How to Pray
Chapter 1: Why Pray?
Prayer is meant to give you a personal, direct line of communication to the Creator of the universe. You can make requests of the Almighty God and have Him direct some of His unlimited power to fulfill them, be they for peace, prosperity, protection, wisdom, healing or myriad other blessings for you, your family, friends, enemies, nation or the world.
Many people, however, find that their experience fails to live up to that promise, certainly with consistency. Many wish they received more answers to their prayers. Many people who believe in the power of prayer still want to be more effective at praying.
Are your prayers being answered? If not, why not?
Often we hear public expressions of and calls for prayer, particularly after crises hit, from heads of state, leaders in politics, business and religion, relatives and others: “Our thoughts and prayers are with them.” “Our prayers go out to the victims of this tragedy.” People hold prayer vigils. Many individuals seek to commune with God when terror strikes our nations or illness afflicts a loved one.
Do these prayers make any difference? Is God listening? A growing number of people today believe the answer is no. In a secular world, more people even mock the idea of prayer.
This question needs to be answered. If these prayers are not being heard, why even pray? Yet if they are being heard, then why do we still see so much suffering, trouble and strife around us? Look at the state of the world: Billions of people languish in poverty and illiteracy, climatic disasters are breaking records, wars rage on most continents, and the doomsday clock ticks close to midnight. Why? Is it because God cannot hear us? Or does He hear—and refuse to answer? Or is there another explanation?
What Is Prayer?
The Bible has much to say about prayer. The book you are reading is written according to the foundational belief that what the Bible says is true—that it can be trusted and ought to be followed.
Scripture gives a great deal of instruction on how to pray. It explains to whom we should pray, our attitude when praying, what we should pray about, and many other details. It gives many spectacular examples of answered prayer and many promises from God to answer prayer.
If you apply yourself and implement what this book teaches, you will gain access to Almighty God! He will listen to you. This privilege is worth more than all the gold on Earth!
Prayer is not mental magic or mumbo jumbo. It is not a psychological pep talk that makes you feel better.
The Hebrew word for prayer used most often in the Old Testament means intercession, or supplication. The literal meaning is to prostrate oneself, or bow down. In the New Testament, the Greek terms translated prayer means to supplicate, worship or make prayer.
Supplication is an earnest request or humble entreaty. To supplicate means to ask for earnestly and humbly. To entreat means to make a request in an earnest or urgent manner. Prayer can also refer to intercession or a plea. These definitions are all contained in the one word prayer.
Prayer, then, is intercession or earnest, intense supplication with God.
Prayer is our part of a two-way conversation with God. God talks to us through His written Word, the Holy Bible, and we can talk to Him through prayer. This allows us to get to know God as He comes to know us.
When you study the Bible, God is talking to you. When you pray, you are talking to Him. You get to really know God in this manner, just as you become better acquainted with people by conversation.
—Herbert W. Armstrong, The Incredible Human Potential
Real prayer is communication with Almighty God through our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is us talking to our heavenly Father in an attitude of humility, contrition, awe, reverence and deep respect. It is backed by the power and authority of Jesus Christ.
During Jesus’s ministry on Earth, His disciples asked Him, “Teach us to pray.” How did Christ respond? “And he said unto them, When ye pray, say …” (Luke 11:2; also Matthew 6:5). He didn’t say, “If you pray.” God expects to hear from us. Matthew 6:11 makes it plain that we should pray daily and ask God to supply our needs.
Notice Luke 18:1: “And he [Jesus Christ] spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” And in Luke 21:36, Christ said, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always.”
The God who sits at the controls of the universe is a living, active God. The Bible reveals that He controls all power, energies and forces. The fourth chapter of Revelation gives a spectacular description of Him in His heavenly throne room. He sits on a magnificent throne overlooking a dazzling glassy sea that gleams like crystal. Surrounding Him on lesser thrones are 24 impressive spirit beings wearing crowns of gold who serve within God’s government. Around His throne are four more spirit beings of even greater office, power and brilliance. And at His right hand is the living Jesus Christ. Out from God’s throne proceed flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder—and angelic messengers going to and from Earth.
Do you know this God? Do you pray to this God? You should!
God is more real than you or I—or any of the things about us.
Why, then, does He seem so far away, until it seems He has faded in the distance? Why does He seem mysterious and unreal? Why do the objects with which you come in daily contact, your friends, your pleasures, seem more real—when actually they are less so?
You may say, “Because I can see, feel and hear these things or people.”
But that is not really the reason at all.
You don’t see the air you breathe, but it seems very real to you. You cannot see or hear or feel the power of gravity, yet it seems very real to you ….
Perhaps you say, well, these things are real to me because they are close to me. But that is not the reason. God is as close as any of these—He, too, is real, and He is close! Yet He seems unreal and far away!
Now let me tell you the real reason. … God seems unreal and far away only to those who have not established and are not actively maintaining close personal contact! It is not a matter of distance or visibility—it is a matter of contact.
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Plain Truth, May 1963
As great and powerful as the true God is, He delights in the person who seeks to know Him and talk to Him in prayer (Proverbs 15:8).
Opening the Way to the Father
In Old Testament times, there was generally only one known member of the Godhead. This very being later divested Himself of His spirit nature, descended to Earth, and was born as a human being (Philippians 2:7-8).
When the disciples asked Him one day, “Lord, teach us to pray,” Christ began His instruction, “When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven …” (Luke 11:1-2). Christ was revealing God the Father. Even more, He encouraged His disciples to have a personal relationship with the Father! The Son wanted them to develop a daily, personal, intimate, family relationship with the Most High God.
This Father-son relationship between God and converted Christians was officially opened at Christ’s death. As Jesus cried out for the last time and breathed His last breath, the veil of the temple miraculously tore in two, from top to bottom, exposing the holy of holies and eliminating the division between the golden altar and the ark (Matthew 27:50-51). This symbolized the reality that we now have direct access to God’s throne room in our prayers!
The blood of Christ’s sacrifice paid the penalty for the sins of mankind. From that point, all who repented and called upon that sacrifice could be reconciled to God the Father (Ephesians 2:18).
Christ gave mankind access to the highest authority in the universe! How? The answer reveals much about our present relationship with Christ.
Our High Priest
Christ taught us to pray to the Father. The time we spend in prayer each day, we direct to God the Father—albeit “in Christ’s name.”
Though Christ directed our prayers to the Father, He also revealed that He would serve an intermediary role in those prayers. Just before He died, He gave His disciples this instruction: “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” (John 16:23; see also 1 Timothy 2:5).
The reason for this is that we are sinful human beings, and the Father will not abide sin. Thus, He placed Jesus Christ in the sacred role of High Priest for us (Hebrews 5:5). Jesus Christ must come into the Father’s presence on our behalf. 1 John 2:1 calls Him our Advocate.
The fact that Christ lived as a man makes Him much more effective as our High Priest. “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour [help, aid] them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18; read also Romans 8:34). Christ knows how hard it can be for us: He experienced our very temptations. He can express those thoughts to the Father.
Christ lives to fulfill this intercessory role for us! (Hebrews 7:24-25). Fulfilling this priestly job is a major, daily responsibility (Hebrews 9:24).
Not All Prayers Are the Same
The Apostle John made this thrilling statement: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
Jesus Christ said, “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:22).
These are bold, plain, absolute promises! Set your mind on them and ask yourself how sincerely and deeply you believe them.
Importantly, though, the Bible also explains that not all prayers are the same. It explains why some prayers are ineffective, and some never even reach God’s ear. It spells out several conditions that must be met for God’s promises of answers to apply. Chapter 2 of this book will show you, from your own Bible, seven of those conditions.
This explains why many prayers go unanswered.
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16). Do your prayers accomplish much?
We live in a material world and are all affected by the age of materialism. Our world has lost the knowledge of God and the power of prayer. As a result, this world is extremely limited in spiritual power, even among many who call themselves Christians.
Society discourages us from relying on God. Is it any wonder Jesus Christ would ask: “[W]hen the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).
Too often, prayer is seen as a religious duty or ritualistic exercise. People either pray solely because they feel it is expected of them, or because they are troubled and seek relief. Either way, the focus is selfish. Such people are left without answers to their prayers (James 4:3).
Through the Prophet Isaiah, God says that He is so displeased with some people that “when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear” (Isaiah 1:15).
The Bible is clear that any petition we make of God must be made with full assurance that we are asking according to God’s will and that He will respond. The Apostle James makes this plain: “But let him [the man petitioning God in prayer] ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:6-7).
Think about these scriptures. God certainly has the power to fulfill any prayer request He chooses. But in deciding whether to do so, He takes note of the motivation, the attitude and the level of faith of the one praying, among other factors.
In order to be assured your prayers will be answered, you need to understand just what the purpose of prayer is, and why God commands it. Why is it so important to God that we pray? This is a question worth pondering.
Seriously consider this: Jesus Christ said that “your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:8). Yes, God knows your needs whether or not you pray.
Why, then, would God actually wait to fulfill those needs until you come to Him in prayer?
Imagine an individual lying in his sickbed, suffering intense pain. Imagine God the Father watching from His throne room, ready to heal—and with dozens of angels poised to provide spiritual comfort the moment they receive word (e.g., Luke 22:43)—but God says, Wait. I want him to ask first.
Why would God do that?
The main answer is, He is a Father, trying to build a relationship with His son or daughter. He wants that two-way communication flowing!
Prayer is the foundation upon which your relationship with God is built.
The Bible often speaks about prayer using the terminology of a child speaking to his or her father. Jesus said this: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:7-11). What a wonderful picture!
We should develop a childlike desire to draw close to our heavenly Father in prayer.
Children often want to connect with their parents first thing in the morning. As soon as they awake, they might walk down the hallway to Dad and Mom’s bedroom and climb into bed with them. They yearn for that connection.
We need to cultivate that impulse with our spiritual Father. God intends that our prayers reestablish that connection and build the father-child relationship. The extent to which you yearn for that time with Him is a good measure of whether your prayers are really accomplishing God’s purpose. God wants to hear from you. He is always there, waiting for your “footsteps in the hallway.”
Think of Christ’s statement in Song of Songs 2:14: “O my dove … let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice ….” As Gerald Flurry’s booklet The Song of Songs brings out, this is Christ crying out to His lukewarm saints in this end time, longing to hear them. Yet in a sense, God says this to all of us, every day: Let me hear your sweet voice! He wants to communicate with you and hear from you.
God wants us to seek Him and make our requests known. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). God wants us to tell Him, as we would a parent or close friend, how we feel and what we think. 1 Peter 5:7 states, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” We do this through heartfelt prayer—personal, private, sincere communication with our Creator.
Put God First
It is critical that we do not allow other concerns to push aside our communication with God. The First Commandment requires that we put God first above all else. In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ reiterated this truth, promising also that if we do this, then He will supply all our physical needs in this life (Matthew 6:33). Yet in this fast-paced society with so many demands on our time, finding adequate time for God can be difficult. We all have limited time and must prioritize our time with God.
We must fight to do spiritual battle every day. We have to fight to remain faithful to the great God. We have to fight to get our prayer in. We have to fight thinking that we are “too busy” to pray. If you get “too busy” to pray to God and don’t fight to put Him first in your time, then you are in the carnal zone. Never allow that to happen.
—Gerald Flurry, The Former Prophets
How can you consistently make time for God each day? You decide to. Each day you must determine to put first things first. Make a commitment to put God first in your daily allocation of 24 hours.
Set aside a regular time to pray. Don’t give God the leftovers of your day! Give God the best part of your day! In most cases, the best part is first thing in the morning, when you are refreshed after a good night’s sleep and before the distractions of the day begin. After you rise each morning and are fully awake (a few stretching exercises and a shower may help), put prayer and Bible study first. Schedule it that way and strive to maintain it; learn to adjust if interruptions occur. You will be amazed at how much better your day will go if you make time for prayer and study first thing in the morning.
No matter how busy Christ was, He always went out early in the morning, by Himself, to connect with His Father (Mark 1:35)—not out of duty, but from sincere desire! This is a very childlike attitude. We do not naturally have this desire, so we have to ask God for it, and we have to nurture it.
Adjust your schedule to fit your needs. Organize your time so you can spend quality time with God every day.
The Need for Prayer
You need to recognize just how desperate is your need for that regular, intimate contact with your heavenly Father.
Talk to God every day—especially when you are struggling. You were created to need Him! Like some of your electronic devices that won’t work unless you charge the battery, you won’t work properly unless you are recharged by contact with the great God every day. You need God more than you need oxygen!
Jesus understood this need. Hebrews 5:7 says this about His prayer life: “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.” It was critical that Christ live His entire physical life perfectly free from sin so He could offer Himself as an unblemished sacrificial lamb for our sins. He knew He could not accomplish this majestic spiritual feat on His own (John 5:30)—it was only possible with constant help from His Father. Only the Father could save Him from sin and its wages, death (Romans 6:23). Thus, He continually stayed in close contact with His Father. He prayed regularly and fervently.
You need the same understanding of just how much you need daily help from God.
In our modern, materially oriented, mechanical society, it is easy for people to look to God only as a last resort, when they are really desperate—and to forget that God is the source of every good gift (James 1:17). He is the source of wisdom, understanding and knowledge (Proverbs 2:6; James 1:5). He is the source of peace (John 14:27) and of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). God—not men—is the source of promotion and advancement (Psalm 75:6-7). He is our protector (Psalm 91). He forgives us and heals us (Psalm 103:3). And when our ways please Him, He grants us favor even with those who hate us (Proverbs 16:7).
Once God calls and begins to work with us, we can receive nothing apart from Him! (John 3:27). Realizing this, we should be diligent to seek Him in prayer regularly. Without His direction, guidance, favor, power and help, we can accomplish nothing worthwhile (John 15:5). What we do ultimately accomplish, and the spiritual progress we make or fail to make, is in direct proportion to our realization of this fact (Psalm 127:1).
Beyond that—and more urgently—you must realize that none is righteous of himself (Romans 3:10-12). Your human mind, without God’s Spirit, is opposed to God and unable to keep His law (Romans 8:7-8). Your heart (which the Bible uses to represent the basic motives and intentions of the mind) is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).
You are subject to the broadcasting of “the god of this world,” “the prince of the power of the air,” Satan the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2). He is responsible for inspiring human nature and all the evil in the world. He has indeed deceived the whole world! (Revelation 12:9). He broadcasts evil moods, attitudes and impulses to human minds (though he has no power to force anyone to think or do wrong). The unsuspecting automatically respond to and obey Satan’s impulses without realizing what is taking place in their minds. Humans have thus acquired Satan’s nature, which we call “human nature.”
Even Christians who are aware of Satan’s influence still stumble and commit sin because of weakness or temptation (e.g., 1 John 1:8; Romans 7:15-24).
The only possible way to overcome the power of Satan and the pulls of the flesh is to rely on God! (verse 25). You need the power of God, which He supplies to true Christians with His Holy Spirit. The Spirit enables Christ to live in us (Galatians 2:20) and gives us the strength to overcome. We can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).
Without that Spirit, you are not a son of God and will die in your sins! (Romans 8:13-14).
We cannot attain eternal life without the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives! However, we must ask the Father, in prayer, for that spiritual power and help (Luke 11:13). And it must be replenished daily (2 Corinthians 4:16). That requires prayer! (e.g., Philippians 1:19).
Daily prayer is essential for salvation! Without God’s help, none of us can overcome the sinful pulls of our human nature. And only if we overcome sin and allow God to build His holy, righteous character through the power of the Holy Spirit, can we be born as sons of God (Revelation 21:7). Without active and effective prayer, therefore, we can never be born into God’s Family.
This is why God commands us to pray! Prayer is not an optional religious exercise. It is a core need that affects your eternal destiny!
In Luke 11, the disciples asked Christ to teach them to pray—they didn’t know how. We too must first seek wisdom from Christ on how to pray. Through the Holy Spirit, He will help us. He Himself was a man of prayer.
Learning how to pray correctly is a crucial part of the process of becoming God. It is reshaping your thoughts, passions and desires to match God’s!
God is love. His law is love. Christ listed as the two great commandments: 1) love toward God (this includes God’s Family); and 2) love toward neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). As explained throughout this book and as you will learn by building a robust prayer life of your own, we practice and grow in that love through Christ-led prayer. Love for God and His Family grows, as well as love for our neighbor, or the world.
Prayer is love. You will see in Chapter 6 how Jesus Christ prayed perfect prayers as an expression of His perfect love.
The more you meditate about this, the more you realize just how crucial—how central to the life of a Christian—our prayer life is. Prayer is a major part of fulfilling our calling in God’s Work today. This shows you why improving the way we talk to God in prayer should be our top priority in life!
If you have not begun to do so, start now to establish direct contact with your Creator. God hears and delights in the prayers of those who seek to please Him and do His will (Psalm 34:17; Proverbs 15:8; 1 Peter 3:12). Pray to God every day. You will begin to experience blessings beyond measure!
It All Started at a Rock
God built up the Philadelphia era of His Church through the prayers of Herbert W. Armstrong. Consider how effective Mr. Armstrong’s prayer life was. If you really want to succeed in life, then follow his example in this area.
The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong mentions prayer about 240 times—an average of once every three to four pages! That book gives many examples and lessons on how to pray. Mr. Armstrong knew how to get an answer every time he prayed. What power! His formula for prayer was tremendously successful. You can have this kind of success, too, if you follow that formula.
The Prayer Rock
In 1933, Mr. Armstrong held meetings in a small schoolhouse in Oregon with another man named Sven Oberg. After three months of holding these meetings with no results, Mr. Oberg left on another assignment. At that point, Mr. Armstrong immediately began making headway. On page 412 of the Autobiography, he described the small beginning of what would become the Worldwide Church of God:
This was the small—actually infinitesimal—start of what was destined to grow to a major worldwide gospel Work reaching multiple millions of people every week.
But if small, it started with a burst of energy and inspiration. First, it started with intensive and earnest private prayer. To the rear of the Fisher farm home was a fair-sized hill. Running over this hilltop for exercise I discovered a rock about 14 inches high. It was in a secluded spot. It came to mind how Jesus had dismissed the multitudes, and gone up into a mountain “apart” to pray—alone with God. I dropped to my knees before this rock, which seemed just the right height to kneel before, and began praying earnestly for the success of the meetings. It became sort of a daily pilgrimage, during my stay at the Fishers’, to this, which became my “prayer rock.” I’m sure that I drank in much energy, spiritual strength and inspiration at that prayer rock.
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Autobiography
That rock represents the mind-boggling success that comes from a fervent prayer life!
The Philadelphia Church of God acquired that rock in 2002, and in January 2017, Pastor General Gerald Flurry delivered exciting revelation from God about just how important it really is! You can read about this in our free book The New Throne of David.
This passage from the Autobiography reveals an important part of a successful prayer formula: This was “intensive and earnest” prayer. It wasn’t routine, drowsy, mumbly, apathetic prayer. Mr. Armstrong put his heart into it! He was sincerely determined to get through to God!
God will answer your prayers, but you must be earnest. You must pray with a sincere desire to talk to Him.
Put God First
In 1930, before those “prayer-rock prayers” that changed world history, Mr. Armstrong faced the most serious situation of his life to that point. God used this to begin teaching him how to pray through his trials and tests.
Just three years into Mr. Armstrong’s conversion, his wife was pregnant with their fourth child, and she was anemic. Her doctor pleaded with her to go to the hospital, but the Armstrongs couldn’t afford another hospital bill, having not yet paid the balance due for their last child. In the kitchen, the cupboards and pantry were practically empty and there was no wood left to fuel the woodstove.
Mr. Armstrong prayed for her healing—again and again! But she was not healed.
“What was wrong?” he wrote. “I had learned that God does heal. We had experienced almost incredible miracles. My wife had been healed before. But why not now?” It would have been easy to blame God during this hardship, but Mr. Armstrong didn’t. He knew the real cause of the problem had to do with his own weaknesses and sins; he just didn’t yet know what they were.
In desperation, he began a siege of fasting and prayer.
I didn’t know how one ought to fast and pray—I had never done it before. But when Jesus’s disciples were unable to cast out a demon, Jesus said such a result came only by fasting and prayer. So I began to fast.
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Autobiography
For two days of fasting, he repeated the cycle of one hour of prayer, followed by an hour of self-examination and then another hour of searching the Scriptures for answers, breaking only to sleep at night.
I read of Elijah’s prayer, in presence of all the priests of Baal, when God answered and the fire came down from heaven. I timed that prayer. It was very short—only about 20 seconds. But the awe-inspiring answer came crashing from heaven instantly! Elijah did not need to talk God into it by a long prayer or by repeated prayers. But I knew that Elijah at that moment was close to God—that he had previously been spending hours in long prayers to be in contact and close communion with his Maker! And he naturally knew his Maker would answer!
