Lesson 11 - The First Local Church cont.

The first 1oca1 church "continued stedfast1y...IN PRAYERS." They were not just any kind of prayers. They prayed as the Lord Jesus had instructed in His "wholesome words" and as the apostles taught in their Spirit inspired "doctrine." We continue to consider what the Lord Jesus taught about prayer.

2 Requisites for Prayer

a) Faith

Matt. 21:22 (Amp.) - "And whatsoever you ask for in prayer HAVING FAITH AND (REALLY) BELIEVING, you will receive."

Mark 11:24 (Amp.) — "Whatever you ask for in prayer, BELIEVE - TRUST AND BE CONFIDENT - that it is granted to you. and you will (get it)."

Here is both PROMISE and PROTECTION. God's promise is sure. He will respond to real faith. The demand for real faith however, PROTECTS us from credulity and improper asking. You must have a sound basis for believing that what you are asking for should be granted. Many irresponsible and selfish requests go unanswered. Had they been checked out in terms of a sound faith they would never have been voiced.

b) Forgiveness

Mark 11:25 (Amp.) - "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone. FORGIVE HIM and let it drop - leave it, Let it go - in order that your Father who is in heaven may also forgive you your (own) failings and shortcomings and let them drop."

There is little need for comment here. How much of our barrenness in prayer can be traced to unforgiveness? Unforgiveness breaks fellowship with the Father, and broken fellowship with the Father paralyzes effectual prayer.

c) Importunity

i "Ask, seek, knock" (Matt. 7:7-11; Luke 11:5-13)

In these two scriptures our Lord urges His disciples to persevere in prayer. To support His exhortation He creates two parables, one a PROD and the other a PROMISE. Let us look first at His words on perseverance.

Matt. 7:7,8 (Amp.) - "KEEP ON asking and it will be given you; KEEP ON seeking and you will find; KEEP ON knocking and the door will be opened to you. For every one who KEEPS ON asking receives, and he who KEEPS ON seeking finds, and to him who KEEPS ON knocking it will be opened."

In the Luke reference, these words are bounded on either side by the parables. The parable created to PROD them to perseverance tells of a friend bothering his neighbor "at midnight" for some bread with which to feed an unexpected guest. The drowsy neighbor answers, "Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee." However, the friend continues to beseech his neighbor for the needed bread. Jesus then applies the parable, saying, "I tell you, although he will not get up and supply him anything because he is his friend, yet BECAUSE OF HIS SHAMELESS PERSISTENCE AND INSISTENCE, he will get up and give him as much as he needs" (Luke 11:8 - Amp-). Then He says, "Ask and KEEP ON ASKING, and it shall be given you" (vs. 9—Amp.). Parables must not be pressed to yield meaning in all their details. They are intended to impress one main point.

The main point in this parable is PERSEVERE!

The second parable is rich with PROMISE. A human father would not deceive and disappoint a child who asked him for bread by giving him a stone. There is hope and promise of kind treatment in normal human affection. "If you then, evil-minded as you are, know how to give good gifts — gifts that are to advantage - to your children, HOW MUCH MORE will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ASK AND CONTINUE TO ASK HIM!" (Luke 11:13 - Amp.)

ii Don't cave in (Luke 18:1-8)

Prayer is extremely important. It is the only subject which is dealt with twice in the Sermon on the Mount. And now again our Lord speaks of the need of persevering in prayer and expounds a parable "to the effect that they ought ALWAYS TO PRAY and not to turn coward - faint, lose heart and give up" (vs. 1-Amp,). This word "faint" might be translated "cave in."

This is another "prod" parable, created to urge perseverance in prayer. A wicked judge, "who neither reverenced and feared God nor respected or considered man,“ is approached by a widow who pleads for justice against an adversary. Our Lord's choice of a widow as the appellant is significant. "A widow in that land and time was the symbol of all helplessness, all weakness. She was poor so she could not bribe. She was weak so she could not compel. She was incarnate helplessness." Her only hope was to move the wicked judge to action. "For a time he would not; but later he said to himself, Though I have neither reverence or fear for God nor respect or consideration for man, yet BECAUSE THIS WIDOW CONTINUES TO BOTHER ME, I will defend and protect and avenge her; lest she GIVE ME INTOLERABLE ANNOYANCE AND WEAR ME OUT BY HER CONTINUAL COMING" (Amp.)

Then Jesus makes the application, saying, "Listen to what the unjust judge says! And will not our (just) God defend and protect and avenge His elect (His chosen ones) who CRY TO HIM DAY AND NIGHT? Will He defer them and delay help on their behalf?" (Amp.). If importunity obtains so much from a wicked man, how much more will it obtain for the children of God from the Righteous Judge, their Father in heaven!

d) Abiding

John 15:7 (Amp.) — "If you live in Me — ABIDE VITALLY UNITED TO ME — and My words REMAIN IN YOU AND CONTINUE TO LIVE IN YOUR HEARTS, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you."

According to this verse, two things are essential if prayers are to be answered. One is to maintain the flow of divine Life, and the other is to submit to the authority of the divine Word. If for some reason the flow of life from the vine to the branch is hindered, an unhealthy condition results. The whole intent of the allegory of the Vine and the Branches is to teach the fact of the vital union between Christ and the believer, and that the believer as a branch should bear fruit. In contrast to a branch in a vine, the believer is responsible for "abiding in the Vine" and so drawing to himself the divine Life for health and fruitfulness. A believer who is not maintaining this vital union cannot get answers to prayer. Furthermore, this vital union is only possible as Christ's Words "abide in you." Our lives must be submissive and obedient to the Word! His words are "spirit and life" (John 6:63) and should "dwell in us richly" (Col.3:16).
"It stands to reason that a person who abides in Christ and in whose heart Christ's utterances are in complete control, will ask nothing that is contrary to Christ's will, and in complete harmony with all that Christ has revealed concerning Himself."

STUDY QUESTIONS FOR LESSON #11

  1. Is there a difference between faith and credulity?
  2. Can one's prayers be answered if he is unwilling to forgive?
  3. Should one persevere in prayer and does our Lord give teaching to this effect?
  4. Can one experience answered prayer apart from continuing fellowship with Christ?