ignorant; rather it is designed to confess to Him our sense or knowledge of our need. In other words, it acknowledges that we have grown to recognize that we lack and thus need what He has and desires to give us so we can be like Him and His Son.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Job 38:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The terms "morning stars" and "sons of God" are biblical names for angels, who express joy when events in God's plan unfold. Not only God but also angels are thrilled when a sinner repents of his worldly ways. Prayer for forgiveness brings about joyous repentance and restoration of righteousness in a person's life.

Martin G. Collins
Joy


 

Psalm 16:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In God's presence—in an intimate relationship with Him—is the source of every good, righteous, and positive attitude and act. Because the justifying work of Jesus Christ gives us access to God, prayer brings us near so He can give these things, and we can receive them.

This can be illustrated in a simple way. We have probably been in the close presence of a person of positive, uplifting attitudes, who radiates enthusiasm, zeal, confidence, gentle humor, and determination. On the other hand, it is likely we have also been in the presence of someone who wears a sour countenance, seethes with anger, trembles in fear, wallows in lethargy, or whines about their "victimization" at the hands of unseen people or forces. What happens to our attitude in either situation? Unless we resist, we tend to respond to the strength of the other's attitudes. A literal, spiritual transference of attitude takes place.

What happens if we are some distance from either of these persons, or even if near, we are completely disinterested? It does not affect us in the least. Why? Because we are neither near enough nor interested enough to be affected.

It is the spirit of these people radiating out from them that influences and perhaps even changes our spirit. This also gives insight into why we carnally reflect Satan's spirit: It permeates our environment. Similarly, prayer to God through Jesus Christ brings us into the very presence of the most positive, righteous, and unchanging attitudes that exist in the entire universe!

God greatly desires us to have the qualities of His Spirit, and being in His presence is one way He accomplishes this. This is why people can leave God's presence in prayer and feel peace, joy, or confidence—or humble and chastened because God has led them to remorse and repentance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Three: Mourning


 

Psalm 16:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Do you realize that through prayer, through Bible study, and through attending Sabbath services, we are in the presence of God? In His presence is joy evermore—not discouragement, not despair, not despondency, not guilt—joy!

He is such a powerful Personality that, when we are in His presence, it is very difficult, if not impossible, not to be affected by what He is. This is why we need to pray—it is an absolute necessity! We need to take advantage of this invitation to fellowship with Him, in study and prayer, because this great Personality wants to infuse us with what He is. It becomes part of us because we are around Him.

We have a proclivity to adapt to the environment in which we find ourselves. When we have grown up in this world, our character is set in such a way that it is against God. Only by being in His presence can this anti-God attitude be counteracted. This invitation to fellowship with Him is our salvation.

And there is not just joy in His presence but love, peace, goodness, gentleness, kindness, mercy, self-control, and every other attribute of the Spirit of God. In His presence is "where it's at."

Can we see the story that is being worked out from Adam and Eve on? Through the sins of mankind, he became separated from God. But now, through Christ, the ability to return to His presence, into fellowship Him—into the very Garden of Eden, as it were—has been opened to us again. It is only in His presence that all of the good attributes of His Spirit are available to us.

This highlights the importance of Passover. It is not just the death of Christ but the effect of His death: reestablishment of communion with God, of fellowship with Him.

Having access to His presence does not mean that the Christian will never experience depression or despair, but we will never experience it for very long if we continue to fellowship with God. It will motivate us to refocus on the reality of what God is working and doing in us. In other words, our knowledge that we are keeping the commands of God and that we love our brethren and that we believe in the name (that is, the nature and all of the characteristics) of Jesus Christ will pull us out of our doldrums. We know what we have experienced with God in the past and realize that our present dilemma is not the end of the world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love and Fellowship


 

Psalm 55:17-21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Hebrew word translated "pray" in verse 17 is rib, indicating a feeling, an emotion. It can be used in a sense as soft as "to complain." David was complaining in this prayer. However, it can also mean "to grapple with, rumble, fight an adversary, strive, or contend as with a judge."

This suggests the context of the prayer. David was overwrought emotionally, angry, in this prayer. He was in despair because one that he considered to be a good friend had stabbed him in the back. He and his trust had been betrayed, causing deep hurt and anger. We, too, may have gone to God deeply hurt and angry, with an intensity in our words that was not there at other times.

The point is that prayer is used in all occasions. It is not always to be formulaic and formal, a rote prayer to God like, "Now I lay me down to sleep" or "Our Father which art in heaven." God intends that our speech with Him arise from the very depths of our present situation and that our prayers' emotional content will vary from time to time. Sometimes we will be downright angry and upset. As we can see from David's example, we do not have to worry about being angry or upset before Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?


 

Psalm 78:18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Psalm 78 recounts Israel's constant disobedience to God. Never satisfied with what God gave them, Israel always pushed Him to see how much they could satisfy their own desires! Could we be doing the same thing when we pray? Is our focus always toward God's purpose and the welfare of others?

Just like Christ, we have the same kind of power in our grasp every time we come before God's throne in prayer! Do we use it to satisfy ourselves or to further the purpose of God? Most likely we will not find true contentment until we use the power we have in absolute service to others.

Mark Schindler
Serving Through Prayer


 

Psalm 107:21-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Thankfulness is offered as a spiritual sacrifice. It is given in combination with other spiritual sacrifices. As a spiritual sacrifice, thanksgiving can be offered in the form of a prayer and/or praise. Prayer, praise, and thanksgiving are almost inseparable, and they are most often offered together. Thankfulness is a peace offering (Leviticus 7:11-13). It produces peace (I Timothy 2:1-2).

Martin G. Collins
Thankfulness


 

Proverbs 3:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Consider this scenario: A person spends the entire day walking from Point A to Point B with his best friend. However, he speaks to his friend only a little in the morning and mumbles a few words at night before falling to sleep, ignoring him for the rest of the day. What would be his friend's likely assessment of the state of their friendship? Even two extremely introverted friends would share interests and converse on them to some extent.

Is there a better friend than God? We have a great deal to discuss with Him every day, for every day is filled with decisions: what to eat or not to eat, what to purchase or not purchase, what to spend time doing or thinking about. We must also decide how to respond to other people and how to respond to our own emotions and attitudes.

Every significant choice should be brought to God. If we do not, we are making decisions based on human nature and declaring ourselves to be Laodiceans, self-sufficient and needing nothing, directly contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ (John 15:5). These do not have to be on-your-knees prayers, but we should at least silently ask God to bring His light to bear on the situation and to supply our needs, whether we need wisdom, discernment, strength, courage, understanding, patience, etc.

Notice the command in Galatians 5:16, 25: "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. . . . If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." If we are walking in the Spirit, made possible by praying always, we cannot be sinning (verse 16). They are mutually exclusive.

Praying always is a major component of walking with God and one of the two tickets to avoiding tribulation and gaining entrance to God's Kingdom. As such, Enoch's life contains a point worthy of note that may apply to those living at the end time. God says of Enoch in Genesis 5:24: "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." If we walk with God as Enoch did, will God, true to His patterns, likewise take us away from the trouble on the horizon? Luke 21:36 indicates the answer could be, "Yes."

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Five)


 

Proverbs 27:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is another indication from Scripture that, when we are in the companionship and the fellowship of others, we tend to shape each other. We rub off on each other.

A clear illustration of this is our relationship with our children. When a child is born, he is not born with the inflections or the twangs of the area into which he is born. Nobody has to teach anybody how to speak "Brooklynese" or "Southern." The nasal tone or drawl just rubs off. The child picks it up. It is ingrained within him unconsciously.

The same principle is at work in terms of character and personality. We rub off on each other. Are we rubbing off on each other for good, or are we rubbing off on each other for evil? Are we lifting one another up, or are we pulling one another down? We do not have to try consciously to do either. It will just happen. The world, largely, does not care how it rubs off on others - except that human nature wants people to think well of it, even while it is doing evil.

But in our Christian fellowship, we have the responsibility before God to work to rub off on each other for good. As long as we are conducting ourselves aright, it will rub off in the right way. In other words, all we have to do is work on ourselves. If we work on ourselves, then the projection of the self, the spirit that will go out from us, will be right, and it will have the right kind of impact.

God intends that prayer be an act of a free moral agent who consciously chooses to fellowship with God for the development of their relationship and the completion of himself as an individual.

Do we realize that, when we pray, we are in the presence of God, and He has the opportunity to rub off on us? It seems so simple as to be almost unbelievable, but it is right. Some of His Spirit reaches out and begins to affect us for good. Prayer is a major tool in our spiritual development through God's rubbing off on us. All the while this is happening, our minds are being subtly shaped by Him because we are in His presence.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?


 

Ecclesiastes 5:1-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At first glance, verse 3 appears to say that dreams are an echo of our daytime activities, that anxious days cause troubled sleep. While that is certainly true, the verse appears in the context of how to worship God. Thus Solomon advises, "Prioritize and keep your life simple!"

"Walk prudently" means "watch your moral conduct." Frequently, "hear" is used synonymously with "obey," and the "sacrifice of fools" is allowing fellowship to degenerate into mere socializing without serious regard toward walking prudently and hearing God.

Hastiness in prayer is speaking ill-considered words before God. Though we pour out a prayer to Him in anguish, we may not think about the possible effects of our words. We can also do this by praying carelessly, ignorant of the seriousness of our communication with God.

What causes hastiness in prayer? A multitude of business. The busy fool pours out a flood of useless words because his mind is crammed with all the details of his business. This evil excess misuses important time with God and obscures the effectiveness of simple, heartfelt, and thoughtful prayer. When our minds are so full of our own activities rather than with the purposes of God, we often pray to Him like fools who talk incessantly about things of no consequence, or we endlessly repeat ourselves.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!


 

Isaiah 58:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Trumpets symbolize a loud, warning cry of impending danger. These verses from the prophets impart a dire warning to those living in the end time: The day of the Lord is at hand, a day of darkness, gloominess, and clouds over man's society! The prophets strongly admonish the ministry to raise their voices as trumpets to warn of sudden, terrifying destruction!

Though originally intended for Israel, these warnings apply specifically to the called-out children of God since we are the ones living in the end time with the understanding of God's plan! In fact, we have the most to lose by ignoring these stern prophecies of death and destruction. They are admonishments to prepare ourselves spiritually for the tumult ahead. Notice that these verses stress repentance, fasting, and prayer, and who but God's elect truly understand them?

Staff
Holy Days: Trumpets


 

Isaiah 66:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"On this one will I look" in Isaiah 66:2 means "I will pay attention to this person." It is another way of saying He will draw closer to such a man or woman. James 4:6-8, 10 reinforces the importance of humility in our relationship with God. Why is humility so important? It plays a major role in producing obedience and thus a good relationship with God. Put another way, humility manifests itself in obedience. It is the attitude of ready submission to God's will, as well as an expression of dependence upon Him. This quality of character is essential to growth, witnessing for God, glorifying God, receiving honor from God and salvation itself. The Bible reveals an order to these things: humility, submission, obedience, and honor (I Peter 5:5-6).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Jeremiah 10:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jeremiah 10:23 reveals why humanity is the way it is and why prayer is important. The prophet does not mention prayer here, but what he says has much to do with prayer's great value to mankind. The verse states the universal problem of mankind. By nature, the right way to live is not within us. Our nature must change. The purpose of prayer is to give us yet another, greater opportunity—an exceedingly important tool—to harmonize with the way God lives. God lives the only way that works, producing abundant life, endless peace, and supreme achievement for all.

