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We’re going to deal in this study today with effective praying. And this will be the first in a series of systematic messages dealing with this theme of how to pray effectively. Prayer is one of the greatest opportunities, one of the greatest privileges and one of the greatest ministries available to all Christians. I do not read that Jesus ever actually taught his disciples how to preach but he did teach them how to pray. And I believe everyone who seeks to be a disciple of Jesus Christ should seek to learn how to pray effectively. That is what I am going to seek to share with you in this study.
Now in considering prayer, the first thing that we have to do is to understand God’s attitude towards our prayer. I grew up in the Anglican Church in Britain as a boy and I am not blaming the Anglican Church for everything, but my general impression of God as a boy growing up was something like this: I thought of him as an elderly gentleman with a long white straggly beard, rather irritable and difficult to approach, who lived in an office down the end of a very long corridor. And if you ever had to go to the office you would have to tiptoe down the corridor, knock on the door and if you got inside he would probably start to scold you and remind you of your misdeeds and your omissions and the best thing you could do was to get out of that office and down that corridor again as quickly as you could. I don’t know how this impression of God was created in my mind but it was there and I find most people have the attitude that God doesn’t too much want to be bothered with us, our prayers and our needs. Now nothing could be further from the scripture’s picture of God and his attitude to prayer.
The scripture teaches the willingness of God to answer our prayers. So we’re going to deal for a few moments with this theme: God’s willingness to answer prayer. And you have here on this visual aid before you a number of scriptures that emphasize this truth. Turning first of all to the book of Proverbs, we have those words which are there “the prayer of the upright is God’s delight.” The word delight is a very strong word. It indicates strong pleasure, keen interest. And remember, that if you are upright, sincere and you come to God with prayer, he delights in your prayer. He loves to hear you.
And then in the Song of Solomon which depicts the relationship between Christ as the bridegroom, and the church as his bride, he says to his bride in the second chapter: “Let me hear thy voice.” God desires to hear our voice lifted up to him in believing prayer.
And then if we turn to the New Testament we have many, many different scriptures emphasizing the fact that God wants us to pray and he wants us to receive what we pray for. Let me say that again. The revealed will of God for the believer in Christ is that you should pray and that you should receive that which you pray for. Anything lower than that is below the will of God.
Let’s just consider some of these scriptures. If you want to follow in your Bible you’re free to do so. Matthew 7:7–8, which is taken from the sermon on the mount. It says in six different ways that God wants you to get what you pray for.
“Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”
Notice there’s not one negative suggestion in all those words. Six different ways Jesus tells us God wants us to pray and to get what we pray for.
Then in Matthew 21:22 Jesus says:
“All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive.”
How could it be wider than that? All things whatsoever ye shall ask ye shall receive.
Mark 11:24 Jesus says:
“Therefore I say unto you: What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them.”
Again, what could be wider than that? What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them.
John 14:13–14, Jesus says:
“Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.”
What could be more emphatic or more all embracing than that statement: If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.
John 15:7 says:
“If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you.”
John 16:24 says:
“Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name. Ask and ye shall receive that your joy may be full.”
Jesus challenges us to ask and to receive the answer that our joy may be full. And experience convinces me and I believe you too, that there’s nothing that gives fullness of joy more wonderfully than knowing that Almighty God answers your prayers. What could be more wonderful than to know that the Creator of the universe, the one who has all power, is attentive to the voice of our prayer and delights to do that which we ask. When we find that in experience, when we pray and receive a specific answer to our prayer, our joy is full. And Jesus said that ye may have fullness of joy, ask and ye shall receive.
Of course, there are basic principles and conditions for receiving regularly the answer to our prayer. And in just a moment I’m going to deal systematically and in order with the main conditions for getting your prayer answered. But as we go through these conditions, I want you to bear in mind always the great basic fact that God wants you to pray and to get what you pray for. Don’t let the conditions become a fence that keep you from praying. We have to observe the conditions but the great basic realization we need is that God really wants us to pray and he really wants us to get what we pray for.
Now we’ll turn and consider some of the conditions. I have actually outlined, and you will see in due course on the visual aids, seven basic conditions for getting your prayers answered. When I make an outline and I arrive at seven I usually stop. Somehow I feel that’s it. I’m not superstitious, I just found when I get to seven that seems to be it.
