Torrey - Man -14.7- How should we pray?

VII. HOW SHOULD WE PRAY? John 14:13-14 — "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it." John 15:16 — -"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."

First Proposition: We should pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

QUESTION: What does it mean to pray in the name of Jesus?

ANSWER: Luke 24:47 — "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Compare to Acts 10:43.) Mark 9:38-39 — "And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followed not us: and we forbade him, because he followed not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not; for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me." Acts 3:6 — "Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." 1 Corinthians 6:11 — "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." Ephesians 5:20 — "Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Colossians 3:17 — "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." James 5:14 "Is any sick among you? 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." John 16:23 RV — "And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If ye shall ask anything of the Father, he will give it you in my name."

To pray in the name of Christ is to pray relying upon what Christ is and has done, to pray on the grounds of Christ's acceptability with the Father.

When I go to a bank with my own name on the check, I ask money in my own name, and if I have that much money there, I get what I ask. When I go to a bank with another man's name signed on the check, I ask in his name, and it doesn't matter whether I have money in the bank or not. If the man who signed the check has enough money in the bank, I get it. Jesus Christ has given believers the right to put His name upon their checks. We have nothing in the Bank of Heaven. He has unlimited credit there. If we ask God in our own name, we get nothing. But if we come renouncing any claim of our own and simply trust in the claims of Christ, we will get "whatsoever we ask."

The distinctive characteristic of Christian prayer is that it is prayer in the name of Christ. It is that which radically distinguishes Christian prayer from pagan prayer. <19E518> Psalm 145:18 — "The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth."

Second Proposition: We should pray to God "in truth. ' QUESTION: What is it to call "in truth"?

ANSWER: The primary meaning of the word translated "truth" is "firmness,'' then "faithfulness," then "truth as opposed to falsehood," "good faith," "sincerity as opposed to hypocrisy." This latter is evidently the meaning here. (Compare to Joshua 24:14; 1 Samuel 12:24; Kings 2:4; Isaiah 10:20.) To call upon the Lord in truth is to ask Him for what we really desire and to depend upon Him to give it. Much prayer is not in truth. People constantly ask God for things they do not really desire. They also ask Him for things they do not expect Him to give, and for which they are not depending upon Him at all. Before asking God for anything, we should ask ourselves, Do I really desire this? and then, Do I really expect God to give it? and Am I depending upon Him for it?... There is much that is called prayer that is really profanity, taking the sacred name of God in vain. Jeremiah 29:12-13 — "Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. and ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." Deuteronomy 4:29 — "But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul."

Third Proposition: We should pray to God with all our heart and all our soul Many prayers are sincere as far as they go, but the whole heart is not in them. We must not expect such prayers to have much power with God.

When our whole heart is in the asking, His whole heart will be in the giving. Acts 12:5 RV — "Peter therefore was kept in the prison: but prayer was made earnestly of the church unto God for him.

Fourth Proposition: We should pray earnestly and intensely.

The word translated "earnestly" in this passage is a very strong word. It means, literally, "stretched-out-ly." It is a pictorial word. It pictures the mind stretched out in intensity of desire. The same word is used of our Lord's praying in Luke 22:44, where, in the intensity of His agony, "His sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground." It is the prayer into which the whole soul goes in an intensity of desire that lays hold upon God. These indifferent, heartless, boldless prayers that we offer count little with Him. Paul called upon the believers in Rome to "strive together" with him in their prayers to God ( Romans 15:30). The word for "strive" means, literally, to enter a contest, to struggle, contend, endeavor with strenuous zeal. It is the word from which our word "agonize" is derived. There seems to be little praying of this sort in our day. Some fancy it is a mark of faith to take things easy in prayer as well as elsewhere. They call it "the rest of faith." This is evidently a form of faith the Lord Jesus had not learned: "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared" ( Hebrews 5:7). If this kind of praying is rare, it has power today when it is found, even as it had in ages past. (Compare to Genesis 32:26.) Romans 12:12 RV — "Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing steadfastly in prayer." Colossians 4:2 RV — "Continue steadfastly in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving." Luke 18:1-8 — "And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man: yet because this woman troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.

And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?"

Fifth Proposition: We should pray with steadfast continuance and perseverance.

The true and earnest person of prayer will not give up because his petition is not heard the first time. It is a form of spiritual laziness that tries to foist itself off as submission to the will of God, just because we do not get a thing the first time we ask for it. God often tests our faith and our earnestness. (Compare to Matthew 20:31; 15:23-28.) Of course there are times when we can count the thing we have asked for as already ours ( John 11:4; 1 John 5:14-15; Mark 11:24 RV), and thus need not continue praying. Some say to ask something a second time indicates a lack of faith. But Jesus prayed three times for the same thing ( Matthew 26:44). Matthew 6:7 — "But when ye pray use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."

