I’m reading a book right now about prayer. Some of the ideas in the book have me a little perplexed. In general I get the feeling that the author is saying ”God’s reaction to prayer is a reward for persistence.” Said another way, “God is conditionally withholding His blessing based on our prayer performance.” Maybe he isn’t meaning that and I have missed it so I will keep reading the book. For now, however I see a lie either real or inferred I don’t know but I must go after it.
One of the statements in the book implies that prayer for us is like Israel and Jericho. They were commanded to walk around the walls of Jericho 13 times and shout on the last lap while sounding the trumpets. You probably know the story. Since they followed God’s commands explicitly the “walls came tumbling down.” So the author of this book says our prayer is just like that event. We need to persist in prayer just like the nagging widow appealing to the Judge (Luke 18). We may be on lap number 12 and give up when just one more lap will get it done. I agree in concept but not in application.
For the nagging widow parable God is not the Judge in the story. The Judge was an unrighteous man. So it isn’t a story about God. It is a story about not losing hope when we pray. We should never lose hope and persist in our faith and believing since that is what Jesus said:
Luke 18:1 Then Jesus used this ·story [parable] to ·teach his followers [show the necessity] that they should always pray and never ·lose hope [become discouraged]. (EXB)
Luke 18:8 I tell you, God will ·help [provide justice to] his people ·quickly [or suddenly]. ·But [However; Yet] when the Son of Man comes again, will he find ·those on earth who believe in him [faith on the earth; God’s faithfulness is certain; the only question is whether people will remain faithful to him]?” (EXB)
God has a lot to say about prayer. Actually God says we should pray continuously as a lifestyle:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (MSG)
He also says that if we don’t receive answers to prayer, we didn’t ask for them at all or asked for them out of selfish motives:
James 4:2 You want things, but you cannot have them, so you are ready to kill; you strongly desire things, but you cannot get them, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have what you want because you do not ask God for it. 3 And when you ask, you do not receive it, because your motives are bad; you ask for things to use for your own pleasures. (GNT)
So I would agree with the author of the book I am reading with regard to hope, however our prayer isn’t about a conditional response from God. Conditional implies that God is waiting for a condition change in us since He never changes. There is one problem with that teaching. God’s position towards us, His countenance towards us, His blessing for us, His favor for us, His provision for us is never conditionally proportional to our prayer-performance, ever. The only condition change He is waiting for is our believing, period. Let me see if I can explain.
I think there are some lies about prayer that drive us into believing “we better pray right or God isn’t going bless us.” One of the most damaging lies is we are unworthy to pray so we need a “good performance” or need to “make sure we are living a sinless life.” I think the lie about unworthiness comes from verses like this:
John 9:31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. (ESV)
When I was a kid I heard this verse taught in church as a “you better watch out” kind of verse. I actually heard preachers say “if you are a sinner, you know that God won’t hear your prayer.” Pretty scary stuff. Of course you all know that we are no longer called sinners but saints. You know that our sins were removed by Jesus who became sin so that we would become His righteousness. God has forgiven, removed and forgotten our sins. Not to mention that this verse is taken completely out of context and was a religious arrogant response to the blind man about whom Jesus was and how He healed him. Either way, it does not apply so stop trying to make it apply. Your “worth” is the price that was paid for you, JESUS!
The next lie is “God blesses us proportional to our performance.” The only measuring is based on our belief. The more we believe the better we are positioned to receive. God has plenty to go around. He isn’t short on blessing and we are measured based on what Jesus did, not what we do. How about this verse:
Philippians 4:19 And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (AMP)
And the last lie is “we don’t know how to pray.” James 4:2-3 about not praying for stuff or being selfish when you pray (above) can be intimidating unless you know this:
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (ESV)
Romans 8:34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (ESV)
Oh, and this should put a final nail in the whole “sin will separate us” lie:
1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (ESV)
Hebrews 7:25 Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them. (AMP)
One more really good one about our relationship, we aren’t alone!
John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby), that He may remain with you forever— (AMP)
I pray that God will reveal to you who He is and what Jesus has accomplished on the cross. When you begin to understand Him and His nature you will always be certain when it comes to prayer. When we approach God it is a conversation. We want to hear His side of the story. We want to know His will. We come in communion to be changed, encouraged, edified and glorified in His presence. We aren’t bringing a wish list. We are not Dorothy clicking red shoes and hoping for the best. We are His children. He loves us like He loves Jesus. He looks at us and He sees Jesus. Can you imagine Jesus “nagging” God to get something, really? That is crazy. Likewise when we approach God apart from our identity in Christ we are ignoring what Jesus did on the cross. Listen, sometimes God will put a burden on your heart to pray and pray and pray on your knees while fasting and contending…without a doubt. When He gives you that desire, go for it. It is His will. For some of you intercession may be one of your gifts and you feel this way all the time. Again, go for it. But in all cases be certain of who you are in Christ Jesus. Be certain of who God is as Jehovah Jireh. He is the great provider. He certainly loves you. Even the prayers that you “mess up” He has a contingency in place, Jesus. It is always about what Jesus has done and not about what you do. Your certain assignment is to believe in the One who made you and knows everything about you. If you feel you are lacking in belief, if aren’t already certain, then pray like the widow. Come into communion. Pray without ceasing. Don’t give up. Don’t stop. Keep marching and circling…12, 13, 14…He can’t wait to reveal Himself to you.