Home
Up

Comment Here

 

 

Seven Laws of Prayer

Telling the truth in prayer.

There is much that we donít understand about prayer, personal or intercessory. Why does God answer one prayer and not another? Why does God seem to prefer the small miracle to the big ones? When a person survives a terrible accident, he thanks God for his protection. But why didnít God just prevent the accident? After all, we pray for his guidance and protection.

That said, there are some things we do know about prayer, and they are generally much more important than the things we donít know. I present for your consideration, seven immutable laws of prayer.

Law number one: We all must die.

We canít change this rule. Adam and Eve might have eaten of the Tree of Life and lived forever. That option is not open to us. Paul wrote to the Hebrews, "It is appointed unto men once to die." (Hebrews 9:27-28) King Solomon wrote, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

No amount of prayer can change that. We may be able through prayer to postpone the evil day, but sooner or later we have to go. The psalmist said that the years of manís life would be seventy, or by reason of strength, eighty. After that, he is living on borrowed time. The most we can do in prayer, once we have come to the end of the road, is to ask for an extension as King Hezekiah did. He was, in the terms the Bible used, "sick unto death." Godís word to him was to set his house in order. He would die and not live. It would have been a very unusual man who could have taken that message without begging for more. Hezekiah was not that man.

Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years. (Isaiah 38:1-5)

Now you too can make that request, but you should know that the extra time gave Hezekiah a chance to make some serious mistakes. He might have been better off to accept Godís judgment in the first place. It is worth knowing that God knows what is best for us at every stage of the game. Even Jesus, when asking that he be spared the death on the Cross, asked that Godís will be done, not his.

There is a corollary to the law that all men must die: Death is not the end. A man should prepare for the day of his death, in the terms of Isaiah, he should set his house in order. But in prayer, we must look beyond death.

We should remember that sometimes, in asking God to give a man more time, we are asking for more pain, more suffering and the chance of great loss. So, in prayer, never forget Law number one. You and the person you are praying for are both going to die. What then?

Law number two: Prayer without works is vain.

I knew a man once that refused to go to the Dentist. Instead, he prayed that God would heal his cavities. God never did. Now I can understand why he didnít want to go to the dentist. But I am not so sure about the basis of his prayer. Why should God heal your teeth when you can go to the dentist and get them fixed? You canít pray that God will prosper you and then refuse to go look for a job. You canít pray that God will bless your investments when you donít do your research. So why should he heal you when you donít do what you can?

Almost everyone can recite Jamesí good advice about faith: "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:20) Citing the example of Abraham, Sarah, and even Rahab the Harlot, he concludes, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."

You canít pray that God will heal your broken arm, then refuse to get it set, and expect God to do it for you. Itís an old truism and all the better for age: God will not do for you what you can do for yourself.

So when you pray, ask God and yourself what you ought to be doing about this problem. Should you pray for the sick and then not visit them or write them or call them? Shouldnít you ask if there is anything you can do to help?

Law number three: You need help to pray.

This is true always and at all times. I take a great deal of heart from what Paul told the Romans about prayer. He said in the plainest terms, "we donít know what we should pray for as we ought." (Romans 8:26-28 KJV) The Spirit, he said helps us by making intercession for us "with groanings that cannot be uttered." The Spirit, Paul said, makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. The Spirit knows things that we donít know, so the prayer for us can always be in Godís will. Thus, "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

There are times when we are helpless, and distressingly often this happens at a time when we need prayer terribly. And we canít pray. At times like this, you have to ask for help. But what can you do? You can borrow the prayers of others. Why do you think these prayers are recorded in the Bible if not for you to use? I know, it may seem strange to merely recite a prayer, but that is not what I am suggesting. I am suggesting that you take the prayer from the psalm and make it your own.

Law number four: You are Godís servant. It is not the other way around.

You should not be asking God to get you a taxi. You should not be asking God to wait on your table. It is good to practice what is sometimes called, "the presence of God." It is good to be aware of God at all times, to be "instant in prayer," as Paul said. It is good to pray always and about everything. But donít get presumptuous. Persistence is good. but presumptuousness is not.

If you want to read an excellent example of how one can be persistent in prayer and yet not presume upon god, read the exchange between Abraham and God about the sparing of Sodom. God was on his way to see how bad things really were in Sodom when he stopped off to see Abraham. As God was ready go on his way, he asked himself, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?" He turned and told him that the cry of Sodom was so great that he was going to see for himself just how bad it was.

"And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? {24} Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? {25} That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

It really is a bold statement, considering the power differential between them, but God was not angry. He replied:

And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake. And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.  And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake." (Genesis 18:23-32)

It becomes clear that we can reason with God. We can even plead our case and make our argument. But notice the humility of Abraham. Never does he presume upon God. He never forgot who was boss.

