Have you ever prayed to God for something and directly gained what you wanted?

Yes, but only when our will is conformed to God’s will. When we pray for what has already been decreed, it is a certainty. For instance, if one of the Apostles would have prayed for Christ to not be crucified, it still would have happened because it was decreed by God to happen. Does that mean there was some lack of sufficient faith on behalf of the Apostle?  No, of course not.  Our will is not sovereign.  God’s will is.  He accomplishes that which He intends to do.  He doesn’t try and fail like man.  If that Apostle would have prayed like Christ, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Then, the Apostle’s prayer would have obviously been answered. Prayer is not proof that there is, or is not a god. Prayer is something someone does who already believes there is God.

Christian Prayer, and the Sovereignty of God.

god-is-sovereign
Experientially, we know that Christian prayer can accomplish miracles. When we consider the omniscience, and sovereignty of God, we know that our prayers don’t change anything that has already been spoken by God, once and for all. We experience life one way. We think something that seems to contradict what we experience. If we can’t square them, it is because we are limited. Some people can justify the sovereignty of God with the experiences of the creature. We don’t look down on those who can’t. I would hope that those who can’t won’t look down on those of us who can.

Consider that God decrees the ends and the means. As I pray for something according to God’s will, as explained in the progressive revelation of His word, I am sanctified. My thoughts and feelings are focused on God and His will. The situation I am praying about changes. I attribute it to God answering my prayers. He willed it to happen by using me to pray at exactly the time He decreed, in the way He decreed, so He could answer in the way that He decreed. The reality of His decree was actual at the moment He spoke everything into being. We are part of that decree. We exist in space-time, when and where He decreed. As our reality unfolds, we are not able to perceive how eternity is experienced. If we can accept that there is an infinite instance that contains our finite, linear experience, and transcends it, then we can also appreciate how the sovereign decreed will of God, and the experience of man are related. Does prayer change things? Yes it does, in our material experience. It changes, here because it was changed before in eternity.

Prayer and Communication With God.

There seems to be some confusion among Christians as to how God speaks to us. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Christians claim that God has spoken to them during prayer. Some of them, like “Deleted so as not to upset the applecart”, and “Deleted so as not to upset the applecart”, actually proclaim that, not only did God speak to them, but He told them to write what He said down, and tell everyone what He said. This puts their personal revelation in the same field as the divine revelation of the men used to write God’s word. So do we look to modern day Christians like these, as writing new books of the Bible? If not, why don’t we? After all, they claim to have been divinely inspired by saying that God spoke to them and told them to write it down and proclaim it to people. Does this bother you? Are you upset because you see me challenging a very popular lady who you like? What is it about what I am saying that is bothering you? I challenge you to ask yourself these questions and then compare your thoughts and feelings to God’s authoritative word. I exhort you, bring your thoughts and feelings into submissive subjection to God’s word.

Can you name for me people in the Bible who were spoken to by God directly who weren’t Adam and Eve, Patriarchs, Prophets Major/Minor, Jesus (God 2nd Personage of the Trinity,God incarnate) or the Apostles/Disciples of the foundational Church commissioned by Christ personally in that time? I just want you to think of what the normative and regulative principles are here. Seriously, take a moment and think about it. I’ll wait right here… … … … OK you’re back, great! So, what did you come up with? (leave comments)

The regulative principle would say that here and now we hear from God by reading His word, and His Holy Spirit indwelling us illumines it to our understanding, and we in our new life obey it. We trust His providence and we don’t presume to say, “Thus sayeth the Lord” and then proceed to claim a bunch of things in God’s name. That would be wrong.

The normative principle would imply that because we don’t see a prohibition to teaching that we can, “hear God” in our prayers, means that we can teach people to listen for God speaking to them in their prayers. What this looks like varies from group to group. Most would say that they get a thought in their mind and believe that it is from God. Then, they test it against scripture and see if it really is from God. I’ve seen some charismatic groups that take this to the extreme. They look for any scripture to twist and make fit. Then there are the false prophets of Mormonism, Islam, and Jehovah’s Witnesses that all claim personal extra-biblical revelation from God.

I would rather err on the side of faithfulness than selfishness or man-centeredness. I believe that I have had some of the sweetest times of communion with God while studying His word. I also believe that about times when I’ve prayed to God. There is a difference though. When I think that God has told me something, it is something I read in His word. When He hears from me is when I pray to Him. I know that He knows me and all of my thoughts before they happen. I know He knows me in perfect truth. I know He doesn’t need me to pray to Him for Him to know anything about me. I also know that He has told us to pray. He has told us how to pray. As we pray in obedience and in the Spirit, we align with God’s will and it sanctifies us. We also know that it is efficacious. We know that it accomplishes what God has ordained it to accomplish. We know then it is glorifying to God.

The danger with just considering the regulative principle is that we can become cold and ritualistic in prayer. We might end up just repeating very simple prayers because we believe that God knows it all anyway. This can become ritualized, but so can the other ditch we fall in. I’ve heard some wild charismatic prayers that are composed of Christianese modules strung together that frankly don’t mean much to anyone. This is one of the rituals in err on the other side. Another risk is to read too much into your prayer. I know you will all get bent out of shape for the mention of your favorite false teachers earlier but, the truth is that they have claimed extra-biblical revelation and have not recanted. They are plainly stating that they have personally heard God say to them, “X” and He told them to write it down and tell everyone else. He apparently has also told one of them, that He has given them the proper understanding of His word and everyone (the orthodox) else is wrong. Let’s be better at discerning the truth, by reading the truth, and knowing the truth. That way when these false teachers come along, I won’t have to delete their names so all the Christians on broth won’t get bent and make personal attacks on me for allegedly bashing their favorite flavor of false teachings this month.