This overall reason includes synchronizing with God's will in any present-day situation as He forms us into His image. Prayer's purpose is not to force or cajole God to go along with our narrow and shortsighted idea of what we think is going on. God has determined our destiny in life, and He will not give us anything that is outside that purpose. We can work things out for ourselves and choose to believe He granted our request, but that is not the same thing. Instead of granting our request, He simply allows us to do our thing. In addition, our working things out for ourselves holds us back to some degree, probably making our course toward God's ultimate aim for us more painful.

Because God knows the end from the beginning does not mean that He has figured out and predetermined every event of a person's life. In using our free moral agency, we are quite resourceful in presenting God with challenges to keep us on track toward our destiny to be in His Kingdom. God's concern is for events in life involving moral, spiritual, and ethical choices. Whether one chooses a red or blue car makes no difference morally, but whether we choose to buy a car when other family needs are more pressing is another situation altogether. This choice may shape character and therefore destiny.

Some of us are tough nuts to crack! Some are quite stiff-necked, opinionated, and self-willed. Sometimes this occurs because of ignorance or cultural influences. Far too often, the cause of our poor moral and ethical choices is pride and self-righteousness—to the point that some will actually choose the Lake of Fire! Others, though their inferior works burn because of their poor choices, God will mercifully spare them (I Corinthians 3:15).

So, why pray? If God knows the end from the beginning, if prayer does not include informing Him of something He does not already know, changing His mind, or dictating a "gimmie" list to Him, why pray at all? Prayer's major purpose is to give us an additional, effective way to draw near to and harmonize with the Spirit having the only nature equipped to live eternally in peace and oneness. Do we want to do this? All of our lifetimes we have been subject to the spirit of the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). Our personal experiences, reinforced by the history of life on earth under him, should be witness enough that there is a better way. Are we willing to make the effort to find it and live it? As Jeremiah says, "[T]he way of man is not in himself," that is, not in his nature. We must have access to God and His nature if we will ever live the right way, the way He lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Jeremiah 11:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Some feel God's words to Jeremiah are commands for His people from that time forward never to pray for the people of the world. Is that the correct interpretation?

The prophet Daniel is taken captive early in Nebuchadnezzar's campaign against Judah, and soon after arriving in Babylon, he is handpicked to advise the emperor. As the years pass, Daniel is well aware of Jeremiah's prophecy that the Jews would return to Jerusalem at the end of seventy years in exile (Jeremiah 29:10-14). Near the end of that seventy-year period, what do we find Daniel doing? He implores God so fervently on behalf of his nation that God sends Gabriel, one of the highest-ranking angels, to deliver a message directly from Him (Daniel 9:1-24).

What stands out in Daniel's prayer for his nation is his use of "we," not "they." He puts himself in the same boat with the sinning Jews. Daniel cries out, ". . . we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments" (verse 5).

In his prayer's conclusion (Daniel 9:16-19), Daniel is clearly praying for forgiveness for his sinful countrymen and for himself. He prays for good things to start happening to his unconverted neighbors. And God hears: "O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision" (verses 22-23).

As we study the inspired Scripture, we find holy men moved with deep feeling for their people, their city, their country—all the while realizing that they simultaneously look for another city with eternal "foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:10).

Ezekiel, another captive of the Babylonians, reminds us that God puts some kind of identifying mark on those who "sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done" around us (Ezekiel 9:4). Those who are moved by events spiraling out of control pray about the situation, entreating God to act, to come soon. Ezekiel records that God spares such concerned people.

By contrast, he records the horrific scene of thousands being slaughtered who do not grieve over the condition of the nation (verses 5-6). As the slaughter commences, Ezekiel prays and begs God to reconsider what He is doing: "Will you destroy all the remnant of Israel in pouring out Your fury on Jerusalem?" (verse 8). God answers that, this time, He must punish and punish hard (verses 9-10). The point is that Ezekiel felt so deeply for his countrymen and nation that he implored God to extend mercy.

How did we do on September 11, 12, 13, and in the days since? Are we sighing and crying when we see "acts of God"—natural catastrophes like floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes—ripping through the countryside? God is moved when He sees us moved by the pain and suffering occurring around us, and not just that affecting our immediate circle of family and friends.

We know God will punish the nations of modern-day Israel increasingly in the years ahead. We will witness a great deal of sorrow and woe, but God is pleased when He sees us wholeheartedly interceding even for those who deserve the discipline.

Staff
Should We Pray for the World?


 

Daniel 7:27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Daniel 7:27 promises rulership to the saints in God's government, which is why an essential decision in our lives revolves around government. Government is the overriding issue in the Bible. Who will rule in our lives, God or Satan? It is that simple.

Israel rejected God's rule. When Israel desired a king, it was because they did not want God to rule them (I Samuel 8:7). Will we do the same? That is the critical issue that must be resolved in our lives. How can we reject God's rule? By insisting on being our own general—by putting ourselves, not God, at the forefront of the battles we fight every day. We simply do not allow Him to be our King and Commander.

The examples of the first and second Adam prove how vital the subject of government is. In the Garden of Eden, the test that Adam and Eve failed was the test of government. To whose rule would they submit—God's or Satan's? The Devil's temptation of Christ (Matthew 4; Luke 4) was the same test: Would He submit to God's or Satan's government? Jesus passed the test, rejecting Satan's offers for personal gain. Because God neither changes nor varies, He is a God of patterns. We, then, have the same test to pass. To which government will we submit?

There is a direct connection between prayer and submission to God's government. When we pray, we are prostrating ourselves before Him, calling on His great name, and recognizing His power, omnipotence, omniscience, immutability, wisdom, mercy, and grace. Interestingly, Jesus called the Temple, in which God dwelt, "a house of prayer" (Luke 19:46). We now are temples of His Holy Spirit in which He dwells (I Corinthians 3:16), so we, too, should be houses of prayer.

Prayer is a spiritual blessing God gives to us as a major tool for growth. Prayer at any time is an exercise in humbling ourselves, as it forces us to admit our humanity, inadequacy, dependence, and need. It is an admission that we are not self-sufficient. Those who humble themselves before His sovereignty are those to whom He gives His attention (Isaiah 66:2).

We desperately need a vital relationship with God and all that He will give to us by His grace to achieve His purpose for us. His gifts flow to the humble because they will submit to His government and His will, and for that reason, God will withhold no good gift from them (Romans 8:32; Psalm 84:11). By prayer, and especially by striving to pray always, we are submitting every thought, word, and action to the scrutiny and governance of the great God.

The Israelites did not want God to rule their lives directly; they did not want to submit to His rule. If we are not striving to pray always, we are making the same mistake. Their decision put them in the position of having to fight their own battles. If we make the same mistake, we get the same results—but worse. Why would God want anyone in His eternal Family who demonstrates an unwillingness to submit to His governance on every occasion?

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Six)


 

Amos 7:1-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Given insight into what God would soon do, Amos was distressed over whether Israel could survive. God relented both times, probably as a result of Amos' prayer. But because of His earlier pronouncements and the people's lack of repentance, there is a sense that God would not postpone Israel's punishment much longer.

The first vision of Amos 7 may be a natural calamity of locusts rising out of the earth and destroying the crops and the grasslands "after the king's mowings," a practice akin to our income tax. Without the late crop, the first cutting for the king would be sparse, and without produce for their personal needs, the people would starve. God decided that Israel would be protected from natural calamity in the main, but a few people may suffer very badly and may even die.

The second vision, a divine fire, could literally be fire on the earth. "For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God" (Deuteronomy 4:24; see 29:20). Fire, in biblical symbolism, is a purging and purifying punishment against sin (Malachi 3:2-3; Hebrews 12:29). To save and turn the people back to morality and obedience, God decrees a purifying fire to come upon Israel, probably in the form of a divinely inspired war. Again, God relents, giving the nation another chance to repent.

This exchange between Amos and God illustrates a wonderful method He uses to teach us what we need. God sometimes leads us into situations that force us to decide what we really need. We ask Him for it, and then He gives it to us. We think He answered our prayer—and He did—but He also led us to pray the prayer (see Romans 8:26)! He guides these situations so that we come to think like Him! When He wants to produce character in us, He will work in whatever way is necessary to build it.

We can learn much from this technique. In our earnest prayers, we cry out to Him, believing we truly need what we have requested. We should also pray to understand how God is working, molding, shaping, and leading us to grow and overcome. When we finally see things from His perspective and pray that prayer, He will respond.

That is what He wanted from Israel: He desired the Israelites to understand that they should return to Him. However, Amos 7:9; 8:3, 10; and 9:1 indicate their destruction would be total because the people did not respond.

The example of ancient Israel's shortsightedness has present-day implications for spiritual Israel—God wants His people to look through the coming crisis and see that He brings it to pass, controls it, and sets its limits. He will use it to bring about His purpose in individual lives or in the life of the nation. In the near future, conditions will become so difficult that, if possible, even the elect will be deceived—"but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened" (Matthew 24:24, 22).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Zechariah 7:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The same word for "pray" (halah) is used in all three verses (Zechariah 7:2; 8:21-22). In this case, it means "to correct," "to stroke one's face," "to strive to please verbally." It could even mean "to please by appearance" because it is occassionally translated "supplicate," which generally implies "to bend low."

The attitude here is entirely different from that in Psalm 55:17-21. In this case, the people are trying to ingratiate themselves, to change the mind of one that they love back toward them. That is why people are coming to Jerusalem: The One that they love is being appealed to. So it will be translated from time to time "supplicate," "beseech," "entreat," or "make suit to."

This word is used in a wide variety of contexts. In one case, the same word will be translated "infirmity" or "sick," when a person is in a state of physical weakness. In another example, it is a weakness of spirit. A person feels he is on the outs with God, and he begs for forgiveness and appeals to Him for mercy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?


 

Matthew 5:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

People who are economically poor are well aware of their need. It is very likely that, if they pray at all, they pray for money, for prosperity. One does not need to have a revelation from God to see that kind of need. But what should the poor be praying for? They ought to be praying for the desire to work, for the understanding of their responsibility to their families, for the right kind of ambition that will motivate them, for the love that will make them lay down their lives to support their dependents, and for the drive that will energize them to find a job. These are the things God wants us to ask for because they are qualities that He has. By nature, we like to short-circuit the process and pray, "God, give me money. Give me a job." He would rather we ask for these other things, and He is far more likely to respond to us when we do.

