Friday: Praying with Confidence

Sermon: How to Pray

In this week’s lessons, we look at what prayer is and how to pray properly.

Theme: Praying with Confidence

If God feels far away when you begin to pray, what are you to do in this case? Should you stop and pray some other time, saying, "Well I'm not getting through today, I'll come back tomorrow"? Oh no! In fact you probably need prayer most at that moment. You see, instead of not praying at that moment, you should simply be still and, looking to God, ask Him to work through His Holy Spirit to make Himself real to you and to lead you into His presence. Many Christians find that their most wonderful times of prayer are those in which they start without clear sense of God's presence, but come to it fully by praying. 

Now everything that I've said so far about the definition of prayer, prayer being to God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit, is really an amplification of the first part of Jesus' instruction about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount. But there is a second part also. It is the part in which Jesus teaches that God is more willing to answer your prayers than you are to pray and that, as a result, the Christian who prays in God's will can pray with great confidence. Jesus said, "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the pagans do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them, for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him" (Matt. 6:7, 8).

There is a great deal involved in this, of course, and it certainly does not mean that God will grant every single thing you ask for. If you are to receive the things you ask for, you must have a knowledge of God's will and a knowledge of God's ways. You must pray according to knowledge. This knowledge is given to you through Scripture. One of the greatest verses on prayer in the Bible is 1 John 3:22: “And whatever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." This remarkable statement is totally in keeping with Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, for John says that His prayers were always answered and that He had full confidence that they will continue to be answered. 

And if we were to say, "But John, how can you make such a statement? Our prayers are not always answered (or do not seem to be answered always to us). And yet here you are, and you say that you always receive that for which you ask.” Well, John would say, "Just read the verse more carefully. I do say that I receive the things I request, but you know I also say why. It is because I keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. Do you do that? If you do, then you too will receive the things you ask for.”

It was a sense of having kept God's commandments and doing that which was pleasing to Him that gave Luther his boldness in prayer. In 1540 Luther's great friend and assistant, Friedrich Myconius, became sick and was expected to die within a short time. On his bed he wrote a loving farewell note to Luther with a trembling hand. Luther received the letter and instantly sent back a reply: "I command thee in the name of God to live, because I still have need of thee in the work of reforming the church… The Lord will never let me hear that thou art dead, but will permit thee to survive me. For this I am praying, this is my will and may my will be done, because I seek only to glorify the name of God." 

These words are almost shocking to us, since we live in a more sensitive and cautious day. And yet they were certainly from God. Because although Myconius had already lost the ability to speak when Luther's letter came, in a short time he revived. He recovered completely, and then he lived six more years, surviving Luther himself by two months. You see, you are never so relaxed or bold in prayer as when you can look into the face of God and say, "My Father, I do not pray for myself in this thing, and I do not want my will done. I want Your name to be glorified. But I do ask you to glorify it now in my situation, in my life, and do it in such a way that all men will know it is of you. Amen." 

Study Questions:

  1. Why can the Christian who prays in God’s will do so with confidence?
  2. What do we need in order to pray in the Lord’s will? How do we acquire this?

Reflection: Is your life governed by the desire to obey the Lord’s commandments and do what is pleasing to Him?

Key Point: If you are to receive the things you ask for, you must have a knowledge of God's will and a knowledge of God's ways. You must pray according to knowledge. This knowledge is given to you through Scripture.

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Donald Barnhouse’s message, “How to Pray.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.