There is also a corollary to law number four: God doesnít have to explain Himself to you and me. When Job was so far down it seems he couldnít go any lower, he said this: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him." (Job 13:15-16)

Law number five: Absolute honesty is required. You have to tell the truth.

Donít pretend you love your enemy while you hate him in your heart. God knows, so you might as well own up to it. Some people have a problem with the vehemence of many of the psalms. Take this one, for example:

"The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear; Which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely. Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O LORD. Let them melt away as waters which run continually: when he bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces. As a snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away: like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun."

This is really a hard judgment he is asking for here. What ever happened to "love your enemies"? Should anyone pray like this? Well, notice that he doesnít mention any names here. He speaks of "the wicked" and describes what they do. For the people described here, the punishment is quite just.

Sometimes, you have to learn to love your enemies. It doesnít come naturally. And you canít start out by pretending that you love them. Some of the psalms are pretty harsh, but they are painfully honest.

I learned this the easy way, once. I was praying about a man in the spirit of this psalm. And as I tried to pray it, I found I couldnít. Godís spirit would not allow me to curse the man. But because I was honest in my prayer, I found out what was not right in my own heart. You might as well be honest about what is in your heart. God knows it anyway.

Law number six: Prayer takes time and meditation.

If you are going to pray according to Godís will, you are going to have to spend some time thinking about his will, and getting to know him. Thinking is a lost art. Most of us simply canít stand to be alone with our own thoughts. We have to listen to something, read something, say something to someone.

But no, you really donít. I will never forget an assignment that Dr. Jim Stark gave a group of us in management class. One week he had us keep a log of how we spent every 10 minutes of every day. The next week, he let us ease up to every fifteen minutes, but then he added another requirement. We had to spend one hour in that week doing absolutely nothing but thinking. We could think about anything we wanted, including our job. But we couldnít do anything else while we did.

It was an absolutely revolutionary experience. I donít know if I had ever done that before. In the Bible, this is called meditation. Learn to be alone with yourself, and perhaps you can learn to be alone with God.

Law number seven: When it comes to words, more is not better.

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words. .... For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God." (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7)

I heard someone once urge his listeners to spend an hour a day in prayer. Thatís a good thing. I tried it. I put in the time, but I donít think there has ever been an occasion when I spent the whole time praying. My mind is just too active. I was all over the place, but I did manage to pray some of the time. The exercise was good for me. And I learned that to spend time alone with God is holy time, even when you say nothing at all.

I remember a friend once who told me the reason why he liked to travel with a certain gentleman. He said, "We can be alone, side by side in the truck for a solid hour with neither of us saying a word. And it doesnít hurt his feelings a bit."

I think I understand that. I can be companionable with God while I say absolutely nothing. Some people canít bear silence. They think they have to fill it with words. They donít.

Now there was an occasion when Jesus spent all night in prayer. But I doubt seriously that he was talking the whole time. You donít have to actually be talking to be "in prayer."

"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer."(Psalms 19:14)

Conclusion:

Being who I am, I get a lot of prayer requests, most from people I donít even know. And it is these prayer requests that made me stop and think about prayer, and about what people donít understand. It is painfully obvious, that people want prayers when life has gone sour. They ask for prayer reflexively. They say things like, "I need all the prayers I can get." Actually, you only need one.

"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16)

You do know, donít you, that you canít work that up? I remember a little girl, she was eight if memory serves. She was hit by a truck out in front of her home. I was especially fond of that family, and I can tell you that I prayed fervently for that little girl. She died. I could say I donít know why she died, but I do. She died because she was hit by a truck and her injuries were beyond anything anyone could do.

Thatís not to say that God could not heal her, but I donít think he has ever healed anyone whose body was so severely damaged. It occurs to me that the time to pray for the little girl is before she gets hit by a truck.

 

Thus we see seven immutable laws of prayer.

Law number one: We all must die.

Law number two: Prayer without works is vain.

Law number three: You need help to pray.

Law number four: You are Godís servant. It is not the other way around.

Law number five: Absolute honesty is required.

Law number six: Prayer takes time and meditation.

Law number seven: When it comes to words, more is not better.

"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." (Romans 12:10-13)

[end]

To make a comment on this study, or to ask a question please click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sinless Life
Have you ever considered what it would mean  if you could just live a sinless life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Youth in Action
Never in our history have young people needed Bible learning and Christian youth programs more than they do today.

 

Contact us              Copyright 2009 Ronald L Dart, all rights reserved.