Laws Governing Prayer
What is true in the physical realm is also true in the spiritual realm - with this difference. The physical realm has to do with things of sight, smell, sound, and the outward or visible senses. The spiritual realm includes all of this, but there is an added dimension - one that is more intangible and oftentimes more felt than observed. The awareness of the spiritual dimension depends upon a spiritual sense rather than on the physical senses.
The laws of the spiritual realm cannot be discovered by man's search or inquiry into the natural or scientific channels. The belong to the order of divine revelation and have been made known to man through the holy scriptures. This then demands study of the Bible and spiritual discernment. the scripture teaches that some lack the necessary ability to discern because they are carnal and cannot see although they have eyes. They have ears but they refuse to hear.
This same principle is true of the plan of salvation. You must obey the laws set forth in the word of God or you might as well deny the teachings of creation or the Holy Spirit. To break the laws of salvation is to suffer as a law breaker.
The same is true of the laws of support for the church. We are to give as we have been prospered, but man has ignored this law and replaced it with pie suppers, bingo parties, plays and bazaars. Experience teaches us that churches do not thrive nor grow spiritually on this kind of system. Truth is, God knew what He was doing when He made these laws.
There are some things God will not give His people apart from prayer, not that He is unable to grant them, but because He has ordained prayer as the means by which to obtain them. To substitute prayer when work is called for is no more of a solution than to substitute work when prayer is needed.
The Christian who is ignorant of the spiritual laws governing prayer is dismayed and disheartened when he prays and nothing happens. As a result he often stops praying. Instead of trying to find out the problem, he just decides God does not answer his prayers and resigns himself to a dull life of indifference to prayer and all it has to offer. Prayer is not a magical or mechanical device. God is not a machine, nor does He break down. To obey the laws of prayer then should assure the true Christian answers to his prayers.
The first law of divine order has to do with the glory of God. All we do in life should have as our greatest motive to bring glory to God. Anything less than this is unworthy of those who claim to know, love and serve Him. We just simply cannot expect God to answer a prayer that does not glorify Him. A truly genuine, effective prayer life must be firmly rooted in the desire to glorify God.
The Bible teaches that prayer must be offered in the name of Jesus, and this implies two basic truths. The first is that prayer exists for the benefit of those who have been taught the truth and have obeyed the gospel, and since they are now in Christ they are on "praying ground", having been reborn. God is now their Father, and they are now God's children. This not only gains for them access to the heart of God, but also gains them access to the mercy seat of God. The blood of Christ has been applied to their sins and before the God of heaven they can stand forgiven and through confession and prayer can remain forgiven of future sins.
The other basic truth is that only the name of Jesus guarantees prayer access to the Father. "I am the way, the truth and the life, and no man comes to the Father but by me". This was His very own declaration, and I believe it. Somewhat like the password one gives the sentry at a military post, the name of Jesus alone admits the believer the Father's presence. To try to come without it is considered an intruder. Now even a spy can learn the password and gain entrance to the military post, but we can't fool God. Why try if we know it won't work.
The scriptures clearly confirm what I have just written. Paul said in Eph 2:18 "For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father". And in Eph 3:12, we read "In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him".
Another law we must include is that a prayer must be according to the will of God. "And this is the confidence we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we diesired of Him" (1 John 5:14, 15).
We cannot foresee the future with accuracy, thus this provision is a safeguard against the lack of knowledge. When we have evaluated a situation against all the knowledge we have, we can still be wrong; but a God who loves us wants the best for us and will do what is best for us because His will is for our good. When we really believe this and submit to that principle, then and only then can we say as Paul, "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose" (Rom 8:28).
Another law pertains to the inner heart of the one doing the praying. We must pray with intense desire. Honest inquiry into almost anyone's prayer life will disclose the unpleasant but undeniable fact that the petitions asked of God often are not salted with any great degree of intensity of desire. If you are praying for a lost person your tears would flow, and your efforts would know no bounds until that one is brought unto Christ. We often pray a prayer once, and it is forgotten. Keep knocking at the door even at midnight, and you might just be surprised at the result.
