"Probing into Prayer:
In Search of its Essence"

Advocates
in
Prayer

 

 

Introduction

THE VISION OF ADVOCATES IN PRAYER is to inspire Christians to develop a disciplined lifestyle of prayer that will enable them to tap into a revelation of Godís purposes and to release Godís rule into the lives of those for whom they pray.  This website is a tool designed to fulfill this vision by providing inspiring biblical teaching about prayer, enlisting prayer partners into our Intercessors Circle, inviting prayer requests, appealing for answers to prayer, making prayer training resources available, and linking with websites of other prayer ministries of like faith.

This ministry gives high priority to prayer because of the premium that God gives to the prayers of His people.  Jesus instructed the disciples that "they should always pray and not give up." (See Luke 18:1b.)  Paul also wrote that Christians should "Pray without ceasing." (See 1 Thessalonians 5:17.)  And why is it necessary to be relentless and tireless in prayer?  Because God has chosen to use prayer as the means by which he impacts our lives and our world.  "Ask," Jesus said, "and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." (See John 16:24b.)  John Wesley was convinced that "God does nothing but in answer to prayer."  This sentiment is amplified by E.M. Bounds who states:  "God shapes the world by prayer.  The prayers of Godís saints are the capital stock of heaven by which God carries on His great work upon earth." (Billheimer 1975:102)

Since God places such a high premium on the prayers of His people, it is fitting that we should begin our study of prayer by setting out to understand just what prayer is all about.  Our mental pictures of prayer may vary widely from the child learning to talk to God to the worshipper lost in intimate communion with the Almighty to the prayer warrior attacking the gates of hell to intercessors travailing for the salvation of lost souls.  All are praying, but each of these pictures of prayer differs from the others.  As we will see, though, these different facets of prayer are like spokes connected to a common hub.

Our topic for this first teaching is "Probing Into Prayer: In Search of its Essence."  The word essence refers to the basic nature of something.  The nature of a thing remains the same even though its manifestations may vary.   So, what is the unchanging nature -- the essence -- of prayer? What is prayer essentially?  That is the question we will address in this first teaching.

To get a true picture of the essence of prayer, we would do well to stand in the place where Jesusí disciples stood when they were overawed at the attraction of His prayer life.  Jesus arose early in the morning to pray and was known to spend whole nights in prayer.  On the Mount of Transfiguration, His prayerful communion with God ushered Him into the glory of God with the effect that His face shone with the brightness of the sun and his clothing became dazzling white and radiant.  His prayer life brought Him into a working relationship with His Father in which the Father told Him the things He was to say and showed Him the things He was to do.  His prayer life brought Him divine wisdom and power -- wisdom to know the will of God and power to bring it about.  It is no wonder that we have no record of the disciples asking Jesus to train them to preach or teach but do find where they asked, "Lord, teach us to pray." (See Luke 11:1a.)

Jesusí prayer life enlightens us to the true essence of prayer.  Simply stated, prayer is the passageway to a living and working relationship with God.  It is through prayer that we grow in our knowledge of God and of our love for Him.  It is through prayer that we learn the ways of God and receive revelation of His plans.  It is through prayer that we are instructed and empowered by God to co-labor with Him to accomplish His kingdom purposes in our world.

With this understanding of the essence and purpose of prayer, we will examine the various facets of prayer in order that we might more fully appreciate its value and experience its benefits.  We will examine prayer as:

  • communication

  • communion 

  • cooperation

  • combat

Prayer as Communication

Prayer is communication with God.  The marvel of prayer is that it allows us to live our lives in ongoing communication with our Maker.  We donít have to live as though God is in heaven and has left us to find our own way in this world.  Such distance from God is the curse brought on humankind by sin.  But, redeemed men and women have the lines of communication restored.

Calling Out to God

The Bible depicts prayer as "calling out" to God.  We see prayer as the desperate cry of the human heart for Godís help.  The very first reference to prayer in the Bible demonstrates this.  We read in the early chapters of Genesis of the Fall of Adam and Eve, the expulsion from paradise, the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, and the killing of a man by Lamech in self-defense.  At that point in the narrative, we find this statement:  "At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord."  (See Genesis 4:26b.)  Clearly, prayer was born out of human desperation and was the cry of the human heart for Godís help.

