Prayer of Petition

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This is the asking part of prayer, prayer that makes requests of God for things we desire. It is the part of prayer that is most used and is normally the part we think of when we think of prayer, or when the word “prayer” is used.  In fact, all of the Biblical (Hebrew and Greek) words translated as prayer mean to ask God for something.  And there are also words that mean to pray with petition that are not very often translated as “prayer,” but are translated as “wish,” “ask,” “make requests,” “beseech,” “entreat,” “desire,” and “supplication.”  All of these words mean basically the same thing: to ask with the prayer of petition.

Usually, when we think of making petitions, it is for our own personal needs. But we can also make petitions for others.  We sometimes call this intercession, or interceding for another.

In a sense, I think all true prayer is intercessory because true prayer has a communal or corporate nature. That is, whenever we (as believers) pray for anything, we rightly include other believers around us.  We pray as Jesus taught us to pray, saying “Our Father” instead of “My Father.”  Thus, whenever we pray for our own needs our prayers are not only for ourselves but they are also (in a spiritual sense) for all other believers; hence, they are intercessory.

We should also think of non-believers. Though they are not included in our spiritual family, let us hope and pray that they will be.  They especially need our prayers of intercession.

I think there are degrees of intercession. The more we pray unselfishly for others the more I think our prayers are intercessory prayers.  If you are really serious about interceding for someone in prayer, you will position yourself to not only pray for him or her, but you will do for that person whatever God shows you to do.  True intercession then is giving your life for another—in prayer as well as in works of service.

The most important thing about our intercession for others is that we should not view ourselves as alone in doing it. We are really co-intercessors with Christ and the Holy Spirit.  We work together with Them.  The Holy Spirit is our intercessor on earth and in our spirit.  He tells us what to pray for and how to pray (Rom. 8:26).  Christ is our intercessor in Heaven.  By His continual pleading before the Father, He gives us access to God so that we may obtain mercy and find grace (Heb. 7:25).  Hence, with this divine team beside us and in us, we have all the power we need to intercede for others.

Some say that petitionary prayer (asking God for things for ourselves or for another) is the only kind of prayer there is—that this is all that prayer is. And the reason they say that is because all of the Biblical (Hebrew and Greek) words translated as prayer or that indicate prayer, mean to ask for something.  And this I admit is true. Reason tells us, however, that prayer is more than asking: it is just talking to God; it is soul to soul communication with God.

  1. Alton Bryant, editor of The New Compact Bible Dictionary, wrote,

 

As a many-faceted phenomenon, prayer must not be reduced merely to supplication, as is sometimes done. The immense sweep of Biblical teaching with respect to this phenomenon can scarcely be compressed into the single and rather crass category of ‘getting things from God,’ to quote the title of a once popular book by Charles A. Blanchard.  Prayer, essentially, is communion, a desire to enter into conscious and intimate relationship with the Thou who is our life (Ps. 63:1-8; Ps. 73:25-26; Luke 6:12; 1 John 1:3).  And the astonishing corollary of this truth is that God hungers for man’s fellowship (Rev. 3:20).  (The New Compact Bible Dictionary, edited by T. Alton Bryant, p. 472)

 

I agree. I think prayer goes beyond petition (drawing only on the Biblical words having to do with petitionary prayer) to include other types of communication such as confession, praise, and thanksgiving.  But I think, however, that the biggest part of prayer for most of us is petition, maybe up to 80% of prayer.  And that is because we are so needy.  I would hope that during the course of ones Christian life the other parts of prayer would increase, especially praise and thanksgiving.

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Prayer of Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is much like praise, but it is more personal. Whereas in praise we give glory to God for all His works, for all time and toward all people, and for His attributes and ways, thanksgiving also seeks to honor God, but only for what He has done for us personally.  It is our gratitude to God for how He has blessed us.

I think this part of prayer can come either before or after praise. When we begin our prayers and we immediately feel gratitude for something, we naturally start our prayers with thanksgiving.  As we continue praying in the Spirit, our gratitude will normally overflow into praise.  Likewise, if we come to prayer having already meditated on how great and good God is, we will naturally begin our prayers with praise.  Then, moments later, it may be that God’s Spirit will work in us so that we begin to feel gratitude for something He has done for us personally; hence, prayers of praise will turn to prayers of thanksgiving.