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Autobiography
As he got hungrier physically, Mr. Armstrong drew closer to God spiritually. And he came to understand a powerful lesson. He realized that after three years of conversion, the cares of this world had crowded God out of his life. The “first love” he had experienced in his conversion to God’s truth had worn off. He had become more excited about material things than his relationship with God. He hadn’t stopped praying and studying, but another project had become first in his mind and interest. God knew what was in Mr. Armstrong’s heart. “And God will not play second fiddle to anything!” he wrote.
I wonder, as I write, how many of my readers are more wrapped up, in their interest and in their hearts, in some material business, project or other interest than they are in God! Probably most of you who are reading this need what God had brought me to do.
I realized now that God had mercifully, in His wisdom and His love for me and my family, refused to answer my prayers to force me to fast and pray and come to see where I was unconsciously drifting.
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Autobiography
Ask yourself: Is God really answering my prayers? Think about your requests to God, and ask if He is fulfilling them. What if God isn’t answering your prayers in order to get your attention?
Mr. Armstrong took radical action to rectify the problem. He fasted and prayed. He examined himself. He sought God’s will.
God showed him what he needed to do. Mr. Armstrong learned that he was too far from God, and he fixed his attitude. He drew close to God. He knew that was what he needed to do to be able to claim God’s promises and to expect answers to his prayers like the example of Elijah.
And so, in a brief prayer not much longer than Elijah’s, but in deep earnestness and absolute faith, I now—for the first time during this fast—asked God to heal my wife and put iron in her blood and give her needed strength.
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Autobiography
In deep earnestness and faith, Mr. Armstrong also quickly prayed for several other needs: wood to fuel the furnace, food to eat, enough money to pay their hospital debt, and for God to provide a replacement for his worn-out overcoat. He then concluded by asking God to provide whatever else their family needed. All totaled, he estimated the prayer to be about 18 seconds long.
The moment the short prayer ended, God immediately started answering his requests.
As he went to meet his parents outside, Mr. Armstrong noticed that his dad had loaded the car with firewood. His mom had prepared a hearty meal for their family.
Then, the following morning, God healed Mrs. Armstrong and her iron-depleted blood returned to normal. That same day, a letter was delivered. It contained an unexpected settlement from Mrs. Armstrong’s mother’s will, in the exact amount needed to pay the overdue hospital bill. Later that morning, while working in downtown Portland, Mr. Armstrong ran into his younger brother Russell on the street. Russell insisted on buying Mr. Armstrong a new topcoat.
God used that trial to teach Mr. Armstrong how to come to Him. That is exactly what God wants from you. He is a Father who wants His children to seek His help and His counsel. He wants to see that we want to get to know Him. This is the lesson Mr. Armstrong had to learn.
God taught him so much through one example of prayer and fasting. Mr. Armstrong later called this “one of the outstanding experiences in my life.”
Lessons in Prayer
The Autobiography contains loads of stories about answered prayers and miracles. In nearly every story he tells, Mr. Armstrong relates the fact that he prayed about it. Read on pages 291-292 about how Mr. Armstrong prayed to find the true Church of God. Read on pages 295-296 about how he asked God to help him give his first public prayer. Read on pages 304-305 about his instant request for healing when he wounded his thumb with an ax. Read pages 307-308 about how God answered an urgent appeal for some income. Read pages 309-310, which show God answering another prayer by humbling Mr. Armstrong, and how he prayed with thanksgiving for the correction. Read pages 326-327 about God providing a dime within moments of Mr. Armstrong asking for it. Read the amazing story on pages 333-334 about how he resolved a major argument by dropping to his knees in a group of people. Read pages 335-336 about how he convinced a group of people to pray an hour a day to help God’s Work. Read on pages 399-401 about a huge lesson in waiting in faith for answers to prayer. Read pages 589-590 about a time he had to pray, not on his knees, but while literally running, illustrating the need to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Through these life lessons, Mr. Armstrong was teaching us how to pray. It is up to us to follow his example. We need that relationship with God. And we need to prepare to teach the world how to pray in the future!
Learn to pray like Mr. Armstrong did, and you will begin to enjoy the results he did! Expect that God will perform miracles for you. He will never fail you, just as He never failed Mr. Armstrong. Have the same prayer-rock attitude he had. Learn how to pray to God and get real results.
Chapter 2: Seven Keys to Answered Prayer
God has recorded hundreds of promises in His Word that, under certain conditions, He will cause things to happen for you if you will ask Him. He promises to deliver you from trouble, to supply your needs, to fight your personal battles, to heal you when you are sick, and even to prosper you financially!
You have unfathomable power at your disposal! God has millions of angels waiting to do as He commands and limitless resources at hand to fulfill your requests.
But there are conditions. Many times God does not answer our prayers because these conditions are not being met. This is why the prayers of most people go unanswered.
The Bible reveals seven basic conditions you should fulfill to be certain your prayers will be answered. As you study these, think about why our failure to use these keys may cause God to withhold His answer to our prayers. This provides invaluable clues about God’s purpose in having us pray each day.
What would it be worth to you if I could tell you exactly how you could always pray to God for every need, for help and deliverance from every trouble and always get the answer? If I could show you a way to always know you are going to actually get what you ask of God?
I can tell you that. I have found the way, myself. … [T]here is not one thing I have had to rely upon God for and ask Him for in prayer, for myself and family or this wonderful Work of His, which He has committed to me, that has not been answered. …
I have had to ask God to deliver us and His Work, from enemies. I have asked Him for understanding of His will and His Word. I have had to ask for wisdom where I had none, and for guidance. I have been at my wit’s end in desperate trouble and cried out to God for deliverance. God has answered every time. Never once has there been a failure to get the answer. …
Before you ask God for anything, you must first know whether it is His will. He tells us His will in the Bible. He has made us hundreds of definite promises and He absolutely guarantees He will keep them! Among them He has promised to supply every need—not desire or want, but every need. He has promised to give us wisdom, to deliver us from every affliction, trouble or temptation, to fight our enemies for us and deliver us from their power, to guide and direct us in making right and wise decisions. He has promised to heal us when we are sick.
Those are a few of the things we know it is God’s will to do for us—things for which we may ask and be sure we shall get the answer! But there are conditions!
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Good News, October 1964
1. Know God’s Will
Note again this unwavering promise: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
There it is in plain language: Receiving answers to our prayers requires that we ask according to God’s will. Clearly God would not fulfill even the most passionate, sincere petitions that were evil or that opposed His purposes.
Therefore, we must know God’s will, “understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). Then, understanding it, we are to strive to live by it, following the example of Christ, who said, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30).
How can we get to know His will? The foundation of that understanding comes by studying it as revealed in the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15). The better you know God’s will, the more you will begin to think as He thinks. You will recognize that He is love and that His will is for our good.
A marvelous example of such prayer is recorded in Exodus 32. After being freed from Egypt, the Israelites rebelled against God and stirred His wrath. God told Moses that He was ready to destroy them (verses 9-10). Moses immediately began interceding on their behalf, saying, “Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever” (verses 11-13).
Moses prayed by recalling God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Israel, which revealed God’s will to multiply and bless their descendants. Moses’s faith in those promises and assurance that God would keep them gave him boldness in talking to God. Yes, we are to approach God’s glorious throne with boldness! (Hebrews 4:16).
And how did God respond? “And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people” (Exodus 32:14).
Moses could pray boldly and courageously because he knew God’s will. To pray with real faith and confidence, you too must know God’s will. You must come to know how He thinks and acts. You must understand the purpose He is working out on Earth and the promises He has made in His Word.
God wants us to understand His will and align our thinking with it. And He wants us praying according to that will. Doing this will give us confidence that whatever we ask, we will have it!
2. Believe God
Here is a beautiful promise from Jesus Christ Himself: “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24).
It is essential to believe God before we can receive what we ask of Him. Disbelief that God will keep His promises or back up His Word is a lack of faith. God wants us to build faith and trust in Him.
“[W]ithout 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” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is essential to breaking through to God. Lack of real faith is a prime reason millions of prayers go unheard and unanswered.
Christ taught this vital truth. Of two blind men seeking healing, He asked, “Believe ye that I am able to do this?” When they replied yes, He said, “According to your faith be it unto you,” and then healed them (Matthew 9:27-30).
When you get on your knees, how sincerely do you believe God will answer you? As we saw in the last chapter, the Apostle James, the brother of Jesus, confirmed that faith is a prerequisite to receiving answers. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth [or doubts] is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:5-7).
Pray in faith! Realize as you pray that you have the undivided attention of this magnificently brilliant, all-powerful, divine Being. Do not waver, being tossed with the wind. God will not answer such requests. Unless you do sense and feel that you are getting through to God, your prayers won’t be effective.
We should be positive in prayer, confident that God is hearing us and will answer (Matthew 21:22). Believing prayer fulfills the purpose for prayer: It draws us closer to our heavenly Father as we demonstrate and grow in the childlike trust He wants to build in us.
You can’t perform miracles. But God can … and will …. I know that what you can do by sacrificing other things and sending in money is limited—but what can be done by your urgent prayers is unlimited. … We … need miracles …. Please go to your knees and ask for it. Ask believingly!
—Herbert W. Armstrong, member letter, May 16, 1977
How can you obtain such faith? Think on this statement in Romans 10:17 about where faith comes from: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” If you have not studied God’s Word for His promises, how could you believe those promises? How well could you even know the God who answers prayer?
Learning God’s promises through daily Bible study will make us stronger in faith. By studying and meditating on God’s Word, we learn intimately how God’s many promises in the Bible apply to us.
Faith is not an emotion you work up. It is not something you attain by agonizing struggle. It is God’s gift (Ephesians 2:8). Faith is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). When a person turns from sin and surrenders to God and His government through baptism, God will give that person the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which imparts faith (Acts 2:38).
If you desire more of God’s Holy Spirit—and more faith—then go before God in humble supplication on your knees and ask for it! (Galatians 2:16, 20; Luke 11:9).
A stunning example of answered prayer is recorded in 1 Kings 18:20-39, where the Prophet Elijah confronts the false prophets of Baal. Elijah was confident, knowing God would perform a miracle. And he got the results he prayed for! Like Moses, Elijah knew God’s will and gave it as a reason for God to intervene (verse 36)—never doubting He would. Of course, Elijah had done ample prayer and fasting in preparation for this dramatic conflict.
So here is the lesson you must learn—the lesson of faith—if you would get answers to your prayers. First, search the Bible to see whether God has promised to do what you ask but remember, God nowhere promises when or how He will do it!
That’s the thing to remember! Never forget it! God has not promised He will do it instantly, or when you expect or how you expect. All He has promised is to do it! He does things in His own time. And sometimes I have found God is not in so great a hurry as we. And God works in mysterious ways to perform His wonders—not in the ways nor at the time we expect.
It is sufficient for you that God has promised! Take it to Him, claim His promise, ask Him to do what He has promised and then leave it in His hands—rely on Him—trust Him, serene and unshaken in the definite assurance it is now in God’s hands, and He has promised and He will attend to it without fail.
He may perform what He has promised instantaneously. Or He may not. He may test your faith and permit Satan to tempt you with his physical, sensual evidence to see if you will doubt God’s Word.
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Good News, April 1980
3. Obey God
To get results from your prayers, you must not only know God’s will and believe Him, you must also be willing to act on His Word. Another key to answered prayer is obedience.
Possibly the most obvious reason so many prayers go unanswered is that man refuses to obey God. Sin is the breaking of God’s law (1 John 3:4). The Bible plainly states that God does not hear unrepentant sinners (e.g., Proverbs 15:29; 28:9; Isaiah 1:15; 59:1-2; Micah 3:4). Most of man’s prayers go unanswered—or aren’t even heard—because of sin! Hypocritical prayers are an abomination to God (Proverbs 28:9). He wants us to live by every word. Unless we do, even our prayers can become sin (Psalm 109:7).
Those who persistently refuse to keep God’s commandments should not expect Him to answer their prayers. “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (1 Peter 3:12). God hears the prayer of the righteous. What good would it do for God to answer if we were rebelling against Him?
If you have not yet accepted God’s Word as the authority in your life, then you cannot really get to know God through prayer. In fact, God labels the person who says he “knows God,” yet does not keep His commandments, a liar (1 John 2:4).
Sin cuts you off from God! The Prophet Isaiah wrote, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). This is a major reason so many prayers are not answered. God will not listen to a person who rebels and persistently disobeys His Word.
Of course, we are all sinners and as such cut off from God (Romans 5:12; 3:23). How then will God ever hear us?
In certain instances, God does sometimes hear and answer the prayers of those who, in ignorance of the full intent of His law, are not conscious of their sins but obey Him as far as they know. The lepers and cripples who came to Jesus to be healed did not know all of God’s truth, but they did realize that Jesus was sent from God and could heal; and they acted on what they knew.
But if we want our prayers consistently answered, we must first confront any sin that separates us from God and ask Him to grant us repentance (Romans 2:4). It is a matter of your heart or attitude. If you come to God in a humble, repentant spirit and are determined to obey Him to the best of your knowledge and ability, He will hear your prayers. God will never hear sinners who want to remain in their sin—but He is quick to respond to those who want to change, even while they are yet sinners.
Remember, God says of us—of this Church: “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” (2 Chronicles 7:14). We may think, because we keep His Sabbath, that we have no wicked ways or sins to turn from. But laxity or neglect of prayer can be sin. Getting our hearts and interests more in worldly ways and interests and pleasures can be sin.
—Herbert W. Armstrong, member letter, November 2, 1972
Look at the example of the Prophet Daniel. After deeply humbling himself in repentant prayer, an angel came to him, and said: “Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words” (Daniel 10:12).
If a person departs from sin and cries out to God from his heart, his prayer will be heard! God is extremely merciful and will hear us from the moment that we begin to want to communicate with Him.
God has such love for us that He wants all of us to turn from sin (2 Peter 3:9). We should never let our weakness in dealing with sin keep us from communicating with God. Instead, we should ask Him for greater desire to vanquish sin—for help to conquer and squash anything that keeps us from earnest communication with Him.
For your prayers to be heard, strive to serve God with a sincere, faithful and devoted heart. Obedience and a desire to obey in your thoughts, words and actions is key!
“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22). If we are pleasing God, He will set those spiritual forces in motion: Give that son of mine what he is asking for!
If your prayers have not been answered, it is your fault, not God’s. Fast … to learn where you have been wrong. Perhaps you asked for something you should not have asked. Perhaps you were too far apart from God and close to this world and material problems or pleasures. When you pray while fasting, examine yourself! Discern whether your attitude has been right. Seek to draw closer to God and to His will. Seek for faith (which He will give you). Then, when you have undergone this self-cleansing, and know you are in God’s will, believe His promises and expect your prayers to be answered.
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Good News, January 1980
4. Have Proper Fear and Humility
God says He dwells “in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit” (Isaiah 57:15). Do you want to dwell with God? This is the key!
Think on this when you bow yourself down in prayer, when you humble yourself before your Maker. Prayer is a wonderful tool to help us understand and think like God.
The word “contrite,” according to Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, means: “1) to break in pieces, to crush, 2) to be crushed, humbled, broken in spirit, 3) broken very small.” God says this is what must happen to man—if we are to dwell with Him in His “high and holy place.” Today, man is filled with pride, vanity and rebellion toward God. That rebellious spirit must be crushed and broken before we can dwell with God! … It’s not easy to have that self-willed spirit crushed. In fact, it’s the hardest thing we have ever had to do! But it can be done, with joy, through the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
—Gerald Flurry, Isaiah’s End-Time Vision
The first prerequisite to be able to understand God and His ways is godly fear. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments …” (Psalm 111:10). This fear is not dread or terror; rather, it springs from love. To “fear” God means to revere Him, His law, His government and His will for us. It means we are afraid to disobey Him. When we approach our Creator with deep respect for His power and authority over our lives, He will hear our prayers.
God says, “[T]o this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). The word poor refers not to poverty, but humility. God regards those who are truly humble—void of pride, arrogance and self-righteousness. He esteems those of a contrite spirit, deeply affected by and repentant of disobeying His instructions and commandments; and those who tremble at, or carefully observe, His words. When we fear God and respect His authority, He responds to our petitions.
On the other hand, God resists the proud (James 4:6). Too many have a self-sufficient attitude and think they can get along fine without God. They neither fear God nor respect His Word as the authority in their lives. If people with that mindset pray, why would God respond? He will not walk with the proud and high-minded. He will not hear the prayers of the proud or the self-righteous (Luke 18:9-14).
Prayer, more than anything else, is an act of submission to God the Father and His will. God knows what we need, but He wants to make sure that He has first priority in our lives.
One reason we sometimes struggle with prayer is because we simply will not submit to God and continually put Him first in our lives.
The attitude of godly fear and humility is vital in prayer and at all other times.
An aspect of humility is to approach God with an attitude of thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4). As you come before God in prayer, be fully conscious and aware of the power, majesty and holiness of the eternal Creator God to whom you are praying. Don’t approach Him sleepily, carelessly or casually and fail to have a deeply respectful, humble attitude. Realize that you are coming before the very throne of the Ruler of the universe!
God commands throughout His Word that we be thankful for what we are given. Philippians 4:6 makes the point that even when making requests of God in prayer, we should do so with a grateful attitude: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Our prayers should be filled with thanksgiving.
In our materialistic society, many people try to get more based on ungratefulness—never being satisfied with what they have. If our prayers have that spirit—if we ask for things out of lust—they will yield no results (James 4:3). But grateful prayers can produce amazing results!
When King Jehoshaphat heard reports that the Ammonite and Moabite armies would attack Judah, he proclaimed a fast among the people. His effectual prayer is recorded in 2 Chronicles 20. First he began to praise God’s greatness (verses 6-9). Then he brought up the problem of converging enemies. You can read how dramatically God answered Jehoshaphat’s prayer in verse 22, when God Himself caused the enemy armies to destroy each other!
Don’t neglect to sincerely and wholeheartedly thank God for the many blessings you have received. Use this powerful tool in your prayers: Preface your requests with profuse thanksgiving—gratefulness directly associated with what you are asking for. This is an important way to be positive as you pray, focusing your attention on positive aspects of your calling and your life. Teach this lesson to your children—to be thankful to you as a parent, and ultimately to the great, generous God.
5. Be Fervent
It is common today among many to recite brief, memorized prayers, word for word. Routine, rote prayers do not move God because they are not from the heart.
Imagine you receive an invitation for a private audience with the Queen of England. Would you go with a ho-hum attitude, droopy-eyed and drowsy, mumbling some words before falling asleep? How much more disrespectful is it to come before our heavenly Father in such a manner—entering His glorious and awe-inspiring throne room to mumble a few words when we are half asleep?
God desires our fervent prayers. Fervency is an essential element to powerful prayer.
Do you realize that the right kind of prayer energizes you? If you are out of energy, ask God for it, and He will energize you!
—Gerald Flurry, The Epistle of James
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). In this verse, “effectual fervent” comes from a single Greek word: energeo! This prayer gets results because of the energy, effort and labor poured into it.
Fervency means more than persistence. It includes feeling and expression, extreme vigor and ardor, being in a state of intense mental or physical strain, emotion or activity. When you pray, really pour out your heart before the throne of grace! Be filled with zeal, motivated with spiritual energy and alertness.
Energetic, heartfelt prayers are well-pleasing to God. When you wholeheartedly call on God, you can expect real answers to your prayers. Why? Because God is wholehearted, and that type of prayer is helping you to become more like Him!
The Amplified Bible renders James 5:16: “The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available—dynamic in its working.” The Living Bible describes it: “The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.” God will answer!
God inspired Joel to instruct us how to escape and find protection. Does He say we should go through some routine motions, repeat by rote some prayer already written for us, which we recite without feeling or emotion? No, never! Here is what He says: “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness …. Yea, the Lord will answer …” (Joel 2:12-19).
God says we should turn to Him in dead earnest—fasting, rending our hearts—in deepest real feeling. This is no thoughtless giving way to uncontrolled emotion. This is full mental realization of purpose—of need—and, with deepest intense feeling, seeking God with all our strength and might.
In correcting Israel for their manner of indifferent prayers, God says of Israel: “They never put their heart into their prayers” (Hosea 7:14; Moffatt translation).
Look at some of the sample prayers quoted for us as examples in the Bible. Notice David’s prayer of repentance, when he came to himself after his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. It is in the 51st Psalm. Notice how David, in dead earnest, put his whole heart into this prayer—with deep feeling of remorse and repentance. … Notice Daniel’s prayers. He was in intense, dead earnest. His was no light, casual, routine prayer. He put his whole heart into it. … (Daniel 9:3-19).
Can you imagine these men of God praying in this manner dry eyed? I can’t. Surely tears were streaming down their faces. These were intense prayers—prayers of surrendered, yielded men to the great God!
