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I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone

8 April 2019

I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone

THENEWLIFEINCHRIST

We must pray for those who are perishing and for those who persecute us

Paul wrote to Timothy: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 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” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Brothers, we who have known God through Jesus Christ are bound to pray for those who don’t know the truth, so that God might save them by His grace. The apostle Paul, speaking of those who were Jews by birth, said to the saints who were in Rome: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1 – NKJV). From these words we learn clearly that Paul’s desire for the Jews was a good desire, for he wanted the Jews to be saved. The Scripture says that “the desire of the righteous is only good” (Proverbs 11:23NKJV), and in fact all those who have been justified by the grace of God want sinners to be saved; they have in their heart the same desire Paul had for the Jews. However, Paul said also that he prayed to God for the Jews, so that they might be saved. Now, the Jews for whom Paul prayed were those Jews who had “the form of knowledge and truth in the law” (Romans 2:20 – NKJV), yet they had a veil on their heart that prevented them from recognizing that Jesus of Nazareth was the one of whom Moses and the prophets spoke, that is, the Christ. For those Jews who were perishing, the Gospel was veiled because the god of this age had blinded their minds; Paul knew very well all this, and since he knew also that when they would turn to the Lord that veil would be taken away, he earnestly prayed for them that God might reveal His Son to them as well. Paul left us an example so that we also should pray for unbelievers, that is, for those who are perishing, so that they might be delivered from the power of Satan. Let us lift up this prayer on behalf of those who are perishing: ‘Lord, save them!’.

Jesus Christ said: “Pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44NIV). Who are those who persecute us? They are all those who don’t know God and in ignorance revile us and do harm to us because of the noble name of the One to whom we belong, that is, Jesus Christ. Now, first of all I want to tell you that it is impossible for those who believe not to be persecuted by those who are perishing because Jesus said: “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20 – NKJV) and Paul said to Timothy that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12 – NKJV). I said before that our persecutors persecute us in ignorance for this reason: because Jesus said: “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me” (John 16:2-3 – NKJV). Is it not true that Saul of Tarsus, before his conversion, persecuted the saints who lived in Jerusalem and in foreign cities because at that time he did not know the Father nor His Son? Is it not true that he shut up in prison many of the saints and when they were put to death he cast his vote against them for he thought that he was offering God service? Listen to what He himself said to Timothy: “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13NKJV). This means that before the Lord appeared to him on the way to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus was an unbelieving person and thus he did not know God. Even though he was a Pharisee, who was blameless concerning the righteousness which is in the law and exceedingly zealous for the cause of God, he was blind and without life because he did not believe in the name of the Son of God; but one day it came to pass that He who had separated him from his mother’s womb called him through His grace and justified him. I am convinced that while Saul of Tarsus was still a persecutor of the Church and an insolent man, there were believers who prayed for him so that the Lord might save him. Here is the reason why I say this. Before Jesus was taken up into heaven, He said to the apostles: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20); therefore, the apostles had to teach the believers to pray for those who persecuted them, and since they did it, I have come to the conclusion that the believers who continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship obeyed also that order of the Lord. Now, here is what happened after Saul turned to the Lord: “They [the Churches of Judea] only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy’. And they praised God because of me” (Galatians 1:23-24 – NIV). As you can see, the conversion of Saul overflowed in many expressions of thanks to God on the part of many believers. Likewise, today when believers pray for someone who persecutes the Church and God answers their prayer, the name of God is glorified by them; therefore let us pray for our persecutors so that the name of God may be glorified when they are converted. Jesus Christ prayed for those who persecuted Him to the death (thus He left us an example), for while He was hanging on the cross He said: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34NKJV). Jesus asked God to forgive those who persecuted Him and put Him to death in ignorance (that is, without knowing what they were doing). Sometimes, some of us are tempted to think that the Jews knew what they were doing against Jesus, however we know that’s not true because Peter confirmed the words of Jesus when he said to the Jews: “But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead …. Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:14-15,17 – NKJV). As you can see, both the words of Jesus and those of Peter confirm that our enemies persecute us because of the ignorance which is in them.

We, as sons of God, must pray to God for our enemies who persecute us so that God might give them life and not that God might put them to death. Someone may say: ‘Why then under the law were there some men (such as David) who prayed to God that He might destroy their enemies?’ Because under the law was in force the commandment which said: ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy’. Jesus confirmed that when He said: ‘You have heard that it was said: You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy” (Matthew 5:43NKJV; Leviticus 19:18). Therefore no wonder that David, even though he was a man after God’s heart, asked God to destroy his enemies, as he said to God: “May ruin overtake them by surprise …. Pour out your wrath on them ….. Let the wicked be put to shame and lie silent in the grave” (Psalms 35:8; 69:24; 31:17 – NIV).

