May my cry and supplication come before you; deliver me according to your promise…. May your hand be ready to help me…. I long for your salvation, Lord…. Let me live that I may praise you…. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands. (Psalm 119:169-176)
The whole Bible teaches that God (the Father, Son, and Spirit) created the world, rules it, and intervenes every moment in world history and individual lives. We can’t always see what He is doing, but the Lord is active, powerfully preserving and governing every creature and every action. Back in Old Testament times, when Israel was attacked by enemies, Isaiah the prophet prayed boldly: Lord, tear open the heavens and come down.1 Isaiah’s anguish made him run to God, begging for help, not running away from the Lord in doubt and discouragement. God intervened many times, but ultimately in the coming down of Jesus Christ. The Father sent His Son to be the Savior of the world.2 Now Christians can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.3
We can’t handle or manage life and its crises on our own. We need the Lord’s help desperately. So building on Parts 1 + 2, here are more ways Scriptures teaches us how to pray:
4. We must pray boldly because God uses our prayers to change the world.
James 5:16-18 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
Prayer is our most effective way to make a difference in our families, marriages, church, work, neighborhood, city, country, and world. Maltbie Babock’s hymn declares:
This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied, And earth and heaven be one.
A miracle is an event in the external world worked by God’s immediate action. Miracles are still possible because the universe is under Christ’s sovereign control. Jesus must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.4 Today, wickedness and evil are increasing in the world, just as Christ warned us. So we shouldn’t be surprised. We should ask God to intervene and do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power.5 And pray that He make every knee bow and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.6 Christ says, “Everything is possible for one who believes.”7
5. Boldness in prayer includes persistence.
Psalm 88:13 I cry to you for help, Lord; every morning my prayer comes before you…. Ephesians 6:18 Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people….1 Thess 5:17 Pray without ceasing.
Jesus once met a woman whose daughter was demon-possessed.8 The situation was hopeless. So this mother came to Christ with her need, begging that He rescue her daughter. She pleaded with the Lord even though it seemed that her race, her religion, the disciples, and Satan were against her. Even Jesus put her off at first to test her faith and draw her to Him. But this desperate mother never gave up. She kept on praying and Christ said,”Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed right away. Caution: The Lord does not always give us what we want. But this true story reminds me to pray with zeal, tenacity, and perseverance, because only Jesus can really change things for the better in His world. He is our only hope.
The Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him. (Isaiah 30:18)
Jesus also tells us the Parable of the Unrelenting Widow to show us that we should pray continuously and not to be discouraged when God doesn’t answer right away. Jesus commends her for pestering the judge and says, “Will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, God will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”9 The woman was a nuisance to the corrupt judge, but God loves to hear our prayers, and loves to answer them when they are just. The Lord doesn’t need badgering, but He wants us to keep praying and not lose heart, even if we are frustrated or disappointed with His timing.
6. We can pray boldly only when our requests agree with Jesus’ Scriptures.
1 John 5:14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him. James 4:3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
The Lord expects us to study the Bible carefully, so we know His revealed will, His word in Scripture. Instead of praying selfish prayers, we want to align our prayer with the Lord’s Bible teachings. We want God’s name to be hallowed (not our fame or reputation); Jesus’ kingdom to advance (not our little empire); His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven (not our agenda). Christian prayer is God-centered not self-centered.
The Lord is not our genie in a magic lamp, granting our wishes. If we try to control or manipulate Him, He will not answer us.10 Jesus is the Creator and we are His creatures; He is the Master and we are His servants. Christ is the Great Shepherd and we are His sheep, never the other way around. If our motivations are wrong, self-centered, or evil, we cannot expect the Lord to go along with our schemes. As we grow in Christ, more and more we love what the Lord loves and want what He wants and our prayers should demonstrate that. Then we can pray boldly.
Spurgeon reminds us that God often makes us wait for a while so that He may display the riches of His grace more abundantly in the end. Our prayers are all filed in Heaven and if not immediately answered, they are never forgotten. The Lord will eventually answer in a way that delights and satisfies us. So we must not get discouraged by God’s seeming slowness, but continue to bringing our requests to Him through Jesus.11
To be continued.
Notes (various translations) 1 Isaiah 64:1. 2 1 John 4:14. 3 Heb 4:16. 4 1 Cor 15:25. 5 Eph 3:20. 6 Phil 2:10,11. 7 Mark 9:23. 8 Matt 15:21-28. 9 Luke 18:1-8. 10 see 1 Sam 13:1–14. 11 adapted from Morning and Evening for December 9.