Lesson 13 - The First Local Church cont.

Prayer has always been of vital importance to spiritually awakened people. Jehovah's people prayed in the Old Testament and Christ's people prayed in the New. The first church in Jerusalem was born in prayer and praise and "continued stedfastly...important...in prayers." As we have seen, our Lord gave a large place to prayer in His teaching, and as we are about to see, the apostles also laid great emphasis on it.

b. WHAT DID THE APOSTLES TEACH ABOUT PRAYER?

1 How to Pray

a) In and By the Holy Spirit

Rom. 8:26,27 (Amp.) — "So too THE (HOLY) SPIRIT comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but THE SPIRIT HIMSELF goes to meet our supplication and pleads on our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance. And He who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of THE (HOLY) SPIRIT — what His intent is - because THE SPIRIT intercedes and pleads (before God) on behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God's will."

JBP - "THE SPIRIT OF GOD...helps us in our present limitations. For example we do not know how to pray worthily as sons of God, but HIS SPIRIT within us is actually praying for us in those agonizing longings which never find words. And God who knows the heart's secrets understands, of course, THE SPIRIT'S intention as He prays for those who love God."

Wey. (vs. 27) - "The Searcher of hearts knows what THE SPIRIT'S meaning is, because His intercessions for God's people are in harmony with God's will."

The Holy Spirit is God resident in the earth as the Lord Jesus is God resident in heaven. Before going back to heaven our Lord said to His disciples I shall ask the Father to give you someone else to stand by you, to be with you always, I mean the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16,17-JBP). The Holy Spirit is God "active" in us, for us, and through us.

As we make our way through life, it is part of the divine maturing process that we learn how to rightly relate to all the circumstances of this present life. The Word of God teaches us how this may be done successfully. Prayer plays a major role in the successful Christian life. The first thing we must do, is concede that we do not know how to pray "as we ought." Say prayers, yes, but "pray as we ought" no! It is at this point that "the Holy Spirit comes to our aid and helps us in our present limitations." The word "help" means "to take hold of anything with another, to take part in his burden or work, and thus to aid; to share a burden with one with a view of easing him." It is used one other time in Luke 10:40.

We do not accurately know what our need is, nor do we know how to express properly what we think we do know. What a blessed thing it is to be able to submit the whole matter to the Holy Spirit and by your yieldedness permit the Holy Spirit to express our deepest needs in harmony with God's highest will for us. Sometimes such expressions will be "with groanings which cannot be uttered."

The distinguished European scholar, F, Godet, writing about one hundred years ago concerning such "groanings", said, "we here find ourselves in a domain analogous to that of SPEAKING IN TONGUES, to which 1 Corinthians 14 refers, where Paul says: "when I pray in a tongue, my spirit prayeth indeed, but my understanding is unfruitful" (vs.l4). The understanding cannot control, nor even follow the movement of the spirit, which, exalted by the Spirit of God, plunges into the depths of the divine. Thus, at the moment when the believer already feels the impulse of hope failing within him, a groan more elevated, holy and intense than anything which can go forth even from his renewed heart is uttered within him, coming from God and going to God, like a pure breath, and relieves the poor downcast heart."

1 Cor, 14:14-15 (Amp.) - "For if I pray in an (unknown) tongue, my spirit (by the HOLY SPIRIT within me) prays, but my mind is unproductive - bears no fruit and helps nobody. Then what am I to do? I will pray with my spirit - by the HOLY SPIRIT that is within me; but I will also pray intelligently — with my mind and understanding; I will sing with my spirit - by the HOLY SPIRIT that is within me; but I will sing (intelligently) with my mind and understanding also."

The coming of Jesus and the Holy Spirit has opened up new dimensions in prayer. Jesus gave us the right to use His Name in coming to the Father, and the Holy Spirit provides the supernatural life and energy to commune with God in the realm of the new creation. "Speaking with tongues" was not intended as a temporary sign but as a permanent provision for the powerful prayer life of the instructed believer.