But now, under grace, is in force the commandment which says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44NIV), therefore a son of God can’t ask God to put to death his enemies.

However, even under the law there were some men who prayed for their enemies; one of them was Moses. The Scripture says that after the twelve spies sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan returned to the camp, when the Israelites heard ten of the spies say: “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight ….We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we” (Numbers 13:32-33,31 – NKJV), they complained against Moses and Aaron and wanted to stone them with stones. When God heard their grumblings, He said to Moses: “I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them ….” (Numbers 14:12 – NKJV), but Moses prayed for them, who wanted to stone him, (as it is written: “Therefore He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them” – Psalm 106:23 – NKJV); Moses prayed for the Israelites in this way: “Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now” (Numbers 14:19 – NKJV), and God answered the prayer of Moses for He said to Moses: “I have pardoned, according to your word” (Numbers 14:20 – NKJV). The answer of God shows the effectiveness of the prayer on behalf of those who persecute us. Those who don’t know God say: ‘What would we gain by praying to Him’, but we who know God know that it is useful to pray for those who persecute us, for it is written: “He who respects a command (in this case the command which says: “Pray for those who persecute you”) is rewarded” (Proverbs 13:13NIV).

We must pray for the governing authorities, who are appointed by God

Among those for whom we must pray are even the governing authorities, that are appointed by God. God said to the Israelites who had been carried away captive to Babylon: “Seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7 – NKJV). From these words we learn that we must seek the peace of the nation in which we live by the will of God. Someone may ask: ‘How can we seek its peace?’ By submitting ourselves to the governing authorities (God has appointed in the nation where we live) and by praying to God for them. We want to live a peaceful and quite life in this nation, and we want the governing authorities to introduce good and righteous reforms in this country (from which we, even though we are strangers and pilgrims, may benefit), but in order to see this desire fulfilled we must pray for the governing authorities.

In the book of Ezra we read that king Darius commanded the governor of the region beyond the River and his companions certain things concerning their way of acting toward the elders of the Jews who were building the temple in Jerusalem. Among other things He commanded them the following things: “And whatever they need – young bulls, rams, and lambs for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the request of the priests who are in Jerusalem – let it be given them day by day without fail, that they may offer sacrifices of sweet aroma to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his sons” (Ezra 6:9-10 – NKJV). As you can see, that king wanted the priests to pray for his life and the life of his sons, and I am persuaded that today the kings and all the governing authorities still need our prayers. Through our prayers we can help the governing authorities to rule righteously; therefore let us pray for them that God might save them and that He might keep them and give them wisdom to rule.

Let us pray for one another

Besides praying for those who are still slaves of sin, and for those who persecute us, and for the kings and the governing authorities, we must also pray to God for our brothers because this is the will of God for us. Someone will ask: ‘What should I ask God to do for my brothers?’ Let’s turn to the Holy Scripture, which is God-breathed, because it teaches us how to pray also for our brothers.

On the night our Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed, He prayed to God for His disciples (that is, His brothers, as it is written: “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” Hebrews 2:11). Among the words of that prayer we find the following requests: “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are ….. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one …. Sanctify them by Your truth” (John 17:11,15,17 – NKJV). Jesus pleaded with God to do certain things, which were according to the will of God for His brethren. Now, the above mentioned things which Jesus pleaded with God to do are still according to the will of God for His brethren, for God still wants to keep us from the evil one, He still wants to sanctify us by His truth, and He still wants to keep us through His name so that we may be one, speaking the same thing and being perfectly joined together in the same judgement. Therefore we should ask God to do these things for our brothers. The Scripture says that “if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14 – NKJV) and the prayer for the unity of the brethren is according to the will of God and thus it is answered, and in order to confirm this I remind you that the prayer Jesus made for those who would believe in Him through the word of the apostles, so that they all might be one (as it is written: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us” John 17:20-21 – NKJV) was answered, because in the book of the Acts of the apostles we read that “the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common” (Acts 4:32 – NKJV).

The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, said to Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-32). The Lord knew what would happen within a short time, He knew that when the Shepherd would be struck the sheep of the flock would be scattered, He knew that His disciples would be tested, so He prayed for Simon Peter that his faith might not fail. Was that prayer answered? Of course, it was, for even though Peter denied the Lord three times, his faith did not fail because he was converted and he was able to strengthen his brethren. We also must pray for our brothers who are tested in the furnace of affliction so that their faith should not fail.

Now, let’s see how the apostles prayed for the Churches, because they left us an example in this also. Paul wrote to the saints who were in Ephesus: “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:15-19 – NIV). As you can see, Paul prayed that God might give the saints of that city a spirit of wisdom and revelation through which they could grow in the knowledge of God, that He might enlighten the eyes of their heart (our heart has spiritual eyes and when they are enlightened by God, our knowledge of His eternal purpose, which He accomplished in the fullness of the time, and our knowledge of the things which God has prepared for those who love Him increase) in order that they might know these three things: the hope to which God had called them, the riches of His glorious inheritance which He had prepared for them and which was kept in heaven for them also, and His incomparably great power for them who believed.