God has graciously granted, by astonishing miracles, many answers to my prayers. But never have I received an answer from God except when I prayed earnestly from the heart. I have never known of a real answer coming from God of a casual, routine prayer. Yet do not most people pray casually, perhaps as a matter of duty, and without feeling or emotion? Perhaps this makes plain the reason most people have never received an answer to their prayers.
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Plain Truth, August 1978
The Bible records excellent examples of fervent prayer. Hezekiah “prayed and cried”—figuratively crying out, and at times literally crying (2 Chronicles 32:20). “[Y]e people, pour out your heart before him,” says Psalm 62:8.
Follow Christ’s example, who prayed “with strong crying and tears” to His Father, upon whom He depended for His very life! (Hebrews 5:7). When Jesus prayed to the Father, He meant it. He was deeply moved on many occasions when He communed with God. His prayers had deep meaning. He felt them.
Before His crucifixion, Jesus was in agony when He prayed (Luke 22:44). He wrestled in prayer—determined to know He was both heard of and empowered by His Father. Pondering the tremendous responsibility that was placed on His shoulders, He threw His whole being into this prayer. What a powerful miracle that most fervent of prayers accomplished! Thanks in part to the fervency of Christ, mankind can now enter the God Family!
6. Be Persistent
Some people, if God does not answer right away, begin to lose faith and give up praying. They forget that although God promises to answer when we ask according to His will, He does not promise to answer right away. God does not tell us exactly how or precisely when the answer will come.
This is why Jesus gave the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8: “to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” The New International Version correctly renders the final phrase as “not give up”! In this parable, an unrighteous judge finally heard the pleas of a widow who kept coming to him. God is far more attentive and responsive than this judge. The parable concludes: “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” (verses 7-8). We should keep praying to God, even though He sometimes doesn’t answer right away.
That raises the question, though: Why would God make us wait for an answer to our prayer? James gives us this answer: “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:3-4; see also Hebrews 10:36). God wants us to learn to persevere in prayer and to wait on Him. By praying faithfully and steadfastly about problems or needs until God definitely answers one way or another, we build perseverance and faith (1 Corinthians 15:58).
If you don’t receive an answer right away, do not give up. Don’t lose faith. Be persistent in prayer until God answers. If He doesn’t answer your prayers immediately, exercise patience and keep praying until He does answer.
However, don’t nag God. He has supreme wisdom to know when and how to best answer your prayers. Occasionally remind God about your problems or afflictions; don’t cease praying about them. God always keeps His promises—He cannot lie (Titus 1:2), so He is bound to perform His part in His own time. But sometimes He does make us wait in order to build our patience and to test our faith. Persistence shows and builds your trust in God.
7. Use Christ’s Name
The last condition of answered prayer is the correct use of Christ’s name.
Remember, Christ instructed us to pray to God the Father in His name (John 16:23). The Father placed Jesus Christ in the role of our High Priest (Hebrews 5:5). With Christ thus interceding for us, the Father accepts our sincere offerings in the name of His holy Son. The Father accepts us by His merits. As the Apostle Peter wrote, our spiritual sacrifices are “acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
These verses give us the privilege of employing Christ’s name—asking by His authority—when we pray to the Father. God wants us to understand that there is a government structure in this Family: Father, Son, Husband, wife. This is reinforced every time we pray: Our prayers go through our spiritual Husband, Christ.
Most people misunderstand how we can ask “in Jesus’s name.” When a government sends an ambassador—its chosen representative—to another country, he is given authority to carry out certain business in the name of, or on behalf of, that government. His authority is limited to do only what the government has specifically authorized him to do. Likewise, God’s children can rightfully ask the Father for things “in Jesus’s name” when they know it is His will—that His authority stands behind it. Just rattling off the words “in Jesus’s name” to a prayer that is contrary to His will is of no avail. We must study the Bible to know more about the principles of Christ’s will, so we may ask by His authority.
Realize too that Christ’s labors are not complete once He intercedes. He then answers those prayers! Yes, Christ did say that the Father answers, but He also said He does so Himself: “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). There is no contradiction between these verses: Christ is the channel through whom the Father works. Christ performs the will of the Father in answering our prayers. God answers them through Christ.
Keys to Receiving Answers!
Think about these keys in terms of your Father trying to use your prayers to build His relationship with you and prepare you for life in His eternal Family. As you pray each day, He is making fine-tuned decisions about how much power to deploy in fulfilling your requests—based on whether your prayers are really fulfilling that purpose. Before He answers you, do you need to learn to trust Him more? Is He looking for more passion, emotion, fervor—for you to put more heart into your communication with Him?
Though God uses this as a tool to develop various aspects of your character, He does not force you to do anything. You must choose to rely on Him—to learn His will, obey Him, walk by faith, humble yourself, recognize your weaknesses, and depend on Him. As you do, your prayers will accomplish miraculous changes in your life.
Realize: There is not a preset, established level of faith or obedience or fervor required to receive answers. In fact, God always wants more of all these things from you! What He expects of you before He answers today may be more than He required of you last year, last month, last week. This is because the true standard is perfection. Whatever level you are at in these areas is a step toward perfection, which is ultimately where God wants you.
What a marvelous tool your prayers are for God to draw you closer to Him and to prepare you for life in His eternal Family! So pray to God every day—continually, regularly, fervently—and expect God to answer!
Examples of Answered Prayer
Miraculously received a son in his old age (Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3)
Found a bride for Isaac (Genesis 24:12-27)
Found favor with his estranged brother, Esau (Genesis 32:9-12; 33:1-4)
Received blessings after repentance (Job 42:1-10)
Saved Israel from destruction (Exodus 32:9-14; Numbers 11:1-3; 14:13-20; 21:5-9)
Asked for the sun to stand still (Joshua 10:12-14)
Received signs of God’s commission (Judges 6:13-21, 36-40)
Gained superhuman strength for one last victory (Judges 16:28-30)
Conceived a son (1 Samuel 1:10-11, 19-20)
Supernatural deliverance from Philistine army (1 Samuel 7:5-10)
Divine victories in battle (e.g., 1 Samuel 23:4-5; 30:8-10, 16-18; 2 Samuel 5:19-21)
Received great wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-12)
Was granted protection from the Ethiopians (2 Chronicles 14:11-12)
Gained victory over Moab and Ammon (2 Chronicles 20:1-25)
Widow’s son restored to life (1 Kings 17:20-22); sacrifice at Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:36-39)
Escaped from the belly of a great fish (Jonah 2)
Sennacherib’s army destroyed (2 Kings 19:14-20, 32–37); received 15 more years of life; sun retreated 10 degrees in the sky (2 Kings 20:1-11)
Was spiritually cleansed (Isaiah 6:5-7)
Nation was spared by prayer and fasting (Esther 4 and 5)
Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah
Delivered from a fiery furnace (Daniel 2:17-18; 3)
Spared from ferocious lions (Daniel 6)
Healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead (e.g., John 11:1-4, 11-14, 41-44)
Received God’s guidance in ordination (Acts 1:23-26); boldness and miraculous power (Acts 4:24-33)
Raised Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:40-41)
Received God’s direction; conversion of the Gentiles (Acts 10:30-35)
Paul and Silas
Earthquake and release from prison (Acts 16:25-26, 36)
Chapter 3: Break Through Prayer Barriers
Having strong, consistent prayer is difficult. It is not natural for us. It can be hard to summon the willpower and energy. It can be hard to know what to pray for, or how to pray in detail. It can be hard to concentrate and maintain your attention. It is easy to daydream or even fall asleep during your prayers.
It is extremely important, however, to never stop striving to improve the quality of your daily prayers.
Building a stronger, more spiritual, fervent and effectual relationship with God in prayer takes work. But no matter how strong your prayer life is, continue working to strengthen it daily. Developing and perfecting your prayers is an effort you must keep pursuing your entire life. There is no greater, nobler pursuit!
Our primary focus in life must be on how we talk to God in prayer! That is our number one priority. That is how we grow in God’s royal Family.
—Gerald Flurry, Royal Vision, May-June 1998
These words are a good prod to ensure we never grow complacent in our prayers, and that we prioritize a high-quality prayer life each day. Making prayer our top priority means pushing through the difficulties.
Let’s examine how to overcome the most common barriers to a great prayer life.
‘I Don’t Feel Like It’
The first obstacle we will confront is laziness. I don’t feel like it. I don’t want to. I don’t need to. We can all feel this way, especially if we have never established the habit of prayer.
You may even reason, Well, God already knows everything—why should I have to pray about all of it? Matthew 6:8 even confirms this: “[Y]our Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”
But imagine being God. Our prayers are the one time that we shut everything else out and focus on talking to Him. It shows Him daily how special He is to us.
What … is God going to think if we say, Well, this is a busy day, and I’d like to get some more prayer in, but I just don’t have time. I’m going to have to cut back on my prayers. What does your Father think about that? He wants the best sacrifice you can give. If you don’t give it, you’re going to have a lot of trouble. And if you give it, you’re going to have success beyond your imagination.
—Gerald Flurry, Royal Vision, January-February 2012
The first way around this obstacle is to realize that God yearns to hear your prayers.
Someone once said, “I don’t feel like praying.” The answer to that statement: “Talk to God about it.” God tells us to make everything known to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6).
What will be the result? “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (verse 7). There is tremendous peace in having your prayer life where it should be.
Perhaps you have never felt a great need to pray to God. Often it isn’t until we face real difficulties in life that we begin to recognize how much we need to take things to God. Many people find that the busier life gets, the more they realize how inadequate they are to handle things, and how they must look to our loving Father in heaven.
If you feel overwhelmed, confused, burned-out, depressed or unequipped to manage life’s challenges, strengthening your prayers is your solution. “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray” (James 5:13).
God is a Father—ready to listen to His children and offer His help. Matthew 7:7-11 affirm this fact. That passage ends, “… how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” You can trust that God will hear and answer you—even if the answer isn’t always what you believe is best.
God plainly tells us that He loves to hear His people pray, that “the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8). He wants you to talk to Him, every day.
Walk With God!
When you build the kind of relationship God wants with you, you will desire to spend time with Him in prayer—just as you would your very best friend!
The Bible records how men like Abraham, Noah, Moses, David and Elijah all walked with God. They came to know God intimately. These men prayed often to God. They spent long hours in prayer, communing with Him.
I have changed my entire daily routine—my entire life. The fasting and prayer has resulted in almost completely removing all signs of the heart condition or high blood pressure. For four years I have had to live, knowing I could drop dead at any second! Now pounds have been taken off. Now I can take longer, more vigorous walks. Now I am taking them, three times a day—regardless of circumstances which might try to prevent! Now, no matter how many conferences are scheduled, no matter how pressing some urgent executive responsibility, I am going three times or more a day to my prayer room God has blessed me with, there to commune with Him, and keep closer to Him! My life from now will be far more active …. Pray—as you never prayed before—and keep it up!
—Herbert W. Armstrong, member letter, March 2, 1967
Some of God’s own people have serious problems in their lives. In so many of these cases, in counseling sessions, God’s ministers learn that these people are spending just mere minutes (or seconds) in “prayer.” How could such a person expect to have spiritual power?
If you desire spiritual power in your life, then walk with God. But don’t let it be a silent stroll. Commune with God throughout the day. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.” Moffatt translates this verse: “Never give up prayer.” This means, in addition to our regular time of daily prayer on our knees, to remain in a prayerful attitude all day long.
And right here perhaps I may give the reader an example of what God’s Word means by the admonition “Pray without ceasing,” or, as Jesus said, to “pray always.” He means we must be continually in a spirit of prayer. And he means to pray, constantly, over even little things that arise.
As I half walked—half ran—I prayed. There was no opportunity to kneel—nor was there, now, time. I prayed as I walked. I asked God to forgive me for negligence in not asking Him before I called. Then I asked Him, now, to change this man’s attitude to one of favor toward me and toward the program. And I believed, and expected to receive it!
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Autobiography
Walking with God means spending time with Him instead of with the material things of this world. It involves spending time in study, discovering the deep truths of the Bible and meditating on the principles and laws. It means praying to Him for deeper understanding, wisdom, direction and faith.
Peter, Stephen, Philip, Paul—common, humble, ordinary men themselves—all had that power, the same identical power Jesus had, because they lived and walked close to god and were filled with the Holy Spirit!
And we seem to lack that power today, not because God denies us that power, but because we are so close to a modern, materialistic world—our minds are so filled with the material interests of this life; our minds and our hearts are so far from God; we are so out of touch with Him through lack of enough time spent in the study of His Word and lack of enough of the right kind of surrendered, submissive, earnest and heartrending prayer—and, consequently, because we are not filled with the Holy Spirit which affords us the power of God! …
Draw closer to God. Get to know God. Surrender all the way to Him and do His will. And then pray. You get to know Him in prayer. We are too close to the material things. Through prayer, much more prayer, you can come closer to God and the spiritual things. And what a happy, joyous experience it is, once you have really done it!
—Herbert W. Armstrong, The Plain Truth About Healing
Pray! Pray always! Are you praying that fervently?
Jesus, for example, was accustomed to spending long hours in private prayer, alone with God. He prayed all night to God upon a special occasion. He arose early, long before it was day, and went out where He could be alone with God. He fasted and prayed. Do you?
Those who escape [the coming time of trouble] are those who put Christ’s Kingdom first, not second, in their everyday lives; who spend full hours in earnest, heart-rending prayer; who actually fast and pray; who pray continually, even as they go about their work, as they walk down the street, or drive their cars. They are continually in a spirit of prayer. …
If you truly love Him—if He is your best friend—then it should be such a privilege to spend whole hours with Him in prayer! He is never “too busy” to give you all the time you wish. Whenever you go to Him in prayer, He is there! His ear is always open! You can have all of His time you want! As often as you want it! How thankful we should be!
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Good News, October 1954
‘I Did Something Wrong’
Sometimes you may not feel like praying because you have committed a sin. You believe God is angry at you and wouldn’t hear your prayer.
Realize that the only way out of that problem is to go to God about it! That may be the hardest thing under the circumstances, but you must face the situation and do it.
The Bible makes this point clear: “If we confess our sins [to God], he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
The only way to get free of the guilt is to go to God! He is the only one who can forgive you! “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
If you are thinking or doing something you shouldn’t, don’t wait until the absolute last possible second to turn to God. Go to Him early for help when you need it. It is wise to immediately isolate yourself, go to your knees, and ask for spiritual power, or ask for forgiveness if you have already committed the sin. If circumstances don’t permit this, pray silently in your mind right then; then later, first chance you get, finish up. Don’t wait! Do not save it for the next morning’s prayers. Romans 12:12 says we should be “instant in prayer.” The longer you wait, the harder it will be.
Prayer is the antidote for temptation. Jesus Christ said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). He knows. He has experienced sore temptation, and He knows how to escape it without succumbing to it.
Don’t run from God. Always run to God! Think of the example of Jonah. God gave him a commission, but he was afraid. Instead of turning to God for help and courage, he allowed his fears to fill his mind, and he ran away.
The Prophet Jeremiah was also afraid when God gave him a special and challenging commission. But Jeremiah prayed in Jeremiah 1:6, “Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.” He did try to make excuses—but he also cried out to God for help in his weakness. The difference between Jonah and Jeremiah is that both were afraid, but one cried out to God for help to conquer his fears while the other waited until he was in the belly of a fish to finally turn to the only one who could help.
Establish the Habit
There is yet another solution to the problem of not wanting to pray, and it is the most important of all: Make prayer a habit. That means doing it no matter what you “feel” like. That is what making it your number one priority is all about.
Develop the habit of prayer now! Don’t walk through life by yourself. If you face a difficult challenge, pray about it. If you and a loved one have a disagreement, take it to God, and ask for His help. If you score a success, give God thanks for it. God is your Father, and He wants you to talk to Him about what is going on in your life!
Never think: “God wouldn’t care,” or “God wouldn’t understand.” He made you. He understands better than anyone. He is interested in every aspect of your life because He has a special plan for you.
Bring God into the middle of everything—your successes, your failures, your challenges, your questions and your trials. Be instant in prayer. Ask for wisdom before you start that job or go to that meeting, ask for protection before traveling, ask for compassion and patience before going home tired to your family at night. You need to pray always and begin to literally walk and talk with God (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). Prayer is like exercise. The more you do it, the more comfortable it becomes, and the stronger you become.
Pouring out your heart means you hold nothing back. It means you are comfortable with talking to God. It means you trust Him with your deepest thoughts and feelings, and you know He is listening.
Do our children see us pray and study every day? Do they see the father as the head of the family with the mother fully supporting her husband? Children can immediately spot hypocrisy. If we set the proper example early, our children will, in most cases, follow in our footsteps.
“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Timothy 3:14). If a problem arises in our child’s life, he should be taught first and foremost to take it to God in prayer. Soon it will become automatic. Parents who are most successful in rearing children are those who are closest to God.
—Gerald Flurry, Royal Vision, May-June 1998
There is nothing permanent about a spiritual mind in a physical body. Therefore, we must renew God’s Spirit in us daily (2 Corinthians 4:16). God tells us to ask, seek, come to Him regularly and often, to receive the power of His Spirit (Luke 11:5-13). A light bulb is useless unless it is in contact with the source of power, and so are we.
Christ set an example of praying first thing in the morning, before anything else could interrupt Him (Mark 1:35). So did King David (Psalm 5:3).
In biblical examples, people habitually prayed three times a day. This helped them stay close to God. David wrote, “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice” (Psalm 55:17). Daniel “kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed” (Daniel 6:10). These were busy men, entrusted with the highest governmental powers of major kingdoms, yet they came before God in prayer regularly.
Make these examples part of your way of life. This is an excellent habit. It is probably best to say your main prayers in the morning, to reestablish contact with God midday, then, before you go to bed, to review your day with Him.
You must pray regularly. Nothing is more important. The closer you can stay to God and the more often you go to Him in prayer, the less you will sin and the more you will accomplish.
People who feed from the tree of life are going to have white raiment and shining faces like God’s! [Revelation 3:5].
God isn’t going to give that incredible reward to somebody who thinks he can casually get by on only 15 or 20 minutes of prayer each day on his knees. The inner man must be renewed day by day, or God isn’t there!
—Gerald Flurry, The Book of Chronicles
If you really grasp the fact that all you need and want comes from God—that your success or failure, happiness or troubles are in direct proportion to the extent to which you commit everything to Him in believing prayer—you will not make plans or do anything without seeking His counsel and help (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Again, once you establish the habit, then not praying simply won’t feel right.
During his ministry, Herbert W. Armstrong recommended—and Gerald Flurry has repeatedly backed this up—that in order to merely survive spiritually, a person should spend at least a half hour a day in prayer. That is the voice of practical experience! Anything less than this, and you are setting yourself up for problems. But for real spiritual growth to take place in your life, you need to go beyond that amount.
Do you cry out to God? We should be praying to God about an hour a day on our knees (at least 30 minutes just to survive), but in crises, we really need to be crying out to God! [A] crisis in the Church is a test from God to get His people to cry out to Him.
—Gerald Flurry, Who Is ‘That Prophet’?
If that seems like a terrible imposition on your time, spend some serious time considering everything that God has given you. Consider what your life would be like if God was not working with you. Think of the problems increasing in the lives of so many people in the world and use that as a motivator to count your blessings.
For as much as God has given us, we must demonstrate that giving spirit in return. Show Him how special He is to you. How appreciative you are of Him, and how honored you are to have quality time with Him each day.
Daily prayer should be:
- On both knees (unless our health prevents us)
- In a private place, alone
- Ideally, at least 30 minutes, uninterrupted, in the morning and striving toward one hour a day, perhaps doing the bulk in the morning and some later and at night.
Since the word prayer means to bow down, the general posture for prayer is on your knees. Most biblical examples show the usual position of prayer is on your knees, bowing before God. Christ prayed in this position (Luke 22:41). Making the effort to kneel down on both knees when you pray shows God that you respect Him. The position is important, though not as important as the attitude of humility, reverence and respect for God. (You certainly can pray while clenching onto the side of a cliff!)
When you are really crying out in making a petition or soliciting God’s help, it would be natural to stretch out your arms, lifting the palms face up as you plead (see Psalm 141:2). This demonstrates earnestness and emotional involvement in your prayers.
It is also worth mentioning that Jesus taught His disciples to pray in a private place, not making a public show of prayer (Matthew 6:5-6).
You know, I have a special private prayer room in my home and you know the people that would persecute, I have even heard the people using that against me that I have the extravagance of a special room for prayer. … I don’t believe there’s a thing you can do that God tells you to do that someone won’t accuse you and try to condemn you for it. Now, everybody may not be able to have a special private room for prayer. I went through most of my life before I was able to have such a thing and it just suddenly came; it was a gift of God, that’s all. But I think it’s a very wonderful thing if you can.
