The Biblical Meaning of Desire – Six Categories

 

Here is a biblical study of the term desire. I thought it would be beneficial, in my study of prayer, to get a thorough understanding of this term desire, since prayer has so much to do with it. The biblical meaning of desire is quite broad. In my study I found sixteen Hebrew and Greek words translated as desire, and have put them in the following six categories:

 

To delight in: Hebrew – chapets, taavah.  This term, as indicated by these two Hebrew words and their verses, convey the idea of delighting in, to be pleased with, satisfied with, and to incline toward.  Thus the meaning here is that when we desire a thing it brings us pleasure and satisfaction, and we are drawn toward it.  The desire could be for good or for evil.  Most of the references I found in conjunction with these words were for good, but some for evil.  Many had to do with a desire for God and His Word, such as the following two verses: Psalms 40:8, “I delight [chapets] to do Your will O my God, and Your law is within my heart”; and Psalms 112:1, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights [chapets] greatly in His commands.”

Here is a verse where desire is bent toward evil: Genesis 3:6, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable [taavah] to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…”

 

To long for, yearn for, crave after or lust for: Hebrew – taavah, ttaabah, avah, kacaph; Greek – epithumia, epipothesis.  Again these words are used both for good desires and bad desires.  Here are two examples of a good desire: from Psalms 119:20, “My soul is consumed with longing [taabah] for Your laws at all times”; and from Psalms 84:2, “My soul longs [kacaph], yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord.”

The Greek word epithumia is used mostly of evil desires, such as in Jude 18: “…there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts [epithumia].”  In 1 Thessalonians 2:17 is one of the few times it is used of a good desire.  Here Paul wrote, “But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more earnestly to see your face with great desire [epithumia].”

So far, we have seen that both good and evil are brought about by the vehicle of desire.  And in both cases desire is like a servant.  It either serves us for sin, or it becomes for us a servant of love, good deeds and prayer (Read Romans 6:12-18).  Therefore, desire itself is neither good nor bad, but it may bring about good or bad.  It is that vehicle, created by God to bring about good (e.g., to desire God and His will), but of which we are also given the freedom to use to bring about evil (e.g., desire to sin).

According to E. M. Bounds, “Desire is the will in action…”  I think that’s true; the will is at the heart of it.  And there are a few Bible verses that will give us this idea.  As we continue in our study, we will first take a look at the word eudokia, which is rendered as a “good will” given by God, and then we will take a look at some other words and their verses, which again could be used for either good or evil.

 

Good pleasure, good purpose, or good will: Greek – eudokia. This Greek word is used nine times in the New Testament.  Only in Romans 10:1 is it rendered as desire; all the other times as good pleasure, good purpose, or good will.  By this word, in all occurrences, desire is understood as a good desire and comes from God.  In Philippians 2:13 it says, “… it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure [eudokias].”  Thus Paul is saying that God works in us and gives us good desires—they come from Him.  So when Paul said in Romans 10:1, “Brethren, my heart’s desire [eudokia] and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved,” this was a desire made in heaven by God and placed on Paul’s heart.

 

The will in action: Greekeudokia, thelema, thelo, boulomai.  From these words we learn that the will is involved in desire.  Eudokia, as we said, is used only as good will (or as good desire), which comes straight from God.  But the other three words could be used as either good will or bad will, of the will of God or of the will of the devil or of the flesh.  Here are two examples, one of each kind:

From John 4:34, Jesus said to His disciples, “My food is to do the will [thelema] of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.”  Then, from Ephesians 2:3, Paul states, “…we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires [thelema] of the flesh and of the mind…”  

Notice again that our desire, which is our will in action, comes from either the will of God or from a bad source—from the flesh or the devil.  And the way it works is that when we give our lives over to God to do His will, then our will (our desires) will be for Him and for prayer.  And this will always be true, not because of our own will but because of His work of love in drawing us to Himself.  For God is always working in us, trying to get us to desire (and to do) what is good (Phil. 2:13).  But if we reject God then our desires will be bent toward evil, to fulfill our own lustful pleasures.