The poor in spirit are the best prayers of all. Their title, "poor of spirit" or "poor in spirit," shows that they are people who properly evaluate themselves against God. They see how rich God is in terms of love, generosity, kindness, mercy, wisdom—all the good qualities—and they see how poor they are in comparison. Wanting to be like God, they ask Him for the qualities He has. Those are the kinds of prayers God responds to. In contrast, the proud will not be good at praying because they are secure in themselves, unable to see their need.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Fervency


 

Matthew 5:23-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To the best of my knowledge, this is the only place where "reconciled" is used in Scripture. It just means to have peace with one's brother. God wants us to have peace with one another. We should not attempt to bring our offerings before God when at odds with our brethren.

We do not bring physical offerings today, like burnt offerings. However, we do bring Him prayers. Before we come to Him with our prayers, beseeching His good will, we should make amends with our offended brothers. Go to the estranged friend and settle the matter.

The very essence of God is love. He epitomizes outgoing concern for others; this is what love is all about. Thus, we have to make changes in our lives to conform to God's standard so that our prayers will be fully accepted by Him. God expects us to reflect His love in everything we do. And He wants peace.

John O. Reid
Don't Take God for Granted


 

Matthew 6:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is apparently the only material request in the entire model prayer; all the other requests are for spiritual aid such as forgiveness, protection, and guidance. With this in mind, is Jesus telling us to ask for physical food every day? A literal meaning is often the most likely understanding, yet the continuing context of the chapter suggests He had more spiritual matters on His mind. Just a few verses later, in Matthew 6:25-26, 31, He teaches:

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? . . . Therefore do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or, "What shall we wear?"

The close proximity of these instructions makes it clear that, in telling us to ask God for our daily bread, Jesus does not have physical food foremost in His mind. What, then, is this "bread" that we are to ask for? John 6:35 provides an answer: "Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.'"

The Bible uses the word bread to mean "that which is taken into the body and provides nourishment." Scripture presents two basic types of bread, leavened and unleavened. Leavening consistently symbolizes the corruption of sin (for instance, I Corinthians 5:8, "the leaven of malice and wickedness"). Thus, a Christian has a choice of spiritual nourishment that he can take into himself: He can choose sinless, healthful bread or sinful, corrupting bread. This latter bread comes in a range of varieties from sinful and unhealthy to evil and downright poisonous bread.

The manna with which God fed the Israelites while they journeyed through the wilderness was symbolic of Christ, the Bread of Life (John 6:49-51). The account of the giving of the manna in Exodus 16:4, 14-21, 26 shows that the Israelites had a part to play in receiving nourishment from it. They were required to rise early and gather their daily amount before the sun "became hot" and melted it away, or they would go hungry for that day—and perhaps for the next day, if it were a Preparation Day for the Sabbath.

In "the Lord's Prayer," Jesus is instructing His followers to rise early every day and ask God to send the unleavened, sinless Bread of Life to dwell in them. Without the indwelling of Christ through God's Spirit, there is no spiritual life in us (John 6:53, 55-58).

Why is it important that we ask each and every day for this? It is important because God, in His concern to preserve our free-moral agency, will not enter in and live in us uninvited. God is not like an evil demon that will possess us and take control of our lives against our will. He wants us to choose willingly to believe and obey Him and to seek a relationship with Him.

Like a boat trying to dock against the tide, if we do not actively pursue God, then we will slowly drift away from Him (Hebrews 2:1). The cares and pulls of the world seem to distract us easily, and we lose our focus on God. If we are ignoring Him, God may soon become unsure whether we are still choosing to walk with Him. He will try to get our attention back where it should be—on Him and His righteousness—through trials or other circumstances.

Yet ultimately, in order not to override our choice in the matter, God will allow us to slip away unless we repent and actively seek Him and ask for His Spirit. Without God's Spirit in us, we are trying to live and overcome on our own. If Jesus Himself says, "I can of Myself do nothing" (John 5:30), what chance does an individual have to overcome without Christ in him?

Daryl White
Ask and It Will Be Given


 

Matthew 7:24-26  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the wise and foolish builders, Christ describes two categories in illustrating the building of a house. Both houses appear equally attractive and substantial, but their comparative stability differs greatly. In their construction, the materials and labor used were similar, and both houses appeared upright, solid, and sound. Many times, seemingly good people who are uncalled seem to build their lives well and wisely in terms of money, material possessions, and friends. All these things seem good to the human mind, but their end can be disastrous without a Rock foundation (James 3:13-17). The elect of God build their houses differently, by daily obedience (Psalm 111:10), service, overcoming, Bible study, and prayer.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Two Builders


 

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?


 

Matthew 12:34-37  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Have we ever considered applying this principle a little differently? Most of us naturally think of this passage to refer to our conversations with others at home, at work, at play, at the store, at church services, etc. But what about applying it to ourselves when we are on our knees before God? Have we ever considered that out of the abundance of our prayers - or the lack thereof - our heart speaks?

Further, do we deeply consider what we say to God? Do we take the time to organize and improve how we present our requests to Him? Do we think about the attitude in which we come before the great God of the universe?

Though we may not always count it a blessing, God knows our every thought, every desire, every emotion. It is impossible to hide anything from Him (Hebrews 4:13). The beauty in truly understanding this is that we may as well be totally honest with Him, telling Him everything, because He already knows the deepest intents of our hearts!

He sees the tender feelings we have toward the plights of others and our desire to help. He notes the patience, forbearance, and true outgoing concern we have for the brethren in the church. He knows the deep love we have for those who request our prayers for their healing. He observes our sighing and crying over the wretched world we live in (see Ezekiel 9:4).

Conversely, He also sees when we are being self-centered, pigheadedly pursuing our own desires, and justifying what we want as opposed to what is right and good in His sight. He notices when we ignore the needs of others. He surely must shake His head in shame when we excuse ourselves for not doing what we know to be righteous.

God is acutely aware of our attitudes when approaching His throne. He discerns whether we consider time spent in conversation with Him to be of great value, or whether we are just going through the motions. Because He knows what we are going through at all times, He knows when we are harboring grudges, doubts, malice, lust, impatience, covetousness, and any other carnal motivation against another. Certainly, He realizes that we will not be at our best every time we enter His presence, but He can tell when we are distracted or disinterested.

God is shaping us for future offices in His Kingdom, and He learns a great deal about us as we come before Him in prayer. He truly does listen to what we bring before Him, but He always considers our heart and our reasoning in His response to us.

This does not mean that we have to pray perfectly every time, having every word and rationale in its proper place, although doing so should be our goal. Romans 8:26-27 assures us:

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit . . . makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He [Jesus Christ; see verse 34] makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Even though we might not put every word or thought in its proper place, still the ideas, plans, and attitudes in our prayers are amplified and aided by God's Spirit flowing between God and ourselves, and the Father responds according to His will for us. Paul continues, providing us greater confidence and boldness before God, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (verse 28). What joy we should have in knowing that everything will work out splendidly in the end!

John O. Reid
Out of the Abundance of Our Prayers


 

Matthew 16:21-23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses show how easily a disciple of Christ can become the means of communication from demons. Peter did the speaking, but Jesus spoke to Satan, attributing the source of the disciple's action. His verbal outburst was against God's will that Jesus suffer and die. Without recognizing it, Peter permitted himself to be a willing conduit for Satan's will!

Several years ago, I clipped an abstract of a book, Wrestling with Dark Angels, which was advertised in a book catalog. The abstract reads:

They're those inner "voices of reason" that try to convince you that wrong is right, that evil is good. They're Satan's dark angels, and you fight them every day. Some of today's most respected theologians help you better understand these supernatural forces so you can combat them effectively—and win the war for your mind.

There is a time coming, represented by the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day, when these dark forces of reason will no longer be free to influence mankind as they can now. Those who are now facing them without understanding what is happening will have died, been resurrected, and will live again with the knowledge of why life was so difficult before. God will not make them face these dark angels' subtle but powerful influence again. It will have had its effect, which will still have to be overcome. However, the possibility of that influence being refreshed each day will not exist.

The solution for us today is to combat that influence by means of the continuous influence of God's Holy Spirit flowing from our relationship with God through Bible study, prayer, meditation, occasional fasting, and obedience. Being in the spiritual presence of God and His Son Jesus Christ is the antidote. It is our shield and the means to flee Babylon.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part One)


 

Matthew 17:19-21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A lack of faith is a sign of a weak prayer life. Jesus Christ advises us how to address unbelief—prayer and fasting.

On a human level, how do we build trust, faith, and loyalty? Will we have faith in someone we do not know? Can we be loyal to a stranger? We build confidence in others through repeated contact with them over time—close and frequent communication. As we get to know them, to see them in action, to see their characters, we eventually reach a point where we can have trust and faith in them and in their behavior. Is it any different with God?

Prayer provides the repeated and continual contact with God that we need to get to know Him. This sets in motion the process that will lead to faith, to God being willing to give us the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8). The prayerful person becomes the faithful person, not the other way around. Hebrews 11:6 illustrates this point: "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."

Notice the condition in this verse: God is not the rewarder of everyone, but "of those who diligently seek Him." The gift of living faith comes from diligently, actively seeking Him, consistently and with zeal. Prayer is a major tool in seeking God, along with study, fasting, and using the knowledge gained to conform to His will—practical Christian living and overcoming. Those who prove their diligence by doing these things are the ones rewarded with the faith to overcome (I John 5:4).

The Sabbath is an external sign that identifies God's people (Exodus 31:13, 17). Yet a person may be a nominal Sabbath-keeper without having a true relationship with God. Is there another sign—a less visible one—that perhaps only God sees? Yes, and Zechariah 13:9 shows it is prayer: "They will pray in my name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'You are my people,' and they will reply, 'You, LORD, are our God!'" (Contemporary English Version).

Those with a weak prayer life have weak faith (Matthew 17:19-21). Those with weak faith are sinful (Romans 14:23) and are promised death (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23). That is just how important earnest prayer is as part of a solid foundation, especially during the end time. As I Peter 4:7 instructs, "But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers."

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Two)


 

Matthew 27:50-51  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Consider the general layout of the Tabernacle in the wilderness as well as the Temple in Jerusalem. Both basically were the same. As one approached its front, the first object encountered would be the altar of sacrifice, the brazen alter by which atonement was made. The Hebrew word translated as atonement means "by which we draw near." In other words, by sacrifice, represented by the brazen altar, we draw near to God, seeking Him.

After the brazen altar comes the laver. It could be described as being like a big bathtub. Here a person was to wash himself before proceeding any farther.

Once inside the sanctuary, light came from the candelabra, representing Christ as the Light of the World, as well as the light of God's truth spread from activity of the seven churches.

On the table was the shewbread, representing Christ as the Bread of Life. Directly in front of one who entered the Holy Place, past the table of shewbread, stood the altar of incense, representing the prayers of the saints. Barring one's way into the Holy of Holies, into the very presence of God, was the veil. Once behind it, a person would be before the Mercy Seat, in the very presence of God.

The veil being torn apart at Christ's death symbolizes that a personal relationship with God can be established. The way had been opened by the sacrificial death of our Savior. This intimate relationship with God is the key to our being transformed from glory to glory (II Corinthians 3:18).

