SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT PRAYING WITH AUTHORITY
I don’t know of a single Christian who doesn’t believe in prayer. I don’t even know of any person practicing another religion who doesn’t believe in prayer. In fact, I don’t even know of very many “secular” people who don’t acknowledge at least some benefits to prayer. So, in light of recent events in our country and around the world, let me pose some very practical and probably not very “theological” opinions about prayer.
1. Prayer is a conversation, not a speech. When we pray, we’re not making a speech to other people, and we’re certainly not making a speech to God. They probably don’t care, and He already knows. Rather,
“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
Prayer is a conversation where you share your heart with God, and He shares His heart with you. Don’t waste your time trying to convince God that you’re worth listening to, convincing Him He needs to act in your behalf, or by telling Him what He already knows. Remember —- anything that is of concern to you, is of concern to Him. After all, He IS your heavenly Father.
Then, . . .
2. Prayer is opening a door of invitation, not creating a courtroom. Prayer is not to be used to argue one’s case as if trying to convince a jury or the judge that your cause is good. In prayer, God is not to be approached as either an arbiter or a judge, but rather as one’s heavenly Father. I learned this principle in an odd way back in 1968 while on staff in a church in Illinois. While walking down the corridor of our educational wing, I passed by the church library only to find a trash can filled with two or three dozen duplicate books being discarded in order to make room for new titles. Being the book fanatic that I am, I noticed several copies of a book about prayer, written by an unknown author with a strange name, Ole Hallesby.
Hallesby was born in Aremark, in Østfold, Norway, the sixth of eight siblings in a farm family whose father also served as an assistant pastor in a Lutheran church of the Haugean heritage. Following theological education, Hallesby taught at the Free Faculty of Theology from 1909 to 1952 and served as chairman of the Norwegian Santal Mission from 1902-1906 and later as chairman of the Norwegian Lutheran Inner Mission Society (Det norske lutherske Indremisjonsselskap) from 1923 to 1956. He was also central to the founding of Norwegian Christian Student and School Association in 1924.
Hallesby wrote 67 books, one of which was simply entitled, Prayer. That was the book I found. His definition of prayer radically and permanently changed my understanding of prayer. No longer was it a time to try to convince God to act in my behalf, but rather it was just the opposite —- to invite Him to enter the affairs and concerns of my life. Prayer became an exercise on my part of giving Him access to the things that concerned me. He wrote, “We need to learn to know Him so well that we feel safe when we have left our difficulties with Him. To know in that way is a prerequisite of all true prayer.”
The statement that really caught my attention, then, was one in which he indicated that the secret to prayer was Rev 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 sup with him and he with Me.” Recognizing that this scripture is directed specifically at the Christian and not at the lost person, he saw it as the key to a vibrant prayer life. He wrote, “To pray is nothing more involved than to open the door, giving Jesus access to our needs and permitting Him to exercise His own power in dealing with them.”
Next, . . .
3. Prayer is an act of obedience. I wonder —- is it really necessary for us to hash out again all the dozens of times we are told to pray? Three hundred sixty-two times the word is used in the Bible. The overwhelming majority of them in both Old and New Testaments are in the form of commands that we pray or exceptions that we will or do pray. Whether it is Jesus telling us to pray or Paul telling us to pray and not faint or that we lift up holy hands and pray for all men, we must understand that, whatever else prayer may be, it is an act of obedience. That being the case then, not praying turns out to be an act of disobedience. Paul stated succinctly to us, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all [d]comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7). When we obey the command to pray, we will find ourselves no longer filled with worry and apprehension, we will find that we can pray about virtually everything, that we have total and constant access to God, and God’s peace will fill our hearts when we come to Him in obedient prayer.
Also, . . .
4. Prayer is an expression of trust and faith. I’m afraid that many people simply don’t pray not so much because they forget or neglect it, or because they are upset with God or have something in their lives they don’t want to face, but rather because they really don’t expect Him to respond. So, it comes to a matter of whether or not we actually believe He can and will respond, and that we can trust Him for His answers and with the outcome. I find it interesting that if I don’t really think God will respond and get involved in the situation, I probably won’t pray. In like manner, if my intimacy with God is shallow or non-existent, then I have no basis upon which to place my trust and confidence. Therefore, to pray . . . truly pray . . . is to show that I really do trust Him with the situation about which I am praying.
In concluding, . . .w
5. Prayer is driven by authority. The level of motivation and enthusiasm with which I pray is not going to be driven so much by my fervor and emotional stimulation over the situation itself as it is by my understanding of my understanding regarding the authority God has given me in the first place with which I can pray. You see, it’s not my level of faith, but rather my understanding of the right and authority I have to pray about something. God has declared a “presidential decree” that gives me both the right and the authority to approach Him about any and every matter.
That authority is found in the many promises God has given us about praying. He alone has the authority to institute, initiate, and empower prayer. For example —-
1) Isa 65:4 —- “. . . before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.”
2) Jer 33:3 —- “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”
3) Mt 7:6-8 —- “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
4) I Jn 5:14-15 —- “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”
5) Mt 6:7-9 —- ” “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
6) Lk 11:13 —- “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
7) JN 14:13-14 —- “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”
Behind each of these verses, and scores more, you have the proclaimed authority of Jesus Christ. Because they are also commands, you likewise have all the authority you need to obey those commands in your praying. Perhaps no discipline of the Christian life is filled with more divine and delegated authority than praying.
What, then, does all of this mean to you and me? It means that when you and I prayed . . . and hopefully continue to pray . . . about what’s going on in the aftermath of Harvey, we are praying with three levels of authority behind our praying —- that of our President because he had and still has the jurisdictional authority as stipulated in our Constitution to declare a national day of prayer, that Texas Governor Abbott also had jurisdictional authority to declare a day of prayer for Texans and others who will join them in prayer, and —- most important of all, and most authoritative of all —- the jurisdictional authority of our sovereign King of the universe Who declared a proclamation . . . a command, in fact . . . that we pray about everything and not worry about anything.
Will we ever learn the lessons God is trying to teach us that America is in His cross hairs, and He is going to continue pursuing us until we return to Him.
And now comes Hurricane Irma . . . apparently worse than Harvey.
In Christ’s Bond, By His Grace, and for His Kingdom,
Life Unlimited Ministries
Copyright September, 2017
“If Jesus had preached the same message that many ministers preach today,
He would never have been crucified.” — Leonard Ravenhill
“The time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep,
the Church will have clowns entertaining the goats.” — Charles H. Spurgeon