Blind Bartimaeus begged the Lord to restore his sight (Mark 10:46-51). The answer he received was related to the intensity, interest and concern of his heart. Hannah, prior to the conception of Samuel, exemplifies intensity of desire (1 Sam 1:10ff). Hezekiah was sick unto death when the prophet told him to prepare for the inevitable end. He prayed for an extension and God heard him (2 Kings 20:1-3).
Prayer that is effective springs from an irresistible and unquenchable intensity which will be rewarded. Scripture does not explain why God has ordained that intensity of desire should be one of the laws of prayer. Some no doubt feel God should hear and answer just because of who they are, but the scripture does not teach that. Asking is an essential ingredient to prayer, but how we ask can make the difference. Why we ask will not be overlooked either. James says "Ye have not, because ye ask not" (James 4:2-3)
In our asking we are given a warning that it would be good to heed, "Use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking" (Matt 6:7).
God hates for us to play religion with a pious mask on Sunday and be someone else com Monday. I have heard people gut up and pray for the Sunday evening service whom I have never seen inside of the building at any other time than on Sunday morning. It's one thing to pray for forgiveness and another to forgive, but the Bible says we cannot be forgiven if we are not willing to forgive. For what is the prayer being led in the worship service? Are we just playing at this thing of getting right with God?
Another law of effective prayer is appropriation. Jesus did all of us a favor when he said "What things so ever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them". A better translation might be, "Believe that ye receive them" (Mark 11:24). This asks for an attitude of expectancy, a heart of confidence. God may be slow to answer the prayer that is prayed in doubt believing that He will not do it anyway. This is seen in the examples of many in the Bible; Jehosaphat's action after his prayer for deliverance from Moab and the other enemies of Judah ( 2 Chron 20). Then there is Abraham's servant - probably Eliezer - who went to find a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24). The choice of Matthias in Acts 1 demonstrated the same attitude in prayer. The Lord told His disciples to tarry until they were endowed with power from on high. They waited for ten days in an attitude of expectancy. They were convinced that the spirit was coming, and they watched and waited for that to happen. Do you wait for your prayers to happen? I do.
I guess the last but no doubt the greatest law of prayer is that it must be prayed in faith. Appropriation might be considered as part of this law. Faith is an indispensable ingredient for a satisfactory prayer life. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him"\: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb 11:6). James reinforces the argument by warning: "Let him ask in faith .. for let not that man, [the man who asks without faith] think that he shall receive anything of the Lord" (James 1:6,7).
Again and again this thing of faith kept coming up in the life and ministry of Jesus, and he asked over and over, "Believest that that I can?" One of the requests of the disciples was "Lord, increase our faith". Jesus might say to some of us as He did to others, "If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed ..." (Luke 17:5,6). I think we should understand here that it is not the quality of faith but the quantity of it that He was talking about. Faith to be faith, is always qualitatively the same. Quantitatively it differs widely.
Faith has two sides as a coin, one side is to believe that God can do that for which we pray, and the other is to believe He will if it is best for us. When Paul penned his powerful and persuasive doxology: "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto Him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" (Eph 3:20,21, he summed it all up for us.
What are some of the things we should not pray for because God will not do them? That involves the question of how far or who are we to say the extent to which God intervenes in the affairs of man. To pray on one's deathbed for forgiveness when all life long one has lived for the devil might strain the relationship between the sinner and God. I am sure there are things that strain God's patience with us as His children, but it is in His care and keeping, and who is man to say?
We have seen that life is governed by spiritual as well as physical laws. Prayer has its own set of spiritual laws that control it. Successful praying depends on the knowledge and the proper use of these laws. Therefore effective praying is not simply accident or happenstance. It is possible for all Christians to develop great prayer lives and for none to become a great prayer warrior because he has a special gift. Learn the laws and apply them as you grow in the Lord. We all must dig for knowledge as we study the word of the Lord; and to those who give little, little will be received. It is the effort of the Christian who is willing to learn, study, and work at it that develops his talent to the pleasing of the Lord. Once we secure knowledge, then we are expected to use it, put it into practice; and the Lord will bless our efforts regardless of how meager they may be.
Lord, increase our understanding .... in Jesus' name, Amen.