The first great condition is in the name of Jesus. Jesus said in John 14:13–14:
“Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father, in my name, that will I do.”
If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it. Why do we pray in the name of Jesus? When we pray in the name of Jesus it means this: That we acknowledge we have no right of access to Almighty God at all apart from Jesus Christ. If Jesus had not come and had not become our sacrifice on the cross, our substitute, and then risen from the dead to become our mediator and our high priest at God’s right hand, we would have no right of access whatever to Almighty God. But in Jesus we have absolute right of access with complete liberty and boldness to God. So that when we pray in the name of Jesus we are reminding ourselves that the only basis of access that we have is through the Lord Jesus Christ, what he has done on our behalf on the cross, and his position now as our mediator and our high priest at God’s right hand in heaven. And on that condition God opens all the treasures of heaven and makes them available to us in the name of Jesus.
Romans 8:32 is a most wonderful scripture. It says this:
“He that spared not his own son but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?”
Think of that. Freely give us all things. But what’s the condition? With him. Apart from Jesus there is nothing. In and through Jesus there is everything. That’s what we are declaring when we come in prayer in the name of Jesus.
Philippians 4:19, Paul says:
“My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
The source of the supply is the riches of God in glory. And you will never bankrupt God no matter how much you pray. When God has supplied all your needs he’ll still be just as rich as he was before. It’s out of his riches in glory, but the channel of supply is by Christ Jesus.
And then in 2 Corinthians 1:20:
“All the promises of God in him [Jesus Christ] are yea and in him amen to the glory of God by us.”
All God’s promises are available to us but only in him, Jesus Christ. All this is what we declare when we come to God in the name of Jesus.
The second great condition is that we come with praise and thanks. Many, many Christians do not realize this. A lady came up to me just two days ago and said that she’d lost her joy, she didn’t seem to have any more joy. I said, “Do you continue to praise and thank God?” She said, “I did but when I lost my joy I more or less stopped.” I said, “That’s the root reason why you’ve lost your joy. You don’t praise God because of feeling, you praise God because of fact. He doesn’t change. His mercy and his truth endure forever. These are the reasons why you praise God.” And if you do not praise God and if you do not come with praise and thanksgiving, you do not have access to Almighty God. The way of access to God is the way of praise and thanksgiving. If we don’t come with praise and thanksgiving, we pray to God but afar off and we feel very soon that we’re far from God and God is far from us. Because we have not come by the appointed way of access which is the way of praise.
Psalm 100:4 says:
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise. Be thankful unto him and bless his name.”
The gate is thanksgiving, the court of access if praise. If you don’t come with thanks and praise, you don’t have access to Almighty God. You feel lonely, shut off and far removed. You must begin with praise and thanksgiving. After all, it doesn’t take long to tell God what you need, but what is important is to get into that relationship with God where you know that when you do tell him you’ll get it. Now to get into that relationship the means of access is praise and thanksgiving.
Isaiah 60:18 says this
“Of the place where God dwells thou shalt call thy walls Salvation and thy gates Praise.”
Every gate of access into the presence of Almighty God has got the same name over it and the name is praise. If you do not come by the gate of praise you do not have access to Almighty God.
And in the New Testament it says “be careful for nothing [worry about nothing, be anxious about nothing], but in everything let your requests be made known unto God with thanksgiving.” Never withhold the thanksgiving. As you begin to thank God for what he is and for what he has already done, faith rises in your heart for the next thing that you’re going to pray for. So remember, the means of access to God, the way into his presence is the way of thanksgiving and praise. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise. Before you begin with your petitions, always take time just to thank and praise Almighty God. Then you’ll find that your petitions will come so smoothly and so simply.