If we cannot enter God's presence, if we are far away, there is not much hope of transformation. This is why the Bible so frequently urges us to seek God. Seeking God is part of "dressing and keeping" the relationship, helping it to grow. This close relationship is vital to increasing the Holy Spirit in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 7)


 

Luke 2:25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

How were Simeon and Anna able to recognize the Messiah three decades before His first witness actually began? Luke provides the answer. He shows us that, in aggregate, the people of this group displayed the following characteristics:

1. They had God's Spirit. As a result, they were able to understand "the deep things of God. . . . No one knows the things of God except [by] the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 2:10-11). When He promised the Spirit to His disciples, Christ called it

the Spirit of truth [which] . . . will guide you into all truth; for [it] will not speak on [its] own authority, but whatever [it] hears [it] will speak; and [it] will tell you things to come. (John 16:13)

The Spirit taught Simeon and Anna, just as it taught the apostles—just as it teaches us today.

2. They heard God's Word. Anna "did not depart from the Temple . . . night and day." She often heard the reading of God's Word, which Christ defined as truth (John 17:17). That Word "is profitable for . . . instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16). The Devout received frequent instruction from God's Word.

3. They talked with others of like mind. Simeon was not alone; neither was Anna. Luke 2:38 says Anna "spoke of [Christ] to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem." An unspecified number of other people also waited for the Messiah! They fellowshipped with those who were "just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel" (verse 25).

4. They fasted often. Notice the plural: Anna "served God with fastings" (Luke 2:37). These were not the fastings of vanity (see Matthew 6:16-18), but she fasted in service to God. A result of proper fasting is knowledge (see Daniel 9:1-22; 10:1-21). Surely, Anna's frequent fastings contributed to her ability to recognize the Messiah.

5. They prayed regularly. Again, notice the plural, "prayers" (Luke 2:37). Many hours of prayer lay behind Anna's recognition of her Messiah.

Solomon writes in Proverbs 2:3-5, "If you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, . . . then you will . . . find the knowledge of God." Solomon should know. God greatly increased his knowledge and wisdom as a result of his prayer (II Chronicles 1:10).

6. The Devout made the right connections. As a result of hearing God's Word, they were aware of the Seventy-Weeks Prophecy (Daniel 9:20-27). They realized that it was about 69 prophetic weeks since the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the Messiah's coming was imminent. That is what Luke 2:26 tells us: God's Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die before seeing the Messiah.

7. The Devout saw the Day approaching and did not forsake the assembling of themselves together (Hebrews 10:25). They understood the value of Christian fellowship. The prophet wrote of them and their sort through the ages: "Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them" (Malachi 3:16).

Discussing God's Word in frequent fellowship, with humble fastings and prayers, the Devout received understanding from God. Thus, they recognized their Messiah while the superstitious and the proud did not.

Charles Whitaker
Recognizing the Second Witness


 

Luke 11:5-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus taught by example, and this is particularly true in terms of prayer. Once, after He was finished praying, His disciples asked Him to show them how to pray (Luke 11:1-4). He responded by giving them an outline of what to include in a typical prayer. Then, after having taught His disciples to pray, Jesus furthers His instruction through the Parable of the Persistent Friend (verses 5-13), which pictures persistence and perseverance in prayer.

The parable includes three friends. A visiting friend had traveled for many hours to where he thought he would be offered food and shelter, but he had none, since his host's family had already eaten and retired to bed for the evening. Custom, however, dictated that the weary traveler be provided food. Not wanting to neglect his friend even though it was late, the host, a persistent friend, went to a sleeping friend's house nearby to ask for bread.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Friend


 

Luke 11:5-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The sleeping friend, awakened by his persistent friend, was irritated to be bothered so late at night. He flat out refused to give him any bread for his visiting friend, lest his sleeping wife and children be disturbed. He probably reasoned it would be better for one person to fast until morning than for his whole family to be disturbed at midnight. However, the persistent friend continued knocking, threatening to wake not only the whole family, but the whole neighborhood as well! So he got out of bed and gave his friend some bread—but not out of friendship. He gave in to persistence. A friend is a fine source of aid (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12), but God the Father and Jesus Christ are our spiritual friends—our greatest friends. They give grace, mercy, and truth abundantly (Psalm 121:1-8; 86:15; Ephesians 3:20; I Timothy 1:14-16).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Friend


 

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

The sleeping friend had to be awakened and pestered into lending the bread, but God does not sleep and is never disturbed when we approach Him. We do not have to force Him into giving because He never gives reluctantly; giving is a major part of His nature. Although God is generous, we should pray perseveringly as David did, not being afraid to ask repeatedly according to His will (Psalm 86:1-7, 15-17).

The intensity God desires in our prayers is emphasized by the admonishment to "ask, seek, knock." All asking is not considered seeking, but only patient and persistent asking. All seeking is not considered looking in the right place, but only seeking the truth. All knocking is not considered attention getting, but only energetic and persistent knocking. The threefold admonition is in itself an admonition to ask diligently, repeatedly, and long-sufferingly. By this parable Christ exhorts us to be patient, persevering, and persistent in prayer. If the persistent friend who sought the bread for his visiting friend was not discouraged by a negative response but continued to ask earnestly, how much more diligent should we be in beseeching God who willingly and abundantly gives (Matthew 6:30-33)? God does not answer our diligent prayers to be rid of us but because He loves us (Psalm 103:13; Isaiah 49:15).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Friend


 

Luke 18:1-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8) teaches the necessity of patient, persistent, and persevering prayer, much like the Parable of the Persistent Friend (Luke 11:5-13). A mention of prayer precedes both parables. Though delivered in different situations, they both show the absolute, immeasurable contrast between God and men, and provide evidence that God yields to the saints' pleading and urging. Both parables depict a person granting a request because of his selfish motives. The Persistent Friend's persevering prayer is for necessities, while the Persistent Widow's is for protection. Both parables conclude that God will not fail us as friends and acquaintances often do.

The Parable of the Persistent Widow is especially linked with the final crisis of the last days and the painful circumstances the faithful remnant will face. Prayer will be a major resource for them. Since vengeance is God's alone, they know He will judge their oppressors, but as they wait for deliverance, persevering prayer will be their refreshment and supply of patience. The parable is preceded by Jesus' exhortation on the Christian duty to pray, dedication in prayer, and resisting the temptation to discontinue prayer. It concludes by indicating that prayer is a matter of faith.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Widow


 

Luke 18:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Concerning our habits of prayer, "always" does not mean we should pray every single minute of the day. If this were so, the faith involved in prayer would be a dead one, as we would never have time to do the works required with it (James 2:17-18, 20, 26). "Always" means that we should be faithful to our regular times of prayer. Concerning the time of prayer, "always" includes the fact that we should pray in both good and bad times. Sadly, some pray only in a crisis, and others forget to offer a prayer of thanksgiving when God has intervened to solve a problem or provide a blessing (I Thessalonians 5:17-18). Regarding the spirit of prayer, "always" means we should be continually ready to pray, praying whenever a crisis hits or a need arises. Because they reveal our priorities, good habits of prayer show dedication to God and strengthen our relationship with Him.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Widow


 

Luke 18:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Not lose heart" or "faint" (KJV) means to grow weary, to give in to evil, to turn coward. We must resist the human tendency of growing weary in prayer. We have a duty as the elect of God to pray. There are several major causes of losing heart: defilement, doubt, danger, distractions, and delay.

» The defilement of sin kills interest in spiritual exercises like prayer. Sin does not promote a good prayer life—in fact, it will stop it dead. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear" (Psalms 66:18).

» Praying with doubt is faithless, making the prayer useless. Doubting the inspiration of Scripture and the power of God hinders prayer (I Timothy 2:8). As prayer and faith go hand in hand, so do unbelief and not praying.

» Prayer must sometimes be done at dangerous times. Danger weeds out the coward from the courageous. Daniel faced real danger in praying, but kept on praying, even though it led to the lion's den (Daniel 6). Today, our dangers are varied, but the danger of embarrassment often affects people more than danger of physical harm.

» Satan is a master of causing distractions, especially during prayer time. Probably every saint has experienced his mind wandering, causing him to think about everything except what he should be praying about.

» Few things cause us to lose heart in praying more than delays in answers to our requests. Jesus uses this parable to teach us that, though answers often appear to take a long time in coming, we should persevere and not grow weary in praying to God.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Widow


 

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


 

Luke 18:9-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) contrasts two different attitudes: self-righteousness and humility. The two men who go to the Temple to pray contrast in character, belief, and self-examination, representing opposite sides of the law. The Pharisee corresponds to the self-righteous, merciless worshipper of the law, and the tax collector exemplifies the humiliated lawbreaker. Both are sinners, although the outward form of their sins differs. Both men allow the judgment that they had already formed about themselves to determine the form and wording of their prayers.

As Luke comments, the parable's purpose is to expose those "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others." Despised, which literally means "to count as nothing," describes the religious egotism the Pharisees repulsively personified. Jesus' intention is to rebuke this self-righteous trust in the self, as well as self-righteous loathing of others. Not only do the self-righteous think they are safe from God's judgment, but they also habitually disdain others as not being as righteous as they are and therefore deserving of God's judgment. Although it involves prayer, this parable is not one about how to pray as much as it is on how to be justified before God.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector


 

Luke 18:9-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Pharisee's prayer manifests his mindset (II Peter 2:3). People like him trust in their own works to gain salvation and eternal life, not trusting in Jesus Christ for them. They do not really think they need His sacrifice or help because they think they are good enough in themselves. So, they toot their own horns, making sure God knows how righteous they are. While kneeling before Him, they tell Him all the good things they are always doing, and believe that He is impressed. They act as if God owes them salvation because of their good works.

This attitude shows how little they understand of the true holiness of God and the lowliness of our spiritual state. While on earth, Jesus worked more easily with tax collectors and sinners than with the Pharisees, though the latter were more dedicated to adhering strictly to the letter of the law. The Pharisees, knowing they were more righteous, made sure others knew it. In their self-delusion and self-righteousness, they could learn little from Christ.

The Pharisee, considering others as nothing, treats them accordingly. It is typical of human nature to elevate itself while putting down others, and some believe that this is the only way to elevate themselves above their peers. Isaiah writes about such people: ". . . who say, 'Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!' These are smoke in [God's] nostrils, a fire that burns all the day" (Isaiah 65:5).

The Pharisee compares his own flaws, not with God's infinite perfections, but with the imagined greater flaws of others. His pride has made him bankrupt of genuine compassion and concern (James 2:13). He presumptuously errs in his prayer in that it is neither his duty nor his right as a sinner to point out another's sins. In trusting in Christ for righteousness, our inadequacies and guilt are revealed, and we become willing to admit that others may be much better than we are.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector


 

Luke 21:34-36  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

According to Strong's Concordance, agrupneo, the Greek word translated as watch in verse 36 means "to be sleepless, i.e. keep awake." Frequently, when the Bible mentions being asleep or tells us to wake up, it refers to our spiritual state (Matthew 25:5; Romans 13:11; I Thessalonians 5:6-8). Instead of "watch," some Bible versions use words such as, "don't go to sleep at the switch" (The Message), "be always on the watch" (NIV), "be ready all the time" (New Century Version), "keep awake" (Amplified Bible), "keep on the alert" (NASB), "stay awake" (ESV), "keep a constant watch" (Living Bible), and "beware of slumbering" (The New Testament in Modern Speech). This is a call to the spiritual, not the physical.

