By Bob Thiel
This is the second of a multi-part series on prayer.
It has been said that, “The Church of God goes forward on its knees.” This has basically been used as an admonition to tell Christians that they need to pray. But how?
In the previous article, prayer was defined, and four tips were discussed. In this article, five additional tips, starting with what we will call tip five are covered.
Tip Number 5: Worship God in Spirit
Humans have a tendency to be physically-minded and often want physical representations to worship God. Yet, Jesus taught that God wants to be worshiped in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).
Notice also something that the Apostle Paul wrote:
6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. (Romans 8:6-9)
Icons are not spirit. All icons are physical objects. Not one adequately conveys the truth about the image of the Father or the Son. Thus, no one should use icons or other idols as ‘an aid’ to worship or pray.
The Apostle Paul was pleased that pagans had interest in God, but he told them that true God was not to be worshiped with idols nor icons:
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:22-31)
While some have said that having icons around reminds them to pray, the Apostle John wrote:
21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1
He did not say that idols/icons should be around to encourage prayer. The pagans did that. And the Bible teaches that the true God does not want to be worshiped as other gods have been (Leviticus 18:24-30; Deuteronomy 12:29-31).
The Bible points to God’s throne being in the far north (Psalm 48:1,2; Job 37:22; Isaiah 14:13; Ezekiel 1:4) and when I pray, I tend to look towards the heavens to the north, presuming God’s throne is above that (cf. Isaiah 40:22). This helps remind me that God rules the expanses of the universe, not that He is confined to some trinket made of wood, silver, and/or gold.
Now, it should be noted that God, in His mercy, does sometimes choose to answer the prayers of the unconverted. This is not only documented in the Bible (e.g. Judges 16:30; 1 Samuel 3:9), but even in some scientific studies in the 21st century verify that prayers involving those who are not truly converted are of value. God also does hear children (cf. Luke 18:17) and seeks godly offspring (Malachi 2:15).
If someone you know sincerely prays to God, God may hear them as He knows that their ignorance of His ways is not always deliberate and that their personal sincerity is real.
Sometimes when God is calling someone (John 6:44), God will cause miracles to occur and/or answer certain prayers to encourage them. But no one should believe that if they remain in a state of sin, that God is pleased or is somehow obligated to answer.
Tip Number 6: Resist Satan
People often tend to ignore Satan, but his influences are real. Satan deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9).
Satan does not want you to pray to the true God or to trust Him. Satan is called “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and he broadcasts his rebellious attitude. Satan provides a lot of temptations (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:5) and wants you to be selfish, and not show the love that God wants you to.
Satan has little problem with selfish prayers. Satan wants you to focus on yourself and your perceived needs. Selfish prayers are warned against in scripture:
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:3)
The devil wants you to think that you deserve something and not really believe God (e.g. Genesis 3:1-6). Satan wants you to have a selfish attitude. When you are tempted to think thoughts that are not in alignment with God, you should say a silent prayer and attempt to draw closer to God:
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:7-10)
This is very effective when practiced. And it should be practiced all the time. If you want prayers answered and wish to have godly character built within you, resist Satan’s temptations and draw near to God.
Tip Number 7: Don’t Fight God
This should be obvious, but don’t fight God. Yet many Christians
The Bible shows that Jonah rebelled against what God wanted him to do (Jonah 1:1-3), so God took strong action (got Jonah swallowed by a great fish, Jonah 1:17) to get Jonah to do what he should have done. And even later after he did it, Jonah was upset about it (Jonah 4:1-4).
Consider that the previous rebellion of the children of Israel against God was “written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). In the New Testament, before becoming the Apostle Paul, Saul realized that something wasn’t right about his persecution of Christians, but resisted doing the right thing until Jesus stopped him (Acts 26:12-15).
Resist Satan (James 4:7), do not resist God, be willing to change (Revelation 3:19), and do not fight God (cf. Acts 23:9). Satan rebelled against God and wants you to as well. You can succeed:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
You might be thinking:
“What, me fighting God? I obey God and really try to keep His commandments. You must be referring to others.”
If that is what you are thinking, consider how you react sometimes when you are cranky, fatigued, tempted, experiencing certain moods, or feeling overwhelmed.
Conscientiously pray to resist Satan and submit to God. Many do not really wish to be led when tempted. But they should.
Recall that Jesus said:
33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:33)
So, if you are or wish to be a real Christian, do not fight God. Be willing to be led by His Spirit and be willing to grow in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18).
Tip Number 8: Pray for Others
Pray for others.
The word pray/prayed in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew word transliterated as palal (paw-lal’) to entreat, intercede, pray, make supplication. The first time it is used in the Bible (NKJV) was when Abraham was to pray for someone else (Genesis 20:7,17).
Many people really do not want to pray for others, but that lack of effort on their part is wrong. Many want others to pray for them, but tend not to pray for many others.
Samuel said it would be a sin for him not to pray for others:
23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; (1 Samuel 12:23)
Paul prayed for the Colossians and Thessalonians:
9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; (Colossians 1:9)
11 Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power (2 Thessalonians 1:11)
The Apostle John also prayed for the physical needs of people:
2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 2)
It is more than just leaders that are to pray for others. The Apostle James wrote that Christians were to “pray for one another” (James 5:16).
44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:44-45)
35 It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)
It is blessed to pray for others, including enemies, but many do not do it. Remember to bless and this often can immediately help you. Many feel that they will get to praying for others after they feel they are taken care of. Yet, selfishness is not what prayer is all about—we are to be God’s sons!
Tip Number 9: Pray for Your Needs
Can you pray for your needs?
Certainly. It is okay to pray for what you need. Do not neglect to do so. James taught:
2 Yet you do not have because you do not ask. (James 4:2)
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:16-17)
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. (James 5:13)
Many think that they can always rely on themselves, so they do not properly pray. Yet, the way humans live and die shows the fallacy of that.
All of us need help when we are born, and most of us need assistance before we die. In addition, we all could use God’s interventions and blessings throughout our lives.
We should not neglect to ask God who supplies every good gift (James 1:17). Many people pray only when they and/or loved ones are facing difficulties. It is fine to pray then, but that is not what prayer is all about.
More information on prayer can be found in our booklet Prayer: What Does the Bible Teach?