The third condition is that we approach God without condemnation. In other words, boldly. Psalm 66:18 says:
“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”
To regard iniquity in my heart means that I come to God but I’m conscious in my heart of something that condemns me. And every time I try to approach God with faith Satan reminds me of this thing that is not right that has not been dealt with, a sin that has not been confessed or if it has been confessed, I have not claimed and received God’s forgiveness. I’m conscious of this thing in my heart all the time. And if I come with condemnation, I do not receive that which I pray for. I must remove the consciousness of sin from within my heart. And basically, this is done by faith. Because if we confess our sin the scripture says God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We cannot do anything about the sin problem except confess, repent and trust God for the forgiveness and the cleansing that he has promised. After that do not go on worrying about your sins because if you remain sin conscious as you pray God will not hear your prayer. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. But you know the psalmist goes on to say? But the Lord hath heard me. In other words, he rises above Satan’s attempt to condemn him and says God has heard me. Why has he heard me? Because I’ve come in the name of Jesus. Because I’ve come with praise and thanksgiving. Therefore, I’m not condemned. The Bible says if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knoweth all things. We don’t have to keep anything from God. We have to be open and honest with him, sincere, confess every transgression, thought and shortcoming. But then, when it’s been confessed, accept complete forgiveness and complete cleansing and know that God will never remember it or hold it against us anymore. Then we come without condemnation.
1 Timothy 2:8 speaks about prayer in the New Testament. Paul says:
“I will that men pray everywhere lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting.”
We’ve got to get rid of the dark inner emotions and attitudes that hinder our access. We’ve got to get rid of wrath and we’ve got to get rid of doubting. The Bible says that if we doubt we are condemned. You see, we cannot come with condemnation into the presence of God. The Bible says that the man who wavereth is unstable in all is ways; let not that man think that he shall receive anything from God. We’ve got to dismiss the whole question of guilt and of every negative and wrong attitude concerning ourselves, concerning other people. We’ve got to come boldly.
Hebrews 4:16 says:
“Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace.”
Remember it’s a throne of grace. Remember, grace is enthroned with God on his throne. It’s not justice we’re coming for, it’s grace.
“That we may obtain mercy and find health in time of need.”
So we come boldly. Why? Because it’s a throne of grace. We do not come on the basis of our merit, we come in the name of Jesus. We come with praise and thanksgiving, we come without condemnation, we come boldly because God has bid us come and he’s sitting on a throne of grace.
Hebrews 10:19 says:
“We have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.”
So never come with condemnation in your prayer to God. Condemnation is one of the greatest enemies to answered prayer. And you know the basic source of condemnation is self-righteousness. If I’ve got to justify myself I will never do it to my own satisfaction. There must come a time when we lay aside every attempt to justify ourselves and say I receive by faith the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to me by my faith in him according to the word of God. I will not worry about my merits, I will not worry about my sins, I will not parade my good deeds, I will not blush for my bad deeds, I will come boldly because it’s a throne of grace. I will not examine and analyze my own heart all the time to see if I’m good enough. I’ll trust God that the blood of Jesus has cleansed me from all sin and now I’m going boldly right to the throne and right into the holiest of all. That’s a glorious way of access. Let us draw near with a true heart, the scripture says, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience. An evil conscience will always keep you from successful praying. You must allow the blood of Jesus to be applied to your heart and receive with complete assurance the fact that you are forgiven, that you are cleansed because of what Jesus has done and then come boldly into the presence of Almighty God.
We continue now with two more important conditions. Number four, our motive. God searches the motive. He’s very conscious of the reasons for which we pray. James 4:2 says:
“Ye have not because ye ask not.”
That’s the main reason why Christians don’t have, simply because they don’t ask. But then he says in verse 3:
“Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss that ye may consume it upon your own lusts.”
In other words, your own prayers are self centered, your motives are wrong, you’re simply aiming to get something for your own creature comfort and personal satisfaction and indulgence.
What is the correct motive? Jesus has already stated it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it, he says, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. There’s the motive on which God answers prayer. That the prayer is prayed sincerely that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in answering that prayer.
And 2 Corinthians 1:20. We’ve already quoted in one aspect, but we quote it again in another.
“All the promises of God in him [Jesus Christ] are yea and in him amen to the glory of God by us.”
What is the whole purpose of coming to God and claiming his promises? That God may be glorified through us in so doing it. The more you claim of God’s promises the more you glorify him. The more you fail to claim God’s promises the less you glorify him. The person who glorifies God most is the person who claims God’s promises in Christ the most. For all the promises of God in him, Christ, are yea and in him amen to the glory of God by us. What is the motive that is acceptable to God? It is that God may be glorified in answering prayer that is offered in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.