Just over two decades ago, an elderly man named Herbert Armstrong cried out, "Wake up!" and he was not talking about any other waking up than a spiritual one. Because we did not heed his warning then, the church has experienced twenty years of apostasy and scattering. If we do not wake up eventually, God has a three-and-a-half-year plan guaranteed to get our attention.

In our former association, we obeyed the instructions in Luke 21:7-33 to watch world events, but we did not closely follow Christ's commands in Luke 21:34-36 to guard our spiritual condition, hence the scattering. Interestingly, the condition of the church at that time mirrors how Luke 21:36 was generally applied—physical rather than spiritual.

It is always a good practice to allow the Bible to interpret itself rather than adding extra-biblical interpretations (II Peter 1:20). Because the Bible uses sleep and waking from sleep as spiritual metaphors, why would we want to add another meaning to the "watch" of Luke 21:36? That would be walking on shaky ground (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32), and we want to avoid repeating past error.

To emphasize that "watch" in Luke 21:36 is all about the spiritual and not about the physical, notice how agrupneo is used in its only other appearances in the New Testament:

Mark 13:33: "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is." (This verse parallels Luke 21:36.)

Ephesians 6:18: ". . . praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints." (The context of this verse is putting on the whole armor of God—definitely a spiritual exercise.)

Hebrews 13:17: Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (The ministry's first priority is the spiritual health of called-out Christians.)

These facts lead to the conclusion that "watch" in Luke 21:36 has little, or perhaps even nothing, to do with watching world events. A careful reading shows that the "watch" of Luke 21:36 is only minimally directing us to watch world events. Overemphasizing that meaning of this verse has overshadowed its real message, perhaps the most important survival instructions Jesus gives to Christians living at the end.

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part One)


 

Luke 21:35-36  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

He is not saying we should always pray, "Father, save me!" That would be self-centered. He says, "Develop this beautiful relationship with God that I've made possible for you. Remain in contact with Him."

Our prayers need to take on the quality of communication that is the ideal when a man and a woman date toward marriage. On the first date, they may not know much about each another, but with further contact their knowledge of each other grows. In talking back and forth, the relationship develops. They discover common interests. They find each other attractive and fascinating. As events progress, they work to improve the relationship so that they can eventually marry, continuing the relationship with greater intimacy, pleasure, and productivity. God desires this kind of relationship with His people.

Jesus Christ warns that the same factor that ruins a marriage - if one or the other begins to find another more attractive - can ruin this relationship with God. In these perilous times, divorce claims roughly 50 percent of marriages. An institution that God intends to be very beautiful is destroyed because a love of a beautiful relationship is not paired with a love of righteousness. The world has successfully squeezed the couple into its mold. Though it may have begun beautifully, the relationship has a horrible ending.

God intends prayer to be communication with Him to develop a beautiful relationship begun through the acceptance of Christ's sacrifice. As a product of keeping the relationship alive, we show our commitment by keeping our appointments with Him, upholding the vow we made at baptism, keeping His commandments, showing we are trustworthy by overcoming our sins.

While we work on this relationship, we are watching! We are on guard. We are alert, like a soldier on guard duty, making sure that what we hold to be beautiful is not destroyed. Imagine what would happen if a guard, while pacing at his post, was attracted by something to one side. If he goes over to inspect it, the enemy attacks! Babylon employs exactly the same strategy. And sadly, the duped guard exactly depicts a Laodicean, who gets distracted by desirable things. The rudiments of the cause of this distraction are illustrated in Luke 21. A Laodicean is lulled into a spiritual complacency and apathy by the attractiveness of the world. That is Christ's warning - stay alert, be on guard, and pray!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Luke 21:36  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Coupled with watching and overcoming, the next subject that Jesus addresses in Luke 21:36 is prayer. To grasp just how important prayer is, notice the example of Daniel, one of the three most righteous men in the Bible, according to Ezekiel 14:14. Part of his story is in Daniel 6:7, 10:

All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. . . . Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.

Daniel believed that prayer was so essential that he chose to risk his life to lions rather than lose contact with God for even a part of a day. We could say that he feared the Lion of Judah more than any physical lion. To him, prayer was a life-and-death issue. Is it to us? How many excuses would we have made to avoid those lions? What excuses do we make today to justify a lack of prayer?

Is anything more serious than a life-and-death issue? Because of the Bible's obviously high regard for Daniel, it is reasonable to assume that his attitude about prayer played a significant part in deserving the label of "righteous." Prayer, for us, becomes a spiritual life-and-death question, not just a physical one as Daniel faced.

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Two)


 

Luke 21:36  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

While prayer is important, notice that in Luke 21:36, Jesus does not use just the word "pray" but the phrase "pray always." Why is this significant?

As we begin to answer this question, it is good to know that the word "always" is a translation of three Greek words. A literal translation of those three words, en pantí kairoó, would be "in all times," and many Bible translations have chosen to use similar wording, such as "at all times." Other versions may use "all the time," while some use words like "constant" and "constantly." Weymouth's New Testament goes so far as to read, "every moment."

Christ is speaking, not just about prayer, but also about the frequency of our prayers. How often are we in contact with God throughout our day? Do we give Him some time in the morning or evening, but the rest of the day He is in none, or very few, of our thoughts? Doing so places us in very dangerous company (Psalm 10:4).

Laodiceans have lukewarm relationships with God, thus Christ has to say to them in Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." He calls for them to rekindle the relationship. Making the first move, He suggests what friends who have a close relationship do—they share a meal. What happens at a meal with friends? Conversation, which is what prayer is. Humans, whether with people or with God, build their relationships the same way: They talk to each other—a lot.

We can see why Christ tells those living at the end, when Laodiceanism reigns, that we have to overcome and pray always. Generally, the relationship between God and the Christian is weak and must be rebuilt, requiring considerable conversation, prayer, at all times of the day.

If we observed a marriage in which the husband and wife only mumbled to each other a little in the morning and/or a little at night, we would conclude that that relationship was in trouble. Our God who sees all knows the same thing when He experiences it.

How does a Christian "pray always"? In one of Herbert W. Armstrong's radio broadcasts on the book of Hebrews, he says, paraphrased, "You need to be in contact with God every hour!" I Thessalonians 5:17 instructs, "Pray without ceasing." Hebrews 13:15 urges us to offer prayer to God "continually." God's purpose for us requires a great deal of contact with Him.

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Two)


 

John 6:44  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Our calling, our life in Christ begins when the Father directly interfaces with our mind for the purpose of revealing Himself, His ways, His purpose, His plan, His mind, His attitude, His perspective, His character, His love, His power, His mercy, His forgiveness, and on and on, that we might use our life and free-moral agency to choose life—which brings us back to Deuteronomy 30 and its context.

But most important is that the Father Himself does this. God miraculously joins His own mind to ours! There is nothing mysterious about this at all. He begins to transfer His thoughts, His attitudes, His character—the Spirit of His mind—into our minds. When it tells us, "Grieve not the Spirit of God," he means, "Don't grieve the Father by resisting Him." He is transferring the invisible essence of His mind through the access that we have to Him by means of the death of Jesus Christ. He is by no means kidding about the importance of this process. He is helping us to understand that, even as we are influenced by those around us, unless we are in the presence of God, we will not be influenced by Him. This is why it is so vital for us to share life with Him.

This is where prayer and Bible study become important because we are literally in His presence and He can transfer the essence of His mind into ours. Nobody sees it. When we obey, we are giving Him permission to do this. We submit, using our free moral agency. There is nothing magical about this at all. It occurs when we respond to the influence of the interface that He creates between us when we believe His Word and submit, and when we strengthen the relationship through prayer, Bible study, and meditation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

John 6:63  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice what one of the main manifestations of God's Spirit is: words. The entire revelation of God - the Bible - is composed of words. If His Word is not a manifestation of God's Spirit, we do not know what is! Many of these words are the words of God Himself. Many of them are words of God's servants that have been written down for our admonition.

Everything, though, comes down to words because the way of God is a set of ideas. These ideas we put down on paper as words, or when we speak, we speak them as words. We cannot understand them otherwise.

The servant of God may do other works. He can perform healings, which are not necessarily manifested as words, although often words accompany a healing, specifically a prayer. Casting out demons is similar, as there is usually a prayer involved. Miracles, too, often involve certain words that are spoken to beseech God to act. But the works themselves - the healings, the casting out of demons, the miracles - are not words, but they are manifestations of the Spirit.

However, the primary job of a servant of God is to speak or to write words to convict people of God's truth. So, in the speaking or in the writing of words, he witnesses for God. In the end, in the final analysis, the witness of the Two Witnesses is words. They will give evidence, testimony, for God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 4)


 

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

Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus. The text indicates that His love for them was more than a passing friendship but something far closer. The scriptures suggest that when Jesus traveled to Jerusalem, He stayed at their home. He slept in their house, ate meals with them, and undoubtedly conversed with them a great deal.

Consider their being that close to Him, spending long hours talking with Him, sharing their lives with Him. They had a closeness that other people (other than the apostles) did not have. They really knew and trusted Him. They relied on Him in a way that few people could.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith and Prayer


 

John 11:3-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

His relationship with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus was different from the relationship He had with other people. Why? One reason is, as we find in other places, He stayed with this family when He was near Jerusalem. He had undoubtedly eaten quite a number of meals at their home, and they had had ample time to talk about the plan of God, as well as their hopes and dreams, problems, trials, and difficulties. Jesus likely counseled them in these matters. As a result of this fellowship, within this family atmosphere, grew an intimacy of thinking that He did not have with many others. The Bible does not say all that often that He loved somebody the way He loved these.

Trust in a historical fact can be essentially passive, but so what? It might not be a vital part of life. However, a Christian cannot have the kind of conviction needed unless he recognizes that he is fellowshipping with a very wonderful, living, dynamic, and gracious Personality. When we pray to Him, He wants us to think about that relationship, about Him, His power, His willingness, His purpose, and everything connected with Him in His relationship with us.

Trust in a Personality energizes the quality of the prayer. In this case, it infuses the trust with a firsthand knowledge of the Being to whom we are appealing. Prayer's most important fruit may well be the understanding gained of this Personality: what He is and what He does.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Fervency


 

John 15:13-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We like to think of ourselves as rising to the occasion when a time of great crisis arises. We all hope to emulate what the heroes of faith did. But as great as they were, Jesus says here, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." It is very easy to think of the sacrifice implied in "lay[ing] down one's life" as dying for another in one moment of time. Though that may occasionally occur, the context shows this sacrifice within the framework of friendship. Friendship occurs over months and years, not just in one moment in time.

In true friendships, because we are eager to help, we willingly spend ourselves ungrudgingly, without tallying the cost. Friends open their hearts and minds to each other without secrecy, which one would not do for a mere acquaintance. True friends allow the other to see right in and know them as they really are. Friends share what they have learned. Finally, and most importantly for this article, a friend trusts the one who believes in him, and risks that the other will never doubt his loyalty but look upon him with proven confidence.