Prayer as the desperate cry of the human heart for Godís help invites Godís intervention and deliverance.  This is graphically demonstrated throughout Psalm 107 -- a psalm beautifully written and worthy of meditation.  The writer describes four scenarios in which people find themselves in desperate circumstances.  He pictures:  

  1.  those wandering in desert wastelands far from safety, 

  2.  those chained and incarcerated in gloomy prisons, 

  3.  those suffering terminally upon beds of affliction, and 

  4.  those in ships at sea battered by tempestuous storms.  

In each case, desperation became the motivation for prayer.  We read, "Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress."  (See verse 6, 13, 19, and 28.)  With each deliverance there is an exhortation to thanksgiving.  The Psalmist writes, "Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men." (See verses 8, 15, 21, and 31.)

Prayer goes beyond crying out to God in desperation.  Now that we are redeemed through faith in Christ, we can call upon the Lord with faith and confidence.  We need not be shaken by dreadful events happening all around us that would normally unnerve us.  The prophet Joel underscores this confidence of the believer.  He foretold a latter day outpouring of Godís Holy Spirit upon all peoples in conjunction with the coming of a day of Godís wrath and retribution upon unrepentant humanity.  (See Joel 2:28-32.)  Itís a picture of salvation and judgment all in a single snapshot.  Itís also a picture of the believerís confident posture in prayer.  For even when the heavenly bodies are falling from the sky and the earth is blanketed with "blood and fire and billows of smoke" (verse 30b), the believer can rest assured that "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (See verse 32b.)

When we face desperate circumstances in our lives, we should turn not to despair but to prayer.  And our prayer should not be crying out to God in desperation but rather calling upon Him in faith.  God wants us to invite Him into our storms so that He can still them.  It is His desire to reveal His strong arm of salvation on our behalf.  The result will be a testimony of praise to God for his intervention in our lives.  It will also be a witness to others that those in covenant relationship with God have every reason to expect that their prayers will be answered.  

Dialogue With God

Weíve seen that prayer as communication with God is pictured as the desperate cry of the human heart for deliverance from peril.  Such prayer appeals to God to act but not to speak.  But, prayer as communication with God should move beyond monologue to dialogue.  God wants to talk with us.

The definition of prayer many of us learned in Sunday School is that prayer is talking to God.  This statement is misleading.  It is true that prayer includes talking to God, but it is wrong to say that prayer is talking to God.  It is so much more.  Just talking to God would be monologue: we talk, He listens.  But, the conversational aspect of prayer is meant to be dialogue.  We talk to God, He listens; God talks to us, we listen.

Prayer as dialogue is evident in the lives of Old Testament leaders and prophets.  We read of Moses that "The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend."  (See Exodus 33:10a.)  A common expression in the prophets is that the word of the Lord came to them.  That is, God spoke to them. In fact, God rebuked the false prophets who presumed to speak in His name because they spoke for Him without hearing from Him.  We read, "But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word?  Who has listened and heard his word? . . .  But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds." (Jeremiah 23:18,22)

Itís not just Old Testament leaders and prophets who are privileged to hear from God on behalf of His people.  New Testament believers are invited into intimacy with God where dialogue takes place.  Jesus said, "My sheep listen to my voice."  (John 10:27a)  The apostle Paul writes of believers that the Spirit of God has come to live in us and communicates Godís thoughts to us so that "we may understand what God has freely given us."  (1 Corinthians 2:12b).

God desires to speak with us, and prayer is the means for such dialogue to take place.  We will share more later about how prayer as dialogue enables us to partner with God in His kingdom business in our lives and our world.  The point to grasp here is that we should anticipate Godís speaking to us and make room in our prayer time to hear from Him.  We are the sheep of His hand, and His sheep will know His voice.

Prayer as Communion

A second facet of prayer makes it more personal and intimate.  Prayer is more than communication with God. It is communion with Him.  God created humankind in His image and likeness to have fellowship with Him.  Prayer is the means to that communion.  The Psalmist expressed it this way:  "Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me."  (Psalm 42:7)  This is not an observation from nature but a description of fellowship with the Almighty.  From the depths of His Spirit, God calls to the depths of our spirits and solicits a response. The result is deep, intimate fellowship with God through worshipful prayer.