“Verily, I say unto you, Thou when thou prayest enter into thine inner chamber and having shut the door”—and when I’m in my prayer room, I’m behind two locked doors and no one can get in and I don’t hear them if they pound on that outer door. I’m alone where I am not going to be disturbed and there’s no telephone in there to ring and to buzz me or to bother me and I just can’t be reached. I have a room that is soundproof and a room where nobody can come and knock or get in or disturb me at all and I can go in there and be alone with God and know I am going to be alone with Him and not disturbed.
“[T]hou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee” (Matthew 6:6; American Standard Version). Oh, the answers to prayer that have come from prayers that have been made in that little room, and hundreds and hundreds of people have benefited, and miracles have been performed because God does hear. …
And this man said, “Well, brother,” he said, “we’re going to have a tarry meeting and we’re going to have a bunch of people there and we want you to come and join us and we’re going to pray all of us together so that we will get more of the Holy Spirit.” “Well,” I said, “I believe, I’ll have to ask you to excuse me.” I said, “I would rather go to a private place and lock myself in a room and pray to God, or I would rather go up on the top of a hill or a mountain or someplace away and pray all alone to God.” “Well,” he says, “you’ll never get your baptism that way, brother.” Well, you know that kind of baptism, my friends, is something I don’t want. And I said to him, “Anything I have to get from other men that I can’t get from God when I pray the way Jesus commanded me to pray is something I don’t want.”
How many of you are disobeying God’s command and are going with other people, and as they call it, tarrying? And tarrying merely means to remain awake, it doesn’t mean a prayer meeting at all; it’s just some modern language that some modern deceived and misguided people are using today. How many of you do that way, trying to get something that you can only get from other people?
—Herbert W. Armstrong, World Tomorrow radio program, May 10, 1979
‘I Don’t Know What to Pray About’
The idea of coming before the Creator of the universe can be daunting. But to think of things to say for 30 minutes—that can be hard to do even with someone you can see!
The first way to overcome not knowing what to pray about is to organize your prayers.
When Jesus’s disciples asked their Master how to pray, He gave them a wonderful outline for organizing our daily prayers. Chapter 4 of this book will provide an in-depth look at this outline and give you many specifics on how to build it into a robust and lengthy prayer session, with variety and freshness each day. It will also help you break out of the natural tendency to focus your daily prayers on your personal needs and desires, and will make your prayers more unselfish and effective. It is a terrifically practical guide for organizing your prayers and giving you plenty to talk to God about.
The second method to beefing up the content of your prayers is to pay attention for things to pray about.
As the next chapter covers in detail, two major components of our daily prayers should be praying for God’s Work and for other people. Read Ephesians 6:18-20 and Colossians 4:2-4, where Paul specifically requests that the brethren pray for each other and especially for him, that God would open doors for him to preach the gospel more boldly. The Work needed the people’s prayers then, and so it does today.
Follow news about God’s Work on www.pcog.org/news. Those who are contributing to the Work receive regular co-worker letters from the pastor general, which are a good source of information. Members of God’s Church hear announcements in weekly services that often contain information about the Work; take notes on them. They also receive the Philadelphian, a gold mine of information about the Work. As you hear or read these bits of news, ask, Where might God have to intervene?
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication [prayer requests] for all saints [God’s people]” (Ephesians 6:18). Watching thereunto is translated in the Revised Standard Version, “keep alert”—in other words, pay attention! Beyond listening for prayer requests during announcements, pay attention during your conversations with others. If someone is facing difficulties, take note! Write those things down. Then, follow up. When you see the person later, ask how things are going. Show your concern. For Church members, this can be a significant part of your Sabbath fellowship. It gives you something to talk about and helps you to get the focus off yourself.
Now, how will you remember all these things when it comes time to pray? That brings us to another solution to not knowing what to pray about: Keep a prayer list.
You may try keeping a notebook or paper, perhaps a bound notebook with a separate page for each category. A three-ring binder would allow you to add or remove items as necessary. Some people prefer note cards that they can easily add to or rearrange. The important thing is, when items to pray about arise, write them down and later copy them onto your list.
Something else that can really help the content of your prayers is Bible study. Good communication is not one-sided. Have you ever talked with someone who just likes to talk and talk but never listen? How did you feel? If we pray regularly but don’t study very often, it’s the same thing: We are doing all the talking. What does God think of that? As we study, we get to know the mind of God—how He thinks. This makes it easier to talk to Him. We can talk about what He has taught us and rehearse it with Him. If our prayers are getting stale and we are running out of things to say, maybe we are not listening enough.
Finally, to really flesh out the content of your prayers, get detailed. Not only does God want to hear more depth in your requests, but you benefit as well. Praying gives you a chance to think deeply on a problem or situation. It helps you empathize with the one you are praying for. You may realize better how difficult that trial is. You may even think of a solution. Praying can also push you to see things from God’s point of view. Just quickly running through a prayer list—“Bless Jim and Susan and Grandpa and Aunt Patty …”—won’t be the most effective prayer. When laying your prayers before God, get detailed.
The next chapter will have much more instruction on this vital subject.
‘I Can’t Concentrate’
If you are a parent, surely you have experienced times when, while talking with your children, you can tell their minds are elsewhere. They are ready to move on to something else. We can do the same thing to our Father in prayer. Our hearts can pull us elsewhere, making it a struggle to focus. Our minds can wander, and we may not even realize we are no longer praying.
We must fight that distractibility. Prayer takes work, planning and effort. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted. Develop and exercise real mental discipline to focus on your prayers. We honor and love our Father by giving Him our full attention.
If you fail in this area, one solution you should consider is to cut back on worldly pursuits and entertainment.
The fact is, you think about what you fill your mind with. The more it is full of worldly things, the easier it is to be preoccupied with those things when it is time to really focus on God. Fill your mind with godly things, and centering your thoughts will be much easier. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). Because it is so easy to think about material things, God gives us the logical instruction, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).
Notice what God says will happen if you seek Him wholeheartedly: “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” (Jeremiah 29:12-13). Doing that will likely require that you avoid certain activities that many other people are giving their hearts to.
Another remedy for daydreaming is to use your prayer list. Keep it in front of you as you pray. Then, if your mind wanders, catch yourself and get back to your list. You can quickly pick up from where you left off.
The fact that Christ’s return is so near should change our behavior. Because Christ is almost here, we must be very concerned about our prayer life. Carefully watch your prayer life and keep your mind on the return of Jesus Christ. Get your prayer in. Make certain you are talking to God—getting through to Him—every day. Pray until you have living hope! Pray yourself into that living hope, day after day!
—Gerald Flurry, The Epistles of Peter—a Living Hope
There are some people who find concentrating on their prayers difficult not just because of a lack of focus, but because of evil spiritual influences. Satan is “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), and his broadcasting is certainly real. We live in a time when he and his demons have been cast down from heaven and are confined to this Earth (Revelation 12:9). Their activity is increasing as their time before Christ’s return grows short (verse 12).
Jesus specifically instructed us to pray, “deliver us from evil”—or from the evil one, Satan (Matthew 6:13). We need God’s protection and should pray for it daily!
The Apostle James gives this “formula” for resisting the devil’s influence: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:7-8). If you feel anything like an unnatural, evil influence, call on the name of Jesus Christ and begin praying to God! Get closer to God! Draw on Him for help in resisting the devil, and the devil will flee! You may even say, like the archangel Michael, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9).
Neither Satan nor his demons have any power to make you commit sin or think a wrong thought. The devil cannot even read your mind, whereas God can! Yes, Satan is far stronger than you are—but God is infinitely stronger than Satan! With God’s help, you need not fear the devil. God will give you all the power you need to truly resist him!
‘I Fall Asleep’
This can be a real problem. Consider what a lack of respect we show for God when we fall asleep during our prayers. He deserves our full, alert attention.
The most obvious solution to drowsiness is to be well rested. It is hard to escape the fact that the quality of your daily prayers is often directly tied to the quality of your sleep the night before. And this is typically a result of how well you stick to your bedtime each night. If you stay up late, you are virtually guaranteed to have problems the next morning. This is really a matter of self-discipline. Remember, the overall goal is to make your prayers your number one priority. If something else interferes—including an evening activity that will make your prayers tired the next morning—ask yourself, What am I putting before God?
God wants our best sacrifice. He wouldn’t let the Israelites bring their old, diseased animals to the sacrifice. He wanted the best they had (see Leviticus 1:3, 10; 3:1, 6). He wants your best time in prayer, when you are most alert and can really get through to God.
—Gerald Flurry, Ezekiel: The End-Time Prophet
You need to get enough sleep not only to say decent prayers in the morning, but also because it is a fundamental law of good health. Breaking it sets you up for problems spiritually and physically.
Another solution you should try is to pray aloud. Close the door to your room or prayer closet (we are to pray in private anyway—Matthew 6:6), and just speak to God. This will likely feel awkward if you are not used to it. It may take some practice before you are not so aware of your own voice and can focus on God. But don’t give up. Praying aloud can really keep you alert. It can also help prevent your mind from wandering and keep your prayers focused.
One more solution to problems concentrating or staying awake is to get tough with yourself.
The Good News explained this point well: “Apply some of the principles of the seven laws of success to your prayer life. Have a definite goal in mind when you begin. Then stick to your prayer and don’t give up until you know you have actually prayed to God—not just to the ceiling, the floor, or to yourself—and your prayers have been heard! Force yourself to get down on your knees and stay on them until you have accomplished what you set out to do! …
“The Bible shows us that the Kingdom of God will be turned over only to those who are forceful and driving in fulfilling God’s will! Wishy-washy, irresolute quitters won’t make it! Turn your natural carnal stubbornness in the right direction and prevail in prayer!” (January-February 1972).
If lack of concentration is a problem for you, determine to break the bad habit once and for all! Before kneeling down to pray, take care of any potential distractions. Try setting a timer, getting down on your knees, and forcing yourself not to get up until the time has passed! Get tough with yourself! It won’t take too many of such sessions before you notice dramatic improvement in your ability to concentrate on your prayers.
Christ set the perfect example in this respect. Read Matthew 26:36-44. This was the night before His crucifixion, when He was under tremendous mental strain. He earnestly prayed for an hour. Then, as if realizing He needed more, He did it again. That same night He then prayed for yet a third hour—even though the content of what He said was apparently the same.
That is real persistence! That is breaking through to God, being sure His prayers were having the proper effect!
Pray With Purpose!
While it may be helpful, when one is first converted, to “pray by the clock” to learn how to pray, eventually you should progress beyond that stage. If you are praying merely to log time or “get in” your prayer, you are not as effective as you should be. A much more practical approach than “clock watching” is to develop and maintain your individual prayer list (which we will cover in Chapter 4).
After you have prayed, do you merely feel relieved that you have “gotten in” your prayer for the day? Or do you feel closer to God? Are you certain your prayer was heard and that it will accomplish something? Most of us find ourselves slipping into the former rut from time to time. Resolve to pray with more purpose.
Just before you pray, remind yourself that you aren’t going through the motions of prayer just because as a Christian you are supposed to pray, but because you need the help and spiritual strength that only God can give! Ask God to help you pray with more purpose and to help you purge any tendency to approach prayer as a meaningless ritual.
As you strive to improve your prayers, you will face problems. Christ well knows the difficulties. That final evening of His human life, He said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (verse 41). But determine, as He did, to find a way around whatever obstacle you face. Do not give up until you have placed your prayer life right up at the very top of your priorities!
The blessings that follow will abundantly pay back your efforts!
Chapter 4: A Framework for Prayer
During Jesus Christ’s ministry on Earth, the disciples witnessed the powerful results of Christ’s intimate contact with God the Father: He healed the sick, cast out demons, even quieted a storm! They wanted to have that same closeness with God.
One day, Jesus was praying. When He finished, one of His disciples approached Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).
Jesus proceeded to give a wonderful outline, or framework, of a prayer that will get results. “After this manner therefore pray ye …,” He said (Matthew 6:9). Christ gave an outline around which we can all build our prayers.
Jesus did not call this the “Lord’s Prayer” as many do today. He didn’t want His disciples to memorize this particular wording and repeat it over and over. In fact, He had just warned them not to use “vain repetitions” (verse 7). Rather, He was outlining the correct approach to take and the basic things we should pray for. It was meant to be a guide of topics, a framework for our daily prayers.
Clearly, Christ did not want His disciples to pray only for themselves. The words “I,” “me” or “my” don’t appear once in these verses. He was outlining the unselfish approach we need, and the basic things we should ask for.
The warning against using vain repetitions doesn’t mean that repeating a certain prayer is wrong: Earnest, persistent supplication sometimes requires that we repeat prayers. But Christ gave His disciples this outline so they could add their own material to it, fleshing out each point as you would if you were turning a list of bullet points into a term paper.
This sample prayer outline is only meant to be a guide. You may use this outline but should try to add more to a personal outline as you go along. Be careful not to rely on your notes too much. Be careful not to repeat the same wording over and over again. Every prayer should include thoughts and feelings from the heart. For all this, a personal prayer notebook is most ideal. You can follow the framework outline here, and build on it.
If you use this outline correctly, you can have effective, fervent prayers that will move God and get results.
This inspired framework for prayer as revealed by Christ can be divided into seven segments.
1) ‘Our Father … Hallowed Be Thy Name’
Jesus began His example prayer by addressing the Father (Matthew 6:9), and we should do the same (John 16:23). Jesus came to reveal the Father to mankind (John 1:18). He always addressed the Father when He prayed, and He set us the example to follow (1 Peter 2:21). However, it would not be wrong to occasionally address Christ.
We should feel deep personal love for and closeness to our heavenly Father. This Father-son relationship is personal and intimate. It should be much closer than the relationship we have with our own physical father. The Apostle Paul emphasized this: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption [this word should be translated sonship], whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:14-16). For those who are Spirit-begotten sons of God, the relationship of Father and son is doubly emphasized here.
The word Abba is special. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the New Testament notes, “‘Abba’ is the word framed by the lips of infants and indicates unreasoning trust.” It is a word like “Daddy.” The expression “Daddy, Father,” expresses childlike love and confidence.
“Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name,” Christ’s model prayer begins (Matthew 6:9). God the Father eternally exists in heaven and governs the whole universe by the power of His Spirit! When you address the Father, realize that you have a personal audience with the supreme, eternal Ruler of all things! Most people would treasure a private meeting with a king or prime minister or president. How much greater is the privilege of coming to the very throne room of the universe to talk with the Ruler over all!
As we begin our prayers, we should not only address and think of God as “our Father,” but start by praising and venerating His name—His office, character and beneficence. The word hallowed means sanctified, or highly venerated. In this section of prayer, Jesus intended that we praise and venerate God’s many names and character qualities to bring us into proper reverence and fear of God. Hallowing God’s name sets the table for the rest of our prayer, placing us into a submissive and deeply grateful attitude before His infinite majesty.
Nearly always I do begin a prayer with exaltation of God, which brings to my mind how great—how wonderful—is the All-mighty one to whom I am speaking! So immediately I broke off the thanksgiving and the gratitude temporarily, to praise and exalt and extol the Supreme Creator God! Yet I just naturally continued my giving thanks—now thanking God for Himself—and realizing how grateful I am that God is—that there is the great God—that He is the living God!
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Plain Truth, August 1967
Praise God for His greatness—His supreme power and might. Praise Him for creating and designing the vast, awesome universe, and for giving man the incredible potential to rule it with Him. Praise Him for being such a loving and all-merciful Father. Praise and thank Him for His active participation in your life. Let Him know that you appreciate and love Him.
Notice in the Psalms how King David praised God. Look how this man after God’s own heart addressed God in prayer: “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. … I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 18:1-2; 104:33; see also Psalm 148).
When King Solomon made his dedication prayer for the temple, he opened with praise for God: “And he said, Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart: Who hast kept with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him: thou spakest also with thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with thine hand, as it is this day” (1 Kings 8:23-24).
The angels in God’s throne room praise God day and night! (Revelation 4:2, 6, 8-11).
Try to picture God’s throne room in your mind. Think about the vast universe, and realize that even it is too small to house God. God resides in the third heaven, which is above the physical universe.
The attitude of praise, worship and adoration draws our attention to the true God. It enlarges our human faculties to appreciate and more fully sense the great Being with whom we are communing. Deepening your understanding of God’s power and vastness will give you more ways to praise Him in the opening section of your prayer.
Perhaps it is best to focus on hallowing just one aspect of God’s character per daily prayer session. This section of our prayer can take up at least 10 minutes. See “Praise God’s Name” on page 87 to learn more about God’s names. Here are some of God’s offices and character qualities you could pray about.
- Praise God as your Father
- Praise God as your Provider
- Praise God as your Master
- Praise God as your Creator, and your Sustainer
- Praise God as your Judge
- Praise God as your Healer
- Praise God for His perfect character
- Praise God for His love, grace, mercy, faithfulness
- Praise God for the blessings He has given you
- Praise God for your incredible human potential
2) ‘Thy Kingdom Come’
After addressing the Father and hallowing His name, we should pray for His Kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10).
Praying “Thy kingdom come” is asking that God’s literal government be set up on Earth through the return of Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). It is yearning for when the devil will be restrained from influencing humanity for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3). It is praying and longing for when God’s holy and righteous law, summed up in the Ten Commandments, will be enforced by God’s government as the standard for daily life everywhere. It is yearning for the time when real peace will be ushered in and all mankind will know God’s truth (Isaiah 11:9).
When Christ returns to set up God’s Kingdom and government, He will “restore all things” to the Earth! These will be “times of refreshing” and “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19-21). This is one of the most pivotal passages in the Bible! Restitution in verse 21 means restoration. Something that was taken away will be restored to the entire Earth when Christ returns. What was taken away? God’s government! It is through God’s government that “all things”—an entire way of life resulting in supreme happiness, prosperity, joy for everyone—will be restored.
Restoring His government to Earth is uppermost in God’s mind. For His Spirit-begotten sons who think like Him, it is likewise of utmost importance. That is why we pray “Thy kingdom come” as our first request. A Christian’s number one priority should be seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
The Apostle Peter indicated that true Christians could hasten, or speed up, the return of Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom to Earth (2 Peter 3:11-12). By earnestly applying ourselves to overcoming, Bible study and prayer while supporting God’s Work, we could well hasten Jesus Christ’s return and the restoration of God’s government!
To better understand the need for God’s Kingdom to be established, God tells us to watch and then to pray (Luke 21:36). If we watch world events and see the suffering wrapped up in just about every headline, it will help us pray with much greater urgency. Our planet is plagued by appalling evils that in many cases originate in, or at least are tolerated by, corrupt or impotent governments of men. Misguided religious zeal is also responsible for a great deal of human suffering. It would be appropriate, in this section of your prayer, to rehearse with God why the world desperately needs His Kingdom and Christ’s righteous rule. Pray fervently that the tremendous meaning of “Thy kingdom come” may soon be a reality.
Having a focus on world events also allows us to witness firsthand the fulfillment of Bible prophecy—proof of our Father’s hand in current events as His Kingdom approaches. Praying about prophetic events as they unfold really motivates our prayers. You can find these events identified as they occur on theTrumpet.com and in the Trumpet newsmagazine (we will send you a free subscription upon request).
Be sure to cast your mind to subjects related to the soon-coming Kingdom of God and the prophecies of the World Tomorrow. This should be a most inspiring part of your prayer. This subject, too, can take at least 10 minutes. Here are some subjects you can pray about.
- Rehearse why world evils: that Satan is the ruler of this present world
- Pray about the other cause of world problems, human nature (Satan’s nature in mankind)
- Pray for mankind to be free from Satan and from sin
- Pray about the restoration of God’s government
- Pray for God’s one pure religion, when all will know how to worship God
- Pray for God’s knowledge and God’s education to cover the Earth as waters cover the seas
- Pray for a world free from crime and violence
- Pray for God’s true justice to fill the Earth
- Pray about the solutions to society’s problems
- Pray about God’s new world economy that will enable prosperity and abundance for all
- Pray for a world free from sickness and disease
- Pray about the happiness and joy that is soon coming to every land and family
- Pray that God would hasten the fulfillment of these prophecies and make the Kingdom a reality
3) ‘Thy Will Be Done …’
After praying for God’s Kingdom to come, Christ instructs us to begin the next section: “Thy will be done [on] earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
When we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we see the terrible suffering in this world and the urgent need for Christ’s return. This then motivates us to pray “Thy will be done.”
God’s will “in heaven” is expressed through His government: The Father reigns supreme, and Christ, under Him, is Head of the Church (John 14:28; Colossians 1:18).