Though the principle given by Christ is applicable to all friendships, He has one specific friendship as His primary focus: ours with Him, or more generally, ours with God. Proverbs 18:24 says, "A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." That friend is Jesus of Nazareth, but He made it very clear that if we are His friends, we will show it in our obedience to His commands. But before we can obey, we must trust Him.

Take a moment to evaluate yourself. Are you as open and frank with Him as He is with us through His Word? Often our prayers are stiff and formal, not truly honest. Besides that, sometimes we become bored in His presence and soon have nothing to say to Him. Is it not true that we do not trust Him as fully as we should? That we are often quick to doubt Him? That we easily grow suspicious of Him? That we lose heart or fear that He has forgotten us? That He is not really trying or is unequal to the task of shepherding us into His Kingdom? Though He has never failed us, we are so quick to suspect and blame Him!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Wandering the Wilderness in Faith


 

John 16:23-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Is it true that God has given us a blank check to ask anything of Him just as one might ask a genie in a fairy tale? Some may misunderstand this to be the case, but I John 5:14 qualifies what He will grant: "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." Real prayer is communion with God, and what is necessary for communion are common thoughts between His mind and ours.

What we need is for Him to fill our minds and hearts with His thoughts. Then His desires will become our desires flowing back to Him in the form of prayer. James 4:3 confirms this: "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." If we ask amiss, we are certainly not asking according to His will, and we will not receive.

But does not Jesus say in John 16:23, "[W]hatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you"? He most assuredly does, but we still do not have a carte blanche. To ask God for anything in the name of Jesus Christ, it must be in keeping with what He is. To ask in Christ's name is to ask as though Christ Himself were asking. Therefore, we can only ask for what Christ Himself would ask. It is therefore necessary to set aside our own will and accept God's. Jesus says in John 8:29: "And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him." If we do as Jesus did, we are sure to receive answers as He did. He adds in John 11:41-42: "Father, I thank you that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me."

We must come away with the realization that prayer is not dictating to God, but a humble and heartfelt expression of our attitude of dependency and need. Because of this, the one who truly prays is submissive to God's will, content with Him supplying his need according to the dictates of His sovereign pleasure. The result of this, combined with the infusion of God's attitudes and thoughts as we draw near to Him, will work to create us in His image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

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?


 

Acts 20:27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul said this when making his last goodbye to the Ephesian elders on his way to Jerusalem. Eventually, from there, he went to Rome to face the authorities there. He had spent many years in his journeys crisscrossing the area of what is today western Turkey, preaching the gospel to them, as well as to the world. In making this statement, he is saying, in effect, that a disciple is not made merely by preaching the gospel to him as a witness. There is a vast difference between the two. A disciple of Christ is created through preaching, personal study, prayer, meditation, fellowship, and experience in a relationship with the Father, the Son, and the church. Jesus clearly says in Matthew 28:20 that the disciples were to be taught "all things whatsoever I have commanded you."

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 2)


 

Romans 3:10-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is a powerful statement: "There is none who seeks after God." Wait a minute! Are not people all over the world are seeking after a god to worship? Yet God says there is none that is seeking after Him. They are not seeking God in the way the Bible instructs. The people of thiis world are so deceived by Satan that they do not even know what to look for. God has to reveal Himself, then they can seek Him!

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?


 

2 Corinthians 12:7-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses show us two examples regarding prayer: First, it illustrates how God can respond to our prayers, and second, how Paul reacted to God's answer. We, like Paul, want God to remove our afflictions any time we are in discomfort, but especially when the affliction is chronic and, we feel, inhibits accomplishment. God's response to Paul, however, fit a far greater need, perhaps to keep Paul humble so that his many gifts did not become a curse. Instead, God gave him strength to bear up under the affliction, thus keeping him in a constant state of dependency for strength to go on. Paul humbly accepted this and continued his ministry despite his affliction, knowing it was fulfilling God's will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Galatians 2:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The account of Acts 15 shows that it is not necessary for salvation for Christians to be physically circumcised. Salvation is by grace through faith, and faith without works is dead. We cannot "work" or "earn" our way into the Kingdom of God. The privilege to be a part of the eternal Kingdom is one that God bestows according to His will. Nothing we can do will make God indebted to us or require Him to do something for us, such as grant us admission into His Kingdom.

But at the same time, if we are within the salvation process, we must show forth works, or fruits, that demonstrate our repentance, our attitude, and our desire to live by the rules of His Kingdom. We must live now in the same way that we will be living for eternity—by the laws of God's Kingdom. Our works do not save us; they demonstrate that we are being saved.

Under the Old Covenant, the ceremonies and ordinances were primarily physical, and the spiritual aspects were implied. Under the New Covenant, the ceremonies and ordinances are primarily spiritual, and the physical aspects are implied. For example, there is no record of Christ ever performing an animal sacrifice, even though the Old Testament requires one in the morning and in the evening. Under the New Covenant, the physical rite is not required, yet the basic law is still there, and is thus manifested in morning and evening prayer, a sacrifice of our time and energy.

In the same regard, the council of Acts 15 shows that circumcision is not one of the works that is required to demonstrate the salvation/sanctification process. When considering eternity and the spiritual bodies that we will have at that time, circumcision is almost insignificant. What is truly important is whether or not the heart has been circumcised. The physical rite was a reminder to the children of Israel that they were separate and distinct, but even in this God was looking for a change of heart so much more so than a modification of the flesh.

David C. Grabbe


 

Ephesians 5:14-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice the encouraging reason Paul gives to wake up and carefully mind how we live: "Christ will give you light." This is an outright promise that He will give us the help to do what we must do. Backed by this promise, we are to redeem the time "because the days are evil." If his days were evil, what would Paul think of ours?

This passage reveals how the early church regarded time as it applies to a Christian. For us, all days - every period in which God's people have had to live their lives by their God-given understanding, thus by faith - are evil. God's truth has always run counter to the course of this world. Thus, the truth adds a peculiar, stressful difficulty to life regardless of when it is lived. Moreover, since each called-out individual has only one opportunity to lay hold on eternal life, and must overcome, grow, and prove his loyalty to God during that time, he must make use of every experience.

Galatians 1:3-4 confirms this perspective: "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." In terms of growing and overcoming, living in a particular period in history gives a Christian no advantage. Every era, every age, is against him, and within it, he must make the most of his calling. The times have always been evil.

To the church, then, because it must operate responsibly toward God within a highly specialized understanding of life and its purpose, every age is full of the cyclical, frustrating, repetitious events that Solomon called futile vanities. Such events lead nowhere and produce a discouraging fatalism.

However, a Christian also knows that God is directing time and events to His desired end. Thus, the church's view of time is an elegant combination of both realities, realizing that it has a work to accomplish as an organization and that each individual Christian must grow and overcome within it. So, as Christians, we must face the evil of repetitious vanity produced by sin, which history clearly records, with faith in the hope of a glorious victory for God's called-out ones, which God's Word prophesies.

Thus, Paul advises in Ephesians 5:17, "Therefore . . . understand what the will of the Lord is." As we live our lives each day, we should never let what God says slip from our minds. His point is that we need to make the most of every opportunity because time is inexorably moving toward God's desired end, and it will not stop and wait for us. We do not want to be left behind! No occasion is too insignificant to do the right thing. Time is precious! We, like God, must take it very seriously.

We must not make the mistake of relegating Christian living to a mere couple of hours on the Sabbath. Christianity involves every aspect of life. Personal study and prayer are times of clarifying God's will. But we must not neglect the doing of His will as occasions arise - and they will arise every day. Woe to us if we disregard them, for they comprise the very circumstances that challenge us to overcome and grow in our seeking of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part Two): A Foundation


 

Philippians 1:9-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Were those in the Philippian church perfect? Certainly, they had their problems, yet Paul overlooked all the petty matters and focused on the goal that Jesus gives to each of the members of His church, praying accordingly. When we follow Paul's example, our sights are lifted above the trivialities that confront us daily, realigning us on what Christ desires for each of us.

John O. Reid
Out of the Abundance of Our Prayers


 

Colossians 3:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A vital step to overcoming covetousness is to study, pray, fast, meditate, and obey. Consciously practice God's way of life. This takes sacrifice and discipline, but it fills the mind with God's thoughts. This will eventually make sin foreign to us because we simply will not think to do it!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Tenth Commandment (1998)


 

Colossians 4:2-4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul instructs us not only not to neglect prayer, but also to keep at it in earnest. He advises us to watch for opportunities to pray for others and for situations, especially in the church, that require prayer. This important work belongs to us individually.

At the time, the apostle was imprisoned in Rome, and he desperately longed to be released so that he could proclaim the gospel and teach God's way as he had been commissioned to do. He was certain that, through the power of prayer, God would open a door - perhaps the door to his prison - to present God's Word to others. The apostle knew that this was God's will for him, so prayer according to that same will would be effective.

The lesson for us today is to pray for the ministers who speak to us, teaching the doctrines and principles that will help us to overcome, grow in grace and knowledge, and obtain the understanding to put on the image of Christ. We must realize that their messages go out, not just to us, but to other members of the congregation who may have different needs than we do. In addition, they are spread around the world via the Internet to people who may have had a long association with God's truth, as well as to those who are truly babes in the Word of God. We need to pray that God inspires the ministry to fill the needs that He sees in today's very diverse audience.

Prior to each Sabbath service, we should humbly pray in deep appreciation for whoever is presenting the messages, asking that God would guide their messages and that all who hear them might receive what Jesus Christ wants them to understand. Such an attitude and prayer will please God greatly.

John O. Reid
Out of the Abundance of Our Prayers


 

1 Thessalonians 4:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When we really mature in our spiritual life, we see more, we know more, we feel more, we do more, and we repent more. It is all in proportion to our closeness to God! We are, in short, growing in grace (as Peter said in II Peter 3:18).

No one who neglects the spiritual big four—Bible study, prayer, meditation, and occasional fasting—can expect to make much progress in sanctification because these are the channels through which spiritual strength flows from God. This is why having access to God through Jesus Christ is so important. These efforts produce faith and then obedience, and fresh supplies of His grace flows.

There are no spiritual gains without pains. Would we expect a crop from a farmer who never even looked at his fields until harvest time? That is ridiculous! The farmer has to get out in his fields and sow the seeds. Does not God say in James 3:18 that "the fruit of righteousness are sown in peace by those who make peace"? The fruits of righteousness have to be sown! That is work.

What are the fruits of righteousness? They are love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, meekness, kindness, faith, self-control—but they have to be sown, fertilized, cultivated, and pruned. We see a process. As those fruits begin to be produced, sanctification cannot be hidden any more than the fruit on a tree can be hidden. We will never attain to holiness without Bible study, prayer, fasting, meditation, and obedience because through them is how spiritual life is sown, cultivated, fertilized, and tended so that fruit is produced.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 9)


 

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?


 

1 Timothy 2:5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is one mediator, Christ. The Holy Spirit is referred to as the parakletos, the Comforter. It is the guide, leading us into all truth. Comforter means "one who goes alongside." If this were a personality, then one would begin to think that it is in a position somewhere between us and the Father. But the Bible makes o mention of anything of the kind. There is only one between us and God, and that One is the Son.