And then there’s this question of right relationships which also is of tremendous importance. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus taught us how to pray. He said after this manner pray ye. And one of the things he taught us to say, as I suppose we all know, is this: Forgive us our debts [or our trespasses] as we forgive our debtors [or them that trespass against us]. Forgive us as we forgive. Do you realize that Jesus has tied you down to asking from God forgiveness only in the proportion that you forgive others? In the same proportion that you forgive others God will forgive you. If you totally forgive others God will totally forgive you. But if you only partly forgive, God will only partly forgive you. Forgive us as we forgive. One major reason why many Christians do not receive the answer to their prayer is a failure to forgive others.
I find in counseling and dealing with people this is one of the commonest sources of a blockage in the spiritual life and of frustration and the failure to receive answer to prayer. Usually it’s one specific person. I was dealing with a lady last night where we were having supper and I said is there anybody you haven’t forgiven? And she said yes and she mentioned a very distinguished person in the judiciary department of the United States. I said if you want release, you’ll have to forgive him. There’s no alternative. If you don’t forgive him God doesn’t forgive you. Forgive us as we forgive.
Are you willing to forgive? You say, Brother Prince, I don’t know whether I can. God might say well, I don’t know whether I can. What would you say to that? You better make up your mind. Forgiveness, my friend, remember this—is not an emotion, it’s a decision. I call it this: tearing up the IOU. Somebody owes you $30,000. All right. Tear up the IOU. You tear up that little IOU of $30,000, you know how much you owe God? Six million. You want him to tear that IOU up? You tear yours up. He’ll tear his up. If you don’t tear yours up, he won’t tear His up. That’s his unvarying law. You can’t change God. He demands it. That we forgive others as we would have God forgive us.
This is built into the Lord’s prayer. The last petition in the Lord’s prayer is a petition for deliverance from Satan. Did you know that? Deliver us from the evil one is the correct translation. You have no right to pray for deliverance till you’ve forgiven others as you would have God forgive you.
Let’s look at what Jesus says also in Mark 11:25–26.
“When ye stand praying, forgive if ye have ought against any.”
Now that doesn’t leave out anything and it doesn’t leave out anybody, does it? When ye stand praying, forgive if ye have ought against any...
“...for if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Father also which is in heaven will forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive men their trespasses, your Father will not forgive you your trespasses.”
This is absolutely clear. It is spoken to Christians. Remember, because Jesus is speaking about those who have God as their heavenly Father and he says if you forgive, your Father will forgive you. If you do not forgive, your Father will not forgive you. He says when you stand praying, don’t try to approach God in prayer with unforgiveness in your heart against anybody. Before you pray forgive if ye have ought against any.
And 1 Peter 3:7 is about the relationship between husband and wife. It’s a message to husbands. So many preachers who are men preach about what wives should do but this is for husbands.
“Ye husbands dwell together with your wife according to knowledge, according to understanding of the relationship, giving honor unto the wife as the weaker vessel and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”
Did you ever realize that? A wrong relationship between husband and wife hinders the answer to their prayer. This can be on either side, the husband’s side or the wife’s side. But where there is a wrong relationship between husband and wife their prayers are hindered. The first thing you have to do in a home life if you want God to answer your prayers, save your children, provide your needs, get right with your partner. That’s where it begins.
Now we come to the two remaining conditions for successful and effective praying. Number six, that you be directed by the Holy Spirit. Turn in your Bible to Romans 8. This is so important I’d like you to look at it in the scripture. Verse 14.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
That’s a continuing present tense in the Greek. As many as are regularly led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. How do you live daily as a son of God? By being led by the Spirit of God. That is the only way you can live as a child of God in this world. It is by being regularly continually led by the Holy Spirit. Only those who are regularly led by the Spirit of God are living as sons of God.
Now later on in Romans 8 the apostle Paul applies this truth about the leading of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life specifically to prayer. And in verses 26 and 27 he says this:
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the heart knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit because he [the Spirit] maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
Paul says the Spirit comes to the help of our infirmities. And Paul says we all have a certain specific infirmity. It is not a physical sickness, it is not a disease, it’s part of our carnal nature. What is the infirmity? It’s this: that we do not know what to pray for as we ought. Or to divide it up, we do not know what to pray for and we do not know how to pray. Now Paul says we all have this infirmity. I wonder if there’s anybody here that would like to argue with the apostle Paul and say, Paul, you’re wrong. I always know what to pray for and I always know how to pray. If you’re here this morning would you just indicate it by raising your hand. I’m not making fun of you, I’m just pointing out to you that the scripture is right. This is an infirmity which is shared by every one of us. We do not know always what to pray for and even if we know what to pray for, many times we still don’t know how to pray for it. You might know that your son needs prayer or your husband needs prayer but you still don’t know how to pray. So you have an infirmity.
