What is Prayer?
Prayer Wars: Page II
The International Prayer Network
The Prayer Arm of
Bread Upon The Waters Ministry
Introduction: The Prayer Wars Concept
Every true Christian is familiar with the idea that the Word of God is our "sword"...
If the Word of God is our "sword", then our prayers are guided missiles. More than that, united prayer and fasting is our "atomic bomb". Especially when it is done by large numbers of Christians acting in unity. It is the purpose of the International Prayer Network to bring about, and operate, a worldwide movement of organized Prayer and Fasting. Again, the purpose of this is to support the propagation of the "Jesus REALLY is coming soon BE READY!!!" Message throughout the world, and to give mutual support to all those involved in this movement in their efforts to be ready, that is, to be "overcomers" plus to also address in prayer any issue of mutual concern.
The medium of this support will be organized, united intercessory prayer, accompanied by united fasting. It has been this writer's observation and experience that this, when done by Christians who are obedient otherwise, is the most powerful spiritual weapon at our disposal. It is capable of changing the course of history.
Three Basic Disciplines
In the "Strangers and Pilgrims" pages, three basic disciplines of the Christian life are identified, which are called "The Three Switches":
Prayer and Fasting: The fasting, it must be emphasized, is not an option.
Repentance, especially in the sense of separation from the world.
The Study, Ministry, and Application of the Word. Which of course implies real belief in the Word.
Of the three, the first is perhaps the most important, yet most neglected. Christians are commanded and expected to pray. More than that, they are expected to engage in mutual support via intercessory prayer. Neglect of this important part of the Christian life is both a symptom of the fact that, and one of the reasons why, the Church is in the Laodicean, lukewarm age, and why it will be rejected by Christ when the Tribulation begins. It is what is called a "vicious cycle": being lukewarm ® not praying ® being lukewarm® not praying... ad infinitum. The purpose of this Manual is to set forth a program of intercessory prayer that will fill that lack among those who read it and put the contents into practice.
It must be understood that for full effectiveness to be achieved, all the participants must all, to the best of their ability, put all of "The Three Switches" into practice in their lives. All of these things will be brought into the discussion of prayer that follows, in the context of how they apply to the subject of prayer.
What Prayer Is Not
In order for us to pray effectively as a group, we must agree about what prayer is. Before we go into this, we must first look at what prayer is not. One thing that the Bible warns us will happen in the End Times is that there will be a lot of false teaching around. This is true today, and unfortunately much of this false teaching is about prayer. And this often includes false teaching about what prayer is. Christians are being taught erroneous definitions of prayer, and the result is that many are doing things that they think are prayer but which by the Scriptures are not prayer at all, or they are praying in such a way that their prayers are more likely to be an offense to God and a source of chastening then a source of blessing and power. Some Christians have such a nebulous idea of what prayer is that this writer has actually heard a Christian say that a group of Christians having some good fellowship together is prayer. That idea is nonsense, and that kind of fuzzy thinking is not harmless. It causes Christians to have ineffective, defeated lives.
Biblical prayer is not meditation. Many people, Christian and otherwise, are being taught things that are being called prayer but that are actually transcendental meditation dressed up in Christian terminology. This writer has had a book in his hands that did this and said so. Transcendental meditation, and anything thing that involves "silent contemplation" of anything - even the Lord - or endless repetition of words, phrases or syllables, or emptying your mind of conscious thought, etc., has no Biblical place in the Christian life. In fact, such things are spiritually dangerous. They cause a person to be open to demonic influence, which can result in anything from deception to out and out demon possession. Don't do these things!
It is not Biblical prayer to say the Rosary or the "Jesus Prayer" often used by Eastern Orthodox Christians, or any other repetitive formula. To do so is to violate the admonition of Jesus in Matthew 6:7; "...do not use vain repetition as the heathen do...". It is ironic that the Lord's Prayer, which He then proceeded to give, is so often used in exactly the way that He said not to do. If you do this, you aren't praying. You are sinning! For reasons that will be discussed later in these pages, you should seriously avoid ever mindlessly repeating the Lord's Prayer, regardless of how common the practice is.