This is similar in form to I Corinthians 11:3, which shows that, of the Deities above us, only One stands between us and God the Father, that is, God the Son. This means that not even the Holy Spirit, sent to us as a Comforter, is a mediator.

If the Holy Spirit were God (equal to the Father and the Son), it would be an affront of the highest order to exclude "Him" from an intermediary role between us and the Father—especially when we consider that the Bible assigns us, mere human beings, an intercessory role between others and the Father. By prayer we are to intercede before the Father for one another, which is a form of mediation. We go to the Father in behalf of our brothers and sisters who are undergoing trial, difficulty, sickness, or whatever. The Holy Spirit is excluded from this role because it is not a personality, yet we are given it because we are personalities.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

Hebrews 1:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"The express image" is from a single Greek word, from which comes our word "character." The word appears only here in the New Testament.

William Barclay explains that it literally describes "the impress that a seal leaves on wax," so he renders that part of Hebrews 1:3 as, "He [Christ] is the exact impression of his [Father's] being, just as the mark is the exact impression of the seal." Physically, a seal can make an impression only by making contact, which is exactly what must happen to us spiritually. For God to make us in His "express image"—to stamp His character on us, to give us the gift of His qualities—requires contact, that we be in His presence. Praying always does just that.

This verse also suggests that godly character is not really the result of battling temptation, a battle we are powerless to win on our own. Rather, character is created by our continual, conscious choice to be in contact with Him, to submit everything we are to Him, to acknowledge that He is the only source of strength, and then to trust—to have faith in (I John 5:4)—His love and willingness to do battle for us, to give us the gift of His character.

Praying always is that first step in overcoming—submitting. Then He can take over to do what we are not able to do on our own. After our decision to submit, He may still require certain actions from us, to take those few steps in faith—our walk with God—but then we have Him on our side, giving us guidance and strength.

Even in the world, we can see the power of character. While character can make an ordinary man extraordinary, a lack of character can make an extraordinary man quite ordinary. Character has power because it connects us with divine wisdom. Without character, we are limited to human intelligence, and most of history is a record of its woeful inadequacy. Character links us to a godly intelligence that can see the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). A person who exercises character exercises faith. He may not foresee the good it will bring, but he trusts that the divine intelligence behind his faith knows more.

If we are not continually praying, we will be using human intelligence with the same ratio of success that history has shown it to have. Praying always, striving always to be aware of His presence, allows His Spirit to rub off on us. God has chosen praying always as a primary method to allow us to get to know Him, to receive His character as a gift, to overcome, and to receive eternal life and salvation.

If God has given us this powerful tool, why do we not use it more? Why do we not seek God for every decision, every thought?

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Four)


 

Hebrews 4:14-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is faith that clears the way to the mercy seat. Faith, first of all, gives the assurance that there even is a mercy seat and a High Priest that waits to hear our petitions and our confession and those of our brothers and sisters. The Revised Standard Version translates verse 16, "Let us then with confidence draw near." It is an interesting approach. "Confidence" has the overtone of speaking freely. What are we doing in prayer? We are fellowshipping with God. We are in His company communicating with Him, and faith is plowing the way before us—because prayer grows out of faith! We would not even be praying if we did not have faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Fervency


 

Hebrews 5:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice especially the link connecting His being saved from death and being heard because He feared. Christ acknowledged God's sovereignty through a deeply held reverential awe, showing that answered prayer, eternal life, and the fear of God are intertwined.

This is true because the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom is right application, and right application is obedience. Jesus Christ obeyed God perfectly. His fear was not an occasional burst of deep respect—as ours so often is—but sustained and built throughout His entire life. It had to be this way because His trials intensified as He aged, and His need of godly fear became ever more urgent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sovereignty and Its Fruit: Part Ten


 

Hebrews 10:19-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Praying to the Father, through Jesus Christ, brings us into the presence of the most holy, positive, righteous, peaceful, serving, giving, humble, merciful, and unchanging attitudes and character that exist in the entire universe! The notes at Psalm 16:11 demonstrate a simplified effect of this in how the attitudes of people we spend time with affect us. Whether that person's attitude is positive or negative, unless we resist or our attitude is strong, our attitude tends to echo the strength of the other's attitudes. If the other is personally close to us—especially if we deem the relationship important to us—the effect of the transfer of attitudes intensifies. Similarly, physical nearness also intensifies the effect.

This is why men reflect Satan's spirit. Satan "broadcasts" it over our entire environment here on earth, thus, we are always "near" it. In fact, God has willed that at this time it will have no strong competition among the unconverted. Even we cannot entirely escape its influence; even when in God's presence, we can bring that spirit with us.

Notice that Hebrews 10:22 says, "[L]et us draw near. . . ." Nearness enhances the transfer of the qualities of God's Spirit, and He greatly desires we have these qualities because they will make us like Him. Being in His presence is a primary way this is accomplished. This is why a person can leave God's presence in prayer at peace, full of joy, or filled with confidence—or on the other hand, chastened, having been led to remorse and repentance. Drawing near to God has little to do with distance and everything to do with deepening our relationship with Him. As this occurs, prayer begins to change things—us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Hebrews 10:22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Let us draw near - God always encourages us to draw close to Him in prayer. Here Paul instructs us to do so with unwavering confidence, fullness of faith, without any doubt, because the sacrifice of Jesus Christ has cleared our conscience and paved the way into God's presence.

Today, some no longer feel the need to pray and study daily. They make the excuse that they do not have enough time. There is not enough time NOT to pray and study! The Day is approaching! Paul writes in Romans 13:11-14:

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly. . . . But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

If we fail to use these very vital tools of prayer and study—which will help us "walk properly" and "put on the Lord Jesus Christ"—we will find ourselves separated from God. That is the last thing we want as the Great Tribulation approaches!

John O. Reid
Contend Earnestly


 

Hebrews 11:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Because faith is indispensable to a good relationship with God, its importance cannot be overemphasized. But notice the condition in this verse. It does not say that God is the rewarder of everyone but "of those who diligently seek Him." Living faith is direct; it has its foundation in diligently, actively, consistently, zealously seeking Him in study and prayer and in conforming to His will. Those who are doing these things are encouraged that they will be rewarded. The reward is to find Him. This, in turn, increases faith.

The biblical word "faith" is most synonymous with the English word "trust." "Faith" can be a mere agreement with a cold, hard fact. This is fine as far as it goes, but it loses a great deal of meaning when we consider that this One with whom we are dealing is a warm, dynamic, powerful, loving Personality. Biblical faith, trust, is firm. It is faith in full flower, acting consciously and with agreeable feeling - we might call it "conviction."

This faith is not done coldly and calculatedly - simply because a thing is right. It is not done with a "perhaps" or a "maybe," but with joy and with firm conviction, with a consciousness that one is in agreement with this dynamic and loving personality. We should be aware of our unity with Him just as we are aware of our sense of touch - our strongest sense in terms of evoking emotion: consider a punch in the nose compared to a kiss. But faith, trust, is sensitive in the same way. It is conscious of the things of God; it sees God. In addition, faith not only evokes the hard, cold facts (it has "a remembrance of truth"), but also responds emotionally to a wonderful, dynamic, gracious, and powerful Personality, who is our Friend.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Fervency


 

Hebrews 11:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" - Undoubtedly, all of us want to be rewarded by God, but are we willing to make the effort, that is, to pay the price? This is an intrinsic part of the statement made here. This phrase, "seek Him," means to seek God out or search for Him with earnestness and diligence. We are to seek Him with a sincere desire to obtain His favor. The word "diligently" is a very strong word, and in a different context, has the sense of requiring or even demanding. It implies a great deal of persistence.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Seeking God


 

Hebrews 11:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We are responsible for maintaining our fellowship with Him by doing the works that He has appointed for us to do. For instance, there must be continuous exercise of prayer, study into His Word, and seeking to be like Him. We seek Him because we grow to admire—indeed respect—His love and character, appreciate the purpose He has brought into our lives, desire His merciful forgiveness, and realize He is our Benefactor in every aspect of life. However, we must do all of these things in faith.

Notice Paul's counsel in II Corinthians 5:7: "For we walk by faith, not by sight." Like life, walking is a continuous process. Thus, when Hebrews 11:6 says, "He who comes to Him must believe that He is," it means far more than just assenting to a vague idea of a "First Cause." Under the New Covenant, we are dealing with a living Personality working within His creation.

To walk by faith is a practical responsibility. It results from believing in His character and His works as revealed in His Word to the extent that we trust Him and submit to His commands in every area of life. His character is a major reason why we must continue to seek Him: so that our knowledge of Him is continually sharpened and refined to inform our imitation of Him in our lives. Otherwise, we will be pursuing a phantom designed by our own imaginations. We need to grasp as much of His transcendent holiness, supreme sovereignty, almighty power, and perfect justice, as well as His abundant mercy and wonderful grace.

Hebrews 11:6 emphasizes that He is a Rewarder, a Benefactor to those who come to Him and consistently walk with Him by faith. He rewards those who, as a way of life, seek Him in anticipation of His treating them with patient, respectful kindness, even abundance, as He works to create us in the image of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 11:5-7 balances reward with duty. Together, these verses show that, to be rewarded, we must walk with Him and seek Him. Walking and seeking are where "works" come into play, troubling those who believe in the incomplete Eternal Security doctrine.

In summary, walking with God and seeking Him by faith require keeping God in mind combined with making the efforts of obedience and any sacrifices of time, energy, and rejection by worldly family, friends, and business associates. Nevertheless, these result in being rewarded by God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)


 

James 1:16-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

No one would want to pray to a God who is like a chameleon! We would have no desire to talk to a God who is of one mind one day and an entirely different one the next. The unchangeableness of God's purpose, character, and will are the source of one of our greatest motivations to pray.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Eight


 

James 5:15-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God never intended prayer to change His purpose or move Him to come to fresh ideas. He has ordained that we be saved through the means of preaching the gospel, but prayer is also a means of salvation. We have seen that it is His will that we pray; it fits into the design of His purpose.

Prayer is therefore not a vain exercise but a means by which God exercises His decrees. When we pray for things God has already decreed, things happen! These prayers are not meaningless. Elijah was a man close to God, and he knew God's will, but that certainly did not prevent him from asking God in prayer for rain (I Kings 18:41-46). Therefore, even though we know His will and that He knows our need, He requires we ask for it. Does not Jesus command us to do this regarding end-time events? "Watch . . . and pray always," He says in Luke 21:36. Prayer keeps our minds focused on what is important to God's purpose.

Perhaps we need to change our views about prayer. Frequently, the prevailing idea of many is that we come to God and ask Him for something we want, expecting Him to give it if we have enough faith. But this is actually degrading to God! This popular belief reduces God to a servant—our servant, like a genie in a bottle—performing our pleasures and granting our desires. No, prayer is worshipfully coming to Him, humbly acknowledging His sovereign authority and loving wisdom, telling Him our need, committing our way to Him, and then patiently allowing Him to deal with our request as it seems best to Him. This does not mean we should not confidently present our needs to God as we see them, but then we should leave it with Him to deal with in His time and manner. Remember, He already knows what He wants to accomplish and when.