Only God’s one true Church—the body of Christ—is attached to the Head. The Head does not have more than one body. Thus, God’s true Church is ruled by His government. So God’s will on Earth is expressed through His Church, which today is led by Gerald Flurry, under Christ. (Request our free booklet Who Is ‘That Prophet’?)
The Church is God’s instrument for fulfilling His will on Earth—as it is the Kingdom of God in embryo. It is a means by which God is preparing for the return of Christ and the Kingdom of God. Thus, our fervent prayers for the Church and Mr. Flurry help to ensure that God’s will is done “on earth, as it is in heaven.”
This part of our prayer should focus on praying for the many varied activities and programs of God’s Church—especially activities that revolve around proclaiming the good news of the coming Kingdom of God. God’s Work needs many open doors to fulfill its commission. We should pray that God would open those doors for His Work to be done (Colossians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). God’s Work is urgent: It needs to be as effective as possible to hasten Christ’s return and end all the human misery and suffering we see on Earth today.
By praying for God’s Work, we become more big-minded in our perspective and get our minds off our own day-to-day problems, which are generally of little importance by comparison.
Herbert W. Armstrong finished the work of preaching the gospel around the world as a witness to all nations (Matthew 24:14). The Philadelphia Church of God has been commissioned to prophesy again (Revelation 10:11). We must emphasize the warning aspect of the message since this world is closer than ever to the Great Tribulation. Before God’s Kingdom arrives, the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord must happen, and God won’t allow those events to occur until the world is properly warned. Thus, for God’s Kingdom to come, it is God’s will that we finish His Work!
We should beseech God in prayer to provide His Church with open doors, or opportunities, to reach the largest audience possible, as quickly as possible—and with the necessary resources to broaden its television coverage, expand the circulation of its printed materials, and reach more people online and in person.
Christ gave the lay body of the Church the special mission to back up His apostles in their going forth with the gospel to the world—with their prayers, encouragement, tithes and offerings. … [T]his giving of their prayers, encouragement and financial support was God’s assignment as the very means of developing in them God’s holy, righteous character—that they, with the apostles and evangelists, may qualify to rule with and under Christ in God’s Kingdom.
—Herbert W. Armstrong, The Incredible Human Potential
The Apostle Paul exhorted Church members to pray for him so he could do the Work (Romans 15:30-32; Ephesians 6:19). Likewise, we should pray for Mr. Flurry—that he may speak boldly to make God’s message known; that he may work as unhindered as possible. Praying for the needs of the various departments and personnel around the world that assist Mr. Flurry can be included in this part of your prayer.
We should also pray for God’s true ministers (1 Thessalonians 5:25; Hebrews 13:18). 2 Corinthians 1:11 reads, “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us in answer to many prayers” (rsv). Ask God to protect the ministry and give them inspiration in the messages and counsel they give.
“Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38; see also Luke 10:2). Pray that God would lay it on the hearts and minds of more listeners and readers to become co-workers in helping to support His growing Work with tithes and offerings.
Pray for The Key of David and the Church’s radio station, kpcg.fm. Ask God to open doors for new television stations and other means for the message to reach more people. Pray for the books, booklets and magazines. Ask God to inspire the authors, give the editors detailed eyes that pick up all mistakes, and help the graphic designers make the layout of the publications as eye-catching as possible. Pray for everything that goes on at headquarters, Herbert W. Armstrong College and Imperial Academy.
You should also ask God to help you understand and surrender to His will. Ask Him to show you how to live His way more perfectly.
Here are some specifics you can pray about:
- God’s apostle
- Television: content, stations, reach, response
- Editorial and Publishing: periodicals, books and booklets; websites; foreign language work
- Personal appearance campaigns; advertising, circulation; radio; information technology; mail processing; call center; concert series, auditorium, music program; festival; support services: kitchen, landscaping, custodial, maintenance
- Youth programs: Armstrong College, Imperial Academy, Philadelphia Youth Camp
- Supporting ministry worldwide
- Regional offices, work in Judah: support staff; open doors; archaeology; costs; protection
- Laborers, income: provide resources equal to vision and needs of growing Work
4) ‘Our Daily Bread’
In the next portion of Jesus’s prayer outline, He tells us to petition God for our needs: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Here, pray that God provides nourishment, both physical and spiritual. It is God who sustains us, supplying our food and water, even the air we breathe. Spiritual sustenance is even more important, and we must request this “daily bread” from Him.
While this part of our prayer is to include our personal needs, it should also include a healthy amount of prayer for the needs of others. The request is to “give us”—not just “me.” While it is our tendency to automatically want to pray for ourselves first, it is important that we put others before ourselves. That is God’s way (Acts 20:35).
Pray daily for your family. Praying for your spouse and your children is part of your duty as a Christian. You need God to watch out for them, keep them safe physically and protect them spiritually. You know them intimately, including their weaknesses and faults. Express your care for those you know best and love most by praying for them, even more fervently than you pray for yourself!
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18). All God’s people are targets for Satan and need God’s protection and guidance. God instructs us to pray for the ministry especially (e.g., 2 Thessalonians 3:1), who are particularly targets since they are the means by which God nourishes His spiritual flock.
The Bible includes many examples of people praying for the sick, many times resulting in an immediate healing. It is God’s will to heal. He does, however, expect you to ask (Matthew 7:7). We must entreat God for those who are sick and suffering (James 5:16).
Ideally, you should pray for others and their trials before you pray for yourself. (More about this in the next chapter.)
Paul also tells us to pray for those who have authority in government so that God’s people may live in peace and the Work can be finished (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
We have as much need of daily spiritual food as physical food (Matthew 4:4)—and God promises us both. He will supply our daily spiritual needs if we come to Him through daily prayer and Bible study. Jesus is the spiritual “bread of life” (John 6:35); we eat this bread by studying His Word, the Bible.
Ask for the living faith of Jesus Christ to trust God totally—to surrender and yield to His will as revealed in the Bible. And ask Him to help you understand the Bible!
Although most of our requests should be spiritual in nature, it is not wrong to ask for physical things as well. 1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all your cares upon Him—but you must seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness first (Matthew 6:33), and then God will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).
If God is working with you, He wants to be actively involved in your life, even your hopes and dreams. Ask God to show you what else He wants you to pray for. He will show you, in His Word, many other things to pray about.
Finally, remember this: When making your requests known to God, always have a thankful spirit (Philippians 4:6) and don’t be critical or complaining. Acknowledge your many blessings!
Here are more specific subjects you can pray about.
- Church members: Faith, righteousness, strong marriages, excellent child rearing, hope and vision, members’ needs and wants
- Sick and suffering: Healing, deliverance; miracles
- Teens and children; singles; elderly
- Strong congregations
- Enemies of God’s Work; those persecuting you
- Pray for direction, guidance, wisdom (Jeremiah 10:23; James 1:5); Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13)
- Ask God to heal your ailments (in many cases, anointing is necessary—James 5:14)
- Pray about your personal finances
- Pray you are accounted worthy to escape the coming time of trouble (Luke 21:36)
- Pray for your hopes and dreams
5) Confess Your Sins
The next part of the prayer outline involves confessing our sins (Matthew 6:12). Luke 11:4, the parallel verse, says, “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us ….”
Matthew calls them “debts” because every time we sin, the law exerts a claim on our life: We earn eternal death (Romans 6:23). In the same way that only a creditor can forgive a debt, only God can forgive sin. Our sins must be paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7). God can forgive us because He has accepted Christ’s sacrifice in our stead if we repent and have faith in that sacrifice.
To have our sins wiped away, however, we must ask for repentance in fervent prayer. God already knows about all our sins, but He promises to forgive us when we confess them (1 John 1:9). God wipes away our sins upon repentance (Isaiah 1:18-19; 43:25). We are then no longer cut off from God because of our sin. He doesn’t hold it against us—He forgets all about it!
It is vital that we admit to God where we have been selfish and self-centered, breaking His law of love. Be up front about your struggle against vanity, pride and the lusts of the flesh. Be specific about your sins, beseech God for forgiveness, and ask for His help to change.
God knows our hearts individually. He will reveal to us our innermost thoughts and help us repent deeply of following the vanity of our carnal minds. We should also ask God to reveal to us our hidden, secret sins, as David did (Psalm 19:12). We need God to reveal those to us so we can repent of them and be reconciled to Him.
Psalm 51 shows David’s deep repentance and confession to God after the Prophet Nathan confronted him about his sin with Bathsheba. He was clearly broken up about his sin against God. After confessing his sins, David prayed: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (verse 10). God wants us to pray as David did and ask Him to change our human nature. Such prayer will help us develop God’s spiritual character so we can attain the goal for which we have been born!
Remember to ask that “our,” not just my, sins be forgiven. Learn to be concerned for other Christians, and have godly love and compassion for them as well. (Read Daniel 9:3-5; Ezra 9; Nehemiah 1.)
Here are more specifics you can pray about:
- To hate sin and see it for what it is
- For discernment to clearly see our faults, sins and human nature
- For help in turning away from worldliness; to replace your human nature with His righteousness
- To deepen your understanding of God’s sacrifice for spiritual and physical sin
- To see God’s goodness
- For power to resist the devil
6) Pray for Deliverance
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil …” (Matthew 6:13). “Temptation” is a bad translation. This statement is more correctly rendered from the original Greek: “Bring us not into sore trial, but deliver us from the evil one”—referring to Satan the devil. God tempts no man to sin (James 1:13), but He does permit us to fall into trials and troubles of our own or the devil’s devising if we are not keeping close to Him and seeking His guidance and help every day (1 Peter 5:8). Ask God to deliver you from Satan, society and self, and if there is ever a time when Satan does tempt you, ask God for strength to resist that temptation.
One way to escape sore trial is to daily respond to what God shows us we need to change and apply ourselves to overcoming sin—relying on God for the spiritual strength we need (Philippians 4:13). Pray for Him to correct you daily so that you might be kept from having to go through a sore trial. When God reveals our sins, it often involves correction. This is good, because He only corrects those He calls His children (Hebrews 12:5-8). When God corrects us, He is helping us become more like Him and build His holy righteous character. He shows us love. He will also be merciful in that correction if we ask Him to be (Jeremiah 10:24).
When we don’t learn these lessons as we should, He must take more drastic action. However, we can ask God to help us learn the necessary lessons now, through daily correction, so He won’t need to lead us into sore trial. Praying “lead us not into sore trial, but deliver us from the evil one,” is asking God to perfect you and to bring you to the place where such trials are not needed.
Revelation 12:9 and 12 say that Satan has been cast down, and God’s people are his target! We need God’s protection. If you ask Him to, God will send His angels to camp around and protect you (Psalm 34:7). Claim that promise of God in your prayers, both for you and for God’s people.
This isn’t just about physical protection though. Satan can also attack us mentally, emotionally and spiritually; thus we should ask God to protect us in all these ways.
- Pray God gives you the help to master any wrong desires and to do His will daily
- Pray you learn what you need to so you don’t need to undergo sore trial
- Pray to be teachable, humble and contrite, like a child
- Pray you know when to seek counsel
- Pray to apply instruction and counsel
- Pray to handle trials and tests God allows, and that you learn what you need to from them.
7) Close With Praise and Adoration
Just as Jesus’s inspired outline of prayer begins with praise and adoration of God, so does it close: “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:13). This reminds us, again, to whom we are praying, and of the character and office of the true God who rules over the nations of men.
Close your prayers with a sincere acknowledgement—in a spirit of worship—that all real and lasting glory and power belongs to the great God of the universe! Thank God for taking the time to listen to and answer your prayers. Thank God for His wonderful plan and for your part in it. Remember God’s throne room and its splendor, and praise Him for being the wonderful Creator, Ruler, Sustainer and Father that He is.
Christ instructed us to end our prayers by asking the Father “in Jesus’s name” when we know it is His will—that His authority stands behind our requests (John 16:23).
Finally, we are to affirm that what we have prayed is so, and that we really mean it, by concluding with “Amen,” which simply means truly, or so be it. Christ used this word many times, including at the conclusion of His outline for prayer, giving us an example to use amen at the end of our prayers. According to Thayer’s Lexicon, the word amen here means, “So it is, and may it be fulfilled.” The Hebrew word comes from a root word that signifies “truth.” Saying amen confirms that what has just been uttered is true, trustworthy and reliable. The last biblical usage is the final word of the final book of the Bible, Revelation. It denotes that everything that has been said before is true, trustworthy and reliable.
Jesus’s framework for prayer contains vital instruction to help you in your prayer life. Use it daily!
The Value of a Prayer List
Planning your prayers demonstrates their importance. You wouldn’t appear before a king or world leader, or even your boss, without at least some mental preparation about what you were going to say. You wouldn’t step in front of an audience and speak to them for an hour without notes to remind you of your specific purpose and the points you wanted to cover.
Making a prayer list will force you to think about the needs of others, the needs of God’s Work and Church, and your needs. This will ensure that when prayer time comes, you will focus on the important things. Your list will serve as an automatic memory. If you tell someone, “I will pray for you,” you don’t want to forget your promise. As you see a need or hear of a problem, write it down. Put your list in front of you when your prayer time comes.
You may want to use a notebook with a separate page for each category. You may choose to divide your categories according to Matthew 6:9-13. Get detailed. Don’t write “pray about the Work.” Get out the Philadelphian and write down specific details about the Work—e.g., The Key of David distribution, call center operators, literature requests, names of people involved, production, subjects for Mr. Flurry and his inspiration, etc. Focus perhaps on two or three areas of prayer, then move on to others.
Review your prayer list every week. Update it. Don’t be trapped in repetition; don’t just read out your list to God—that’s a pitfall to avoid. Your prayer list is for planning your prayers, but don’t think that you can only pray about what you have written down. If something else comes to mind while you pray, go with it. Allow for inspiration! All your prayers should include any thoughts and feelings from the heart, which are not planned. It is possible to rely on a prayer list too much. And be careful not to repeat the same prayer in the same words over and over.
God is a planner. To be effective, we should be mentally prepared in what to say to Him in prayer. For many this may be a small step, but you will find that your prayer life will take a giant leap!
If you don’t have a prayer list, begin now. You will find it a very effective way of planning your communication with God and improving the power of your prayers. Instead of asking, “What am I going to pray about?” you will be asking yourself, “When am I going to get the time necessary to pray about all these things?”
As a final point, realize that you need not ask all of the things outlined here in each prayer, but we recommend beginning each day praying “after this manner.”
Praise God’s Name
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name,” Christ’s model prayer begins (Matthew 6:9). In our daily prayers, we should “hallow,” or put holy value on, God’s name.
God has many names in Scripture. Thayer’s Lexicon says the Hebrew word for name “is used for everything which the name covers,” including “one’s rank, authority, interests, pleasure, commands, excellences, deeds, etc.” God’s names reveal His high rank, authority, interests, deeds and, most importantly, righteous character. God has many names because no one name can adequately express His fullness. Each name carries important meaning.
At the opening of your prayer when you address the Father first, you could venerate Him for names specific to His office and position in the Family.
Abba Father: “Abba” is a Hebrew word similar to “Daddy.” Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6.
Father of Lights: Through creation, God “fathered” all the magnificent lights in the firmament. James 1:17.
Father of Mercies: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
The Most High, the Highest: Old Testament names for the God who became the Father. Genesis 14:18-20, 22; Psalm 18:13; 82:6; Isaiah 14:14. Also Luke 1:32, 76; 6:35.
‘Which Art in heaven’
The phrase “which art [or who is] in heaven” highlights God’s eternal existence: the fact that He inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15) and never sleeps (Psalm 121:3-4).
Everlasting: Genesis 21:33; Isaiah 9:6; 40:28. The word can mean “forever.” 1 Timothy 1:17.
The Living God: 16 times in the Old Testament; 14 in the New Testament. God is alive!
I Am That I Am: Exodus 3:14. The Hebrew word for “am” can be past, present and future tense, so this name could be rendered: “I Was, I Am, and I Will Be.”
Ancient of Days: Daniel 7:9, 13, 22.
God of Our Fathers: God introduced Himself as “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Exodus 3:15-16). He was deeply involved in the lives of these spiritual giants. Acts 3:13; 7:32.
Alpha-Omega: Revelation 1:8, 11; 21:6; 22:13. The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet; Christ is the beginning and the end. He has “neither beginning of days, nor end of life” (Hebrews 7:3). 1 John 1:1; Revelation 3:14.
‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’
There are many more names that refer to God:
God: The Hebrew for God in the Old Testament is Elohim, a word like family: a single entity composed of more than one part. John 1:1 shows that both God and the Word are “God”—like a father and son both named “Smith.”
Lord: This all-caps word in the King James Old Testament comes from the letters yhwh. It means “the Self-Existent” or “Eternal.” This name usually refers to the God of the Old Testament, who became Jesus Christ.
Lord God of Hosts: This phrase appears in about 270 verses, and “God of hosts” in over 30 more. God is a God of armies (what the Hebrew word for “hosts” means).
Long-suffering: Exodus 34:6. God suffers long; He is patient with us and “slow to anger.” Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3.
Abundant in Goodness and Truth: Exodus 34:6. Goodness is usually translated “mercy,” and truth shows God’s faithfulness or reliability.
Holy: John 17:11; Luke 1:49; Psalm 111:9; Isaiah 57:15; 43:15; Habakkuk 1:12.
Righteous: John 17:25; Jeremiah 23:6.
Creator: Ecclesiastes 12:1; Isaiah 40:28; 43:15; Romans 1:25; 1 Peter 4:19.
Lord of the Harvest: Matthew 9:38; Luke 10:2. Jesus told us to pray that more laborers would be sent for the Work, “harvest” depicting God’s plan to save the world.
Judge: Isaiah 33:22; Genesis 18:25; Acts 10:42; Hebrews 12:23; Malachi 2:17. Only God can properly punish, righteously reward, justly judge, and execute true justice!
Lawgiver: James 4:12; Deuteronomy 33:2.
King: God rules His creation, though He has allowed Satan to be god of this world until deposed (2 Corinthians 4:4). Christ will return as “King of kings” (Revelation 17:14; 19:16), sharing rule with humans born into His Family.
Healer: Exodus 15:26. God identifies Himself as yhwh-Rapha, meaning “The Eternal Our Healer.” Psalm 103:3; 107:17-20. Christ lived as a human and was brutally beaten so that “with his stripes” we could be healed (Isaiah 53:5).
Redeemer: Isaiah 63:16. A redeemer is someone who buys back, restores or recovers. God rescues us from the bondage of Satan, paying with Jesus’s blood (Acts 20:28).
JAH: Psalm 68:4. Pronounced “yah,” this shortened version of yhwh is contained in the word Hallelujah (literally: “praise the Lord”).
Almighty: Genesis 17:1; 35:11. This name can mean omnipotent or all-powerful. Jeremiah 32:18; Isaiah 9:6; 2 Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 1:8; 21:22.
Adonai: This word literally means “headship.” God is our Head; He must rule us. Christ is the Head of the Church (Colossians 2:19). Adonai includes the sense of God blessing; it could be translated, “Our Head who blesses.”
Rock: 2 Samuel 22:2-3; Psalm 31:3; 42:9; 62:6; Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 30; 1 Corinthians 10:4. Christ is also represented as the chief cornerstone in a building (Psalm 118:22; Matthew 21:42; Ephesians 2:20). This indicates God’s strong, enduring character and nature.
Finally, consider some names specific to the Son of God, who sits at God’s right hand in the third heaven.
Jesus Christ: Matthew 1:21. Jesus comes from a Hebrew word meaning “the Eternal is salvation.” Christ means anointed—as in the anointed one, or the Messiah. Jesus Christ is the name through which we can pray to the Father (John 14:13-14; 16:23-26).
Son of Man: Born of a physical woman (Matthew 1:18), He is now in glorified spirit form (Luke 21:27; 22:69; John 13:31; Acts 7:56). This name connects Christ to mankind and shows our transcendent spiritual potential!
Advocate: 1 John 2:1. Christ intercedes on our behalf when we sin.
Husband: Christ is “husband,” or “bridegroom,” to the Church. 2 Corinthians 11:2; John 3:29; Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:19-20; Luke 5:34-35.
Melchizedek: The God who later became Jesus manifested Himself in physical form in Abraham’s day (Genesis 14:18-20; Hebrews 7:1-3). Melchizedek means “King of righteousness.” He was King of Salem, and “abideth a priest continually,” the Priest of God, and our High Priest. Hebrews 4:14-15; 6:20; 9:11.
Messenger of the Covenant: Malachi 3:1. In His ministry, Christ proclaimed a message about the coming Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:14; Luke 8:1) and the marriage covenant God is making with His people.
Lamb: Christ is described as a lamb slain for our sins. Revelation 5:12; 13:8; John 1:29; Isaiah 53:7, 10.
Lion of the Tribe of Judah: Revelation 5:5. The lion is known for its power, dominance and boldness (Proverbs 28:1). We are assured victories if He is on our side.