Faith doesn’t compel God to act on our behalf the way prosperity/health/wealth false teachers say it does.

Faith doesn’t compel God to act on our behalf the way prosperity/health/wealth false teachers say it does. Our words are NOT containers of power. Our prayers do not make God do things for us, no not even when we add, “In Jesus name.” to the end. Faith is the belief that God will do what He has said. Faith is the belief that He is who He says He is. Here is a section of scripture that is always violently twisted by the false teachers. I want you to notice something. The centurion didn’t make Jesus heal his servant. He came asking humbly for his servant to be healed. Jesus, being God decreed that it is so, and it was. The servant was healed because Jesus did it in accordance to His own will. He wanted to heal the servant. He demonstrated the love, mercy, and sovereignty of God in this healing. The lesson is to come to Jesus humbly and ask, believing that He is God and if it is “HIS” will it will be done. Then when He says it is so, we demonstrate great faith by believing Him. Do you want to hear Him tell you things? Read the Bible. Don’t wait for a, “word” or, “a still small voice.” Open your Bible and study it. Read His words and believe them. Live your life as if you do believe them. That is great faith.
Matthew 8:5-13 NASB And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, (6) and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.” (7) Jesus *said to him, “I will come and heal him.” (8) But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. (9) “For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” (10) Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. (11) “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; (12) but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (13) And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.

Two Types of Faith.

Alexandre_Bida_Jesus_and_Peter_on_the_water_700There are two types of faith. One type of faith is willingness to believe in something, which isn’t proved, or a hope in something that may be. Then there is a saving faith, which is granted by God to those who He has elected, and predestined.
The first type you might have had in a person. For instance, perhaps they told you that they would do something for you, and you believe that they will. Then you act on that faith in hopes that they will fulfill their promise to you. Some people have that type of faith in God, in a general sense. They believe there is a God, and they hope He is merciful. They might even believe He is merciful. They might even believe they are saved. Have you talked with someone who has many heretical beliefs, bad fruit, and still insists that they are a Christian? I’m sure you probably have. This person doesn’t have the second type of faith.
The second type of faith is the saving kind. It isn’t something we can come to without God. It must be granted to the person by God. You can want to believe, but without God granting it, you could never have it. Have you ever been talking with someone, sharing the gospel with them, and had them say, “Wow! That really sounds like a great gift, I just can’t believe in a God that would_______.” They can understand the gospel intellectually, they might even like it as a philosophy, but they just can’t believe it.
The second type of faith, when God grants it to a person, allows them to believe in Him rightly. It allows them to believe in the work of Jesus on the cross. Without it the cross is just another mythology. The true believer has the faith to do things that doesn’t make sense to the world. We have the faith to put into practice the doctrines of the Bible. God fulfills His promises and makes effectual that which He has willed. The believer will produce fruit in keeping with the spirit of salvation. The believer will persevere until the end. The believer will operate with the presupposition that the Bible is true. The believer will love Jesus. The believer will love others. You get the idea. They don’t do the things they do because they want to believe, they do them because they actually believe. This is a gift from God. It is coupled with true repentance when a person is justified by Christ.

The theology of prayer, and an omnipotent, sovereign God.

We tend to think of prayer as having an effect on God and His decision making process. It is sort of like petitioning a parent for something desired. If God is sovereign and omniscient, how can we change His mind on anything? He already knows what we are going to pray about before the situation even occurred, before we realized we were going to pray, before we were born, before the Earth was made He knew what we would be praying for and had already determined whether or not He would answer the prayer with a yes, no, or wait. Since this is true, we might ask, “Why should I even pray?” Simply put, we should pray because we are told to be in prayer without ceasing. So the short answer is that we do it to be obedient to God.

congregational-prayer

We are going to look at some deeper reasons to pray. Just like a child who understands to obey out of knowledge of punishment matures into obedience out of love and respect so too should mature Christians obey. We move on to deeper understandings. I think that prayer is a blessing, grace, and it is sanctifying. We are blessed because of the work of Christ He made it possible for us to pray directly to God with Him as our intercessor instead of a human priest in a temple. Christ hears us because the Holy Spirit has made our prayers acceptable to God. It is a grace, because in prayer we sense the relationship with God and feel closer to Him. It is something He has given us to involve us in the carrying out of His will. It is sanctifying because as we are conformed to His word and will we pray for the things that our new natures desire. This also ties into the grace of prayer. Through prayer we express the desires of the new person. We show and see our new love. We can start to understand how God is using us in His sovereignty to accomplish His will when we pray. It is a sweet moment to come to God in prayer for any reason when we know we are being obedient to Him in our prayers. Our obedience is worship.

We are free to think our thoughts, feel our feelings, and do our deeds, but only in the will of the Creator in as much as He has ordained. We could go our entire lives without ever being enlightened to this reality. Many people do go on feeling, thinking, and doing without ever knowing the reasons behind it. Their lives remain a mystery to them. It is like a big uncertain, unfolding story where they are the unqualified masters of their own destinies. We could go on believing we are the masters of our own destinies. Matter of fact, Hollywood loves to promote this ideology. (A very good reason to be suspicious) A cast die does not land, a bird doesn’t fall dead from the sky, and man doesn’t direct his steps, God has determined all things. This doesn’t diminish our experiences or dull our feelings. If anything it should give us great peace as we go on about our days. “…And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose…” The two ideas do not conflict. They are not mutually exclusive. Just because we might not understand exactly how this works doesn’t mean that it doesn’t. So I encourage you to go on praying out of obedience and love towards God. After all it is for our good to do what He has willed.