Prayer that Worships God

Prayer as communion is prayer that worships God.  Just as the Psalmist used the imagery of waterfalls to describe the deep communion of man and his Maker, Jesus used the imagery of a wellspring within the heart of the believer to describe the way worship springs forth from the depths of oneís being and connects with God.  In talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus said that the water he could give to a person to quench his spiritual thirst "will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."  (John 4:13b)  I believe He is referring to worship by which the believer connects with God, the source of eternal life.  For a few verses later Jesus said to her, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."  (verse 24)  It is our regenerated spirit quickened by the Holy Spirit that wells up in worship to our God and Savior.  This is clear from Jesusí reference to the Holy Spirit a few chapters later in John.  He said to those gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."  (John 4:37b-38)  For the sake of explanation, the next verse reads, "By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive." (verse 39a)

When we move from prayer as communication to prayer as communion, we move from dialogue to intimacy.  It is like moving from the living room to the bed chambers. We should not fail to notice that the images employed by the Psalmist ("all your waves and breakers have swept over me") and by Jesus ("streams of living water will flow from within him") depict a spiritual intimacy with God parallel to the physical intimacy of a husband and wife in intercourse.  There is passion, ecstasy, and overflow.  Anyone who has experienced the Baptism in the Holy Spirit knows this experience firsthand.  Anyone who has not but who thirsts for God is invited into this intimate communion of spirits.

Let me comment here that those who define prayer as "talking to God" would say that this teaching has digressed from discussing prayer to discussing worship.  As we said earlier, though, prayer is not talking with God. Such dialogue is only one facet of prayer.  We have defined prayer as "the passageway to a living and working relationship with God."  Since worship connects our spirits with God, the source of life, worship is an aspect of prayer.  In fact, worship is the spirit of prayer.   The Lordís Prayer begins with the hallowing of Godís name (see Matthew 6:9) and ends with a threefold doxology of worship ascribing to God the kingdom, power, and glory.  (See verse 13b.)  In the same vein, Paul wrote these words: "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing."  (1 Timothy 2:8) Lifting up hands is an act of worship, and Paul depicts it as a posture of prayer.

Prayer that Submits to God

Prayer as communion is prayer that submits to God.   To have communion with someone is to share something in common with them.   The prophet Amos raises the question, "Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?" (3:3)  We cannot walk with God and commune with Him unless we agree with Him.  And what is it that would stand in the way of such agreement?  Isaiah writes: "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear."  (59:2)  It is sin that hinders communion with God. So then, prayer as communion is prayer that submits to God through humility and repentance of sin. Godís response to Solomonís Prayer of Dedication for the Temple appealed for the only kind of prayer that would restore broken communion between God and His people.  He beckoned, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)

To submit to God goes beyond repentance of sin.  It also includes deferring to Godís will.  This is a part of the prayer of submission that enables communion with God.  The very heart of the Lordís Prayer petitions for the coming of Godís kingdom and the establishment of His will.  (See Matthew 6:10.)  Not only did Jesus teach us to pray this way. He did the same in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed, "Not as I will, but as you will."  (Matthew 26:39)  It is only as we defer to the will of God that we can have communion with Him.  So, in our prayer lives the worship of God must lead to submission to Him.

As with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the prayer of submission will frequently be a prayer of self denial.  Self denial is always a part of communion with another person.  We cannot be selfish and have fellowship with another.  A relationship requires two people to work at denying self and deferring to the other.  God expressed the ultimate in self denial when He became a man in Christ and gave His life at Calvary to bridge the gap and reestablish communion with us.  Now He calls for the same response from us.  Will we deny ourselves, take our cross, and follow Him? (See Luke 9:23.)  If it is Godís rule that we want in our lives, then our prayer lives must be an exercise in self denial.  No pain, no gain.

Prayer that Relates to God

Prayer as communion is prayer born out of our relationship with God.  Our relationship with God through Christ is the key to answered prayer.  In John 15, Jesus depicted himself as a life-giving vine and His followers as branches drawing their life from Him.  Later in the same chapter, He called them friends and said that He had made known to them everything the Father had revealed to Him so that they could lead lives that would bear fruit for Godís glory.  And what is the result of this life of abiding and fruitfulness?  "Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name."  (verse 16b)  When we have a relationship with God in which we are Godís friends, receive revelation from him, and lead lives that bear fruit for His glory, Jesus says that the result will be a life of continuous answered prayer.