Doing this works to make our will subject to His. No prayer is pleasing to Him unless the attitude motivating it is "not [m]y will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). When God grants blessings on praying people, it is not because of their prayers, as if they motivated Him to act, but He acts for His own name's sake and His sovereign will.

He intensely desires that His thoughts become ours because we reflect His image this way. If we think like God, we will act like Him, which is the purpose of conversion. Much of the communication of His thoughts to ours takes place in prayer. God answers every faithful prayer, but not always in the way or when we think best. Often His answer is the opposite of what we feel to be best, but if we have really left it with God, then at least we know it is indeed His answer.

The story of the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11 illustrates this well. Interestingly, Mary and Martha never directly ask Jesus to heal Lazarus, though they clearly suggest it in calling Him to come. God in the flesh, however, responds in a way totally different from what they anticipated. Nonetheless, their approach is still a good example of the proper attitude in presenting a need to God. They do not even go into much detail in expressing their need—just simple trust that He could and would do the right thing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

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 Peter 1:10-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Consider what these verses say from the standpoint of the prophets who were looking into these things. How did they look into these things? How did they seek God? How did they search Him out?

An actual example appears in Daniel 9:1-3:

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans—in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD [given] through Jeremiah the prophet, . . .

What was Daniel looking into? He was looking into the Bible, specifically the writings of Jeremiah the prophet.

. . . that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.

How did he seek God? By prayer, fasting, and study—the same things that we teach Christians to do. Looking into His Word is a major portion of seeking God. It is not the end of it because, as Amos 5:4, 6-7, 14-15 relates, "seek" in the biblical sense does not just mean "gaining an intellectual knowledge of God" but "turning to become like God." The knowledge of God is of absolutely no use unless we become like God, which is why he says, "Seek God and live!" (Amos 5:4, 6). What good is it if we have the knowledge but do not repent, do not turn to act and become like He is? None. If we only gain knowledge, we will not live.

Prayer plays a major role in this process. Daniel was seeking God's mind for the purpose of imitating, obeying, pleasing, being like Him, and doing His will. If we would continue in the prophet's book, we would find in chapter 10 that another occasion came up in which he fasted for three weeks. A person must be very serious and fervent to fast that long! The angel that is sent to him tells him that God heard Daniel's words from the very first day—that God would hear and answer was never a question. He spent three weeks fasting and praying to understand the will of God.

It is in this way that we come to know God in the sense of perceiving things as He does. If we are doing these things, we have every opportunity to pray according to His will because we will be praying His Word right back to Him—maybe not the exact words, but words that have the same sense. We will be on the same wavelength, as it were, with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?


 

1 Peter 1:16-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The spiritual reproductive process is not solely God's work in us, but we also play a major role in what is happening. The work of God in this world is the implantation of His Spirit in us which gives to us the barest elements of the Divine nature, and then He works on the growth and perfection of holiness in His people. We are part of a work of transformation, of conversion, to holiness.

It is here that prayer fits into the picture because Peter writes in verse 17, "and if you call on the Father." That is prayer. Prayer is an integral part of the obtaining, the achieving, the process of transformation—from the glory of man to the glory of God. Prayer fits right into the scheme of things.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is Prayer?


 

1 John 1:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Someone who is guilt-ridden and conscience-stricken because of sin, rather than seeking fellowship with God, will shy away from Him just as Adam and Eve did. After their sin, they ran, not to Him, but from Him—they hid from God (Genesis 3:8-10). Is there a more powerful act that we, as Christians, can do to demonstrate our desire to run to God rather than from Him—to demonstrate the strength of our desire to fellowship—than to pray always?

A lack of desire to fellowship with God and Christ is a distinctive trait of a Laodicean (Revelation 3:18-20). We live in an era when people are apathetic about having a true relationship with God. No professing Christian would admit that he would not care to eat a meal with and fellowship with Jesus Christ, yet He reports that in His own church, some will not rouse themselves to fellowship with Him, though they know that He knocks at the door. By their inaction, they choose not to fellowship with Him.

In fact, they are so far from Him that they do not even see their need! A terrible cycle of cause-and-effect is created: no awareness of need, no desire; no desire, no prayer; no prayer, no relationship; no relationship, no awareness of need. It runs in a vicious circle.

God offers us, not just endless life, but even more—eternal, close fellowship with Him. That is part of our reward as firstfruits (Revelation 3:12, 21). But how does God know if we want to fellowship with Him forever? How can He determine about us, as He said about Abraham in Genesis 22:12: "Now I know"? Simply, if we are earnestly seeking fellowship with Him right now, in this life, our actions prove—just as Abraham's actions were proof—that we sincerely desire to fellowship with Him forever.

What is the major way God gives us to show our desire for eternal fellowship with Him? Prayer! Through prayer, especially praying always, we are consciously deciding to place ourselves in God's presence—to have fellowship with Him and to acknowledge our vital need for Him.

As an example of this, David writes in Psalm 27:8: "When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, 'Your face, Lord, I will seek.'" The Amplified Bible expands the idea of "seek My face" as "inquire for and require My presence as your vital need." In everything we say or do, we are to acknowledge His presence in our lives and give thanks for it (Colossians 3:17). Our praying always should also include thanksgiving to God for the many blessings He provides to sustain us, prosper us, and perfect us.

Considering this idea of eternal fellowship, it should come as no surprise that by striving to pray always we are in training to do now what we will be doing for eternity—closely fellowshipping with God. It is one reason why we have been called and elected by God—that we might have fellowship with the Father and the Son (Revelation 3:12, 21; John 17:24).

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Six)


 

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


 

Revelation 3:15-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ admits the truth about them. "I know your works [obedience and service], that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot" (Revelation 3:15). Why does He wish this? Because if they were either cold or hot, they would be useful to Him. Lukewarm Christians send confusing messages. In this state, being useless to Him, He spews them out of His mouth. All the messages to these seven churches highlight works because they are evidence of how Christians conduct their relationships with God. Works reveal the heart. They are a gauge of one's witness and spiritual state.

Metaphorically, what does lukewarmness signify here? To define it to this point, a rough definition might be "that which gives no refreshment, or that which has neither the cleansing properties of hot water nor the refreshing properties of cold." Modern synonyms of the word "lukewarm" give illuminating insights into its use in this letter: lacking ardor, enthusiasm or conviction; moderate; mild; unemotional; halfhearted; hesitant; indecisive; irresolute; uncertain; uncommitted; unresponsive; indifferent; impassive; languid; phlegmatic; apathetic; nonchalant; lackadaisical.

Recall the hallmarks of Babylon: pride, self-glorification, reliance on wealth, satiety, complacency, avoidance of suffering. Although he has the abilities and resources to be a great witness, the Laodicean is complacent, self-satisfied, bored with or indifferent to the real issues of life. For a Christian, the real issues are faith in Christ and our Christian responsibility. And to do the work Christ has called us to, our loyalty and devotion must be to Him, first and foremost!

A problem arises, however, in "spotting" a Laodicean—these qualities do not necessarily show on the outside. Why? Remember Christ describes a spiritual condition. This is a matter of the heart. What does He want to see in him? He wants the Laodicean to get off the fence—to be one way or the other, cold or hot. Conversely, the Laodicean judges that he is balanced, right in the middle. But his concept of balance is skewed. Why will he not move off the middle? He feels he has it good there! If he moves left or right, he fears that he will suffer! Thus, he has no desire to move.

Then what happens? The Laodicean must compromise. This is interesting in light of what the history books record. Ancient Laodicea's main line of defense was conciliation and compromise! Why? Again, the answer lies in the city's inadequate water supply, making it very susceptible to the siege of an invading army. By having its tenuous water supply cut off, the city was at the mercy of its attacker. With no water, it could hold out for only a short while. The Laodicean solution? They became masters of appeasement, accommodation, conciliation, and diplomacy. Peace at any cost! How did they appease? They bought their enemies off! Laodicea used its wealth to conciliate and compromise.

Christ uses the attitude of the surrounding environment to illustrate that those in the church of Laodicea are affected by the attitudes of the world. Without even realizing it, they behave exactly like their unconverted neighbors. They are worldly. Though they are not out on the streets robbing banks, raping, looting, murdering, mugging old grandmothers, or abusing children, in their hearts they have the same general approach to life as Babylon has. Theologically, spiritually, they hold the same values as Babylon, proved by their works. Spiritually, they become very adept in avoiding the sacrifices that might be necessary to overcome and grow in character, wisdom, and understanding. In other words, they are skilled in appeasing Satan and their own consciences.

Christ says He will spew, or vomit, the Laodicean from His mouth! That is how He views this attitude of compromise with principles, ideals, standards, and truth!

Some may expect Laodiceans to be lazy, but on the contrary they are often workaholics. Satan has foisted this false concept of Laodiceanism onto the church. One cannot become "rich and increased with goods" by being lazy! Their problem is a faulty setting of priorities. They are very vigorous people, but they are vigorous in areas that fail miserably to impress their Judge, Christ. Vigorous in conducting business and other carnal affairs, they are lackadaisical in pursuing the beauty of holiness, which is their calling. They are not vigorous or zealous in maintaining their prayer life with God or in studying. They are not energetic in making the sacrifices necessary to love their brethren or in developing their relationships with others. Nor are they enthusiastic about guarding the standards and principles of God. By erring in the setting of priorities, they victimize themselves.

Over the last fifteen years of his life, Herbert Armstrong expressed deep concern about the church becoming Laodicean. Because of the plethora of activities this world offers, he saw that ultimately they distract us, cause us to set wrong priorities, and keep us from putting our time, energy, and vigor into godly things. He often cited Daniel 12:4 as a telltale sign of the last days: "Seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." Are we busy in this age? Satan is a slick strategist, and he really deceives anyone who allows himself to believe that busyness and prosperity are signs of righteousness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:18-20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christians are the victims of an age that is apathetic to a true relationship with God. Would anybody in all honesty admit that he would not care to eat a meal with and fellowship with Jesus Christ? Yet, He is reporting that in His own church there are some who know that He is at the door, yet will not rouse themselves to answer it and fellowship with Him! They are refusing to fellowship with Him. They are so far from Him that they do not even see their need. If there is no awareness of need, there is no desire; no desire, no prayer; no prayer, no relationship, and back to no awareness of need. It runs in a vicious circle.

God is hoping that He can stir us up enough to repent and break out of the cycle—by rekindling an awareness of need. Awareness of need is in us because we are close enough to Him to see clearly how holy, gracious, kind, merciful, and good He is, and then we will want to be like He is. In other words, we so admire and respect Him and His qualities that we want to be near Him and will chase after Him, diligently seeking after Him like a lover seeking after his love. We will exalt Him and seek to honor Him by being like Him. This is what happens when two people are in love. That is why God uses the Bridegroom/Bride and wedding analogy. It is our responsibility to seek Him with all our might—with everything in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Fervency


 

Find more Bible verses about Prayer:
Prayer {Nave's}
Prayer {Torrey's}
 




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