What’s God’s solution? The Spirit of God comes to your help in this infirmity. How? Because he takes over and makes intercession through you and he prays according to the marking of God. So when we do not know how to pray according to the mind of God, when we are faced with a need and yet we don’t know maybe what it is or how to pray for it, then what do we do? We turn over to the Holy Spirit and say, Holy Spirit, you take over and pray through me. This is one of the glorious blessings of being truly baptized in the Holy Spirit. That’s why I believe the baptism in the Holy Spirit must be consummated by this supernatural utterance where the Holy Spirit speaks and not the believer. Or rather the Holy Spirit gives the believer a language to speak which the believer does not know. Because at this point the believer has yielded himself as a means for the Holy Spirit to pray through him. The Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. He prayeth for the saints according to the mind of God. He prays the prayer that God wants to hear and God wants to answer.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that when you turn to God and you cannot pray in your own language and you let the Spirit of God loose and he prays through you in an unknown tongue, that you are praying the right prayer. How do you know you’re praying the right prayer? Because it’s the Holy Spirit giving you that prayer and he prays according to the revealed mind of God. So when you do not know how to pray, what do you do? Turn over to the Holy Spirit and say, Holy Spirit, you take over. That’s God’s glorious provision for every believer in Christ. Paul does not suggest that this is just for a few, he indicates it’s for every believer that we have this privilege of letting the Holy Spirit take over our vocal organs, our inner nature and hold a prayer meeting inside us; pray through us.
I thank God for a praying wife. I’ve prayed with my wife for over 25 years. I know a certain moment when she turns over to the Holy Spirit and her prayer is prophetic. It isn’t my wife that’s praying, it’s the Spirit of God praying through her. I’m often astonished at what she prays. It’s frightening.
I remember once, just to give you an illustration, we were in Denmark which is my wife’s native land, in Copenhagen, at the end of October. We were going to Britain for the month of November and we were praying in the morning together in bed as we often do, sitting up in bed, and my wife launched out in prayer and then I heard her say this. She said, Lord, give us fine weather all the time we’re in Britain. Well I nearly fell out of the bed. I said to her afterwards, you know what you prayed? She said no. I said, you prayed for God to give us fine weather all the time we’re in Britain. She didn’t even recall praying it. It didn’t come from her mind at all. It was given by the Spirit. I said you know what Britain is like in November. It’s cold, damp, misty, foggy, unpleasant. We’ve lived in Britain long enough to know what November is like. You know what happened. We went to Britain. The whole month of November was like spring. I’ve never been in a November like that in all the years I’ve lived in Britain. When we left, the last day of November, as our friends came to see us off at the airport we said you’d better look out now, the weather’s going to change. See? We don’t know what to pray for. What do we do? Turn over to the Holy Spirit. My wife’s favorite text on prayer is “Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it.” Just give the Holy Spirit a mouth and let him fill it. He’s longing to do it. You’ve come to the end of your limited understanding, your own poor physical mental resources, what can you do? Turn it over to the Holy Spirit. He’s equal to the task. The Bible says we should pray always. It says we should pray without ceasing. Can any of us in our own natural strength and understanding pray always and without ceasing? Absolutely not. But when you let the Holy Spirit in and turn over to him, he conducts a prayer meeting 24 hours a day.
You can pray in your sleep, you know that? This is a fact. Many, many people have been heard to speak in tongues hours on end while lying in sleep. The bride of Christ says in the Song of Solomon, I sleep but my heart waketh. And that’s one of the beauties of the bride, her heart stays awake praying in the Spirit while her mind and her body are getting beautiful refreshing sleep. You can spend hours in prayer and wake up fresh as a daisy in the morning. This is praying on the level of God’s revealed will. It’s letting the Holy Spirit help our infirmities, take over and pray the way God wants us to pray with his Spirit through us.
Turn to Ephesians 3:20. It says:
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us.”