To maintain an unbroken relationship with God that is essential to a life of answered prayer, it is necessary that we maintain a right spirit toward others.  Scripture is clear that if we donít love our Christian brother and sister, we donít truly love God.  (See 1 John 4:20.)  This being the case, God uses prayer as a means to mending strained or broken relationships.  In the Lordís Prayer, we petition:  "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."  (Matthew 6:12)  Here again is an exercise of self denial in prayer.  We must deny ourselves the "right" to have unforgiveness in our hearts against others if we are to maintain harmony in our relationship with God.

Our relationship with God through Christ is the basis for our confidence in prayer.  The writer of Hebrews states that because of the atonement of Christ by which we are restored in our relationship with God, and because of Christís faithful high priestly intercession for us, we are invited to "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16b)

This facet of prayer as communion with God has great attraction and great promise.  God invites us into a life of prayer in which we experience intimate and ecstatic communion with Him, bow our hearts in submission to His will, live in harmony with Christian brothers and sisters, maintain a pure heart toward everyone, an embrace a life of continuous answered prayer.  This is Godís promise to us when He invites us to experience prayer as communion.

Prayer as Cooperation

A third facet of prayer invites us to join with God in the making of history.  Prayer is cooperation with God. It is to position oneself to receive revelation of Godís purposes and to release His will in the earth.  As Walter Wink states, "History belongs to the intercessor."

This aspect of prayer harks back to what we said earlier about the prayer life of Jesus.  His prayer life brought him into a working relationship with His Father.  He received revelation from the Father concerning the words He was to speak in His teaching and the miraculous works He was to do in ministry.  (See John 7:16; 14:10, 24; 10:32.)  Once Jesus received revelation of Godís purposes, all He needed to do was speak the word and the power of the Holy Spirit was released to accomplish the work.  This is what He meant in saying, "The words I say to you are not just my own.  Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work."  (John 14:10b) 

To say that prayer is cooperation with God is to say that we, like Jesus, will hear words from the Father, see the works the Father is doing, and release them into the earth.  And how does this take place in the lives of believers?  It happens in conjunction with prayers of petition and prayers of intercession.

Prayers of Petition

To say that prayer is cooperation with God is to say that our prayers are a means that God uses to accomplish His will.  One way that this happens is through prayers of petition.  We ascertain just what it is that God's wants done, and we petition Him in prayer to do it.

In order to cooperate with God through prayers of petition, we must first receive revelation of what He wants to do.  Such revelation becomes the foundation of effective petitionary prayer.  This truth was communicated by Jesus to His disciples using the analogy of the keys of the kingdom.

After Jesus had spent considerable time with His disciples living with them, teaching them, training them, anointing them, and sending them out in ministry, He popped the all-important question one day.  

"Who do people say the Son of Man is?"  (See Matthew 16:13b.)

That was easy.  It required no special revelation.  They answered, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  (See verse 14.)

Now came the real question.  "But what about you? . . . Who do you say I am?"  (See verse 15.)

They were His disciples.  He had poured Himself into them.  Did they know who they were dealing with?  One knew.  Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  (See verse 16.)

This wasn't what the people said of Jesus.  How did Peter know?  Jesus answered that question in His response.  He said, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven."  (See verse 17.)  Peter recognized Jesus' identity only because God revealed it to Peter.

What does all this have to do with prayer?  Jesus next statement begins to make the application for us.  He said to Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."  (See verse 19.)  Jesus made this same statement to all of his disciples two chapters later and then followed it with an encouragement to petitionary prayer.  He said:

I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.  (See Matthew 18:19-20.)

This exchange between Jesus and his disciples teaches us several things about effective petitionary prayer.  Let me summarize them in bullet form:

  • When we submit ourselves to God to become disciples of Jesus, we come to know by revelation from the Father just who Jesus is and what He is up to in the world.

  • Such revelation of the identity of Jesus and of His work in the world entitles us to the keys of the kingdom by which we bind the works of the Enemy and loose the work of God in peoples' lives.

