During our previous exercise in Sanctification, we learned that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to…
- Birth us as the spiritual children of God; then,
- Mature us into sons and daughters of God who are committed to carrying on the work of Christ in the world.
While the birthing part of the Spirit’s work is accomplished at the time of our Regeneration, the maturing part is something which takes place over time, as the Spirit works relentlessly yet lovingly within us to restore our souls to their original function as mediators between our spirits and bodies—or, as the conduits through which the knowledge of God’s will is transferred from the one to the other. The goal of all this work is to bring us to the place where we are living in obedience to God, with our carnal or fleshly natures under the control of His Spirit, for the purpose of implementing God’s will on the earth.
The way in which the Holy Spirit accomplishes this great work of restoration in a Child of God is by…
Teaching him to talk to His Father through Prayer;
Teaching him to listen to and discern the will of His Father through the Study of His Word;
Teaching him to bring his will into alignment with His Father’s will through Worship…
…the wonderful end result of all this being the production of the Fruit of the Spirit—the reproduction of the very Character of Christ—within the emotions, mind, and will making up his personality. Since talking to God is such an integral part of the sanctification process, this exercise will be given over to learning more about Prayer and the way the Holy Spirit works through it to restore our souls.
Talking to God through Prayer
Since learning to talk is one of the earliest developmental milestones in the life of a child, it should come as no surprise that one of the first things the Holy Spirit does in the life a new child of God is teach him to talk to his Heavenly Father. This extraordinary privilege is made possible when, as a result of the New Birth, the spirit of the new believer is awakened from its previously coma-like state and the lines of communication between his spirit and God’s Spirit are opened up and activated. Once this system is operational, the two parties involved in this wonderful new relationship can begin to communicate with one another. This is essential because…
People in relationships must be able to talk to each other;
People who love each other must be able to express that love; and,
Prayer is the language of love connecting the Father with His children.
The late Dr. Myles Munroe expanded on this concept in the following way…
To understand its essence, we must realize that prayer began with the creation of mankind. It was not instituted after the Fall but before it. Prayer existed from the beginning of God’s relationship with man…
The essence of prayer is twofold. Prayer is…
…an expression of mankind’s unity and relationship of love with God;
…an expression of mankind’s affirmation of and participation in God’s purposes for the earth.
To pray means to commune with God, to become one with God. It means union with Him—unity and singleness of purpose, thought, desire, will, reason, motive, objective, and feeling. It is also the medium through which the human spirit affects and is affected by the will and purpose of the divine Creator. Therefore, prayer is man’s vehicle of the soul and spirit by which he communes with the invisible God.
In other words, prayer isn’t just about us mouthing words to God; it about us learning to speak to Him in such a way that we…
Become One with Him in His Person; and,
Become One with Him in His Purpose.
Becoming One with God in His Person
Let’s face it—when we first came to faith in Christ, about the best thing that could have been said about anyone of us is that we were a big spiritual mess. That’s because, up to that point, we had spent our entire lives dancing to the tune of the world; living according to its standards, with our carnal natures dictating the ways we thought, spoke, and acted. The Apostle Paul accurately described our pre-salvation condition in Ephesians 2:13, where he said that…
…you were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were, by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:1-3).
However, when our spirits were reborn and the Holy Spirit came to live within us, He began breathing life into our once dead spirits by…
- Assuring us of our salvation and of our new positions as sons and daughters in the family of God—prompting us to go to our Father with prayers of thanksgiving and praise for His gracious gift of salvation;
- Writing the laws of God’s holiness upon our hearts—making us conscious of the sin in our lives and prompting us to seek His forgiveness through prayers of repentance;
- Making us aware of and sensitive to the needs of others—moving us to prayers of petition and supplication on their behalf; and,
- Calling our attention to the injustices in the world around us—compelling us to prayers of intercession in an effort to bring about change.
The more we prayed these Spirit-led prayers, the stronger our spirits became and the weaker our flesh grew. With our spirits growing stronger, it became easier for us to…
…be imitators of God as beloved children (Eph. 5:1);
…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes. 5:18);
…put off your old self, which belongs to your former way of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24);
…set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth…put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3: 2,5); and,
…put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…forgiving each other…And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Col. 3: 12, 14)…
…changes in our attitudes and actions enabling us to become more like Jesus while, at the same time, becoming One with God in His Purpose. And, just what is that purpose?
Becoming One with God in His Purpose
We find God’s purpose laid out for us quite clearly in Ephesians 1:4-14, where it was revealed that…
…he [God] chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
In love, he predestined [pre-designed] us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, according the purpose of his will…
…In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will; and,
…In him [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
In short, it was God’s purpose, before the world ever began, to have a family of spiritual sons and daughters who would be holy, just like Him. In order for them to be holy, though, they would first have to be redeemed and forgiven of their transgressions of God’s holy law—something made possible through the gracious and atoning work of Christ on the Cross. To those choosing to receive His gift of redemption and Sonship, God also purposed to reveal the mystery of His will, which is to bring the Kingdom of Heaven, or the rule of God, to Earth through Christ; and, His plan to provide them with an eternal spiritual inheritance, guaranteed by the Holy Spirit Himself.
So, then, the ultimate purpose of this great Purpose of God is that, as we are transformed from sinners into the image and likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ, and we carry that image and likeness to the four corners of the earth—
…the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14); and,
…in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7).
And, how did our participation in this great Purpose of God begin? It all began with prayer!
The Practice of and the Pattern for Prayer
Now that we have familiarized ourselves with the purpose for and the restorative power of prayer, all that remains for us to accomplish in this exercise is to discuss the Practice of Prayer itself. Since there are a number of guidelines for prayer scattered throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament, as a means of providing ourselves with a handy reference, I have organized some of them into the following question and answer format…
- How should we come to prayer?
…[for] without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6);
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16); and,
…this is the confidence that we have toward 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 that we have asked of him (1 John 5:14-15);
Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Pet. 5:6-7); and,
Without any unforgiveness in our hearts…
And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses (Mark 11:25).
- When should we pray?
At all times and without ceasing
…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication…with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… (Eph. 6:18);
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes. 5:16-18).
- Who should we pray for?
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:1-4);
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you (Luke 6:28);
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you might be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:13-16).
- What are we to pray about?
Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38);
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9);
The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Luke 10:2);
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5);
…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7); and,
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father maybe glorified in the Son (John 14:13).
Many of these guidelines were covered, at least in principle, in the instructions and the Pattern for Prayer that Jesus gave to His disciples in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:1-13, when He said…
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Finally, we are to pray, remembering always that…
…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For [when] we do not know what to pray for as we ought…the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26-27).
Damaris Carbaugh reminds us that prayer takes us into the presence of God…
 Dr. Myles Munroe, Understanding the Purpose and Power of Prayer: Earthly License for Heavenly Interference (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House 2002) 35-36.