But we are told to "meditate" (Psalm 1:2, Philippians 4:8). So what is Christian meditation? It is deep, serious thought about the meaning of the Scriptures, why we should obey them, and how to apply them to one's life. The man described in Psalm 1 meditates on the Law day and night, and you can be confident that he doesn't chant it like a sutra. The key to understanding this concept is in the words "think (or "meditate", depending on the Version) on these things", in Phil. 4:8. The Greek word, transliterated "logiszethe" here, is translated "think on". This word, as used in that verse, actually means "consider acquiring". It is a word that a Greek car salesman might use to tell you to think about buying his car. The things listed in the verse are qualities of personal character. Paul was telling the reader to think about developing these qualities as part of his personality. This idea is supported by the following verse, Philippians 4:9;
"The things which you learned and received, and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you."
You can find the same idea in regard to God's Law in Psalm 119:15 & 16.
Praise and Thanksgiving
Praise is not prayer, either. Praise, in the Bible, is usually associated with singing (see Psalm 101:1), and singing is not prayer unless you are singing a petition that you really mean. Thanksgiving, although it can be considered a kind of prayer, is usually described as something that accompanies prayer but which is a different activity (See I Timothy 2:1 and Philippians 4:6 & 7). It must be said, though, that we must be in the habit of praising God to be fully blessed, and our prayers must be accompanied by thanksgiving. We are really neither faithful nor obedient if we aren't thankful.
Talking to God?
There is an oft-repeated definition of prayer that has been promoted by a major Christian ministry, that, "Prayer is talking to God". This may sound good to a baby Christian, but in truth it is so shallow and general a definition that it is effectively false doctrine. If all that prayer is talking to God, what do your talk to him about? There was a movie some years ago, in which a character's mother was said to have had conversations with God, "in which they discussed salvation and interior decorating". Nonsense. But frankly, if prayer can be properly defined as talking to God, then she was praying! In fact, if this definition is correct, then you could be said to be praying if you are shaking your fist at God and cursing! Worse than nonsense, but nevertheless a valid application of this definition. If you are doing this, you are talking to God! But, No! It isn't prayer! In fact, you're committing the sin of blasphemy if you're doing that. A true, Scriptural definition of prayer must be far more precise.
What Prayer Is
Contrary to what is often taught, prayer, by strict, Scriptural definition, is basically making petitions to God, with a number of conditions attached, the most basic of which is that the person praying should really expect to receive what he asks. (Of course, there is far more to the matter than this.) The men who originally translated the Bible into English must have seen this truth or they wouldn't have used the word "pray" to translate the Greek verb "proseukesqe". The English word "pray" originally meant "ask earnestly", and nothing else!
The Importance of Petitions
There is a line of false teaching around today that belittles or denies the importance of the petitioning aspect of prayer. It says, in essence, that making petitions in prayer is too spiritually shallow or superficial for a mature Christian to make a major activity of it. This false teaching makes a point of saying that God is not a great vending machine in the sky waiting to grant our every wish. This much is true; there is such a thing as making petitions in a way that is spiritually shallow, selfish, and, in fact, downright sinful. But we are nevertheless told to make petitions to God, and the Bible stresses this to the point that it can be truthfully said that we are not obeying God if we don't.
Consider, in relation to this, the words of Jesus in John 16:24;
"Until now you have asked nothing in My Name.
Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full".
Now consider to whom, and under what circumstances, Jesus said this. He was addressing His Disciples. These were men who had been following Him and learning from Him for over three years. They could already heal the sick and cast out demons (see Luke 9:1-6). He said it to them after the Last Supper, just a few hours before He was arrested. He was not telling them something that was spiritually shallow or superficial!!! He was telling them something which would be at the very foundation of their ministry. Teaching that belittles or denies the importance of the petitioning aspect of prayer disarms the Christian as an individual and the Church as a whole. Presenting petitions to God is one of the most important disciplines of the Christian life. The Bible stresses the importance of making petitions to God to the point that it can be truly said that if you are not making a petition to God, you are not really praying.