  • This act of using the keys of the kingdom to bind Satan's works and loose God's work in peoples lives takes place through prayers of petition offered in agreement with other believers gathered in Jesus name.

When we pray in the spirit of Jesus enlightened by an understanding of who He is and what He desires to do, we can have full confidence that our prayers will be answered.  His promise is, "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."  In this way, petitionary prayer becomes a means by which we cooperate with God to accomplish His will.

Prayers of Intercession

Another way that we can cooperate with God through prayer is by prayers of intercession.  An intercessor is one who "stands in the gap" between God and humankind.  Ultimately, Jesus is the Intercessor between God and humankind as His atoning sacrifice has provided the way for sinful, fallen humanity to be reconciled to God.  As the risen Lord, He is ascended to God's right hand where He acts as our High Priest continually interceding for us before God.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to be a "royal priesthood" (see 1 Peter 2:9), which means that we are to intercede for each other and for those who have not yet become followers of Jesus.  We intercede for others through prayer that appeals to the atonement of Christ, stands upon the promises of God's Word, resists the Enemy's strategies to thwart God's will, and receives the grace of God for the meeting of the needs of those we are praying for.

The classic Old Testament text regarding intercession is from the book of Ezekiel.  God wanted to spare His people from judgment for their idolatry and backsliding, so He sought for someone to intercede for them -- but, His seeking was in vain.  The Lord said to Ezekiel:

I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.  So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.  (See 22:30-31.)

This passage clearly teaches that God wanted to spare His people but could not because He couldn't find someone to cooperate with Him.  The cooperation He was looking for was described with two images:

  1. He needed someone to "build the wall."  That is, someone had to fortify the people spiritually so that they would not be vulnerable to the Enemy's temptations to idolatry and backsliding.

  2. He needed someone to "stand . . . in the gap."  That is, someone had to mediate between God and His backslidden people in order for them to be forgiven, restored, and reconciled to God.

We are to cooperate with God through prayers of intercession.  It is in intercession for others that we "build the wall" and "stand in the gap."  That is, our prayers result in believers being strengthened spiritually to resist temptations to idolatry and backsliding.  We build the wall.  Our prayers also result in the lost being reconciled to God.  We stand in the gap.  For Jesus atonement has made provision for both, and we intercede in His name.

Prayer as Combat

Thus far we have discussed aspects of prayer that focus upon God:  we communicate with Him, commune with Him, and cooperate with Him.  We come now to consider a facet of prayer that moves outward with God against the Enemy.  Prayer is combat.  Prayer is not only a means for establishing the reign of God in the earth but also of enforcing Satan's defeat.

Spiritual warfare is at the heart of the Lord's Prayer.  Jesus taught His disciples to pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  (See Matthew 6:10.)  In the Greek text of this verse, the verbs are are the forefront of their respective clauses.  A literal reading would be "Come, your kingdom; Be done, your will . . . ."  This sentence structure in New Testament Greek gives an imperative thrust to this petition of the Lord's Prayer.  We are boldly declaring in prayer that God's kingdom will come and His will shall be done.  

When it comes to prayer, we are to be among the spiritually forceful who rend the kingdom of God from the obstructing clutches of Satan who would try to hold back God's blessing and favor from us.  Jesus said, "From the days of John the Baptist till now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it."  (See Matthew 11:12.)  God does not withhold His kingdom from us.  He freely gives it.  Jesus' said, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom."  (See Luke 12:32.)  It is Satan who tries to withhold God's kingdom from us, and prayer is the means by which we violently rend it from him.

Satan is a master deceiver.  He disguises His schemes through craftily weaving them into the fabric of human culture so that they become the "way of the world" in which we live.  We who believe in Christ are not of this world but have a heavenly citizenship.  (See John 17:14 and Philippians 3:20.)  Therefore, our prayers are to be a form of protest against the status quo that runs against the grain of God's will.  In an article titled "Prayer:  Rebelling Against the Status Quo," David Wells states:

What, then, is the nature of petitionary prayer?  It is, in essence, rebellion against the world in its fallenness, the absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is pervasively abnormal.  It is, in this its negative aspect, the refusal of every agenda, every scheme, every interpretation that is at odds with the norm as originally established by God.