Now since we were all born into sin, it is natural for an unredeemed person to desire (and do) what is sinful; he is carried away by his own desire (lust).  But when a person becomes a Christian he is given a new nature; and so, even though he may at times, through his unredeemed flesh, fall into temptation and be carried away by desires to sin, the general direction of his desire has changed.  God has begun to work in Him to give him His desires; all things, including all his desires, have “become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

 

To seek after: Hebrew – baqash; Greek – zeteo, orego.  These three words, translated as seek after, also mean to desire; thus when we seek after a thing we desire it.  Accordingly, when we seek after God or His righteousness, it means that we desire Him and want to do His will.

Deuteronomy 4:29 offers a wonderful promise to those who seek God with their whole heart: “…you will seek [baqash] the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your Heart and with all your soul.”  Matthew 7:7 also offers a similar promise: “Ask, and it will be given you; seek [zeteo], and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

 

As prayer: Hebrew – taavah; Greek – erotao, aiteo.  In Psalms 10:17, taavah is translated as desire: “Lord, You have heard the desire [taavah] of the humble; You have prepared their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear.”  It seems clear to me that we could replace “desire” with “request” or “prayer”—e.g., You have heard the prayer of the humble.  Also, if you look at eratao and aiteo you will find that these words are most often translated as “ask or “request,” but they could also be translated as desire.  Thus we may conclude that prayer, or at least part of prayer, desires a thing.  I think for our sake, however, when we prayer, we need not only have desires, but we need to express our desires to God in words—because we need to hear ourselves pray so that we will be encouraged.

Conversely, and as a fitting conclusion to this section, let me say this: God doesn’t ever need to hear our words of prayer; He hears the desires of our heart even before we ask Him (Matt. 6:8, Isa. 65:24).

 

 

 

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10 Forms of Prayer

 

The forms of prayer are simply the various expressions of our personal life toward God that agree with the various moods or attitudes we have or choose to have.  Thus the many forms of prayer are quite endless, for there are as many forms of prayer as man has characteristics of personal life—as he has moods or attitudes.  Here are ten forms of prayer, which I will describe briefly:

1. The prayer of adoration. We should adore God in all our praying, but generally, this is the way we should begin our prayers (and our day)—saying, “Hallowed be Thy name.”

2. The prayer of confession. This is the only form of prayer that should come out of our lips when we have sinned.  For, it is the only form (or expression) that would be true and honest.  Moreover, without confession fellowship with God would be impossible.

3. The prayer of thanksgiving. We ought to give God thanks continually for all things. For it is God’s will for us (1 Thess. 5:18), it is the way to keep ourselves in the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19), and it is the way we glorify Him (Rom. 1:21).  Thus all of our prayers of petition should be with the attitude of thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6). Sometimes I just like to sit and make a list to Him of all the things I am thankful for.

4. Supplication. This is a special kind of petitionary prayer, marked by a sense of urgency for a desperate need, requiring an earnest humility. Thus to make supplication means to ask for humbly or earnestly.  The Latin words supplicans and supplicant mean to kneel down.  We would use this form of prayer only when the proper mood strikes us, that is, only when the Spirit of God moves upon us with desire and a sense of need.  Normally we use the word supplication to describe prayer for personal needs, but it is also used to describe our petition as we beg and plead on behalf of another.  Such was the case with Esther as she made supplication unto the king for her people (Esther 4:8).

5. Simple and short prayers. These are the meal time prayers when we thank God for our food, and the prayers of benediction at the end of a church service.  These are the prayers offered throughout the day while working, when we can’t take time to pray long.