Bright and Morning Star: Revelation 22:16; 1:13-16; 21:23.
Captain: Joshua 5:14-15. Christ is the military commander of God’s armies! Hebrews 2:10.
Prince of Peace: This Messiah preached peace (Luke 2:14; Acts 10:36), and at His Second Coming will enforce peace (Isaiah 2:1-4). Isaiah 9:7.
The Branch: Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12. Jesus was born from the family of David, a “branch” from that line (Isaiah 11:1), but also the “Root of David” (Revelation 5:5). Revelation 22:16.
Shepherd: John 10:11, 14; 1 Peter 5:4; 2:25; Psalm 80:1. Christ cares for those in His charge.
Chapter 5: The Blessings of Intercessory Prayer
God is acutely aware of others’ suffering. In the Old Testament, He heard the cries of the Israelites in bondage and delivered them. He legislated that His nation give special care to widows, the fatherless and the needy. When the Israelites neglected, disobeyed and rebelled against Him, He extended mercy. He showed immense compassion by becoming a human being, spending time and effort with the poor and needy, then subjecting Himself to the worst torture and execution ever! His Father agonized while watching this ravagement of His Son.
There is no question that we serve a God of compassion!
Here is one example from Matthew 9:36: “But when he [Christ] saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” This is how the powerful, sinless God thinks when He looks on this pitiable, sinful world.
Notice Christ’s reaction to this suffering: “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (verses 37-38). He immediately thought about the Work and what it could do to relieve the distress.
Today, Jesus Christ, again a glorified spirit God Being, is still concerned about the Work. His Work today is still aimed at extending compassion and helping people who are suffering. The compassionate Head of God’s Work has assigned you and me the same specific, empathetic duty: to pray for the Work so it can help more people.
After He sacrificed His life and was resurrected, Christ ascended to God and began to continually pray for those in need. He is an intercessor for those who suffer.
Your duty and mine is to intercede like Christ intercedes.
Our Intercessor and Advocate
Look at the inspiring vision the Apostle John received, recorded in Revelation 4, of God’s throne room in heaven. John saw the radiant throne surrounded by 24 elders—majestic, stately angelic beings serving as part of God’s heavenly administration. John then described seven angels and four angelic “beasts,” who worship God constantly. He also saw that these angels all hold harps, “and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints” (Revelation 5:8).
When we kneel down to pray, our prayers are delivered before God in golden vials in the hands of these angelic beings! Our prayers are so important to our Father that He has spiritual infrastructure in His throne room created specifically for the incense offered by His people.
Notice who else is in the throne room with the Father: “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain …” (verse 6). This Lamb is Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God, sharing God’s throne (1 Peter 3:22; Revelation 3:21).
Before our prayers reach the Father, they go through Jesus Christ. He takes that incense and acts as our Intercessor (Romans 8:34). He brings each petition before His Father on our behalf. So much of His effort and energy is put into these intercessory prayers. His mind is constantly focused on our trials, problems, difficulties, requests.
And when we sin, Christ takes that role even further and becomes our Advocate (1 John 2:1), pleading our case and beseeching the Father for mercy.
What a wondrous process! God puts a high premium on hearing and answering our prayers. These scriptures show that some of the highest levels of the angelic realm are involved in our prayers—as well as both of only two God Beings in the universe!
This is particularly true when we follow Christ’s own example by prioritizing intercessory prayer—praying for others.
Our daily prayers should include praise, thanksgiving and repentance. But the majority of our prayers should be intercessory prayers: praying for God’s Work and for other people. We must become skilled at praying in detail for others. The more spiritually mature we are, the more this will form the heart of our prayers.
Praying for others can help them a lot. But you can also profoundly benefit from daily interceding on behalf of other people! The time you spend interceding in prayer is not only a measure of your conversion, it is a tool to grow in conversion. If you drive yourself to pray less for yourself and more for a member with a health trial, a friend struggling to overcome a fault, or that personal appearance campaign aimed at reaching Trumpet subscribers, then you are thinking and acting more like Jesus Christ.
Consider all that you can learn from daily interceding on behalf of other people and God’s Work.
Illustrating God’s Government
When Abraham was journeying through the land of Gerar, he was afraid the king would take his wife, Sarah. Though he had tried this once before unsuccessfully, Abraham told Sarah to say she was his sister. The plan didn’t work this time either: King Abimelech took her anyway.
After the king brought Sarah home, God spoke to him in a dream, saying, “Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife” (Genesis 20:3). Abimelech protested. But God responded, “[R]estore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine” (verse 7). For Abimelech and his household to live, Abraham would have to pray for him. The king’s own prayer wasn’t good enough.
Why? Because God wanted to teach this king who His man was.
This story illustrates that there are times when intercessory prayer can show us God’s government.
Another scriptural example will hit closer to home.
“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray …” (James 5:13). Afflicted means to undergo hardship or suffer trouble. God says the appropriate response to trial is to pray—pray for your own needs. Particularly in those circumstances, we need to draw close to God.
The next verse talks about a special case: “Is any sick among you?” it asks. But the answer this time isn’t to pray for yourself. The verse continues, “[L]et him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (verse 14). James specifically states that healing comes from the intercessory prayer of God’s ministry (verse 15).
Why wouldn’t your own prayer be good enough in this case? There are probably several reasons why God does it this way. Perhaps He wants people to understand the seriousness of physical sin, and thus makes calling on that sacrifice—the stripes of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24)—more involved. (Request a free copy of Herbert W. Armstrong’s booklet The Plain Truth About Healing to understand this crucial biblical truth.) Perhaps He wants to give the ministry an opportunity to evaluate a person’s faith and spiritual maturity to better serve him.
Certainly He wants to confirm people’s understanding of government in the Church, requiring that people look to the ministry in this case. Perhaps God even wants to evaluate the minister’s attitude toward the person—for example, testing whether the minister continues to pray for that individual after the anointing.
Whatever the case, this is a situation where God commands intercessory prayer.
God expects His ministers to be a praying ministry. But the responsibility for intercessory prayer goes beyond the ministers.
The Apostle James commands, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). This verse doesn’t say, “Pray for yourself that you may be healed.” God wants us to pray one for another. How much do you draw strength and support from the other members in the Church? Conversely, how do you feel when someone else asks for your prayers?
Another marvelous benefit to intercessory prayer is that it can help us conquer selfishness and vanity.
This verse shows that God hears the intercessions of His people! How much impact can you have in someone else’s health trial? How many people in prayer does it require to cause God to intervene in a certain trial?
The Good News of September-October 1969 said, “[T]here seems to be a law of prayer that one person praying for another carries more weight with God than one man praying for himself.”
That is not natural. Particularly when we are in a trial, our prayers can begin turning inward, focusing on ourselves and our troubles. Some people’s physical pain can be so intense that it is difficult to focus attention on anything else. In a way, that is probably how we all tend to be: Whatever pain or problem we might have, it is easy for that to dominate our minds—and our prayers.
We must struggle daily against selfishness in our prayer life.
“Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (verses 19-20). How could any of us “convert” such a sinner? This isn’t directed just at the ministry, who may counsel someone who has been suspended from services because of a major sin. Remember, the context here is intercessory prayer!
In Romans 16:17-18, God instructs that someone in His Church who acts contrary to Him must be put out of the Church, and members must suspend their relationships with him. When this happens, God says that we should not bear them ill will, but pray for their repentance. How much love do we show those people? Do we forget about them? We are living in the Laodicean era of God’s Church (Revelation 3:14-22), when the great majority of God’s people are in danger of losing their eternal lives! It grieves God to see a member turn away from Him and toward Satan and his way of hate, selfishness and pain. It should grieve us too, and drive us to our knees! Pray regularly for those who have left God’s Church.
When you see someone having a spiritual problem, take it to God. When you see your mate struggling with something, diligently pray for him or her. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much—and he who converts a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death and hide a multitude of sins.
James 5:20 says we can actually hide sins. Note that it doesn’t specify whose sins. Might God be quicker to forgive our sins when He sees us fervently praying for the forgiveness of others’ sins?
Intercessory prayer is truly God’s way of give in action. It is a powerful antidote to our carnal selfishness.
If you want to become a more Christ-like intercessor, diligently maintain your prayer list. When you hear about something that would be good to pray for on someone’s behalf, write it down. It’s too important to risk forgetting. Keep a list of the people you can pray for: your family, people in your congregation, your co-workers and so on. Looking at those names helps you realize that everyone is going through something. Aim to pray for a certain number of people every day—perhaps five to ten people in 10 minutes during an hour of prayer.
James 4:3 shows that one main reason prayers go unanswered is that they are too selfish. How much more does it move God when He sees us placing the needs of others before His throne—showing our concern—beseeching Him on their behalf?
Look again at the model prayer Christ gave His disciples: “Our Father …. Give us …. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive …. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil …” (Matthew 6:9-13). The entire prayer is spoken in a collective sense!
It may not even occur to us to ask for our daily bread, because maybe we already have it. But there are many people who may not have enough to eat!
Lead us not into temptation. It can be so easy to focus only on the trials you face. But think beyond yourself. Pray for the spiritual success of fellow spiritual family members—especially if you know someone who is struggling with a spiritual problem.
Forgive us our debts. The Bible contains some tremendous examples of leaders who asked for collective forgiveness—even when they were not personally at fault. Read Nehemiah’s example in Nehemiah 1. Or Ezra 9, which shows Ezra fasting and praying on behalf of the nation of Israel.
Ezra prayed a deeply moving prayer of repentance for the nation. Ezra blushed and was greatly ashamed. The nation was all one family. Ezra set us an example in family repentance. … Do we realize that when we sin, we affect the entire family? … God’s pcg ministry and members must learn to stay on top of serious problems and not let them develop. But when they do happen, we need to take them to God.
—Gerald Flurry, Ezra and Nehemiah
Yes, your sins affect the entire family. That being the case, so do the sins of your brothers and sisters in the Church! Thus, it is in your best interest that others are as spiritually successful as possible! Understanding this truth can better motivate you to pray forgive us our debts.
Notice the Prophet Daniel’s example: “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments” (Daniel 9:3-5).
Do you see how Daniel approached God? He said we. … Although Daniel himself had not forsaken God, he knew his people had. … Daniel loved his family enough to cry out to God, “We have sinned.” Daniel had so much depth! That’s because he had God’s love.
We cannot let our love become shallow. We are Christ’s Bride. And some of the members of that body have turned away from their Husband. Then there are those in the world, all of whom have the potential to be born into God’s Family as children. Are we motivated to reach God’s Family—even those who are only potential members of that Family? Jesus Christ died for all humanity. Is there that much depth to our love?
—Gerald Flurry, Daniel—Unsealed at Last!
You can see how our prayers are really a measure of our love.
A Way to End Your Trial?
Job was a righteous man who endured a series of terrible trials—loss of personal property and family, and a cripplingly painful health trial. He had a strong relationship with God (Job 1:1, 5), and prayed intensively throughout his trial. But he was not healed. Nevertheless, in the end, Job learned the important lesson God was teaching him through those trials (Job 42:1-6).
Afterward, God turned His attention to Job’s friends, who had accused and railed against him because of the trial. “My wrath is kindled against thee,” God said, “for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath” (verse 7).
What did God do? After instructing the men to make an offering, He said, “and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly” (verse 8). If Job had not prayed for these three men, they would have been cut off! They were in a similar situation to Abimelech in Genesis 20.
But what then happened to Job? “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (verse 10). God ended Job’s trial only after he had prayed for his friends!
This may be the only such instance in Scripture. But is it possible that this gives insight into why some of your prayers remain unanswered?
Growing in Love
Philippians 2:4 says, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Where better to practice this command than in our prayers?
Look again at 1 Timothy 2:1. The rsv reads, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men.” Paul urges us to make supplications (petitions or requests), prayers, intercessions and even thanksgivings (gratitude—grateful language to God, as an act of worship) for all men! We should actually thank God for them, and for the good things He does for them. Regularly make requests, intercessions and offer thanksgiving for all men! That means more than just saying, “I pray for all men—I thank you for all men”—it means really breaking it down, beating it fine, and getting specific.
Paul gets even more specific. He instructs us to pray for kings and those in authority, that they would make decisions that would help us to live in religious freedom and peace (verse 2). God wants us to expand our thinking and broaden our perspective through our prayers. He wants us to build the mindset of Jesus Christ by the way we pray.
Our switchboard would never interrupt me in the middle of a class unless it was an emergency. Was my wife taken ill? I hurried to the telephone.
“Mr. Armstrong, President Kennedy has just been shot in Dallas, Texas!” came the startling message. “Also Governor Connally of Texas. They have been rushed to a hospital. The president is still alive, but in critical condition.”
All of us in the room were simply stunned. Back on the platform I asked the class immediately to rise. The Word of God instructs us to pray for our civil rulers. As the class bowed, I prayed immediately that if Mr. Kennedy were still living God would spare his life and restore him to a fit condition.
But the president was already dead. …
John F. Kennedy was a Roman Catholic, and I am not—I take no part in politics, and therefore I did not vote for him—but I did pray for him, and I hope you did, too! …
I wonder how many of our readers know that the Bible commands us to pray for the heads of our nations?
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Plain Truth, January 1964
Notice: What is the purpose? “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (verses 3-4).
God wants us to broaden our perspective through our prayers. He wants us to build more of His love through our prayers! This is the second great commandment: love toward neighbor—the world! (Matthew 22:39). Yes, God is only calling a few today. But He is only calling those few to help Him bring everyone into the Family! He wants all men to be saved and to learn the truth. Paul is saying that we need to want the same thing! We need to learn to think like that—and we do that through our daily prayers. This is how you become like God.
Another major benefit is that intercessory prayer can help us grow in God’s love.
Intercession is hard. But what is happening as you learn how to pray this way? What is happening as you meditate more deeply on others’ trials and problems, as you think through the situation and pray about it according to God’s will? What is happening as you love that person enough to stick with it, think it through, and really beseech God passionately about it?
Can you see how practicing that and learning how to do that is actually building the love of God? It is teaching you to think like God—to become God!
What happens if you have a problem in your marriage, and you build the habit of going to God first to get Him involved, praying for your mate? What happens when you intercede empathetically for a spiritual brother or sister who is suffering in trial? What happens when you see one having a spiritual problem and you take it to God? What happens as you entreat God for the repentance of someone who has left God’s truth? What happens as you cry out for the Laodiceans, whose eternal life is at stake?
If you are driving yourself to give detailed, faithful, fervent, Spirit-led prayers on their behalf, those prayers are the love of God! The more perfect those prayers are, the more they reflect the perfect love of God!
Learn to Empathize Like God
The story of Moses’s intercession on behalf of Israel illustrates the point. After the Israelites made a golden calf to worship, God was furious. He told Moses, “[L]et me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation” (see Exodus 32:7-10).
Imagine hearing those words straight from God’s mouth! Surely you would be trembling with fear. You likely would hastily submit to His determined will—after all, this is God! Perhaps, had you been in Moses’s position, you would have recalled your difficulties with the people. How easy to think, Yes, God—you are right. This is the only just thing to do. You have given them several chances. I must agree—they have it coming.
But how did Moses react, and what does this tell you about his spiritual maturity? Read his marvelous prayer in verses 11-13. What an eloquent speech for a man speaking to the Creator God! Put yourself in Moses’s position, and you quickly see that his godly love was much deeper than yours and mine. Learn from his example.
Think about this: This event occurred before the Word (who was the God of the Old Testament) became flesh (John 1:1-14). It was before Jesus Christ assumed the job of High Priest. He hadn’t yet experienced the pulls of the flesh. Perhaps Moses really did help God see a different perspective here!
Might God be moved by your perspective, as you passionately intercede for a struggling brother or sister? Is it possible that your intercessory prayers could touch the great God and enlarge His thinking?
God was certainly moved by Moses’s empathetic intercession. “And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people” (Exodus 32:14). What a tremendous example of answered intercessory prayer. It saved the nation!
What might your intercessory prayers accomplish?
When we see someone doing something wrong and then suffering the consequences, it is natural to want to remain hands-off. We don’t want to get involved. Or worse, we believe they had it coming to them. God wants us to learn instead to take a sense of personal responsibility. He wants us to mature spiritually to the point where we begin to take on His empathy!
How much does God extend compassion and mercy to people who disappoint Him time and again? Consider His perspective of the world today. He aches for His future family. All His deepest feelings and passions are tied up in this plan for humankind. Yet what a catalog of tragedy He witnesses all the time: disloyalty, failure and personal ruin on an incomprehensible scale. Even among His Spirit-begotten children, 95 percent are rebelling against Him in this end time. And even within His faithful remnant, how often we ourselves can disappoint our Father!
Still, what compassion, mercy and patience He has with us—to keep forgiving and blessing and loving us. He never lowers His standards, but none of us could say we have borne the full measure of punishment for our weaknesses, failures and sins.
God wants us to become more like Him by developing an increasing measure of His patience, compassion and mercy. Daily, heartfelt intercessory prayer is one of the most powerful ways to do that. We learn to become big enough to pray even for the person who is hurting us.
Numbers 16 contains another remarkable example of intercession. The chapter begins by telling of Korah’s blatant rebellion against Moses, and God. Moses told Korah and the men with him that God would show them with whom He was working. When that time came, a great earthquake split the ground open and swallowed the whole company of rebels—a dramatic demonstration of God’s indignation over Korah’s attitude!
You would think this dramatic display would have convinced the rest of the nation that God truly did back Moses! But astoundingly, the people blamed Moses! (verse 41).
God was furious! “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment” (verses 44-45). He immediately started a lethal, fast-spreading plague among the Israelites!
Moses sprang into action. He instructed his brother, Aaron, the high priest, to quickly make atonement for the people to stop the plague. Aaron ran to fulfill the instructions (verses 46-49). And despite the speed with which these two men acted—it may have taken mere minutes—14,700 Israelites perished!
What would have happened had Aaron delayed even a few moments? Had he moved slowly, or debated in his mind what to do? How many more would have died? Surely Moses and Aaron, in dealing with the congregation day in and day out, got frustrated, and their patience wore thin with certain individuals. Still, they knew they were responsible, and leaped into action to fulfill their duty!
Understand this lesson! Yes, there are many ways you can benefit from improving your intercessory prayer: understanding God’s government, overcoming selfishness, developing God’s love. But where the power of such prayer really becomes evident is in how much you can help others!
Pray for Enemies
Moses and Aaron set a superb example of interceding for people they had trouble with. God actually commands that we pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. Here is where His love becomes powerfully evident.
Christ said, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44; see also Romans 12:14). That is certainly what Moses and Aaron did.
That is also what Christ Himself did—as He was hanging from the stake, bloodied beyond recognition: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Why should we pray for our enemies? “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven …. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:45-48). This develops in us the loving mindset of our Father. We grow as His children, becoming perfect as He is. Yes, it is hard—perhaps one of the hardest things God asks of us. But He asks nothing of us that He is unwilling to do. We are to love those who hurt us, as God loves those who hurt Him.
So I usually, in my prayers, start out by thanking God (if that is any kind of example to you). Next I pray for my enemies, and they are many; and I do have enemies. There may be some waiting to serve a subpoena or summons of some kind on me outside right now, for all I know. … We are to love all people, and I pray first even for my enemies. I wonder if you’ll understand why? I don’t pray and ask God to harm them. I don’t say, “God, smash them. Make them suffer, God.” Oh, I don’t say anything like that. I say, “God, I want you to bless them. I want you to bless my enemies.” I pray for them before I pray for you, because the only way God can bless them is if they turn around and start to go the other way—the blessing of pulling them out of the way they’re living in now. I want them to have God’s blessings. … Most people think, “Oh, I should pray against my enemies.” Oh, no. I don’t pray against them. I pray for them, and I name them by name; and there are several that I name every single day. God is going to hear my prayers. They are going to find out where God is working.
—Herbert W. Armstrong, sermon, October 2, 1982
Keep in mind that many Church members have experienced miraculous delivery from trials after diligently praying that, for example, a difficult boss would have a change of heart.
Remember, God has cut off the vast majority of this world from access to Him at this time. To pray for those who cause us personal difficulties is to keep in mind God’s master plan for offering salvation to all mankind. King David, a man after God’s own heart, did pray that God would chastise his enemies. But why? So they would come to understand and know God (e.g., Psalm 83:15-18).
We all tend to be too small-minded in our prayers—too focused on ourselves and the people or circumstances immediately around us. That is natural. This is why we need to bring God into our prayers more and more, to pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20). That is why we must keep working to make our prayers more perfect! As we do, our prayers will show real concern and love for all men. And we will be earnest in our prayers for this Work, which is their only hope. We will pray that we would reach more people with God’s warning. We will pray that God would correct them in love and with mercy. We will pray that they would all come to the knowledge of the truth. This is an empathetic way to pray for our enemies—who, hopefully, one day, will be members of God’s eternal Family!
