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Sun, Jun 08, 2003

5 - Prayer

3 John 1:2 by Robert Dean
Series:3rd John (2003)
Duration:56 mins 36 secs

Prayer

 

3 John 1:2 NASB "Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers."

This is a famous verses which is frequently taken out of context by a crowd of usually televangelists and many people who do not know anything about the Word of God and is the crucial text for what is known as the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel. This primarily has its roots in Charismatic churches.

John the apostle is praying specifically for "you," a second person singular pronoun referring to Gaius. John here is relating his intercessory prayer on behalf of his friend. He using the first person singular present active indicative of the verb euchomai [e)uxomai]. Normally the word that we find for prayer is proseuchomai [proseuxomai] but the prefix is dropped off here and all we have is euchomai which is the basic word for prayer, to express a wish or a desire. In this context it is talking about prayer. The present tense here is a habitual present tense indicating that this is John's standard operating procedure, i.e. to pray for those around him. The principle here is that believers should be in regular prayer for their friends and family.

The doctrine of prayer

Prayer is a communication link between the individual believer priest and God our heavenly Father. Prayer is that grace provision of the royal priesthood whereby the church age believer has access and privilege to communicate directly with God. The purpose of this communication is first of all to acknowledge our sin so that we can have cleansing for sin after we are saved. The second purpose of prayer is to express adoration and praise to God. This is a reflection of our own gratitude, our understanding of all that we have that He has provided. We express adoration and praise to God for who He is and what He has done. We give thanks, we express our gratitude to Him, and we also intercede for others and convey our personal needs, petitions and conduct intimate conversations with God. Sometimes that surprises people. We can talk with God about anything.

Jesus Christ described effective prayer as the mature believer's privilege to engage divine power in both personal and historical circumstances. In other words, prayer can be used not only to change things in our own life but it can change things in historical circumstances. There are some people who think that prayer will change anything. That is not true. But it is clear from Scripture (James 4) that we have not because we ask not. That means that there are certain things that God has contingently provided for the believer and for certain nations, and if we don't ask for it we won't get it. There is a certain element of flexibility in the plan of God that is dependent upon whether or not the believer asks for certain things. There are many things that people miss out on in life because they fail to go to the Lord in prayer.

We have to realise that prayer can be private or public. Public prayers can be divided into different categories. For example, there are prayer meetings. These are important and it is laid out in the Scriptures that the body of believers gathering together for corporate prayer was viewed as a significant form of corporate worship from the early days of the church. It is related to an understanding of the function of the body of Christ; that we are not just individuals out there like a bunch of atoms completely separated from one another, bouncing down the highway of life. We are not just individuals; we are in the body of Christ. So the prayer meeting is an important function of the local church. Then there are also prayers for specific functions. These should be short and to the point.

We should not confuse prayer with many of the mystical ideas that go around today. We live in an age of mysticism when people define worship and prayer and spirituality in terms of personal feelings and subjectivity, how something makes us feel, and of we pray a certain prayer or hear somebody pray a certain prayer—Oh wasn't that spiritual! Prayer does not hinge on subjective experiences or meditation. In Matthew 6:7 Jesus says something that directly applies to much that goes on in the Charismatic movement. In the Charismatic camp there is the idea that there is a special prayer life; when you are speaking in tongues that is really a prayer life. "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words." The word "repetitions" is the Greek battologeo [battologew] which means to utter senseless sounds or speak indistinctly or incoherently, to babble. logeo = words; batta = speaking in a batta manner, e.g. battabattabatta, which is what it sounded like, like somebody uttering gibberish. So Jesus is saying that when we are praying do not use gibberish as the Gentiles do. The Gentiles used ecstatic utterance. Jesus said, John 15:7 NASB "If you abide in Me [have fellowship with Him],, and My words abide in you [have doctrinal content] ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." These are the two keys to effective prayer. First of all we must be in fellowship with God, and secondly, our prayers must be doctrinally correct. We must follow the procedures of Scripture in our prayers.

Some extremes to avoid. The first extreme to avoid is neglect of prayer. This is usually a result of an over-emphasis on the sovereignty of God. We pray for things, that is the resting aspect (that we trust God) but we also have to function in the arena of specifically delegated responsibility. We also have to avoid emotionalism and subjectivism in prayer. This is the idea that because I felt better about it this time it was a more effective prayer.