As I have indicated above, our prayers of thanksgiving will come to us when the Holy Spirit leads us. But we should not just sit and wait for that to happen. We are commanded to give thanks (1 Thess. 5:18), and we are also commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).

If we heed these two commands, our prayers of thanksgiving will become our constant attitude and act as one who is filled with the Spirit. As I see it, our thankfulness (or our attitude of gratitude) is evidence that we are obedient and Spirit-filled.  And this is pleasing and honoring to God (Rom. 1:21), for when we are thankful we show the world that we are a true believer and that we are grateful to God for the way He has loved us.  Likewise, we are telling God that we love Him.

This gratitude that we acquire by the Spirit is not just to be an attitude (as to always have a grateful attitude for everything); it also should be a separate part of prayer.  Therefore, God desires that we take time to verbalize in our prayers our gratitude for specific things that God has given us.

And we should also be thankful, and express to God our thanks, for the way He has helped and cared for others we love. We see this wonderfully exemplified in Paul’s letters.  Listen to two examples of how Paul thanked God for those he loved.

 

     1 Corinthians 1:4-8

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, 5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, 3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father.

 

I mentioned above how thanksgiving-prayer is related to praise-prayer. Well, thanksgiving-prayer is also very much connected to, and aids the petition part of prayer.  As I see it, when we thank God first, before we make any petitions, as was the case in Paul’s prayers  (Phil. 1:3-6, 1 Cor. 1:4-8, Rom. 1;8-16, Eph. 1:15-18, Col. 1:3-5, and 1 Thess. 1:2-4), we in effect prepare our heart for petitional prayer.  It is the way God has designed for us to achieve the right attitude for making requests.

Also, as we see in Paul’s teachings, as well as in his prayers, thankfulness always accompanies true prayer (of petition).

In Philippians 4:6 it says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (italics added for emphasis).

Also, in Colossians 4:2 it says, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (italics added for emphasis).

Again, when Daniel prayed in Daniel 6:10, it says, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (italics added for emphasis).

The concept of this teaching, I believe, is that we can not ask God for anything and please Him unless we are grateful. Therefore, when we make our requests we should also thank Him.  We can thank Him for many things, primarily for caring for us and loving us, and for the things He has already given us.  And we can thank Him for the privilege of asking and receiving.  For each thing we ask Him for we can, and should, thank Him for something.  When we ask Him to heal a certain part of our body, we should thank Him for the health we have so far enjoyed.  When we ask Him to keep our children safe, we ought to remember all the times that He has kept them safe, etc.

This principle of prayer is so important. Don’t forget it.  Without the thanksgiving part of prayer all your petitions will be unheard.  Whenever you pray and ask God for anything, you must include thanksgiving!

 

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Prayer of Praise

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Praise is how we express to God our love for Him. It is how we honor, reverence, and exalt Him.  In praise we acknowledge who He is.  We exalt Him and thank Him for His attributes and ways. It is our service to God and for God.

Though God desires His people to praise Him, and though we are the ones who praise Him, praise originates from the Holy Spirit. He is the one who works in us and causes us to praise Him.

Praise often emerges from our prayerful meditation of the Word of God, or as we are singing a hymn or a chorus. Accordingly, as we meditate and sing, the Holy Spirit will cause us to see a wonderful truth about God, which brings joy to our soul and moves us in our soul and spirit to lift Him up and exalt Him.

Also, as we have seen earlier, when we confess our sins and God cleanses us and delivers us from guilt, He will move us to praise Him and to sing praises to Him (Ps. 51:14).

Likewise, when our prayers are answered and when God uses us in some great way He will move us to praise Him. We see this exemplified for us in both Hannah’s and Mary’s prayer of praise.

Listen to the first two verses of Hannah’s beautiful prayer (in 1 Samuel 2:1-2) as she rejoices and praises the Lord in response for answering her prayer for a child (whom she named Samuel).

 

     “My heart rejoices in the Lord;
     My horn is exalted in the Lord.
     I smile at my enemies,
     Because I rejoice in Your salvation.
     2 “No one is holy like the Lord,
     For there is none besides You,
     Nor is there any rock like our God.

 

Mary’s prayer of praise is quite similar to Hannah’s. Listen to Mary’s prayer (in Luke 1:46-55) as she magnifies the Lord (in the presence of Elizabeth) for choosing her to be the mother of Jesus.