“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy [Spirit]” (Jude 20). We need that most holy faith of Jesus Christ, who should live in us. Pray in the Holy Spirit with that faith—that is truly effective prayer. That prayer will always get results.
Praying in the Spirit is not just prayer. It is life-changing prayer that gets through to God. It gets marvelous results. This is how we keep building that most holy faith.
Can you discern if you are praying in the Spirit? This is a vital question that we all need to answer!
Jude is condemning 95 percent of God’s people today. Too many of their prayers have become sinful. Most of the time, they are not praying in the Spirit.
—Gerald Flurry, Jude
Unify the Church
As much as God wants us to pray for those in the world, He wants us to focus special attention in our prayers on the members within His Church. If we are to pray for our enemies with empathy, how much more should we be able to intercede for each other empathetically?
When we beat our intercessory prayers down like fine incense, we are compelled to meditate deeply on others’ situations and problems. Perhaps you are having trouble relating to someone. If you pray for him or her, you will find yourself empathizing with that person’s specific troubles more. Your perspective on that person will more closely align with God’s.
Prayer does deepen your relationship with God. But in this way it also strengthens your relationships with others. Yes, intercessory prayer unifies the body of Christ.
Notice Paul’s example: He never ceased to pray for the Church members (Ephesians 1:15-16). He continually thanked God for them! “I do not cease … remembering you in my prayers” (rsv). He prayed for all men with thanksgiving. And he didn’t just pray for those who were going through trials—but for all the brethren. He prayed for their spiritual enlightenment and growth (verses 17-19). He wanted them to succeed as much as possible. We all need these types of prayers. And we all need to give these intercessory prayers for others.
Paul’s example also radiates in Colossians 1:7-11. “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (verses 9-11). Paul wanted them to succeed as much as possible. His love for the brethren was powerfully evident in his prayer life. He was always “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (verse 12; rsv).
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12). This man’s prayer life is canonized in Scripture as an example for us! The words “laboring fervently” are translated from a single Greek word, agonizomai. Agonizing! Struggling, competing for a prize, or contending with an adversary! Those are truly effortful prayers for the brethren.
How much more effective could your local minister be, or your congregation, or God’s whole Church, if we were all diligent in praying for each other?
Our pastor general bears an enormous load. On several occasions, he has told the Church how much he relies on our prayers for his success.
This leads to one of the most important benefits of intercessory prayer: It can keep our minds on God’s Work. And that benefit is secondary to the fact that those prayers truly do help the Work. God’s Work truly needs our prayers—now more than ever!
Pray for the Work
“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:2-4). Paul asked for prayers for the Work’s sake. Mr. Flurry does the same. We need to beseech God earnestly that He would open doors for us to proclaim the mystery of Christ to the world!
Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-11. Paul detailed many of the towering challenges he faced in doing God’s Work. And he wanted all the prayers he could get! Verse 11 reads, “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf [or, in the Moffatt, ‘Tell God thanks for us—it will mean more if it comes from more people’] for the blessing granted us in answer to many prayers” (rsv). In other words, “I know you’re all going to be praying for me, and God just won’t be able to ignore all those prayers, so, when the answer comes, then thank God for us as well!”
Paul said that the more people praying, the better. He knew success in his ministry would take many prayers!
[W]hat part does the individual local member have in taking the gospel message to all the world? This is done primarily and directly by the apostle. In this latter half of the 20th century it is done also by radio, television and in print!
In the first century it was done by personal proclamation. Then what part did the individual lay member have in it?
Much! Without this larger body of lay members the apostle could do nothing!
Notice a scriptural example: Peter and John had been proclaiming the message at the temple in Jerusalem. A miracle had been performed by Peter and a large crowd had gathered. As a result Peter and John were thrown in prison overnight, and severely threatened. Their lives were in danger. They were unnerved.
They went immediately upon release to the lay brethren (Acts 4:23). They needed the backing, support, encouragement of the brethren. They fervently prayed! Peter and John sorely needed this loyalty, backing and the prayers of the lay members. They were all a team together!
—Herbert W. Armstrong, Mystery of the Ages
Elsewhere Paul wrote, “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me” (Romans 15:30). “Strive together with” comes from a single Greek word similar to that used in Colossians 4:12, but this is sunagonizomai. It means to agonize or struggle in company together. Don’t be casual. We all should struggle, agonize in our prayers together for God’s Work! This Work truly is a group effort!
God’s people have been called out of season to support God’s Work, and we supply much of that support through prayer. Mr. Armstrong would tell people to ask themselves, as they prayed, how would the Work do today based on my prayers alone? That truly is how the Work gets done!
Don’t limit God by thinking, Well, all I can do is pray. Prayer is powerful! Jesus knew He could do nothing of Himself (John 5:30), and neither can we. Yet we are engaged in the Work of the Almighty God! Christ stated “greater works than these shall he [that believes on me] do …. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do” (John 14:12-13). Believe that He will work greater deeds through you than He wrought on Earth in person! Expect greater miracles. You can access the power that performs miracles. Our prayers can change lives and save lives! Of course, it is only through God’s mighty hand that this Work can get done. But God requires our prayers on the Work’s behalf before He will step in mightily.
God’s Work is depending on you: your obedience, your faith, your walk with God, your fervor and earnestness, your perseverance. What can be achieved by your urgent prayers is unlimited! As Jesus Christ’s return approaches, pray with greater and greater power—and witness “greater works than these”!
Assisting Our Husband Forever!
Praying for yourself is not wrong. Christ instructed us to pray for ourselves. Christ prayed for Himself.
But He also set a tremendous example of intercessory prayer. In Chapter 6 we will study John 17, the most complete prayer of His recorded in Scripture, spoken in the time of His own greatest need, the night before His crucifixion—and it is almost entirely a prayer for others!
Remember that picture of God’s throne room. Jesus Christ is there, interceding for us yet today. This is one of His full-time responsibilities! He is the great Advocate, High Priest and Intercessor. He prays to the Father on behalf of the weak, the sick, the needy, the ignorant, the suffering. It only makes sense that we need to think as our Husband does. Is it possible that, when we are sharing His throne in God’s Kingdom, we may be assisting Him in this monumental job?
Let’s become experts at it today. Learn the lessons and gain the blessings that come from intercessory prayer.
Chapter 6: Prayers of a Priest
Developing and perfecting our prayers is an effort we must keep pursuing our entire lives. What a great, noble pursuit!
God actually intends for your prayers to prepare you for king-priesthood. Striving for greater mastery in your prayers is a priestly, kingly pursuit!
Jesus Christ is about to be crowned King of kings and Lord of lords—and His saints will rule with Him as kings and priests (Revelation 5:10).
How do we prepare? Prayer is key. We can follow the example of King David, upon whose throne we will sit, by learning to pray “after God’s own heart.” David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), and he truly knew how to pray effectively. He built his life around praising God and thanking God. These two activities are at the heart of being God-centered. They are two great building blocks to being a man after God’s own heart.
God considers those individuals He calls into His Church today His priests; the Apostle Peter describes God’s people as a “holy priesthood” and “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5, 9). This will be our job forever—yet God says He has already made us priests (Revelation 1:6; 5:10). In God’s mind, all His Spirit-begotten people, not just the ministers, hold this office spiritually today.
How vibrant is this reality in your mind: that as one of God’s called-out ones, you are part of a holy, royal, kingly priesthood?
Why did Peter use this terminology? He was an expert in the Old Testament, and he linked our role as God’s saints today with the priests who served in the tabernacle and the temple in ancient Israel. There you had a high priest, whose job pointed toward our High Priest today, Jesus Christ. Serving under him was a whole priesthood, each priest fulfilling his priestly duties.
Those priests were a type of God’s called-out ones today. The job they did teaches us about our job as God’s royal priesthood today, and the role we will have in God’s eternal Family!
What is the job of a priest? Peter gets specific: “to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). The physical sacrifices the priests offered anciently typified our spiritual sacrifices today. You need to learn about those sacrifices!
One of the offerings the priests made anciently—and the most important for us to understand today—was a direct type of our daily prayers. This gives us tremendous insight into just how important prayer is to God—and how important it should be to us!
A Priestly Honor
Anciently, God commanded that the Israelites construct a tabernacle, and later, a temple. He did this because He wanted to dwell among His people in spirit; it was to be a physical representation on Earth of His heavenly dwelling (Exodus 25:8-9). The details of the tabernacle have wonderful spiritual significance for us today.
The scriptures call the tabernacle by several different names: the tent, tent of the Eternal, house of the Eternal and many others. The name used most often—by a large margin—is “tent of meeting.” God intended the tabernacle to be the place “where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee. And there I will meet with the children of Israel” (see Exodus 29:42-43; congregation in verse 42 means an appointment, assembly or meeting). This shows how much God wants to communicate with His people.
At the heart of the tabernacle was the ark of the covenant, covered by the mercy seat (Exodus 25:10-22). That holiest of all holy places was sealed off by a veil. Right in front of that veil was the golden altar, upon which the high priest would burn incense every morning and evening (Exodus 30:1-8). God had them position this altar directly before the ark and the mercy seat, and said, This is where I will meet with you! We are going to commune with each other at my throne by way of this golden altar (verse 6).
This physical altar was a type of the true golden altar that sits in the third heaven, right before God’s throne! The incense ritual anciently was a type of the daily prayers of God’s people—ascending to God like a sweet fragrance, offered right before God’s throne. There an angel offers spiritual incense “with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne,” and this holy mixture “ascend[s] up before God” (Revelation 8:3-4 ; see also Isaiah 6:1, 6-7). The Apostle John is talking about spiritual incense and the spiritual incense altar. And remember, the veil separating the altar from the ark was ripped in two when Christ died (Matthew 27:51), showing that we now have direct access to God’s throne room in our prayers!
God has assigned specific angels to monitor the prayers of His people. On top of that, as we will see, Jesus Christ is directly involved in all our prayers. This shows how seriously God takes our prayers.
Look at the royal environment in which your prayers are handled. Look at the priority God gives your prayers! You must place the same supreme importance on your prayers! You must remember where they are going. This has a lot to do with how God’s people are judged today.
— Gerald Flurry, Unveiled at Last: The Royal Book of Revelation
To kneel down and speak to God in prayer—to be able to make an offering to God before the incense altar—is a noble, exalted priestly privilege! We are entering the royal throne room and making a spiritual sacrifice on that golden altar as one of God’s royal priests! What an honor.
And what a responsibility. One of our duties as God’s holy priesthood is to offer sweet incense to God each day. The priest’s job really revolves around this golden altar.
Our Primary Focus in Life
Revelation 11:1 contains an important commission for our Work today: “Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.”
God revealed the truth about this verse to Gerald Flurry back in 1992. Even in Malachi’s Message, he put in a reference linking the altar with the ministry. But in the February 1992 Trumpet, he printed an article called “Inspiring New Truth—Measuring the Temple.”
In Revelation 11:1, God commissions the pcg to measure the “altar” first, and secondly “them that worship therein.”
Today, the altar represents the ministers that lead the worshipers. The altar is mentioned first because of the very crucial responsibility the ministers have toward God and the saints. …
The ministry—or the altar—is used by God to direct the spiritual lives of the saints. The ministers are responsible to see that the saints are approaching God, motivated by the Holy Spirit. …
The ministers’ job is to direct the kind of spiritual sacrifices made on the golden altar! The greatest, most magnificent job ever given to any man! And God watches it with the closest scrutiny.
The incense altar is a type of the holiest place in the universe. Spiritually, it [also] represents the ministers serving the great God!
—Gerald Flurry, Philadelphia Trumpet, February 1992
A priest’s job revolves around that golden altar! Spiritually, the incense altar represents the prayers of God’s people.
Mr. Flurry reprinted this article in the May-June 1998 Royal Vision. When he did, he added this statement:
The royal ministry must lead the people in building the golden character of God. That is why mankind was created. The ministry must lead God’s people in building their entire lives around the incense altar!
Our primary focus in life must be on how we talk to God in prayer! That is our number one priority. That is how we grow in God’s royal Family.
The ark represented the throne of God. The golden altar was placed just before the ark in the physical temple. This altar was where the prayers of the saints were offered. It symbolized faithful prayers which were acceptable to God!
—Gerald Flurry, Royal Vision, May-June 1998
What an earthshaking statement! Our lives overflow with constant, competing demands for our time and attention. How clarifying that God has told us our “number one priority” must be the quality of our prayers!
God has made us priests. We are called to serve as the priests of God forever. And perhaps the best way to prepare to be a priest is to learn to pray like a priest.
This is particularly important for those ordained into the ministry today. But the fact is, all of those in God’s Church today are called into God’s royal priesthood. The ministers’ job today is just a type of the job that all of us will have toward the whole world very soon! God needs a royal priesthood to serve the needs of the world.
One of the primary ways we serve this world—and this Work and Church, and God’s people—is through our prayers. As we do so, God builds our character and prepares us for our eternal positions as priests of God and of Christ.
How does God expect His priests to pray?
The Incense Altar
God’s instruction concerning the ancient incense altar is in Exodus 30. It is wonderfully detailed, and contains clear, practical and profound parallels that will, upon reflection, improve the way we offer spiritual incense to our Father. God’s instruction regarding this crucial part of the tabernacle service shows that He took it very seriously, and that He wanted the priests and the people of Israel to as well.
In verses 1 through 6, God describes the construction (the materials and dimensions) of the incense altar and its position inside the tabernacle. The altar was beautiful and elegant. God instructed, “And thou shalt put it before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee” (verse 6). The altar was right before the ark and the mercy seat, and God said, This is where I’m going to meet with you!
Then God begins His instruction to Aaron on how to burn incense.
“And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it” (verse 7). Preparing the incense and then offering it on the altar was the priest’s first priority upon arriving at the tabernacle each day. Other priestly duties, such as trimming the lamps and offering sacrifices, were to be performed only after he had prepared the incense and it was burning away on the altar.
God’s people are king-priests in training, and like Aaron, our first duty each day is to prepare and offer incense to God. Do we place this level of importance on morning prayer—that it is part of our job description as king-priests? Jesus Christ did (Mark 1:35).
“And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations” (Exodus 30:8). Aaron was instructed to close the day by burning incense. God wanted Aaron to get into the habit of preparing and burning incense as soon as he arrived in the morning and right before he left in the evening. He wanted him to open and close his day by burning incense to Him! Think on this practical symbolism.
In addition to this emphasis on morning and evening, God also calls it “a perpetual incense”—meaning constant. Likewise we are instructed to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). That is a priestly priority.
God was very particular about what was offered on the incense altar (Exodus 30:9). Incense burned in the temple was not a hodgepodge mix of herbs and spices. God provided the priests with detailed instructions about the ingredients, the portioning and the way the incense was to be offered—and His instructions had to be followed exactly. He cared deeply about the quality of incense.
Verse 34 has the exact recipe: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight.”
Likewise, our prayers must have specific ingredients, as many scriptures reveal. In our daily prayers, we cannot just throw together any old concoction. In Matthew 6, Jesus Christ gave us the recipe for creating spiritual incense! And He didn’t merely provide the ingredients for successful prayer. He gave us the outline, the focus and even an idea of the portions for creating a powerful prayer that pleases God. We cannot neglect praise and thanks—and still have prayers after God’s own heart! We cannot neglect intercessions for God’s Work and for God’s people. We cannot neglect repentance. Our prayers must have these ingredients to accomplish God’s purpose for prayer!
Anciently that incense was to be “blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy” (verse 35; rsv). At the time this instruction was given, making incense and perfume was a widely practiced art in Egypt and across much of the Orient. God expected the priests to delight in and take tremendous care, and to be constantly honing and perfecting their ability to make incense. He wanted them to make it a form of art. God wants the same from His priests today: He wants us to hone and perfect the way we pray—to develop the art of prayer.
Verse 36 continues: “And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy.” For incense to burn properly, and to ascend as a cloud over the altar, it had to be beaten fine.
For the priest, this meant work—mortar and pestle. There were no blenders or stores selling pre-ground herbs and spices in Israel. Grinding, measuring and mixing these spices took energy, focus, attention to detail, patience and time—all before the priest went to the incense altar! It wasn’t a menial task that could be achieved with little thought in a rushed few minutes. Then they were all to be “infused in the oil” of pure frankincense (Matthew Henry’s commentary).
The same applies to our prayer life. It is natural for our prayers to get lazy. It is natural to be general: “Bless my family,” “Bless the brethren,” “Heal the sick.” It is natural for our prayers to become casual, routine and passionless. We must work to make them as God wants. This is a major lesson to take from this priest analogy. Why else would God have put these men through all this effort?
God wants us to get detailed and specific, and to beat those prayers fine, like handfuls of dust, infusing them with the oil of His Spirit (Ephesians 6:18). He wants us bearing down, thinking through the fine points of the matters we pray about, and lighting those aflame with Spirit-led passion to get the smoke rising in a sweet cloud!
A detailed prayer list can be an enormous help—preparing those spices and putting in the work in advance so you know what to pray about. Even daily praying over a few names on a long list of people in your congregation can spark important thoughts: I haven’t talked to this person in a long time. I need to do so. What’s going on with him? Or, perhaps, you will be reminded of specifics to pray about that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. You might even recognize something you could say or do for that person—to call, send a card, give that word of encouragement, pay a visit, share that helpful article, donate that sweater. Those are impulses you would do well to act on.
Here is another measure of our prayers: If we are praying like a Christ-minded priest, we will feel there is not enough time to get in everything we need to! We cannot afford to waste time in prayer, or fruitlessly go on and on about our personal issues: That would be neglecting other important matters. And there is always a sense of “unfinished business” as you get off your knees. Clearly we cannot pray all day, but we feel that sense of duty—that there is more work to be done.
We never want using prayer lists to become routine and robotic; there is that danger. We must fight that tendency. Strive to use that agenda to add structure to heartfelt, sincere prayers that are offered with an ever growing measure of God’s love.
Lastly, consider verses 37-38 of Exodus 30: “And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord. Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.” Not just anyone could make this incense! It was specific to the priests, and they were not to make it for themselves; it belonged to God. Incense made for selfish purposes was an abomination to God! He didn’t want His priests using or selling incense as perfume for selfish gain as the Gentiles did.
Again, consider the awesome parallel to our prayer life. What is our motivation for praying? Are our prayers too self-centered, too vain?
Needed for Protection
Incense was burned on the incense altar; it was never brought inside the holy of holies except by the high priest on the Day of Atonement. God outlines the functions of the high priest on the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16.
Verses 12-13 read, “And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail: And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not.”
When he stood before the mercy seat (representing God’s throne) in the holy of holies, the high priest was to put the burning coals on the ground, and then pour finely beaten incense over them. This would create a sweet-smelling cloud that would drift over the mercy seat. Why? “That he die not.” The high priest burned incense so he could be protected: Forgetting or neglecting to burn incense meant death.
Understand: This cloud of incense was only a temporary ceremonial type—it didn’t literally, physically screen the high priest from God’s glory. God was making the point that, like incense arises from hot coals, prayers are to ascend like a cloud from the righteous—and as the incense protected the high priest, so our prayers protect us!
Yes, having a strong prayer life is a matter of survival for God’s people. Consider our cruel and terrifying world. It is fraught with danger and growing more threatening every day: wars, famines, natural disasters, murders, home break-ins, social unrest, bullying at school, persecution in the workplace. We need God’s protection more than ever!
And like the high priest, we need to be working hard to ensure we are sending up an incense cloud before God’s throne. How thick is your incense cloud? The more dangerous that conditions become, the thicker our cloud of incense needs to be.
Revelation 5 says those golden vials in God’s throne room are “full of incense.” The angels responsible for handling and monitoring our prayers have a big job, but it is our responsibility to ensure the vials are full of incense. We must prepare our daily incense meticulously, and burn it morning and night!
What a Priest Really Does
Our prayers should have the “ingredients” that God commands throughout the Bible, including praise, thanksgiving and repentance. But again, the most plentiful ingredient should be intercessions.
In earlier chapters we looked at 1 Timothy 2:1-4, where the Apostle Paul instructed us to pray for all men, since God wants all men to be saved. Notice: That passage begins, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men” (verse 1; rsv). First of all! Paul is talking about our number one priority—our primary focus in life: improving our prayer life!
Notice how Paul continued this thought: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (verses 5-6). Here is how Christ conducted Himself.
If you want to know what the role of a priest is, look at Christ: He is giving Himself and serving and sacrificing—to be a mediator between God and men. A mediator is a go-between—a reconciler or intercessor. That is what being a priest is about: bringing people to God. It is about facilitating a family relationship between the Father and a Spirit-begotten son.