Paul is speaking here about prayer "in the church" as verse 16 and 17 point out. The rule in the church was that a tongue must be interpreted. When verse 14 and 15 are taken in the total context of chapter 14 the meaning is clear. "In the church," when praying as an individual and supported by the "Amens" of others, I must pray in the language understood by the assembly. However, in my private prayer life I am free to pray in an unknown tongue since there is no one present who requires interpretation, and since also the "mysteries" I am speaking are "unto God" and certainly understood by Him (vs. 2). Therefore, I will pray in tongues and with "the understanding also" in private, but "in the church" I will pray only "with the understanding."

The reason we have included this Scripture, however, is not so much to speak of the "order" of the assembly, but to show the blessed provision of God in enabling us to "pray in an (unknown) tongue." "He who speaks in a tongue edifies and improves himself" (vs. 4 Amp.). "The speaker in a 'tongue' builds up his own soul" (vs. 4—JBP).

Jude 20 (Amp.) — "But you, beloved, build yourselves up (founded) on your most holy faith - make progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher.

The Word and the Spirit are inseparable. As we feed upon the word and commune with God by His Spirit, we experience a normal God—intended growth.

b) At all Times with all Kinds

Eph. 6:18 (Amp.) - "Pray AT ALL TIMES - on every occasion, in every season - in the Spirit, WITH ALL (MANNER OF) PRAYER and entreaty. To that end keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding on behalf of all saints (God‘s consecrated people)."

JBP - "Pray AT ALL TIMES with EVERY KIND OF SPIRITUAL PRAYER, keeping alert and persistent as you pray for all Christ's men and women."

The expression "all prayer" means all kinds of prayer, oral and mental, ejaculatory and formal. The prayers which Paul would have the Christian warrior use, are not merely those of the closet and of stated seasons, but also those habitual and occasional aspirations, and outgoings of the heart after God, which a constant sense of His nearness and a constant sense of our necessity must produce.

c)Continually

Rom. 12:12 (Amp.) — "Be CONSTANT in prayer."

JBP - "STEDFASTLY MAINTAIN the habit of prayer."

Col. 4:2 (Amp.) - "Be EARNEST and UNWEARIED and STEDFAST in your prayer (life)..."

JBP - "Always MAINTAIN the habit of prayer ..."

1 Thess. 5:17 (Amp.) - "Be UNCEASING in prayer - praying PERSEVERINGLY;"

JBP - "NEVER STOP praying."

The message of these passages is clear. The lines of communication between God and His redeemed creature must never be allowed to break down. Prayer is not an occasional cry for help, but the constant communion between the Father and His children.

d) With Thanksgiving

Phil. 4:6 (Amp.) - "Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything by prayer and petition (definite requests) WITH THANKSGIVING continue to make your wants known to God."

JBP - "Don't worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and THANKFUL prayer."

Col. 4:2 (JBP)- "Always maintain the habit of prayer: be both alert and THANKFUL as you pray."
When making "definite requests" we should remember "all His benefits." We are inclined to "tell God of our needs" and fail to say "thank you" when they are supplied. This is a sign of immaturity. Out of ten lepers healed by our Lord, only one returned to give thanks, and he was a Samaritan (Luke 17:11-19).

e) In God's Will

1 John 5:14,15 (JBP) — "We have such confidence in Him that we are certain that He hears every request that is MADE IN ACCORD WITH HIS OWN PLAN. And since we know that He invariably gives His attention to our prayers, whatever they are about, we can be quite sure that our prayers will be answered."

These words are spoken about the people whom John has been describing up to this point. Before attempting to appropriate this truth on prayer, one should review all that has gone before in this epistle. People who profess to know God but practice sin cannot relate to this prayer promise. People who love the world will not be at home here. This kind of praying is not possible to those who hate their brother. However, if one is walking in unbroken fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ, these two verses will serve as powerful reminders of his prayer power. A fellowshipping believer does not "ask amiss." He walks in the Word and Spirit and prays with a deep sense of commitment to both. His first prayer is always that God's "will shall be done in earth." He wants nothing but God's will. When he prays "according to His will" he knows that prayer will be answered. "As a matter of fact the answer may be long in coming but as a matter of faith it is ours at the time of asking."

STUDY QUESTIONS FOR LESSON #13

  1. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in successful praying?
  2. Does speaking in tongues have anything to do with praying?
  3. When should one pray?
  4. How often should one pray?
  5. Does fretting hinder prayer?
  6. what is the opposite of fretting?
  7. How can we be sure that our prayers will be answered?