 

     “My soul magnifies the Lord,
     47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
     48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
     For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
     49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
     And holy is His name.
     50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him
     From generation to generation.
     51 He has shown strength with His arm;
     He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
     52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
     And exalted the lowly.
     53 He has filled the hungry with good things,
     And the rich He has sent away empty.
     54 He has helped His servant Israel,
     In remembrance of His mercy,
     55 As He spoke to our fathers,
     To Abraham and to his seed forever.”

 

In most prayers of praise, praise most often emerges for personal reasons—for the way God has loved us personally (some would see this more as thanksgiving instead of praise); but then, as we continue in our praise to Him, our praise becomes more universal. That is, we will praise Him for who He is and for His love to all people.  When we examine Mary’s prayer we will see that she at first begins to praise God for choosing her and for doing great things for her (vv. 48-49).  But then she goes on to praise Him for being merciful to all who reverence Him (v. 50); for scattering the proud and exalting the lowly (vv. 51-52); and for not forgetting His promises to Israel to be merciful (v. 54).

 

 

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Prayer of Confession

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When we begin to pray, I suppose it is more natural to praise Him first, to say “Hallowed be Thy name.” But if there is unconfessed sin in the life, confession must come first; for the Psalmist tells us in Psalms 66:18 that if we regard iniquity in our heart the Lord will not hear us.  Also, in Isaiah 59:2 it says, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”

Though all sin is ultimately against God, we also sin against others, and they sin against us (Matt. 5:23-24). Even if you don’t feel that you have committed sin against anyone, if someone has something against you, that is something God requires you to deal with before you offer your gift of prayer to Him.  In fact, if you don’t make an effort to reconcile, you also will have sinned because you are being disobedient to God.

Sometimes we aren’t always aware of our sins. We may have been deceived and have unconsciously covered them up.  But if you are in the habit of reading and meditating on the Word, the Holy Spirit will no doubt begin to convict you, especially when you see God’s love and mercy in contrast to your own unrighteousness.

This has been the case numerous times with me. I would be having my morning quiet time when God would gently speak to me and point out my sin.  Many times, just like David experienced (in Psalms 32:4), I felt God’s hand heavy upon me, and the only way I could pray was with confession.

Often, when I can’t find my own words of confession, I use Psalms 51 as a guide. It is the beautiful confession of David after his sin with Bathsheba.  His prayer of confession is the entire chapter, but notice that the actual confession is only four verses long—verses 3-6.

Let’s take a look at these three verses of confession, and then at the surrounding verses.         In verse 3 and 4 David prays:

 

     For I acknowledge my transgressions,
     And my sin is always before me.
     4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,
     And done this evil in Your sight —
     That You may be found just when You speak,
     And blameless when You judge.

 

In our confession we must realize and acknowledge to God that ultimately all our sins are against Him and that He has seen them. And we must agree that His sentence against us is just.

In verses 5 and 6 David broadens his confession, confessing that he was born in sin and thoroughly sinful. He prayed:

 

     Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
     And in sin my mother conceived me.
     6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
     And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

 

Here we see that we must acknowledge that God desires truth and honesty from us, that unless our soul is perfectly pure toward God (“in the inward parts”) we cannot please Him.

The rest of the verses in Psalm 51 are not purely confession, but they go along with the prayer of confession. They are mainly David’s petitions or pleas for God’s mercy and forgiveness, which reveal his humble and repentant heart—a heart that is broken and sorry.

Verses 1 and 2 give us the basis of his petitions:
Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity.

 

Verses 7-19, for the most part, seems to repeat the same petitions, but David includes the results that he knew would follow: mainly that if God purged him and washed him, he would be clean and whiter than snow (v. 7); also that if God blotted out his transgressions and delivered him from guilt, he would be joyful and sing of His righteousness (v. 14). We also see in verse 13 that in David’s restored state he would again teach transgressors God’s ways and sinners would be conversed to Him.

So here, from this beautiful prayer of confession, we may safely assume that when we truthfully confess our sins to God and cry out for His mercy (as David did), He will always forgive us and restore us to fellowship.

Numerous blessings then await us. Having experienced His love and forgiveness, we are then able to forgive ourselves and others (Eph. 4:32).  Likewise, God will so overwhelm us with His love that our heart will rejoice with praise to Him.  This is indicated in Psalms 51:14 when David prayed, “Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.”