6. Long and conversational prayers. These are the prayers that we offer during the night when we can’t sleep.  They are the prayers offered on a Sunday afternoon when we have set aside a whole hour to pray.  These also are the prayers offered when we take a long walk—when we commune with God about every little thing.  They are also the prayers of tragedy and suffering when we pray hard and long, when we pray our hearts out waiting for God to come down and touch us.

7. Meditative prayers. These are the prayers offered when we study the Word and muse on deep meanings.  They are the prayers offered when we are lying down and are gazing into the sky contemplating the wonder and glory of God.

8. The prayer of relinquishment. This form of prayer often comes after the prayer of confession.  It is the prayer of dedication.  It is the kind of prayer offered when we see how good and great God is—when we are moved to give Him everything.

9. The prayer of sorrow, suffering and tears. This is the type of prayer we pray for the sick, the elderly, the lonely and the depressed.  It is prayer from the heart.  This kind of prayer is often termed as a crying out of the soul for God.

10. The prayer of authority.  We pray this kind of prayer against the forces of evil when the Holy Spirit assures us that He is with and will help us.  By the prayer of authority we command in Jesus Name for Satan to be gone, and we summon the angels of heaven to come to our aid.  Likewise, with the promises of God’s Word and with the agreement of the saints, we take great confidence in offering this form of prayer.

 

 

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9 Descriptions of Prayer by Various Authors – Part 3

 

Prayer is very basic, yet very deep. It is quite simple, yet at the same time, very complex. In my reading I have found nine descriptions of prayer by various authors. In my last two blog articles we found that prayer has been described as …

 

  • Asking and receiving
  • Approaching God’s throne
  • Our service due Him
  • Letting Jesus come into us and heal us
  • An expression of our fellowship with God
  • Something we do naturally

 

Here is the last three descriptions of prayer I found.

 7. Prayer is dominant desire. This description of prayer I think instructs us well and helps us to see clearly what real, effective prayer is, in contrast to prayer that is not genuine and not effective.

We know that all petitionary prayer begins with a wish or a desire; then we express that desire with a request.  This is the basic meaning of prayer—from the Greek word deesis. In fact this Greek word can actually be translated as either desire or prayer. However, real prayer, prayer that is heeded by God, must have a desire that dominates, or over rides, all other desires (that are more of the flesh and not of the spirit).  That is, this desire in prayer must be most important, making all other desires of less importance—so that there is no doubt what the number one desire of the heart is; hence there will not be doubting—going back and forth in the mind as to what is desired (“like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind,” James 1:6).

Prayer with this description (having dominant desire) energizes the will so much so that the desire for rest and sleep is forgotten, or even not needed—because this desire in prayer tends to energize the body.  This would be the case with a couple “in love”—who would spend hours talking on the phone to each other, not even being aware of the time.

This would also was the case with our Lord who prayed to His Father at night, sometimes all night long (Lu. 6:12). Most of us would regard this kind of prayer as particularly earnest and sacrificial—I mean, it would be something that was hard to do.  But if we look at it in the light that Jesus loved His Father and longed to be with Him, we get an entirely different idea.  This all-night-prayer of Jesus’ I think was joyous and refreshing. That is because His prayer was made up of a strong desire that put all other desires in second place, even the desire for sleep.

Some (who have subscribed to this description of prayer) have said that we don’t really have to make requests to God; that our strong, dominant desires become our requests.  Well I would differ with that idea, because requests are actually part of prayer—desire being the first part. However, if the holy desires we have are strong and dominate all others, they will in fact cause us to cry out to God with requests.

Now here is the thing that is most important in this description: in real, Christian prayer our dominant desires must be holy and from God.  This of course goes without saying; all effective prayer must be according to the will of God.

8. Prayer is a struggle. If prayer is dominant desire, then prayer must also be a struggle to keep the mind and the desires of the mind on God’s will—and to keep those Godly desires dominant.

