The first local church (9)

Bible Reading: Romans 8:8-17

So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Sonship Through the Spirit

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

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 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.


1) How to Pray

a) In and By the Holy Spirit

Rom. 8:26-27 (Amp.) — "In the same way the Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words. And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes [before God] on behalf of God’s people in accordance 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- NKJV).

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: "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, 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 a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unproductive [because it does not understand what my spirit is praying]. Then what am I to do? I will pray with the spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me] and I will pray with the mind [using words I understand]; I will sing with the spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me] and I will sing with the mind [using words I understand]."

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 clearly 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 "to 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 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 on [the foundation of] your most holy faith [continually progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher], pray in the Holy Spirit.

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.) - "With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s 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 (NKJV.) — "continuing steadfastly in prayer."

JBP - "STEADFASTLY MAINTAIN the habit of prayer."

Col. 4:2 (NKJV.) - "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;"

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

1 Thess. 5:17 (Amp.) - "be unceasing and persistent in prayer;;"

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 be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests 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 (Amp.)- "Be persistent and devoted to prayer, being alert and focused in your prayer life with an attitude of thanksgiving."

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 — "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him."

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."