Therefore, whenever we begin our prayer time with confession, we should anticipate (as it seems was the case with David) that praise will follow it. I will not say that this will always be the case, but I think in most cases it will seem natural and spiritual.

 

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The New Left Behind Movie: Positive Comments

Originally posted on Studying Bible Prophecy:

KNOWING

I saw the movie last night. If people are expecting to be super entertained with a lot of special effect or informed on when the rapture will be, I can see why they may be disappointed with the movie.  But if you are wanting to see exactly what the rapture is according to scripture, I think the movie does a good job.  The movie was very focused on the event of the rapture—nothing else. There was nothing about the antichrist, nothing on Israel or the invasion on Israel, like the first movie.  The movie was about one particular family.  Two members of the family, the mother and younger son, who were Christian, were taken by God; and the father and older daughter, were not believers, were left behind.

I liked the movie because people were talking about God and about how they believed—before and after the rapture. Before the rapture…

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Jeremiah’s Praise Filled Prayer for Israel at a Time of Calamity—Jeremiah 32:17-25

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Jeremiah 32:17-25

‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. 18 You show lovingkindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them — the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts. 19 You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings. 20 You have set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, to this day, and in Israel and among other men; and You have made Yourself a name, as it is this day. 21 You have brought Your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and with great terror; 22 You have given them this land, of which You swore to their fathers to give them — “a land flowing with milk and honey.” 23 And they came in and took possession of it, but they have not obeyed Your voice or walked in Your law. They have done nothing of all that You commanded them to do; therefore You have caused all this calamity to come upon them.

24 ‘Look, the siege mounds! They have come to the city to take it; and the city has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans who fight against it, because of the sword and famine and pestilence. What You have spoken has happened; there You see it! 25 And You have said to me, O Lord God, “Buy the field for money, and take witnesses”! — yet the city has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans.'”

 

 

Jeremiah’s prophecies came at the same time and a little later than the prophecies of Habakkuk. Therefore, during the time of this prayer, Babylon was besieging Jerusalem.

While Jerusalem was under siege, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, who was imprisoned in the house of the king of Judah (He was imprisoned there for prophesying that the city would be taken by Babylon.). God told him that his cousin Hanamel would come to him and would ask him to buy his field, which was at Anathoth, and that he must buy it to keep it in the family (Jer. 32:7).  Sure enough, Hanamel came and asked him to buy it.  And so, being confident that it was God’s will, he bought the field.

Now why did God want Jeremiah to buy this field at this particular time? It was considered worthless to Jeremiah, because it had already been taken by Babylon.  Well, God wanted Jeremiah to buy the land as a surety that one day his descendants would return to it.  The deed for the land was Israel’s sign from God that He would bring them back into the land—when houses and fields and vineyards would again be bought (32:15, 42-44).

Jeremiah’s prayer praises God for His justice and power, and for all the wonders He has performed for Israel. But it also expresses Jeremiah’s doubts about buying the land (vv. 24, 25).

But God’s answer to Jeremiah’s doubtful heart immediately came to him and gave him new confidence. He said, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh.  Is there anything too hard for Me” (v. 27)?  God then explained to Jeremiah how He would give Jerusalem into the hand of the Chaldeans to be punished by them, but later would bring them back to the land and make them dwell in safety (v. 37).

 

 

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How to Yield your Life to God: 3 Things to Practice

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Yielding to God isn’t always easy.  It takes discipline and practice.  Here are three things we can practice that will help us yield to Him.

 

Practice praise and worship. When we yield ourselves to God, one of the parts of our self that we yield to Him is our lips—in order to praise Him. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess His name.”  Here we understand that the fruit of our lips is praise to God.

In Isaiah 57:19, God says to us through Isaiah, “I create the fruit of the lips.” Thus, God makes it possible for us and helps us to praise Him.  Even when we’re sad and in mourning, He puts words of praise and thanks on our lips so that we don’t even have to think about what to say to Him—God gives us the words and the songs.

Our part is to offer our praise as part of our humble yielding. We offer it as a peace offering to God for His love and friendship; God creates the fruit of praise in us, but we must pick the fruit and offer it back to Him as a sign of our reciprocal love and friendship.

