Sunday, September 20, 2015 am                        Perfection 2015 Index


Acceptable Prayer


This month we are studying the subject of prayer in the life of a Christian.  Last week we defined what prayer is, noted various types of prayers (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and what the content of prayers includes (see Matthew 6:9-13).  Today we want to address some aspects of proper prayer. 

 I.                    Prayer is a privilege of God’s people

a.        It is intended for believers – typically, prayer is a privilege believers enjoy. 

                                                   i.      FIRST, the very idea of prayer is that you believe in God as you approach Him.  True belief in God includes obedience.  Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do the things which I say?
1 John 2:3 tells us that we know Him by keeping His commandments. 
That would obviously include becoming a Christian.

                                                  ii.      SECOND, The majority of instructions dealing with prayers are addressed to believers.  James 5:16 – the effective, fervent prayer of a RIGHTEOUS MAN avails much.
For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12, QUOTING Psalm 34:12-16)
As we go through this lesson we will see numerous passages addressed to believers.

                                                iii.      CONSIDER - Proverbs 15:29, “The Lord is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.” (See also Prov. 15:8, 28:9, etc.)

b.       Can sinners (the unsaved) pray to God?  Does He hear the prayers of unbelievers? 

                                                   i.      That God knows when the unsaved are praying to Him is a given since He knows everything.    He hears their words and even knows their motives.  But does He answer them? That is the question here.

                                                  ii.      By praying to God, we mean turning to Him with their requests in the same way Christians can turn to Him.  To ask Him to help them with their daily needs, etc.   Does He hear and answer such prayers?

                                                iii.      As we have noted, the Bible shows the privilege of prayer belongs to believers. 
I am not aware of passages that show those who refuse to obey God’s commands receiving answers from Him in prayer.

                                                iv.      What about Cornelius in Acts 10? Cornelius was a devout man who prayed to God always (10:2).  Vs. 4 tells us that his prayers came up to Him as a memorial.  God knew the type of man Cornelius was and that he genuinely desired to obey Him.  Therefore God gave him opportunity to obey the gospel.  He was instructed to send for Peter who would tell him what to do (to be saved – vs. 6, 11:14).  Peter comes and preaches and as a result Cornelius obeyed the gospel (Acts 10:48).

                                                  v.      This is the problem with the sinner’s prayer. 

1.       It is never recorded in the Bible

2.       “Calling on the name of the Lord” does not mean saying the sinner’s prayer.  Consider Acts 2:21 where Joel 2:32 is quoted saying, “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”  As Peter concludes his sermon he tells them what to do – Acts 2:38 – repent and be baptized.  Some 3000 souls obeyed that day (Acts 2:41)

3.       Acts 22:16 finds Paul being told by Ananias, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’  This equates obeying the gospel – which includes being baptized with calling on the name of the Lord.   NOTE: Of interest in this passage, which is a retelling of his conversion as recorded in Acts 9, is that when Paul is told this he has been praying to God and fasting for three days (Acts 9:9, 11, 18).

4.       According to this a sinner cannot even pray to be saved – he must obey the gospel, and that brings us back to our question – does God hear the prayers of unbelievers?  The answer is no!

 II.                  Proper attitudes in prayer

a.        Let him ask in faith – James 1:5-6 – when we pray we ask in faith. 
Matthew 21:21-22, speaking to His disciples, Jesus associates their asking with faith.
 Hebrews 11:6, without faith we cannot please Him, NOR come to Him.
Does God answers our prayers?  Yes – consider 1 John 5:14–15, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
Numerous other passages that we will address in this study also shows this.
The WAY He answers is a different study – in brief, while He answers our prayers, it is His way and that may not be the same as the way we want it answered.

b.       According to His will – not selfishly
Jesus in the garden, Matthew 26:39, 42.
As we noted last week in the model prayer – Matthew 6:10, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
1 John 5:14 - “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
This should always be our desire in our prayers.