The point that Jesus made there, and elsewhere, is that we are supposed to make petitions, and expect to receive answers. We will not have full Christian lives if we do not make a regular practice of making petitions to God, expecting to receive.
Different Kinds of Petitions
If you have read verses like I Timothy 2:1, or Philippians 4: 6 & 7, you have noticed that there are several words that are all used in a way that contextually refers to prayer. There are actually four root words, occurring as verbs and nouns, that are translated with the words "prayer", "supplication" and "intercession" in the New Testament. Each can be shown by the contexts of the passages in which it occurs to be a specific kind of petition, in terms of what is being asked. But, again, they are all petitions. All four of these are found in the Lord's Prayer, which is, by the way, a list of petitions. Here is how they are used:
|"Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done..."||Prayer: Petitions related to God's Name, His Kingdom and His Will.|
|"Give us this day our daily bread..."||Supplication: Petitions for material needs.|
|"Forgive us our trespasses...."||Intercession: Petitions for basic spiritual needs.|
|"Lead us not into temptation..."||Supplication: Petitions for divine favors, that is to say, blessings.|
It should be noted that there are other Greek words that are translated in our Bibles with the word "pray", such as erwtw, transliterated "eroto" (John 17:9, 15 & 20; the Pastoral Prayer of Jesus), which simply and flatly mean "ask". When Jesus prayed, He "asked".
To Whom Do You Pray?
This issue must be included in any complete definition of Biblical prayer. It is, of course true that you can address a petition to almost anything, ask earnestly, and call it a prayer. But a Biblical prayer is only addressed to God. Of course, since we believe in the Trinity; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all of whom are God, it follows that we can address our prayers to any one of the Three. (It is this writer's position that teaching that says differently is hair-splitting doctrinal legalism. See "What's Worth Arguing About?".) But don't address your prayer to anyone else and think you are praying in a Biblical, truly obedient way. Especially not to "Mary"! Want to lose your salvation? Just pray to her (You might as well pray to Satan!), or any other person or being accept the Trinity.
It must be noted that a Christian cannot have full power in prayer unless he or she accompanies his prayers with regular times of fasting.
What Intercessory Prayer Is Not
As stated, we are going to participate in united intercessory prayer. It is generally understood that intercessory prayer is making petitions to God on the behalf of others. This definition is fairly accurate, but as shown in the table above, a completely precise definition is that intercessory prayer is making petitions concerning the spiritual needs of others. This is not to say that we can't include petitions for other needs in a working definition. But there is one thing that is falsely taught about intercessory prayer, especially among Pentecostals, that must be refuted.
Do You Have To Speak in Tongues?
The false teaching is that you must be speaking in tongues to be praying intercessory prayer. This is based on a very sloppy, academically speaking, interpretation of Romans 8:26. The false teaching uses this verse as a definition of intercessory prayer, erroneously assuming that the phrase, "groanings to deep for utterance" is a reference to "speaking in tongues". This is an example of reading something into a passage that isn't there, while ignoring something that plainly is there. The trouble is, you can't see what is and isn't there unless you read it in Greek. The words "to deep for utterance" translate just one Greek word. It is "alalotoiV", and it is linguistically impossible for this word to refer to tongues! It means, simply and flatly, "impossible to utter" in any language! It's meaning is the opposite of the Greek word translated "utterance"; used in relation to speaking in tongues in Acts 2:4. This verse, therefore, is telling us something about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, not something about prayer. The verse is written in the same attitude of encouragement as the promises of 8:28 - 39. So, contrary to what has been taught, you do not have to speak in tongues to pray intercessory prayer. It is not even Biblically provable that speaking in tongues helps. (Note: By the Scriptures, the only person that speaking in tongues can be definitely said to help is the person doing it. See I Corinthians 14:4)
On the other hand, there is concrete Biblical reason to believe that praying with your understanding, i.e. your intelligence (see I Corinthians 14:14 & 15), does help, as we will show in the "How Should We Pray? page.
But first, we will continue our
discussion of prayer
in the following page:
Why Should We Pray?
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Contact Author, William. D. Brehm