Having dealt with the issues of noise in our communication channel with God and feedback channel from God, we now turn to praying aright. Praying aright is saying the right prayer—an acceptable prayer to God; a prayer that God will hear and respond to. It is praying the will of God. It is the prayer that brings glory to God.
Praying according to the will of God
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. (1 John 5:14-15, NKJV)
When we pray, there is a confidence that attends our praying. This confidence derives from praying the will of God. The will of God is what God wants or desires, or God’s purpose and plan on any matter. The primary essence of prayer is to ensure that God's will and purpose is brought to manifestation on the earth.
Hence, Jesus taught us to pray,
Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10, NKJV)
The essence of this prayer is to bring the will of God into manifestation on the earth. Jesus, in teaching us to pray in Matthew 6:9-13, wants our prayers to be answered; not just the prayer of “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” but also, every other aspect of the prayer-pattern He taught in these verses.
In Matthew 6:11-13, we find the prayer-pattern for asking for our needs. But even the request for our needs, as per these verses, are essentially God's desire for us, His children. God wants to provide for our sustenance (“Give us this day our daily bread”), pardon our sins (“forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”), protect us from Satan's seduction (“do not lead us into temptation”), and preserve us from Satan's claws, should we fall into his trap through carelessness or recklessness (“deliver us from the evil one”). Thus, as we pray in this manner, which is God’s desire for us, we are assured that we are praying the will of God, and can confidently rise from that prayer, knowing that God has heard us.
Let me explain what I am trying to say. Every parent has a desire for their children. When a child is attuned to the parent’s desire for her, there is no problem with her needs being met. But where a child desires something different from what the parent desires for him, there is bound to be friction, fireworks, and all manner of disagreement. In the same way, if we concur with God’s desire for us, He will meet our every need because in meeting our needs, the will of God is ultimately being fulfilled.
For instance, God’s will for forgiving or pardoning our sins is incumbent on us forgiving those who have offended us. If we refuse to forgive others, praying to God to forgive us will be a waste of time—He will not hear; He will not forgive! Hence, we must ensure that we are aligned with God’s will for us; then, every time we make a request, we are confident that the request will be granted.
What about praying for or about other things?
The Lord did not mean that Matthew 6:9-13 is all we should pray. Indeed, the Bible is replete with various prayers that are not like Matthew 6:9-13. Be that as it may, those other prayers that God answered, were in line with His will, desire, purpose, and plan. For instance, after Peter and John were threatened not to preach in the name of Jesus again, they returned to their fold and prayed thus:
Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus. (Acts 4:29-30, NKJV)
And the Bible records that as a result,
they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:31, 33, NKJV)
The apostles’ prayer was answered because preaching about Jesus and working miracles, and signs and wonders, was the will of God for them. So, yes, we can pray for anything, but we need to ensure that what we are praying for, is per the will of God.
Also, it is important to note that the fulfilment of God's will always brings Him glory. Therefore, God answers any prayer that brings Him glory. Please note that only God knows what brings Him glory, and only He can tell you what will bring Him glory. Therefore, before we ask for anything, it is wise to seek God's face for what to ask for. Not praying according to the will of God, is praying amiss!
Are you praying aright or praying amiss?
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 4:1-4, KJV)
When we go to God in prayer, we do not want to ask amiss. We want to say a prayer that is not according to our lusts, strong desires, or inordinate affections. We want to ask for things that will bring God glory. We want to ask for things that are in line with the will of God, so that God will hear us, and we can receive a response from God.
To achieve this, we must eliminate worldliness from our lives, lest we make ourselves enemies of God! As James 4:4 intimates, even a desire to befriend the world is hostility against God! So, not only are we to pray according to the will of God, but we must also make sure that there is no worldliness or worldly desire in our lives and in our praying.
We cannot pray in how the world prays and expect God to hear us, let alone answer. According to the blind man whose eyes Jesus opened,
God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. (John 9:31, NKJV)
Therefore, it is instructive that we pray aright every time we go to God in prayer. To pray aright every time, we must ensure that we are rid of worldliness in our lives. You cannot divorce your prayer from your nature! Thus, the Bible tells us that wars and quarrels come from our desire or nature to have what we do not have, by any means.
Praying in the Spirit
One major reason why Jesus’ prayers were always answered was because He prayed God’s will every time. He prayed in line with His nature, which is the nature of God. If you have a sinful and selfish nature, you can only pray sinful and selfish prayers. To pray aright, we must have the nature of God, or put differently, the Spirit of God must be in us and direct our praying—this is praying in the Spirit.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27, KJV)
If we want to be sure that we are praying the will of God, we will need to pray in the Spirit.
What does it mean to pray in the Spirit? It means to pray with the aid of the Holy Spirit—according to the Holy Spirit’s direction or dictate. If we are to ensure that we are praying as we ought, we need the Holy Spirit to pray through us to the Father. The Bible says,
the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:10-12, NKJV)
If we have the Spirit of God in us, He will pray to God through us, and such a prayer will be in line with the will of God, which He (the Holy Spirit) knows. We are infirmed in the sense that we are limited in our understanding and, thus, unable to pray as we ought on our own. Therefore, we need the Holy Spirit to pray through us and on our behalf to the Father. If we are to rise from the place of prayer with confidence that God has heard us, we must always pray in the Spirit, after clearing any impediments that may hinder our praying (see Part One).
One crucial aspect of praying to God is that we pray aright. Praying aright implies praying the will of God and praying for the glory of God. If we are going to pray aright every time, as the Lord Jesus did, we must have God’s nature in us, which is His Spirit in us. Let us note what the Bible says about having or not having the Holy Spirit in us:
But you are not living the life of the flesh, you are living the life of the Spirit, if the [Holy] Spirit of God [really] dwells within you [directs and controls you]. But if anyone does not possess the [Holy] Spirit of Christ, he is none of His [he does not belong to Christ, is not truly a child of God]. (Romans 8:9, AMP)
With the Spirit of God in us, we can pray aright, but only because the Holy Spirit is praying through us to the Father.
One prayer that is always the will of God is the prayer of repentance. Hence, every sinner who prays for repentance will be heard by God! The Bible tells us about how Manasseh, a fiercely wicked king, found God’s mercy when he humbled himself before God (2 Chronicles 33:10-13). Manasseh’s humbling of himself before God was an act of penitence; hence, God heard his prayer of repentance.
If you have been praying and your prayers are not being answered, then humble yourself before God and ask for His mercy, and you will get it. And from then on, you will again pray, and God will hear you!
If we are going to do anything that will at all amount to anything, vis-à-vis, eternity, prayer must be the basis of such activity. In our next instalment, we shall look at the issue of planning and praying.