Sixth Proposition: We should not use vain repetition when we pray.

The word here translated "use vain repetitions" means, literally, to stammer or stutter, and thus to repeat the same thing over and over. The thought is, as the rest of the verse clearly shows, that we are not to keep repeating the same request over and over in the same prayer, as if God saw some merit in each time it was offered, and thus multiplied merit in the frequency with which it was repeated. It applies directly to the Roman Catholic practice of rattling off so many "Pater Nosters" or other prayers. There is repetition that comes from intense earnestness. (Contrast 1 Kings 18:26 and 37.) Daniel 9:3 — "And I set my face unto the LORD God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes." Acts 14:23 — "And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed." Acts 13:2-3 — -"As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away."

Seventh Proposition: We should pray with fasting.

This, or course, does not mean that we should fast every time we pray. But there are times of emergency or of special crisis in work, or in our individual lives, when men of downright earnestness will withdraw themselves from even the gratification of natural appetites, that would be perfectly proper under other circumstances, so they may give themselves up wholly to prayer. There is peculiar power in such prayer. Every great crisis in life should be met in that way. On the appropriateness of fasting in the present dispensation, see also Matthew 9:15 — "And Jesus said unto them, can the children of the bride-chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast." 2 Chronicles 7:14 "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

Eighth Proposition: In times when we have wandered from God, we should pray with humiliation of self and renunciation of sin. Philippians 4:6 — "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." Colossians 4:2 — "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving."

Ninth Proposition: We should pray with thanksgiving.

In approaching God to ask for new blessings, we should not neglect to return thanks for blessings already granted. Doubtless one reason why so many of our prayers lack power is because we have neglected to return thanks for blessings already received. God is deeply grieved by this thoughtlessness and ingratitude of which so many of us are guilty. (See Luke 17:17-18 RV.) Matthew 18:19-20 — "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

Tenth Proposition: We should pray in union with others.

God emphasizes and blesses the unity of believers and there is special power in united prayer. Note that the two must not merely agree together to ask, they must agree concerning the thing that they ask (i.e., there must be real unity of desire concerning this specific thing. It is very easy to get someone to unite with me in asking something I desire, but there may be no unity of desire. The other asks it simply because I wish it. But when the Holy Spirit leads two believing hearts to beat as one concerning some coveted blessing, then there is power); when, for example, two persons in a community have a common desire for the outpouring of the Spirit there.

Whenever you can find another whose heart the Holy Spirit is drawing out in the same direction He does yours, you can approach God with great confidence of obtaining this thing. Matthew 21:22 — "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."

Eleventh Proposition: We should pray believing.

Believing in this verse does not mean a general trust in God, but the unwavering expectation of getting the thing we ask. (See James 1:5-6.)

Indeed, faith goes beyond expecting and reckons the thing asked as already ours. What we thus reckon ours becomes ours in actual experimental possession ( Mark 11:24 RV). God delights to honor the faith that counts on Him.

QUESTION: How can we have such faith?

ANSWER: (a) By the word of God ( Romans 10:17; compare to Romans 4:20-21 RV), and (b) by the Holy Spirit's teaching ( Romans 8:26 — 27 RV — "And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; and he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is in the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God"). Ephesians 6:18 RV — "With all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints, and on my behalf."

Jude 20 RV — "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit."

Twelfth Proposition: We should pray in the Holy Spirit.

All approach to God should be in the Holy Spirit's power. The true believer has no confidence in the flesh ( Philippians 3:3 RV). The flesh may prompt me to pray for many things, but that is no reason for asking them. I should no more follow the promptings of the flesh in praying than in sinning. Rather, I should submit every desire to the Holy Spirit, and seek His guidance in prayer. Much prayer is in the flesh and is, of course, not answered. We should pray in the Holy Spirit, under His prompting and guidance. As the disciples said to Jesus during His earthly life, "teach us to pray," so we should look constantly to the "other Paraclete" ( John 14:16; 16:7) to teach us to pray, and He will. This thought disposes of all the objections against prayer from the standpoint of its "subjecting the infinite wisdom of God to the foolish whims of finite creatures." Those who thus talk are ignorant of the Bible doctrine of prayer. It disposes also of most of the other objections that the spiritually superficial and ignorant urge against prevailing prayer.