You understand the answer to our prayer depends on the power that’s working in us. What’s the power that God intends to work in us? The power of the Holy Spirit. You see, Paul runs out of language in that passage of Ephesians, it’s fascinating. He says God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. I’d like to illustrate it in this simple way. Here is the highest I can think of. This is the utmost I can ever ask from God. All that we can ask or think. Paul says God can do above, abundantly above, exceedingly abundantly above. And at that point he runs out of words. How does he do it? Through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. When we reach the limit of our natural thinking and reasoning as to what God can and should do, then let the Holy Spirit in and you move on to a higher plane in prayer. And that’s the prayer plane that every child of God has got the right to live and move and have his being on. The plane of supernatural praying in the Holy Spirit in a power that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ever ask or figure or reason or think with our natural minds.
Now let me come to the seventh condition, and they’re intimately related to each other. Six and seven. Number six, directed by the Holy Spirit. Number seven, in accordance with the word of God. You see, the great issue in prayer is the will of God. If I’m praying according to the will of God then the scripture says I know that God hears me. And if I know that God hears me I know that I have the petition that I ask. The central issue is the will of God. If we ask anything according to his will.
How do I know the will of God? Where is the will of God revealed? The answer is in his word. The great revelation of the will of God is the word of God. And the word of God is packed from beginning to end with divine promises. The apostle Peter calls them exceeding great and precious promises. And you know what those promises are? They are the revelation of the will of God. The promises of God are the will of God. When you find a promise that relates to your situation and meets your need, that promise that’s given in the word of God, that promise is God’s will for you. God never promised anything that was not his will. How could he be so inconsistent as to promise to do something and then when you come to him and say Lord, you promised. Yes, I promised but I didn’t want to do it. How could God be so inconsistent? So the great secret that clinches our prayer is the seventh condition: we pray according to God’s word. Where is God’s will revealed? In his word.
Now I want to give you two examples to illustrate this. The first is in the Old Testament, the second is in the New. In 1 Chronicles 17 we find an incident in the life of David. We will not go through the whole chapter but David was established in his kingdom, he was victorious, he had peace, he had abundance, he had a beautiful house to live in and as he sat in his beautiful house and thought about things, the thought came to him: Here am I living in this beautiful house of cedar but the Ark of God is still in a tent. And so he said to the prophet Nathan, I’m going to build a house for the Ark of the Lord. And Nathan said that’s a wonderful idea, go ahead and do it. But that night God spoke to Nathan the prophet and said, go and tell my servant David you are not to build a house for me. But he said, tell David this: I’m going to build him a house. Isn’t that wonderful? You see, that’s the exceeding abundantly above. David thought, what’s the greatest I can do for God? Build him a house. God turns back to David and says, no David, you don’t build me a house, your son is going to do that. But you know what I’m going to do for you. I’m going to build you a house. And when David got the message, it says in 1 Chronicles 17:16:
“David the king came and sat before the Lord.”
I like that thought of sitting before the Lord. I don’t know how it is with you but if I kneel too long I get distinctly uncomfortable. There’s nothing in the Bible that tells me I can only pray kneeling. On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell, you know what attitude they were in? They were sitting. It says it filled all the house where they were sitting. David came and he relaxed before Almighty God and he said, God you’ve been so good to me, I want to take a little time to appreciate you and thank you for your goodness. And he said, Lord, you know I had the idea to build you a house and now you’ve told me that you are going to build me a house. You understand that the word house in the Bible does not mean primarily a building but a family, a household. So God promised David that his posterity and his line would endure forever and that one of his sons would sit upon his throne forever and forever and would rule over all Israel and over all nations. And David said, Lord, I just want to sit in your presence and appreciate you and express my thankfulness.
And then in verse 23 of the same 17th chapter, this is what David says. And I do believe in this verse is the key to getting your prayers answered.
“Therefore now Lord let the thing that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant and concerning his house be established for ever and do as thou hast said.”
Those five short words of one syllable contain the essence of effective praying. “Do as thou hast said.” Lord, you said it, please do it. If God has said he will do it and you ask him to do it, you know he’s going to do it. His promises are the revelation of his will. See the beauty of this prayer. Let the thing that thou hast spoken Lord be established. I didn’t speak it Lord, I didn’t think of it. It’s far above what I can think of, wish or ask, but Lord, you said it, please do it.
And then you notice David’s motive in praying. This is wonderful. In the 24th verse:
“Let it even be established that thy name may be magnified for ever.”
