Friday, July 17, 2015

What About Prayer?

I have my notes on Acts ready to publish but the topic of prayer has been coming up often and I have been pulling and taking notes about it and wanted to get them out.

I was in a discussion this week where a missionary was having trouble coping with an instance where he lost someone he thought was coming to Jesus. He said that the individual was being taught the gospel for weeks. The missionaries accepted a request to pray and fast for this persons failing vision. They prayed together for hours praying over this individual asking God to repair their vision. After over a day of fasting and prayer the eye remained damaged. The individual ceased to be interested in the gospel and the missionaries lost contact over time with this person.

During the discussion many other people had similar stories and how it still plagued on their faith. We need to see what does the Bible say about miraculous healing? And what do we tell individuals that desire health issues healed by God's power? What does God say about prayer and what are our examples?

I struggled with these questions particularly over the last two years. After my wife and I had our third child (3of3 girls...) we were followed by three miscarriages. They were horrible times and without a Godly, Biblical perspectives, they seem even more tragic. I had prayed and prayed and prayed, so hard, yet I didn't understand if it was doing any good or if I was doing something wrong.

As I was going through the book of Daniel, I came across chapter nine, Daniel's prayer. The series that helped a lot that accompanied my study was called, "Elements of True Prayer", by John MacArthur. This began another study that I did on prayer called, "Steps to Successful Prayer." In these studies we see the biblical examples and lessons on prayer:

The Bible says:
  • Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
Here we see how we cannot do anything without God. The Spirit has to be our prayer coach. And when the Spirit is helping we will pray "according to the will of God." Well what does that mean? What is the will of God?

Studying the Bible and looking at prayer we see what God's will is. We see that praise is the first thing Daniel declares to God. Is this the first thing we do when talking to God? After all, we are nothing without the grace and faith He has bestowed on us. Then we see a humbling and repentant heart toward God asking for forgiveness, and for our inability to meet his standards for holiness. We also see requests for the salvation for others, the repentance and regeneration towards peoples and nations, the turning of people and groups toward God, and His help to gather the called. Then, at the end, we see personal requests that would include health concerns. But in this period of the Church, we know that miracle of healing faded as the apostolic period ended. We can pray for the health and comfort of people, but miraculous healing do not happen as they did during the time of Jesus and the apostles. 

This is not me saying that God doesn't want our prayers for healing and comfort.
  • Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:13-14)
We see that God does will us to pray for the sick. But we see further:
  • And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (James 5:15-16) 
God over and over emphasizes His desire for our salvation, purity and repentance. God desires these things above all for us. The New Testament has apostles dying horrible deaths. Paul dies, comes back to life, has many health issues, gets jailed and shipwrecked (multiple times). But Paul and the saints are focused on the growing and spreading of the Gospel of Jesus and the gathering of the called. When we are sick or injured or dying, what do we pray for? Who are we winning to Jesus?

We also need to be led by the Spirit so he can intercede for us: 
  • But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand." (Isaiah 64:8) 
In order for us to be molded by God we need to be filled with the Spirit by the study and meditation of His Word. With that we will line our prayers more fully with the will of God and see God's answering of our prayers. Then we can praise Him even the more!

I think that when praying for the sick we need to remember that God wants us and them in His glory and salvation foremost. We see that miraculous healings do not occur in this age and that in every one of life's trials comes another opportunity to glorify God. To glorify and proclaim Jesus as Savior. I know this is a difficult subject, but using our Bible as the source material, we can find comfort and confidence in our prayer. After all we are talking to God. How cool is that!

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