The subject of prayer.

Open, pray.   This is our second study in our six-week study series on prayer.  Last week we made some introductory remarks about the general truths surrounding prayer.  You remember we are using Christ’s words in John 14:12-19 as our platform passage to consider prayer.

Let’s opening this morning by reading that passage as well.

John 14:12.  Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.   13Whatever 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.  15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.  16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;  17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.  18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  19 “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.

The definition of prayer.

Let me first give you how our WLC summarizes the Bible’s definition of prayer.  And then we will go to our Primary Standard and unpack some of the various ways that the Bible uses the term ‘pray’ or ‘prayer’.

WLC 178  What is prayer?

  1. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God,(1) in the name of Christ,(2) by the help of his Spirit;(3) with confession of our sins,(4) and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.(5)(1) Ps. 62:8 (2) John 16:23 (3) Rom. 8:26  (4) Ps. 32:5,6; Dan. 9:4  (5) Phil. 4:6

The types of prayer.

Many of us are familiar with the acronym “A.C.T.S”, Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  These are four subdivisions of prayer.  Or four different types of prayer with different contents or reasons for our prayers to God.  In each type of prayer, we are praying different things to God for different reasons.  For example, in thanksgiving we are thanking Him for some goodness received or evil thwarted.  In petitions we are asking for our daily needs and wants.

The petition.

Today we are going to look at nature of prayer as petition, asking God for something.

The OT usage.

Now let’s look at two OT texts that teach us about petition prayer to God.

Zechariah 10:1.  Ask rain from the LORD at the time of the spring rain– The LORD who makes the storm clouds; And He will give them showers of rain, vegetation in the field to each man. (Isa.65:1) (Hebrew: sha-al, to inquire of, to ask, to question)

2 Chronicles 20:4.  So Judah gathered together to seek help (petition) from the LORD; they even came from all the cities of Judah to seek (to petition) the LORD.

(Ba-qash – to seek, to beg, to pursue, to plead)

The idea here is that our soul is seeking almost like a hunting after something that we must have.

The NT usage.

Now  let’s look at our platform passage and then two other NT passages.

John 14:13.  Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.   V.14.  If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

Matthew 7:7.  Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  9 “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  10 “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?  11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!   (Mt.21:22, Lk.11:13, Jn.15:16, 16:24, Jas.1:6, 4:2-3, I Jn.3:22, 5:14-15)

I John 3:21.  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;

22 and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.  23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.   24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

The Greek word used here is aiteo.  It means to ask, to ask for a thing, to make a petition, to make a request.  (Mt.7:7, Jn.13:31)

To ask.

Remember God has appointed petition-prayer as one of the means, if not the chief means for us to receive of His goodness.  So, as a Believer – ask!

Matthew 7:7.  Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  9 “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  10 “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?  11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

Remember, sometimes we do not have because we do not pray to God and ask Him for what we need.  This reveals a smallness or a weakness of our faith.  Sometimes this occurs because we are growing cool or lukewarm in our relationship with Christ and warm for the world or for sin, which makes us prayerless, more on that later.

James 4:2.  You do not have because you do not ask.

But it is also true that many times that God gives us even when we don’t ask.  And quite often, much more than we do ask.  This is the goodness of God.  This ought to motivate us to ask God for what we need and to trust in Him.  And to rejoice and thank Him, when we receive our petitions.

Isaiah 65:24.  It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.

Ephesians 3:20.  Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,   21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

To ask with faith.

The Bible speaks of prayer as lifting our soul to God. (Ps.86:4, 143:8) Or pouring out our heart to God. (Ps.62:8) This is what it means to pray believing or to pray in faith.  (Mt.21:22) True prayer is a spiritual communion with God.

Psalm 25:1.  A Psalm of David. To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul.  2 O my God, in You I trust, Do not let me be ashamed; Do not let my enemies exult over me.  3 Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed; Those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed.

4 Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths.  5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day.  6 Remember, O LORD, Your compassion and Your lovingkindnesses, For they have been from of old.(Ps.66:16)

To ask while guarding against unbelief.

To help us pray to God, we should pray to God that He give us greater insight into our neediness and also into His greatness and goodness.  We should also pray against the sin of unbelief in our prayer.  I mean, we should guard against saying to God, oh God please give me such and so, and I already know you won’t give it.

Mark 9:24.  Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

James 1:4.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.   5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,  8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

The Lessons.