Certainly, every Christian struggles in prayer to keep himself on the narrow road as he journeys through this evil world.  We struggle against the world’s system that offers us sex and food and riches and possessions and status. These things are all good gifts of God, and so are good for us in the right proportions and in the right context; but if not, if we use these things for our own pleasure and in disobedience to God, then they can be very damaging and corrupting; and it is sin.

Our struggle in prayer then is obviously not only a struggle against outward forces of the world, but also with inward forces of our own flesh. We struggle in prayer with selfishness, our love of ease, and all kinds of lusts.  We struggle with our pride and with our temper and with our unwillingness to obey God and to forgive others and to pray for them.

And of course, perhaps most of the time unknowingly, we struggle in prayer against the devil and his demons, who are constantly urging us to relax in prayer—I mean to fall asleep and to quit praying.  And they also keep putting things in our mind as we pray to distract us and confuse and discourage us.  Yes pray is definitely a struggle.

9. Prayer is expressing the absence of God. Theodore W. Jennings Jr., in his book, Life as Worship, Prayer and Praise in Jesus Name, says, “In prayer we express the absence of something.”  This something he says is God.  He said, “Prayer expresses our need and desire for God, a need that grows out of our godlessness and godforsakenness.”

I like what Jennings has said; but it describes only the petition part of prayer, the part that is always crying out to God for what we need.  Another part of prayer is praise.  This part, does not express our lack and His absence; it expresses our joy in His presence. This is the part I think that will be most dominant in heaven.

 

The above article is an excerpt from this book.

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9 Descriptions of Prayer by Various Authors – Part 2

 

We have been talking about the various descriptions of prayer by various authors. In my last article I wrote about Prayer as asking and receiving, Prayer as approaching God’s throne, and Prayer as our service due Him. Here are the next three, out of nine, descriptions.

  1. Prayer is letting Jesus come into us and heal us. According to O. Hallesby,

Our prayers are always a result of Jesus ‘knocking at our heart’s doors…He knocks in order to move us by prayer to open the door…giving Jesus access to our needs and permitting Him to exercise His own power in dealing with them…To pray is nothing more involved than to lie in the sunshine of His grace, to expose our distress of body and soul to those healing rays which can in a wonderful way counteract and render ineffective the bacteria of sin.

 5. Prayer is an expression of our fellowship with God. Emil Erpestad gives us another look at prayer. Prayer, he says, is an expression of our fellowship with God.  “[It is] the means by which fellowship with Him can become a part of our daily experience.”  He says, “Conscious fellowship with God…has its beginning in the prayer of repentance…continued fellowship is possible only where there is some means of communication.”

Therefore, Erpestad suggests that prayer is communication with God; so, as communication (prayer) with Him continues, fellowship continues.  And the reverse is also true—as fellowship continues communication (or prayer) continues.

I would agree with Erpestad, but I would go further.  Since fellowship by definition is the sharing of things in common, I think prayer is not only the expression of our fellowship with God, it is fellowship with Him.  For I believe that prayer is the sharing of the things of our soul that we have in common with Him—which is all the things that He has given us in Christ, mainly our new nature.

6. Prayer is something we do naturally. In many respects prayer is one of the hardest things to learn to do, because in our selfishness and sin we find it impossible to grasp and believe who God is, and that He will help us and deliver us.

On the other hand, God has created in us a natural tendency to cry out to Him when we need help.  Even if one is not a Christian, or even if he says that he is an atheist, God nevertheless has created in him a natural desire to get to know Him and to be dependent on Him and to cry out to him when he is in trouble and needing help.

Now if you are skeptical of this idea, watch and listen to a man (whether he is a Christian or not) as he is compelled to jump out of a ten story window of a burning building.  What does he cry in his heart, and even out loud for all to hear? “Oh God, help me, save me?”

Unfortunately, because of our inborn sin and because of the devil that constantly temps us, we don’t always do what is natural.  I have heard of people even on their death bed curse God.

The above article is an excerpt from this book.