Jesus emphasized the role of prayer as protest in His parable of the widow and the unjust judge.  (See Luke 18:1-8.)  The judge represented the status quo.  He had neither a fear of God nor a love for people.  He wasn't the slightest bit interested in upholding justice in the poor widow woman's behalf.  But, she continued coming to him day in and day out protesting the injustice done against her and demanding, "Grant me justice against my adversary."  (See verse 3.)  Finally, the judge complied just to get her off his back.  Jesus used this parable to teach an important lesson about prayer as protest.  He asked, "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, he will see that they get justice, and quickly."  (See verses 7 and 8.)

When it comes to dealing with an ungodly status quo, prayer is an effective means of protest.  While social activism and public protests may change society for the better through blood, sweat, and tears, warfare prayer goes right to the root of the problem and disarms the spiritual forces that cause people to treat others unjustly.  This is why Paul, in a classic text on spiritual warfare, lists among the four categories of demonic spirits that we wrestle with "the powers of this dark world" and "the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  (See Ephesians 6:12b.)  For just as demonic spirits do battle in the heavenly realms in an attempt to prevent God's kingdom from coming to the earth (see Daniel 9-10), they also work in the earth to darken peoples' minds to the revelation of God ways.  (See 2 Corinthians 4:4.)  But, through prayer we:

  • Enforce Satan's defeat in the heavenly realms so that God's kingdom may come to the earth.

  • Enforce Satan's defeat in the earth so that people are enlightened to God's ways and are enabled to do His will.

Prayer as combat is to be the lifestyle of every believer.  It is a means by which we become the light of the world and the salt of the earth.  For we who are in Christ have been given authority over all evil spirits (see Luke 10:10 and Mark 16:17) and the spiritual weapons by which to demolish Satan's strongholds from the lives of those for whom we pray.  (See 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.)  Only as we engage in combat prayer can we effectively cooperate with God in seeing His kingdom purposes established.

 Conclusion

In this teaching, we have sought to identify the essence of prayer and to do an overview of the various facets of prayer.  As for its essence, we have defined prayer as the passageway to a living and working relationship with God.  As for the facets of prayer, we've seen that our living relationship with God is characterized by communication and communion with Him while our working relationship with God is played out in our cooperation with Him and our combat with Satan and the demonic realm. 

Prayer as communication with God is a calling out to God that expresses both the desperate cry of the heart for God's intervention in our lives and the confident assurance that God will answer our prayers because of His covenant relationship with us through Christ.  Beyond simply answering our prayers through divine acts of intervention in our lives, God speaks to us in the dialogue of prayer.  Just as He spoke face-to-face with Moses and gave messages to the prophets, He also speaks to us as the sheep of His hand who know the voice of their shepherd.  

Prayer as communion moves beyond mere communication to intimate relationship.  Their is a deep and intimate communion between God's Spirit and our regenerated spirit that enables us to worship God with passion, ecstasy, and overflow.  In this communion of prayer, we find ourselves empowered to submit to the Lord in humility, repentance of sin, and deference to His will.  Thus we experience a fruitful relationship with God and with His people that leads to a lifestyle of continuous answered prayer.

Prayer as cooperation enables us to partner with God in the shaping of human history.  Through prayer, we receive revelation from God concerning His redeeming work in Christ and guidance in how we can partner with Him in bringing others to salvation and spiritual maturity.  Through prayers of petition we learn to receive God's grace for the meeting of the needs of those for whom we pray.  Through prayers of intercession, we become instrumental in helping others becoming fortified in their resistance to spiritual attack and restored in their relationship with God.

Prayer as combat is the aspect of prayer called spiritual warfare.  Through such prayer, we protest a status quo mentality that is void of the fear of God and of a genuine love for others and that leads to social inequity and injustice.  We protest this status quo mentality by enforcing Christ's victory over the demonic forces that blind peoples' minds to God's redeeming work in Christ and to His expectations for our lives.

God invites us into a living and working relationship with Him.  We have the awesome privilege of having open lines of communication and intimate personal communion with our Maker and Redeemer.  We have been invited into the great adventure of co-laboring with Him in the establishment of His kingdom and contending in His authority for the enforcement of Satan's defeat.  God grant us the grace to choose a lifestyle of prayer that will enrich our relationship with Him and empower our effectiveness in His service. 

 

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