Here are some lessons we have learned thus far from our petitioning the Lord.

That we have faith.

Asking God for something, in Christ, reveals that we have true faith in God in Christ, that we are real Believers.  People that do not believe in God do not ask God for anything.  People that do not believe in Christ as their Savior and Mediator, do not rely on Christ’s mediation in their prayers.  (WCF 18.2-3, WCF 21.3)

So, when we pray ask for anything in Christ’s name we ought to be encouraged even before we receive what we pray for.  Our petitions evidence a living relationship with our holy God!

That God is our superior.

Petitions also manifest the authority structure.  In petitions, we come to God as our superior and we acknowledge that we are the inferior.  I don’t mean inferior in a demeaning sense.  God has all perfections.  He has no limitations.

He has told us to ask Him for our daily needs.  We are always needy and dependent creatures and in Christ we are His sons and daughters, so we ask Him for everything we need.  We bow before Him.  We submit to Him; we make supplications to Him.  And this is right and pleasing and good.

As the inferior we are asking God to do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves.

In prayer we are to consciously and earnest remember WHO we are praying to!  We are asking God of heaven and earth, all powerful, all merciful.  Nothing is impossible for God.  He is able.  And He is willing. ASK Him.

Philippians 4:19.  And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.   20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.   (2 Cor.9:8)

Pray thinking of the nature and qualities of God.  For example, let’s say you needed help from God to conquer some sin in your life.  Here are a few attributes of God that you could use in your prayer, Oh God You are a holy God and you hate sin.  By your goodness and mercy and love and power You have caused me to be born again in Christ.  Lord, by your loving power break the power of this sin in my life, that I would be increasingly made holy like You.

To ask with effort.

Prayer, petition, is pursing God for what we earnestly desire.  We seek God and His provision like a merchant seeking a great treasure, or like a wise man seeks understanding. (Mt.13:45, Prov.15:14)

This means that true prayer is work.  It is active activity!  Sometimes the Bible speaks of this asking God as a form of wrestling or fighting/agony. (Lk.22:24)  This means we have to discipline ourselves like spiritual athletes to pray.  We have to come to prayer knowing that our fallen flesh is against true fervent prayer to God and we have to pray against it.

Colossians 4:12.  Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.

Romans 15:30.  Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me,   31 that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints;

To ask with fervency.

And depending on the context, it can also mean to beg or to plead.  So to make a fervent plea.  This is the same word used to beg alms, or to be a poor man begging for money or begging for some other material and or spiritual mercies. Like Elijah. (Jas.5:17-18)

Acts 3: 1.  Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.  2 And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple.  3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms.

One man wrote on this, that the praying man should be in the “beggar’s posture” before the Lord. (John Brown of Wamphray)  The notion is, we are bankrupt, we have nothing, God has everything.  And so, we come to Him.  (Lk.15:11-32, Lk.18:9-14, Lk.7:36-50)

To ask with childlike trust.

As believers in Christ, we are God’s beloved children that He sees and receives in His Beloved Son Christ Jesus.

And while children do ask their father for what they need; I would argue they do not beg their father for their daily bread – like a beggar.  But rather, now as Believers in Christ we come to God as His beloved children.  Prayer is speaking to our heavenly Father, through our holy older Brother Savior Jesus, in reliance upon our indwelling counselor the Holy Spirit.

John 15:14.  You are My friends if you do what I command you.   15 “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.   16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

Matthew 6:9.  Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

The main idea with petition is that we ask God with humble reverence, and with humble or meek earnestness.  We are sensible of our wants and needs and of our deficiency for obtaining what we need or desire.  And we trust or believe that God is good and able and can and will give us what we ask for.  (Ps.38:4-15)

To pray without ceasing.

And Christ elsewhere teaches us to ask God constantly for our needs.    Meaning that we should pray incessantly until God gives us what we ask Him for.  This is what Paul refers to when he says, to pray without ceasing. (I Thess.5:17)

Luke 18:1 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,   2 saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.  3 “There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’  4 “For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man,  5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.'”  6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said;  7 now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?  8 “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

To pray with perseverance (even in the face of seeming silence or refusal).

Part of praying without ceasing is to persevere with our requests to God even when it seems as if He will not grant them.

Matthew 15:21.  Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon.

22 And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.”  23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.”  24 But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”  26 And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  27 But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”  28 Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.