 

 

The remaining prayer descriptions, which will be covered later, are these:

 7. Prayer is dominant desire.

8. Prayer is a struggle.

9. Prayer is expressing the absence of God

 

 

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We Are Urged By God To Pray For Our Leaders—Even President Trump!

Prayer for Trump and Country

1 Timothy 2:1-4

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Did you pray for President Trump before he went to speak with Vladimir Putin? If not, will you pray for him now?

Your prayers will have an effect on the United States and the world; and as verse 2 indicates, it will have an effect on our lives and also on whether people are saved or not (v. 3). For if we fail to pray we may lose our freedoms, and thus it…

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9 Descriptions of Prayer by Various Authors

 

Prayer is so very basic, yet it is also so deep and boundless in it meaning. In my reading I have found nine different descriptions of prayer.

 1. Prayer is asking and receiving. According to E.M. Bounds, “Prayer is the outstretched arms of the child for the Father’s help.  Prayer is the child’s cry calling to the Father’s ear…Prayer is the seeking of God’s greatest good, which will not come if we do not pray.”

Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Again E. M. Bounds writes, “Prayer is asking, seeking and knocking at a door for something we have not, which we desire, and which God has promised to us…Prayer is the voice of need crying out to Him who is inexhaustible in resources.  Prayer is helplessness reposing with childlike confidence on the word of its Father in heaven.”

Thus prayer is asking because we are as a needy child, and it is receiving because He is our Father and so willing to supply our need.

2. Prayer is approaching God’s throne. According to Spurgeon, “True prayer is an approach of the soul by the Spirit of God to the throne of God.”  I would say it this way: it is the approach of the Holy Spirit in our soul that drives us to the throne.

Again Spurgeon writes, “True prayer is a spiritual business from beginning to end, and its aim and object end not with man but reach to God Himself.”   Yes, we enter into the courts of heaven to do business, spiritual business with God.  Thus prayer should be regarded as a spiritual business meeting in the heavenly places with God.

But we go there not alone. The Holy Spirit goes there with us.  He has invited us there, where a prayer-business meeting has been going on for over 2000 years. Says Thompson, who wrote a little book entitled, Master Secrets of Prayer: “[Prayer] is a tuning in on the great, thunderous, two-thousand-year-old prayer meeting going on in the glory above.” There we join Jesus and the Holy Spirit along with all the saints gathered around the throne of God.

3. Prayer is our service due Him. According to E. M. Bounds, “Prayer is not a duty which must be performed, to ease obligation and to quiet conscience… [it is rather] a solemn service due to God, an adoration, a worship…”    Prayer is not only for our own sake, to make requests and to gain answers, it is also to please God, to render our service to Him in honor of His glorious name, which is due him.  And our greatest service in prayer is our faith.  When we pray with faith we pray with a spirit of thankfulness to God for the sacrifice of His Son; hence, we pray believing in Him, with a desire to do His will.

 

The above article is an excerpt from this book.

The following descriptions will be covered in upcoming blogs:

 4. Prayer is letting Jesus come into us and heal us.

 5. Prayer is an expression of our fellowship with God.

6. Prayer is something we do naturally.

7. Prayer is dominant desire.

8. Prayer is a struggle.

9. Prayer is expressing the absence of God.

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Three Types of Petitions—from the Disciples Prayer

The following article is an excerpt from this book.

 

When we look at the Disciples Prayer (or The Lord’s Prayer), I believe we see three types of petitions that Jesus taught (Matthew 6:8-13).

 

 1. Invocation

We get this idea from the first three requests:  “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name; Your Kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

This first type of petition, according to Jennings, is the invocation of our prayer; it is the summoning of the Spirit of God that He would come to us and be God to us, to help us pray and do His will.5  

Yes, it is asking Him to help us pray that His name be hallowed–let Your name be hallowed. And bring your kingdom to us; and bring your will to us.