c.        Serving Him – prayers are for those walking in the light – not for the rebellious and ungodly. 
James 5:16- the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man.
1 John 3:21-22, we receive what we ask because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
1 Peter 3:12, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Prov. 28:9, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.” Prov. 15:8 – the prayers of the upright is His delight (also vs. 29)
Isa. 59:1-2 – sins keep Him from hearing our prayers

d.       Pray with understanding – we need to know what we are praying for. 
1 Corinthians 14:15, The ESV translates 1 Cor. 14:15, “I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also. 
Matt. 6:7 as Jesus teaches how to pray He warns against vain repetitions – that would be thoughtless speaking. 
NOTE: Romans 8:26 tells us the Spirit makes intercession in our prayers when we do not know what to pray for.    This is not contradictory.  The point is we may know how to fully word a request.  It is then that He intercedes (being God he knows our actions, words and thoughts). 
But this is not the same as one praying without thought or just rambling. 

e.       With sincerity - God has no place for the hypocrite. 
Matthew 6:5, when we pray we are not to be like the hypocrites (see more in our next point).  This implies sincerity as we approach Him. 
Matthew 23:14 speaks of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees as they “for a pretense make long prayers.”
James 5:16 speaks of the effective, fervent prayer of the righteous avails much.
Vs. 17 speaks of Elijah praying earnestly (fervently- ESV).

f.         With humility and respect for God – one reason we begin our prayers acknowledging Him is to humble us.  We must serve Him with reverence and godly fear (Heb. 12:28)
In Luke 18:9-14 we find a parable of two men who prayed – the tax collector realized who he was addressing and with humility approached Him.
1 Peter 5:5- calls for us to be humble, including under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you.  Could casting all our cares upon Him include our prayers?

g.        With patience – we need to let God answer prayers in His time and His way –
Luke 18:6-8 - The very idea of persistence in prayer is waiting on Him. Though He bears long with us, He knows our needs and cares about us. 
Ephesians 6:18, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

h.       In Jesus name – a realization that when we pray to the Father, it is through Jesus.
John 16:23 – speaking to His apostles, “whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.”
Ephesians 2:18, “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
1 Timothy 2:5 describes Him as our Mediator and 1 John 2:1 as our advocate. 

i.         Concerning confession and asking forgiveness – as Christians we do sin.  When we do we need forgiveness.  1 John 1:9 addresses this.  Also such prayers must be accompanied with repentance - Acts 8:22.  This accords with God hearing the prayers of the righteous as well (see above – 1 John 1:5)

 III.                Improper prayers – hindered

a.        In addition to the attributes that make prayers acceptable, we remind ourselves there are also things that make prayers unacceptable to Him.  Improper attitudes and conduct.   Most of these are obvious based upon what we have already addressed, but some things are specifically stated, while others are implied.   Let us notice a few as we conclude this study.

b.       Selfish prayers – James 4:3 – you ask and do not receive because you ask amiss – selfishly.

c.        To be seen by men - Matthew 6:5, “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”
Luke 18:11 describes the Pharisee praying out loud for all to hear.

d.       Don’t expect a miracle – the days of miracle are over (1 Cor. 13:8-12)
But that does not mean God cannot work within natural means.   However, some expect God to work miraculously in healing their family and friends, converting lost souls, etc. 

e.       Don’t expect Him to do your part – how many pray to God for their food, but then refuse to work?
How many pray for the lost to come to Him but never lift a finger to find them?
How many want God to solve their problems, but they don’t put forth efforts themselves! 
 For example:  They pray, “Help me get out of debt” they ask, but they keep spending recklessly
They pray, “He me increase in knowledge of Your word”, but they never open or study the Bible.

f.         Specific examples of hindered prayers

                                                   i.      When a husband fails to treat his wife properly – 1 Peter 3:7, prayers are hindered

                                                  ii.      When your brother has something against you –  Matthew 5:23-24 - go to him and take care of it first, THEN come and offer your gift.

                                                iii.      Failing to forgive others – Matt. 6:12, 14-15 – it is crucial.  If we want to be forgiven, we must learn to forgive.


Other passages could be added to these.  But with this we have a good idea about what makes prayer acceptable to God.  IF you want to be what God would have you to be – learn to pray properly, and that includes a proper understanding of what He expects us.  Is something hindering your prayers?  Think about it!