Ask.  Seek. Knock.  The idea is, pray, pray again, and pray some more.  Keep asking until God answers your prayer. (Mt.7:7, Lk.11:5-8) We need to persevere in prayer.  This increases of faith.

Impediments to our petition-prayers.

{mention only a few}

Discouragers.

And do not let the discouragers of the world, the Tobiahs and the Sanballats (and even of the church) discourage you in your requests to God.  (Neh.2:10, 4:3-8, 6:17, 13:8) Be wise who you inform of your prayer requests to God.

Unrepentant sin.

Because true prayer is spiritual communion with the Lord, we cannot have sweet friendship with God in prayer when we are clinging to that which He hates – sin.

We hinder our own prayers by our own sin.  The answer is to repent and to ask Him to forgive us and grant us reformation of life.  So, in this way, our sin provides us with our petitions.  But remember James says that we may not have some of our petitions because we are praying with sinful motives. (Jas.4:1-10, Exod.20:1-18, WLC 99, WLC 151)

Isaiah 59:1.  But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.  3 For your hands are defiled with blood And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken falsehood, Your tongue mutters wickedness. (Ps.66:18, Ps.80:4, Prov.28:9, Mal.1:6-14, Mal.2:13-17, Mal.3:7)

Marital discord.

Lastly, I will speak to the married people and especially to the husbands.  Love your wife as Christ loved the Church. (Eph.5:22-33) As you do you will help your petitions to Lord.  As we sin against our wives, we sin against the commandment of God, and that brings us back to what we just spoke about regarding our sin and our prayers.  Plus, as we love our wives, we make our home a more loving environment, which helps our environment of prayer.

I Peter 3:7.  You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

The conclusion.

Beloved, think often of Christ, the Cross of Christ, the Gospel of salvation.  The more you know the love of God for you in the Beloved Christ, the more you will be compelled to speak to God in prayer.  Take everyone of your cares and concerns to God because He cares for you.  (I Pt.5:6-7)

A M E N

Study Questions

  1. Name and describe some of the various kinds of prayers in the Bible and that we make. Hint: praise is one kind.  What is type prayer do we offer to God the most?  Why?  What does this teach us or reveal about us?
  2. Describe how the Bible records prayers that are petitions. What is a petition? To whom is the request made?  Who makes the request?  What does the words indicating the request teach us about the nature of petitions?  (Zech.10:1, Isa.65:1, 2 Chron.20:4, Jn.14:13-14, Mt.7:7-11, Mt.21:22, Lk.11:13, Jn.15:16, 16:24, Jas.1:6, 4:2-3, I Jn.3:21-24, 5:14-15)
  3. What does is mean to pray or to ask believing or in faith? (Ps.62:8, Mt.21:22, Ps.25:1-6, Ps.66:16, Mk.11:24, Jas.1:6)
  4. When we make a petition to God in the name of Christ what does that teach us about God and about ourselves? (WCF.2.1-3, WCF 18.2-3, WCF 21.3, Mt.19:26, Phil.2:19, 2 Cor.9:8)
  5. Write out five distinct petitions to God using particular attributes of God that would relate to the petition.
  6. Why do we need to pray/petition with effort and fervency? What does this teach us about the nature of prayer?  Give some examples of prayers made with effort.  (Mt.13:45, Prov.15:14, Lk.22:24, Col.4:12, Rom.15:30-31, Jas.5:17-18, Lk.15:11-32, Lk.18:9-14, Lk.7:36-50)
  7. How does being a child of God in Christ affect the content and the manner of our prayers? How does it affect our expectation for the answers to our prayers? (Jn.3:16, Jn.15:14-16, Mt.6:9)
  8. What does it mean to pray without ceasing? Why do we need perseverance in prayer?  What does persevering in prayer do for us and or teach us?  (I Thess.5:17, Lk.18:1-8, Mt.15:21-28, Mt.7:7, Lk.11:5-8)
  9. What are some impediments to our petition-prayers? What should we do about them? (Neh.2:10, 4:3-8, 6:17, 13:8, Jas.4:1-10, Exod.20:1-18, WLC 99, WLC 151, Isa.59:1-3, Ps.66:18, Ps.80:4, Prov.28:9, Mal.1:6-14, Mal.2:13-17, Mal.3:7, Eph.5:22-33, I Pt.3:7)
  10. What are some things that help and encourage our petition-prayers. How should this affect us? (Jn.3:16, Jn.14:12-19, Mt.7:11)

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