Not that David may be glorified but that the name of the Lord may be glorified. This is a perfect pattern prayer. Let the thing that thou has spoken be established, do as thou hast said, that thy name may be magnified for ever. You know the great key? It’s knowing the promises of God. Because if you don’t know what God has promised in his word, how can you go to him and say, Lord, you promised, please do it. You must unite the Spirit with the word. This is the secret of effective praying. The word and the Spirit brought together because then the whole creative power and ability of Almighty God is available to you.
How did God bring the universe into being? Did you ever stop to consider? Psalm 33:6:
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made and all the hosts of them by the Spirit of his mouth.”
The word and the Spirit of God together brought all creation into being. And when you bring the Spirit and the word together, you have the creative power of Almighty God operating in your prayer. Then he will do exceeding abundantly above all that you can ask or think. The highest you can pray with your natural understanding is on the earthly level. But the promises of God are on a divine level. They’re on a totally different level. The way to step out of your own ability and into the ability of God is by the Holy Spirit, unite your will with the will of God revealed in his word and then it will come to pass.
Now let’s turn to the New Testament and consider the example that is there in Luke 1. I sometimes ask people apart from the person of the Lord Jesus Christ himself, what would you consider to be the greatest single miracle that ever took place in the life of a human being? And I’ve got a variety of answers. Sometimes people say the experience of Lazarus being raised after four days in the tomb. And I wouldn’t argue, but my personal feeling is the greatest single miracle that ever took place in the life of an ordinary human being was when the virgin Mary conceived in her womb and became the mother of the Son of God. And how did it come about? When she said one simple phrase. The angel told her what was ordained of God, she said how can this thing be? He told her the power of the Holy Spirit shall overshadow you and then she said—and I want you to see this—Luke 1:37:
“For with God, nothing shall be impossible.”
But in the margin of my Bible there’s an alternative translation: no word of God shall be without power. Or—every word of God contains within it the power for its own fulfillment. She received the word of God through the angel. In the word was the power for its own fulfillment. Receiving the word she received the power that brought fulfillment. And so Mary responded in Luke 1:38:
“Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word.”
And that ushered in the greatest miracle in human experience. And this is what I want to convince you of, that if you want the great things, if you want the exceeding abundantly above all that you can ask or think, the answer is according to thy word. When you pray on the level of the word, you pray on a level that is far above our own human ability to wish or to ask or to think.
See, these two prayers are intimately connected with the coming of the Lord Jesus. David was the great ancestor and in this passage that we saw in 1 Chronicles 17 God had promised him a son. And then the promise was fulfilled through the birth of Jesus, conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary. And notice in each case the key to the prayer is the same. God, you said it, you do it. And you’ll never pray a higher or more effective prayer than when you go to God, guided by the Holy Spirit, to the word, find the promise that relates to you and your situation and say, Lord, you said it, you do it. This is the secret of effective praying.
Let’s summarize now these conditions very quickly. The seven conditions. I’ll just mention them in order. First, in the name of Jesus. Second, with praise and thanksgiving. Thirdly, without condemnation boldly. Fourthly, with the right motive for God’s glory. Fifthly, right relationships. Forgiveness of every other person. And six and seven, directed by the Holy Spirit according to God’s word.
Now in closing this study I want to bring you one further picture which I want to take a few moments just to deal with. Then I’m going to move on from this in the succeeding studies, we’re going to build on the foundation that we’ve laid today. Turn to Matthew 18 and just let me read to you two verses, verses 19–20. This is what I call the prayer symphony. And I use the word symphony deliberately and of set choice. Let me read you the words and then we’ll consider the nature of this statement made by Jesus. Matthew 18:19–20:
“Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Let’s begin, for a moment, with verse 20. Where the English says are gathered together, the Greek says literally have been led together. So we have this statement where two or three have been led together into my name, there am I in the midst. Now, when we talk about being led, we immediately come to the question led by whom? And we have already seen in Romans 8:14, led by the Holy Spirit. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. So Jesus says where two or three have been brought together, led together, by the Holy Spirit into the focal meeting point in the name of Jesus, there am I in the midst. Jesus did not say when two Baptists meet together I’ll be there. Or when three Pentecostals meet together I’ll be there. A lot of people misapply that scripture. He doesn’t say when the church board meets I’ll be there. Because many times it would be embarrassing for him, I can tell you! But Jesus says if two or three have been led together into my name by the Holy Spirit, then you can count on my presence. Lots of people are misapplying that promise. They’re talking about the presence of Jesus when believe me, he’s a long way off. Because he’s tied himself only to those who are led by the Spirit of God to come together into the name of Jesus. I call this the basic cell unit of the Body of Christ. The smallest body unit within the Body of Christ is two or three people brought together by the Holy Spirit in a meeting place which is the name of Jesus. Then Jesus says I am there.
