Third in a series on prayers of faith.
“If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting….” – James, the brother of Jesus of Nazareth
Praying, despite all the ink devoted to discussing it, seems to be a mystery to many followers of Jesus. Countless words have been devoted to such topics as “effective praying,” “prayers that get answers,” “praying with power,” and the like. Yet there seems to be little leading to true breakthroughs in praying.
Perhaps the problem leading to a lack of breakthrough in praying is that we do not understand the purposes of our God for our praying. For more on the purposes for praying, see posts from 2018 dated 11/21, 11/29, 12/6, and 12/13. Also see posts from this year dated 4/11 and 4/17.
Without belaboring a review of what has been said so far, it is enough to point out that for many people, prayer is a means to get our God to provide something we believe we need. While that is at times an appropriate purpose for our praying, it is not the only purpose nor is it even a primary purpose. To understand the primary purpose to our praying we must remember why we are saved by Christ Jesus in the first place.
That purpose is the restoration of a conversational communion between ourselves and our God, an intimate relationship of oneness with the Father and Son. This relationship is described as the indwelling by the Spirit of Christ, abiding in Christ and He in us, being “in Christ,” and having our hope of glory the fact that Christ is in us now.
In any intimate relationship, communication is critical to the health of the union. One-way communication or that which is based primarily upon making requests would not work well in a marriage. Likewise in our oneness and union with our God. Here we find the biggest reason for praying – conversation with our God. Yet there are other reasons for praying, including making requests and petitions. Thus, we should pay attention to how we can pray in a way that yields positive outcomes.
As I have written previously, on our own we really have no idea what is best for ourselves or others in need or prayer. We cannot see into the future, and our human understandings of our God’s will and priorities is limited. Only He knows all the details and nuances of a perfect answer based upon His perfect wisdom, justice, and love.
Following are a few resources and instructions for us that will help us pray according to the will and priorities of our God. More will be included in future posts.
First, remember that the Holy Spirit of Christ intercedes for us, interpreting our prayers and seeing that they will be in conformation with the mind and the will of our God. See Romans 8:26-27 and the previous post for more on this.
Second, we need wisdom from above to be able to know how to pray for most situations. We are instructed to pray for wisdom in James 1:5-7. “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” In addition to James’s instructions here, Jesus told us that the indwelling Spirit of truth would guide us into all truth. Praying for wisdom and truth is often the first step in praying for others and is an important step in refining our praying.
Third, James points out the need to pray with faith in the reliability of our God to answer. If we are praying without trusting that He knows best how to answer our requests, we can expect to receive little or nothing from Him in response. This can be quite discouraging, and we might even wonder if our God is listening or if He cares.
Our faith must be in our God to answer our prayers as He knows best, not answer according to our opinions or fleshly understandings. And trust Him we can. Remember, the Holy Spirit of Christ intercedes for us. He knows the will of the Father and will reliably interpret our prayers accordingly.
Asking for our God’s wisdom before we pray is an important strategy as well. We are instructed to ask for wisdom, and the promise of Jesus is that the guidance is there for us. We can count on the Holy Spirit of Christ to grant wisdom to us when we ask for it in faith.
We must pray in faith, yet if we are indexing our faith to getting the specific answer we have in mind, we are likely to be disappointed. Our faith must move to the larger context of our God’s wisdom and will in the matter. It will most often be different than our will and understandings.
Here is the test of our reliance upon our God in our prayers: do we expect our God to answers according to our opinions, or according to His omniscience? Misplaced faith indexed to our opinions can send us looking for answers that are not in God’s will. We must let our God be God. We must yield to the Holy Spirit as He intercedes in our prayers. Failure in this may lead to discouragement or confusion. We may then doubt, and not rely in faith upon our God to act for the best.
The next post on prayer will focus on another instance of Jesus teaching on prayers of faith.