But it is even more than that.  It is asking Him to bring His love and fellowship to us, to bring His companionship and communion and friendship to us.  The whole idea of praying that He would be real to us and that His kingdom comes to us, according to Jennings, “suggests eating and drinking and companionship.”6

And we get this idea also from Revelation 3:20, where we see the image of Jesus knocking at our hearts door wanting to come into us, to sup with us and us with Him.  Here it is important to see that all prayer does not begin with ourselves.  He starts it.  Therefore, when we say that this type of petition is an invocation, that we are summoning God to come to us, we must remember that He has already summoned us to come to Him.  Our summoning Him is just a response to His summoning us.

O Hallesby comments on Revelation 3:20: “… [It] affords a new glimpse into the nature of prayer, showing us that God has designed prayer as a means of intimate and joyous fellowship between God and man.”7

I agree. The nature of prayer is a means of obtaining fellowship with Him.  And though we are separating out this type of petition as suggesting that it should come first, as to invoke God at the beginning of our prayer time to come to us and help us pray, this type of prayer is really also at the heart and core of all prayer.  Yes, it is the nature of all prayer to desire that God would be present with us—to commune with us and be God to us.

Therefore, the nature of prayer is the desire of the soul for God; it is a crying out to God for fellowship and help.  We see this most vividly in the prayer of David when he prayed, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1-2a).  Again in Psalms 63:1 David prays, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is not water.”

The second type of petition is…

 

2. That He would give us the things we need

Though this type of petition also includes the summoning of God to come to us and be God to us (since that is the nature of all petitions), it is different in that it is more specific as to our needs.

In this type, as in the Disciples Prayer, all the things we need can be grouped into three categories:  (1) for our daily bread (“Give us this day our daily bread”)—for all the physical things we need  for  survival:  food, clothing, shelter, etc.; (2) for forgiveness (“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive out debtors”)—that which we need for our spiritual life in order to maintain peace with God; and (3) for guidance and deliverance (“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”)—that God would take care of us and protect us from all forms of evil.

The third type of petition is…

 

3. Intercession

At first glance you may not see this type of petition in the Disciples Prayer.  Perhaps to you it appears that all the requests are personal.  And you are right; they are all personal.  But if you look closer you will discover that they are all intercessory prayers as well, because the prayer does not address the Father as “my father” but as “our Father.  Thus, if we pray the way Jesus wants us to pray, all prayer (all true prayer) is intercession.

According to Jennings,

Intercessory prayer is not some extra or dispensable sort of prayer; it is essential to the character of prayer itself that it be offered not only on my behalf but on my neighbor’s behalf as well.  That all prayer is intercessory prayer is already implicit in the claim that the one to whom prayer is addressed is not ‘my Father’ but ‘our Father’…That we pray for one another is the necessary consequence of the communal and corporate character of Christian prayer.8

 

One of the Biblical words used for intercession is palal, used eighty times in the Old Testament.  If you look at each time the word is used, you will see that it was used strictly by those who were dedicated to God and were great in prayer. Abraham was one of those great one’s who prayed and delivered Abimelech and his household (Gen. 20:7, 17).  Likewise, Moses, by his prayers, was used by God over and over again to deliver the people of Israel (Nu. 11:2, 21:7, Duet. 9:20, 26).  Hannah was also used by God to raise up Samuel (1 Sam. 1:10, 12, 26, 27) who himself became one of the greatest intercessors who ever lived.  And there are several others such as David and Solomon, Elijah and Elisha, Hezekiah, Ezra and Nehemiah, and Isaiah and Jeremiah.  All these and more interceded and were great for God in prayer.

Do you want to be great for God?  If you do, choose now to dedicate yourself to selfless intercession.  And He will bless you for it.

 

5 Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., Life as Worship, Prayer and Praise in Jesus Name, pp. 43-45.

6 Ibid., p.21

7 O. Hallesby, Prayer (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1931), p. 12.

8 Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., Life as Worship, Prayer and Praise in Jesus Name, p. 57.

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