We don't pray to be spiritual. Prayer is not a means of spirituality. The only two means of spirituality in the Bible are the filling of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. We learn the Word of God under the filling ministry of the Holy Spirit and when that is functioning, when we are filled with the Spirit then we are spiritual. When we are not filled with the Spirit we are carnal. Prayer is a privilege of our priesthood and functions when we are spiritual, i.e. when we are in right relationship to the Holy Spirit. The more we grow spiritually the more we will understand the importance of prayer and it will impact our spiritual life. Prayer life is no stronger than our spiritual life.

Prayer demands concentration and thought. Emotion is counter to concentration and thought. The prayers in the Bible are prayers that are well crafted and constructed, they are not emotional. Prayer should be the highest priority in life, next to learning doctrine and growing as a believer. As believers our prayers fail because we fail in our spiritual life. We don't understand the will and the plan of God so we ask for the wrong reasons and the wrong motives.

We are commanded to pray. Prayer is not an option for the believer but is a crucial part of the function of our royal priesthood. Therefore the question we should be asking is not, should I pray or does prayer really work, but how do I pray correctly. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NASB "pray without ceasing." This is a habitual present tense indicating that this is something that should be habitually true in the life of the believer. It is a present imperative emphasising that it is something that should be a habit pattern and it is a standard operating procedure for every believer. Prayer should be a consistent or persistent pattern in our life. Colossians 4:2 NASB "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with {an attitude of} thanksgiving." The verb here is proskartereo [proskarterew] which has to do with making something a high priority, continuing something with an intense effort. It has the idea of overcoming obstacles, doing something in spite of difficulty, to keep on, to persist in. We are to do so with an attitude of thanksgiving. That means our thinking should be characterised by gratitude to God, not in some sort of presumption but because we are praying that God do something a certain way that he will necessarily do that. Acts 2:42 NASB "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." This describes what was taking place in the early church. In the English is looks like they were devoting themselves to four things. Actually, they were devoting themselves to two things: the apostles' teaching and to fellowship. The last two items mentioned there, the Eucharist and prayer, is an appositional phrase explaining the word "fellowship." They were devoting themselves to teaching and fellowship with God. Fellowship with God was done through the communion supper and prayer. That explains fellowship; it was not fellowship with other believers. The word there for "devote," one again, is proskatereo. So prayer was a priority in the life of the believer.

Six reasons people don't pray

  1. People don't pray because they lack confidence in being heard. They don't understand confession and cleansing. They think they have done something that upsets God and therefore God is not going to hear their prayer anyway. They are so loaded down with guilt that they are afraid to go into the presence of God. They have no confidence in the principle of 1 John 1:9.
  2. People are ignorant of the biblical doctrine related to prayer. They don't know how to pray, what to pray, the different kinds of prayer, who to address their prayer to.
  3. They are ignorant of the mandate to pray. They become too busy, too wrapped up in their own lives, and too caught up with temporal things to focus on God. They do not include God as a part of every activity, every decision as they go through the day.
  4. Some people doubt God. They doubt that he is really there, that prayer changes things; they lack faith. There is no function of the faith-rest drill and say, well God is just going to do what God is going to do. 
  5. Some have experienced disappointment and frustration in life and they think that God did not answer their prayers, so they are bitter toward God. But bitterness is always a result of self-centredness and arrogance. They blame God for their own failures.
  6. They are fatalistic. They forget or deny that prayer changes anything and say that whatever will happen will happen, and so they forget about prayer.

How do we pray? What are the elements of prayer? 

  1. We begin by addressing our prayers to God the Father. Why are we not to pray to the Lord Jesus Christ? Because He is our advocate, our intercessor. He is praying to the Father on our behalf. That shows us that we do not go to Jesus with our prayers because He is going to the Father with our prayers. The Holy Spirit is also making intercession for us, and who is he going to? He is going to the Father. All prayers are directed to God the Father.
  2. The first element is confession. Using the acronym CAT, C is for confession, A is for adoration, T is for thanksgiving, and S is for supplication. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB "in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 5:20 NASB "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father." This is a result of being filled by means of God the Holy Spirit. A we grow spiritually our gratitude will increase because we understand all that God has done for us. Colossians 2:7 NASB "having been firmly rooted {and now} being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, {and} overflowing with gratitude." Colossians 1:12 NASB "giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light." 2 Corinthians 2:14 NASB "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place." [4:15] "For all things {are} for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God." Supplication is when we are making requests to God, and there are two categories. The first is intercession and the second is petition. Intercession is prayer for others. We have to model our intercession on the intercession of the Son. We have to realise that Jesus Christ is praying for each one of us now before the throne of God. John 17:11 NASB "I am no longer in the world; and {yet} they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, {the name} which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We {are.} … [15] I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil {one.}" We are to intercede for others and for ourselves. This is exactly what John is doing at the beginning of 3rd John.