This is what Christ is doing today. Christ is our High Priest—the Priest of all priests. He is Mediator, Intercessor and Advocate. He takes the incense we offer, refines it and brings it before the Father to intercede for us. He lives to make intercession for His people! (Hebrews 7:25). Christ’s life revolves around the incense altar! That is what makes our relationship with the Father possible.
We need to learn to pray like Christ! (1 Timothy 2:8). He is our example. He is the master at making supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings for all men. God wants the same commitment to the responsibility of intercessory prayer from His priests today.
This is the primary way we can learn to pray like a priest.
How Christ Prayed
How did Christ pray? The Apostle John wrote out a detailed outline of one of Christ’s prayers. It is the most remarkable prayer in Scripture—and is surely one of the Bible’s deepest chapters. It gives us wonderful insight into Christ’s prayer life with His Father. It shows how a faithful priest of God prays! It gives us much to emulate in our own prayers.
Lange’s Commentary labels John 17 “The high-priestly, intercessory prayer of Christ on behalf of His people.” Remarkably, He prayed this the night before He was crucified, while under the agony and pressure of that imminent brutality. If you want an example of how to pray while in a trial, study this chapter.
None of us, of ourselves, could ever pray as Christ did here. This is a perfect prayer—an expression of God’s perfect love! However, we can allow Christ to come in us through His Spirit, and we can bring Christ’s mind into our prayers. Then we can pray like this! Our spiritual sacrifice on that golden altar will be acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
This prayer is saturated with honor for the Father—not just at the beginning, but all the way through.
Father—I just want to glorify you, Christ begins (John 17:1). Note throughout the prayer how He focuses not on Himself but on His Father. Knowing YOU is real life! You are the only true God. You have given me these disciples, but they are yours. All mine are yours. Your word is truth. What deep respect and honor Christ showed toward His Father in His prayers.
Strive to express such honor in your prayers. Rather than skipping through a few words of praise at the beginning so you can get to what you want, stop and really praise Him! Offer your heart to Him—at the beginning, and all the way through.
Remarkably, in this prayer, Christ makes only two requests for Himself. The first is in verse 1: He asked the Father to glorify Him—so He could glorify the Father! The second is in verse 5: He asked the Father to glorify Him—so He could be with the Father! Christ prayed for Himself, but even those requests were unselfish.
The greatest portion of this prayer—more than double everything else combined—is Christ interceding for His people. Christ deeply focused on praying for others.
A Three-Part Formula
John 17 supplies a three-part formula we can emulate in our intercessory prayers for God’s Work and God’s people.
First, Christ praised His people before the Father. Scripture says Satan is the accuser of the brethren. Christ is the praiser of the brethren! They have kept your word, He prayed. Notice that, Father! They have received your words. They have believed! They know! (verses 6-8). Christ brought to His Father’s attention all these good points. He reminded God of His disciples’ faithfulness and responsiveness to Him.
This is how a priest should pray. Notice those positive things—then talk to God about the good points you see in His precious people! As Paul said, offer up thanks for them.
Second, Christ informed the Father about the difficulties His people face.
Jesus Christ came in human form and understands the pulls of the flesh. He knows the weaknesses of the human spirit and the flesh. With that experience, He can help us get through to the Father in every detail. He has experience the Father doesn’t have. And the Father wants to hear His point of view. … The Father says to Christ, I want to hear you tell me about my son.
—Gerald Flurry, The Last Hour
Here we get a glimpse at the conversations that continually take place in the third heaven between Christ and the Father. In verses 11 and 14, Christ passionately and with detail says, Your people are here in the midst of this satanic world—with all the pressures and pains and trials that come with it. They’re being hated—persecuted! They are strangers and pilgrims—and that’s not easy to endure. I can tell you—I experienced it! They have a difficult road. Satan is coming after them. The world hates them.
How awesome to have someone else, someone like that, praying for you! We can certainly talk to God in the same way. Discuss your own experiences. Share with God your point of view regarding someone in trial. Intercede! God wants to hear us tell Him about His sons too.
Third, Christ made several requests on His people’s behalf. “I pray for them,” He said, specifically referring to His people (verse 9). Later, He did pray for those in the world, but He placed far greater emphasis on praying for God’s people.
Jesus made about 10 specific requests here. He asked the Father to keep them and help them to be united (verse 11). He asked the Father to fill them with His own joy (verse 13). What a remarkable request, considering the circumstances. When going through trials, strive to have Christ’s mind and pray that others would have the joy Christ has given you!
Christ also prayed for our protection from Satan (verse 15). He didn’t pray God would remove all problems from our lives, but He did pray that He would provide a hedge of protection from the devil.
He also prayed, “Sanctify them through thy truth …” (verse 17). I pray for my future disciples, Christ said, talking about us! (verse 20). He prayed that the Father would help us be one, perfectly united. He prayed heavily for our unity, and for perfect peace in the Church (verses 21-23). He prayed for our spiritual success. Jesus Christ prayed that we would grow and flourish spiritually.
Notice this beautiful request: “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (verse 24). Christ loves us and wants to be with us!
This is the way a true priest of God thinks. This is the way a true priest of God prays.
Remember this practical, three-part formula in your intercessory prayers for God’s Work and for God’s people: 1) Praise people before the Father; 2) tell the Father about their difficulties; 3) make requests on their behalf.
Praying for the World
Christ also prayed for the world—even amid the most trying moments of His life. This is how big-minded He was. Read John 17:21: “… that the world may believe that thou hast sent me,” and verse 23: “that the world may know that thou hast sent me,” and that you love my disciples. He prayed for His people, then extended that love to the world—for all men to be saved!
Look at the extraordinary unselfishness of this prayer! Jesus didn’t spend His prayer time wrapped up in His own problems, trying to get God focused on Him and what He wanted. He praised, empathized and interceded! He offered the prayer of a holy, royal priest of God.
How beautiful. What a glory to the Father. What sweet incense.
Follow His example! Bring more and more of His mind into your prayers. Bear down, work and do all you can to prepare to be a king-priest sitting next to Him as His Bride!
These kinds of prayers are the love of God! This is why, as Mr. Flurry wrote, “Our primary focus in life must be on how we talk to God in prayer! That is our number one priority. That is how we grow in God’s royal Family.”
God expects His ministers to pray for the Church members. The lives and the problems of the people the ministers pastor should fill our daily prayers. This is what godly priests do.
When Samuel was priest, the Israelites knew they needed him to intercede for them (1 Samuel 12:19). Samuel responded, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you” (verse 23). Yes—it is sin for one of God’s leaders not to pray for the people he leads! It breaks God’s law of love. It is simply not thinking like God.
In Chapter 5 we saw how the Apostle Paul set the same priestly example, praying regularly and fervently for the people he was privileged to serve (e.g., Ephesians 1:15-19; Colossians 1:7-11).
We all need to learn how to think like priests of God, becoming experts at intercession.
Grow in God’s Love
Through our whole life, we must keep pursuing the goal of becoming experts at praying prayers after God’s own heart. We can never stop working toward perfecting our prayers so they are increasingly saturated with the perfect love of God.
This is part of our calling as God’s priests. Our lives should revolve around the golden altar. This is how God’s Work gets done. This is how the Church advances spiritually. It is also how God builds His mind and develops His character in us: by teaching us how to love—through how we pray. This is how we become more and more like God. This is how we prepare to be king-priests sitting beside Jesus Christ as His Bride. This is how we can come to have a heart after God’s own heart.
Learn to pray like our High Priest, Jesus Christ, every day—every moment of your prayers. Make your prayers the prayers of a priest.
Chapter 7: A House of Prayer
As a “royal priesthood,” God’s called-out ones serve a special function today and will fulfill an even greater purpose in the World Tomorrow: teaching all people how to talk to their Creator!
During the Philadelphia Church of God’s first groundbreaking ceremony in September 2000, our pastor general dedicated the Church’s original 40 acres to God, saying that without God, the campus would be just another 40 acres. But with God, he said, it would be God’s land, ruled by God, and filled with the very hope of God.
One hundred and seventy acres, 10 buildings and several homes later, this campus would still be just another plot of land without God. Any property or any building, no matter how nice, is nothing without God! Unless God is at the center of all we build, it will come to nothing.
In 1 Kings 8:12-13, it was prophesied that Solomon’s temple would be a temple in which God would dwell!
In verse 22, Solomon began his temple dedication prayer before all the people of Israel. He first asked God to hear him, and then that God might always hear the prayers of anyone who prayed in the temple (verse 30). The words “toward this place” are better translated “in this place” (see Bible margin)—speaking of the temple.
This is the only time Solomon asked that God would hear prayers yet to be offered in the future. He went on to ask God to always hear seven specific types of prayer: 1) prayers asking forgiveness of a false oath (verses 31-32); 2) prayers asking God to rescue His people from military defeat (verses 33-34); 3) prayers offered during times of drought (verses 35-36); 4) prayers offered amid plagues on the land (verses 37-40); 5) prayers offered by strangers, or Gentiles (verses 41-43); 6) the Israelites’ prayers when they were at war, as long as they prayed toward Jerusalem (verses 44-45); and 7) the Israelites’ prayers when they were led out of their land into captivity, as long as they prayed toward their land (verses 46-50).
Solomon’s first five petitions to God concerned prayers that were offered in the temple itself. The last two covered prayers offered outside the temple, but that still revolved around God’s house. Notice Solomon said “in this house” or “toward this house,” as the case may be (verse 38). Obviously, the Israelites were not limited to praying only while inside the temple, but all their prayers still revolved around the temple. Their prayers were to have a headquarters focus!
Notice the last part of verse 43. In the Hebrew, “this house … is called by thy name” means, “Thy name is called upon this house” (see margin).
The point is, this was to be a house, or temple, of prayer. More than just a place for God, it was intended to be a place of worship—a place where God would communicate with His people.
What does this mean for us? Solomon’s temple has long since been destroyed, and yet, as Solomon said in the dedication ceremony, it was to be a place for God to dwell in. Where does God dwell today?
A Spiritual Temple
The Jews started building the temple some 70 years after the initial Babylonian invasion. There were still some among them who had seen the original temple in all its glory, and they knew it was far more glorious physically than this second one Zerubbabel and the Jews were building (Haggai 2:3).
In verse 6, the prophecy shifts to a time just ahead of us now. God says He will shake the heavens and Earth shortly after an end-time Zerubbabel dies.
In verse 7, God says He will “fill this house with glory.” This “house” is not the temple Zerubbabel and the Jews were building. God was referring to another temple.
“The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” (verse 9). The glory of Zerubbabel’s temple was nowhere near that of Solomon’s, but here God is speaking of an end-time spiritual temple. There is also an end-time physical application to this verse. (For more information, request a free copy of Haggai: God Has Begun to Shake the Nations.) But spiritually, God is talking about a temple far more glorious than anything Solomon ever built.
God has brought us into His Family—His household (Ephesians 2:19). Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone, and He and the prophets and apostles are the foundation of a spiritual building—a “holy temple in the Lord” in which God dwells through His Spirit (verses 20-22). There is a temple on Earth today wherein God dwells—a spiritual temple. It is a holy temple, far more glorious than what Solomon built. We are that temple!
God’s people collectively make up the spiritual temple in which God dwells today—the Church (1 Corinthians 3:16). But this holy temple is much more than just a structure in which God places His name.
The first part of 1 Peter 2:5 reveals that we in God’s Church are built up—or, as it says in the margin, “be you” built up—as “a spiritual house” of God. As part of this spiritual house, we have a responsibility “to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”
Solomon’s temple was to be a house of prayer. And as one of the temple’s “lively stones,” you must be an active participant in this spiritual house of prayer, offering spiritual sacrifices to God through prayer. We are this house of prayer! We are a royal priesthood (verse 9). We are king-priests.
In his temple dedication, Solomon prayed, God, when your people come to you seeking forgiveness, hear their cry—as long as it’s in this house. If they suffer a defeat at the hands of the enemy, hear their cry for salvation in this house. If they fall on hard times and turn to you in this house, hear them. If strangers come along and convert to this way of life, hear their prayers in this house. And even when they are far away, alone, isolated and fighting the enemy, or facing defeat or captivity, if your people pray even toward this house, hear their prayer, God!
God hears prayers from this house of prayer that He does not hear anywhere else on Earth. Do we take full advantage of that awesome privilege and honor? We are the temple of God! That means we must be a praying people—a temple of prayer.
God expects us to offer spiritual sacrifices of praise to Him continually! (Hebrews 13:15). Anciently, the priests were the only ones who offered the actual sacrifices. Today, we all have a part in offering those spiritual sacrifices. This is why God refers to us collectively as a “royal priesthood.” There are only a few ordained ministers today, but God has numbered all of us among that royal priesthood! As God’s priests, prayers are your ministry! This is how you can offer up holy and acceptable sacrifices before God.
Following prayer with good deeds is also essential (Matthew 7:20) and should certainly be considered part of your ministry, but it all begins with prayer.
Revelation 4 describes God’s majestic throne room. But spiritually speaking, where is that throne room located? The seven lamps in verse 5 symbolize the seven Church eras—or the spiritual temple. God’s throne is inside the spiritual temple; inside this Church is where God dwells. Being in this Church, then, gives us access to God—and that must come through prayer.
Can we see what we are a part of? Are we aware of what we alone have access to in this spiritual temple?
We simply cannot worship God without prayer. Your prayers will determine your success in worshiping God and your success in life.
A House of Prayer
In Isaiah 56, God addresses His people, those who keep the Sabbath (verse 2). God seeks people who put His pleasures above their own. That means prayer and Bible study must be first in our lives, or we are putting something before God!
“Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off” (verse 5). Our name will be on the Bride of Christ, or the mother, level; with Christ, we will bring forth many children. In addition to our everlasting name, we should remember the everlasting place God is offering us: an eternal place within His house and within His walls!
Revelation 3:11 is the last specific warning God gives to the Philadelphians in this end time. But it is followed in verse 12 by the last specific reward the Philadelphians will receive if we remain steadfast. Here again, God draws attention to the name we will be rewarded with—and the place we will forever dwell in.
Our position in the Kingdom is so unique compared to the other firstfruits because of the place we will dwell. All the firstfruits will enter the Family of God on the bride and mother level, but only the Philadelphians are rewarded with headquarters positions! Our permanent residence will be in the temple of God—and we will go no more out!
God told King David He would plant the people of Israel and move them no more (2 Samuel 7:10). This is what God is doing with us: preparing us for our permanent dwelling place. We are the fulfillment of the hope Solomon expressed when he dedicated the temple anciently. We are the “temple” in which God will abide forever!
God says that those of any nation or race who “join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain [His headquarters in Jerusalem], and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their [spiritual] burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people” (Isaiah 56:6-7).
Look at the value God places on our contact with Him! Look at the value He puts on our prayers!
God is our Father—the most perfect, loving Father there ever has been or ever will be. We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). In other words, because of His love for us, we are obligated to return that love. Any loving father desires the attention of his children, and when a child appears disinterested, the father will try harder to get his or her attention. God seeks the attention of His people. He wants an intimate relationship with them! But there comes a point where He must draw the line: at the Tribulation and Day of the Lord.
Remember the instance when Jesus found money changers in God’s temple. He was rightfully upset: What He found in the temple was no different from what you might see on the street in the world. “And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13).
How angry do you think God gets when His spiritual temple becomes polluted? God’s temple is supposed to be a house of prayer, not just another organization. God has called us to be a part of this Work so we might learn to worship Him and become a praying people. Yet look at how many people in this last era of His Church have turned away from that calling (Revelation 3:14-22). Still, God would quickly forgive them if they would just turn back. Like a child who eventually comes around and seeks the attention of his father, many repentant Laodiceans will return to Him in the Tribulation.
Isaiah 66:2 shows where God dwells: within His people. This is where God’s power is, where He reveals His truth: in His spiritual temple!
Concerning the phrase “to this man will I look,” Soncino commentary says it means, “to this man will I take note of [and] listen to his supplications.”
God says, “To this man will I look”! This is where God’s power is! This is where God’s Work is done! This is where God reveals His truth! This is where the omnipotent God dwells! … He wants a one-on-one relationship with you—His begotten son! God is your loving Father, and He does not neglect His sons!
I believe Isaiah 66:2 is one of the most important verses in the Bible. Salvation is between you and God. You and I must tremble at God’s Word, or God can’t work with us.
—Gerald Flurry, Isaiah’s End-Time Vision
Teaching the World How to Pray
Isaiah 56:7 is a vision of the wonderful World Tomorrow, when God’s house “shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” What a vision! We will be rewarded with positions in this house of prayer, but this house is not just for us—it is for all people!
God is speaking to His own converted people today. He is discussing the turbulent end times. Then He goes on to state how His house of prayer will soon be accepted by the whole world. God will bring the firstfruits to His holy mountain today, then use them to help bring the whole world into God’s spiritual house! They will teach the whole world how to pray.
—Gerald Flurry, Isaiah’s End-Time Vision
Can that really be true? Are we worshiping God so that we might soon teach the whole world how to have a Father-son relationship with God?
When you understand our reward—the fact that we will enter God’s Family as the wife of Christ, soon to be the mother of billions of God beings—it makes perfect sense. Just as a mother points her children to the father of the house, we will have the unique privilege of teaching the finer points of true spirituality to all God’s children in the World Tomorrow. We will have qualified—because of the intimate relationship we now have—to teach the whole world how to have an intimate relationship with their Maker!
In that day, God will again dwell in Jerusalem. “Thus saith the Lord; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the Lord of hosts the holy mountain” (Zechariah 8:3). Jerusalem will be the capital of the world, the center of Earth’s peaceful and law-abiding activity. Verses 7-8 show that salvation will be brought to this world through Jerusalem!
Keep in mind, this is also the place where we will dwell!
Part of our job description will be gathering all people together in Jerusalem to worship God (verses 20-21). If you think it is exciting to gather your things to go to the Feast of Tabernacles today, just wait until people from all nations pack their bags for the Feast in Jerusalem! Millions of people from around the world—of one mind, one Spirit—will gather together to worship God in Jerusalem.
But what will they do there? “And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord” (verses 21-22). Speedily in verse 21 can be translated “continually” (see margin). In the World Tomorrow, people will go up to Jerusalem continually to pray before God! Pray can also read, “to entreat the face of” (see margin). In Jerusalem, they will be able to communicate with God face to face.
Even though God the Father’s throne will not yet be set up on Earth, Jesus Christ will rule from the temple in Jerusalem. That temple is also where we will rule! This means that people will come to Jerusalem regularly so we might teach them how to pray to God!
This doesn’t mean that people will only pray while at the temple. Remember, Solomon prayed that God would hear the prayers offered inside the temple, and toward the temple. It means that all prayers will have a headquarters focus!
“[M]any people and strong nations”—all of them—will come to Jerusalem to seek God (verse 22), to pray before the Eternal! They will be looking for spiritual Jews to accompany them to Jerusalem (verse 23). Teachers will be in great demand. And one of our primary duties as headquarters employees will be to teach the world how to pray.
Anciently, God made Solomon’s temple the most famous building on Earth. He also made David famous, though he was a mere shepherd before his calling (2 Samuel 7:8). David became a witness to the people—a leader—a commander (Isaiah 55:3-4).
What about us? People we have never known—nations that have never heard of us—will come running because our fame will have spread (verse 5), just as David’s did. They will come because God will have glorified us. Compare that with Haggai 2, where God says He will fill this latter house with glory far greater than that of the first. We are what make this house glorious—as long as we remain a people of prayer. There is a reason God places Philadelphians in His house of prayer forever: because they are a praying people!
When Christ returns, He will not change human nature instantaneously. Psalm 110:2 says He will begin His rule among enemies. To establish lasting peace, we must reeducate the world. We will help Christ change man’s nature—and that all begins by banishing Satan and teaching people how to establish a relationship with their Creator.
The inward man is renewed day by day, through prayer (2 Corinthians 4:16). There can be nothing more fundamental in reeducating this world than teaching people how to pray.
Have this approach in your prayers today. Pray with this World Tomorrow vision in mind!
Remember, God’s temple will be called a house of prayer for all people in the World Tomorrow, and we will work in this house of prayer. Put in the work today to becoming a professional at prayer!
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2). The word “established” would be better translated prepared. This is what God is doing right now: preparing His house of prayer! Once it is prepared, God will establish His house on Mount Zion in Jerusalem—and then all nations will flow to it. That is where their reeducation will begin (verse 3).
People of all nations will go up to Jerusalem from year to year to worship God—to keep the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16). And worshiping God begins with prayer. This is how God’s Spirit will be renewed in man in the World Tomorrow.
And this is how our spirits are renewed today. We are here to worship God, and that begins with our fervent prayers before Him, every day, in His house of prayer.