Our offering of praise doesn’t always come easy.  The term sacrifice (in Heb. 13:15), in fact, indicates that it is hard.  We can’t do it at all in our flesh.  We must ask God to help us.  Actually, we do it “through Jesus” who is our High Priest (Heb. 13:15).  When we trust in Him, we will be made strong to offer up our lips to praise Him (Col. 3:15, 1 Thess. 5:16-18).  And we will find, happily, that the more we are obedient to praise Him, the more He will produce in us the fruit of praise.

But our praises must come to God not only from our lips, in words, but from our entire being. In fact, unless it is from our entire being the praises from our lips are as a hypocrite—one who gives lip service.  Let that never be.  The only acceptable worship to God is to offer ourselves completely to Him.  It is our “reasonable service” offered to God in thanks for all He has given us (Rom. 12:1).

 

Practice the “prayer of helplessness”. Catherine Marshall, in her book Adventures in Prayer, has a chapter entitled “The Prayer of Helplessness,” and also one entitled “The Prayer of Relinquishment.”  Both of these chapters aided me in writing these last two sections.

Marshall made emphasis in her book that when we pray God insists on our helplessness. She made this emphasis because we in fact are helpless; that is, we can’t do anything for God in our own ability and true prayers must be based on truth.  The Bible says in John 15:5 that “Without Him we can do nothing.”  In Hebrews 1:3 we see that God upholds (or sustains) all things.  Again, in Col. 1:17, it says that in Him all things consist (or literally, “hold together”).  He created us and He sustains us.  Without Him we would literally fall apart.

In John 6:44, Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him.” We can’t even come to Him in prayer or believe in Him on our own.  We are all, from our birth, enslaved to sin and unable to believe.  But God in His mercy chose some for salvation.  He selected certain ones and empowered them to come to Him.  And so, those who come to salvation come only because they were empowered and drawn by God.  Yes, we are totally helpless without Him.  We are nothing and can do nothing without Him.

But by His strength we can do all things (Phil. 4:13). And His strength comes to me when I admit my weakness and helplessness (2 Cor. 12:9-10).  And why is that?  It is simply because our admission of helplessness is true.  And when we face up to that fact and the fact that He alone can help us and answer our prayers, we glorify God. Then, when God is glorified in us He in turn honors us by giving us His strength and by answering our prayers.

Now the way you practice the prayer of helplessness is simply by reviewing in your prayers the fact of your helplessness—that you can do nothing without Him, not even submit to Him. Here is an example of a prayer of helplessness:

“O God, take my heart, for I cannot keep it; and when Thou hast it, keep it, for I cannot keep it for Thee; and save me in spite of myself.”

 

Practice the “prayer of relinquishment”. When we relinquish ourselves to God we give up our self-life, which includes the self-will. This self-life is a life of sin. It has nothing to do with our new Christ-like nature, which always seeks to please God.  Rather, the self-life seeks only to please self, which, at its core is evil and destructive.  It is built up or strengthened in us when we feed it and provide for it—when we invite into our mind all kinds of lustful thoughts, when we eat whatever we want and as much as we want, when we watch TV until we fall asleep at night; hence, basically when we indulge ourselves with whatever we desire.

When we practice relinquishment in prayer we give up our self-will, which means that we also give up our self-life. It is saying to God, “I give up everything to You, Father, in order to gain Christ.”

If you have been praying for a husband or a wife and God has not answered your prayer, you may be saying to God, “Father, I desire a mate, but let Your will be done. I want only what You want for me.  If You think it is better for me to be single than that is what I want Too.  I yield my will to Your will.”

Likewise, if you are in need of healing and you have been praying persistently to be healed, even sometimes demanding God, the practice of relinquishment means that you must begin to pray in this way: “Father, I give up my demanding spirit. If it is, for some reason, Your will for me to remain sick I now surrender my will to be healed.  I give my life into Your hands for Your good purpose.  Take my life and use it to please You.  Whether sick or whole, use me for Your service.”

Therefore, the practice of relinquishment in prayer is giving up any demanding spirit, any self-will. It is acknowledging in prayer that all I have is His and that He has a right to take it back.  It is saying to God, “You are Lord, I yield up all my desires to You.  I worship You.  I am at Your service this day and always.  Take my life.  I give it to You.

 

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