Now going back from that but in clear relationship to it he says in verse 19 if two of you, the absolute minimum, two, shall agree as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them. Now the key to understanding this is the word agree. It is not intellectual agreement. It is not simply putting something on a prayer list and saying that’s what we’re going to pray for. Because, let’s be honest. You and I have many times seen people say intellectually we’ll agree. We’ll pray for Brother Smith in the hospital and Brother Smith stays in the hospital and dies in the hospital. Nothing happens. Because Jesus was not speaking merely about intellectual agreement. Merely about mental assent. The Greek word is symphoni. And it’s a musical term from which we get the English word symphony by direct derivation. If two of you shall symphonize, come together in perfect harmony concerning any thing that they shall ask, then it will be done for them.
Now I believe this promise is so important that it’s worth analyzing what Jesus said. And I understand it this way: I’m going to take the illustration that you see here of the symphony and the orchestra. Now I’m no professional musician. I don’t need to tell you that but I have studied and enjoyed classical music and so on and I know that basically if you have a symphony, besides an orchestra there are two things you need for the symphony to be performed. You need a score. You need the music. And then you need the conductor to bring the instruments together in harmony and in agreement with the score. So that the two basic requirements are the conductor and the score.
Now I believe this exactly illustrates what Jesus meant when he spoke about if two of you shall symphonize touching any thing that you shall ask. Who is the conductor? The Holy Spirit. What is the score? We’ve already dealt with it. God’s will revealed in his word. Now when the Holy Spirit brings two people into a place of absolute harmony concerning the will of God revealed in the word of God, that’s the score. Then any thing that they shall ask shall be done for them. This is the basis of effective praying. It’s the Holy Spirit bringing two or more persons into perfect harmony concerning the will of God revealed and interpreted from the score, the word of God, by the conductor, the Holy Spirit. When we have the conductor, the score, the orchestra, then we have the results. But without that this is just words.
Now, once again I want to emphasize as I close this message that to me the great issue today with most Christians is the issue of the home. Here is where problems begin and here is where problems are solved and here is where the Holy Spirit is dealing with God’s people. Let’s turn again to 1 Peter 3:7 and consider this in closing.
“Likewise ye husbands, dwell with them [that is your wives] according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel and as being heirs together of the grace of life that your prayers be not hindered.”
You see, disharmony hinders prayer. What do we have to achieve in our homes in order to get our prayers answered? We have to have symphony. The word of God revealed and interpreted by the Holy Spirit, husband and wife coming together on the revealed will of God, the answer is harmony effective praying. Now I don’t know how many parents come to me and speak about their rebellious children. And I’m sure they’re right. But I’ll tell you, there’s a reason for rebellion. And the commonest single reason for rebellion is disharmony between the parents. And the answer to rebellion is let father and mother come together in harmony, agree together and pray out of harmony for those children, and God will answer their prayer. God at the moment, I believe, has as item number one on his agenda the restoration of harmony to the homes of believers. Now, where one partner is not a believer this is another matter. But where both partners are believers, and both testify to being baptized in the Holy Spirit, if they cannot harmonize, then the gospel isn’t worth preaching. I tell people, if they’re husband and wife both claiming to believe and they don’t have harmony at home, for heaven sake don’t go out and preach the gospel. Because the world has got enough disharmony already. If that’s all you have, don’t export it. If it won’t work at home it won’t work. You believe that? It’s literal simple logic.
Now in the following studies we’re going to go on and consider certain scores, certain passages of God’s word which we’re going to allow the Holy Spirit to interpret for us so we can come together in the place of symphony, harmony in the revealed will of God. But I want you to carry away with you this concept of divine symphony. Praying in harmony through the Holy Spirit in accordance with God’s will revealed in his word. And the subject of all our successive studies will now be the word of God revealing the will of God and how we can come together in harmony on it.
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