Paul wrote in the same epistle: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19). As you can see, Paul prayed God that He might strengthen those saints in their inner man (besides having an outward man, each of us has an inner man), and that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith. Why did Paul pray to God in that way? That those saints, being rooted and grounded in love, might be able to comprehend with all saints how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that they might be filled with all the fullness of God. Brothers, we’d better pay attention to all these sentences beginning with ‘that,’ which are present in the prayers of Paul, because they show us the things Paul wanted the brethren to know and to do.

The desire of Paul was to present every man perfect in Christ, and that earnest desire led him to say those prayers to God on behalf of the believers. Nowadays it is a very rare thing to hear believers pray for one another in the way Paul did; the reason is that many believers prefer to read and study these prayers rather than say them; I believe that if Paul considered those prayers useful, we also must consider them useful and thus we also should pray in that way.

Paul wrote to the saints in Colosse: “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; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:9-12). Brothers, know this, that we also need to be filled with the knowledge of the will of God so that we may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord; therefore let us pray for one another in this way. Now, with regard to the knowledge of the will of God, I tell you this; Jesus Christ said: “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40 – NKJV), and we, having believed in the Son of God, have done the will of God, but the will of God for us consists of many other things which we have to do in order to please God. However, in order to do them we must know them first, and to know them we need to pray to God; that’s why we must ask God to fill us and our brothers with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Someone may ask: ‘Is it really necessary?’ Yes, brother, it is; if it were not necessary, Paul and his fellow workers would not have prayed for those brothers in that way. Someone else may ask: ‘Why should I be filled with the knowledge of the Will of God in all wisdom and spiritual understanding?’ Well, the reason is that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and thus please Him in everything. The Scripture states that we must please God rather than men, therefore we must see that we walk as wise, that is, in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, causing no offenses, so that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified and His doctrine may be adorned. Instead, if we walk as fools – that is, if we live in a manner unworthy of the Gospel, being devoid of the knowledge of the will of God in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, the children of this age will say to us, ‘After all, you are not different from us’ or ‘You claim to be Christians, yet you are worse than us!’ and thus the name of the Lord and His doctrine will be blasphemed because of us. Therefore, in order to please God, we need to understand what His will for us is; but if we don’t understand what His will is and we are not able to distinguish between good and evil, and we have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, how shall we be able to please God? Brothers, know this, that if you walk according to the flesh you will not be able to please God for it is written: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8 – NKJV). If we become friends of the world and lovers of the world, we can’t please God. On the contrary, if we are ready to do every good work, if we grow in the knowledge of God, if we are strong in the grace of God, if we show the meekness of Christ to all men, if we are patient in tribulation, giving always thanks to God for He has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light, then we will please God and His name will be glorified in us.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians these words also: “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:1-3 – NIV). Therefore, according to these words, when we pray for our brothers we struggle for them, and we must pray also for those brothers who have not met us personally. Why did Paul struggle for the saints in his prayers? He struggled for them so that their heart might be encouraged and comforted, in order that they might know the mystery of God (notice that in this prayer also Paul asked God to do something for the saints that they might know a certain thing).

Epaphras also, who was one of the fellow workers of Paul, prayed for the Colossians, as Paul said to the Colossians: “He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Colossians 4:12 – NIV). These words confirm that when we pray for our brothers we wrestle for them. For Epaphras wrestled in his prayers that the saints in Colosse might stand firm in all the will of God. He left us an example; therefore, let us follow it wrestling in our prayers for the saints.

Paul said to the Corinthians: “Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong” (2 Corinthians 13:7 – NIV). What we learn from this prayer is this, that the apostle Paul and his fellow workers wanted the saints to perfect holiness and to abstain from every form (or appearance) of evil.

Here is how Paul prayed for the saints in Philippi: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11 – NKJV). Brothers, our love must abound in knowledge and all discernment in order to be able to discern what is best and to be pure and blameless at the coming of the Lord. Now, if we consider carefully this prayer of Paul we will come to the conclusion that we also need to pray for our brothers in this way. Why do I say this? Because, today, the love of many believers lacks knowledge and discernment. For when we speak of love with these believers, we perceive that their love doesn’t abound in knowledge nor in discernment, and consequently it is necessary for us to pray for them so that it may abound in knowledge and discernment. They think that to rebuke a brother when he sins means not to love him as one should do, or that tolerating the evil workers and their evil deeds is a manifestation of love toward them and the Church. However, the Scripture does not teach such things, for it teaches that “love …. does not rejoice in iniquity” (1 Corinthians 13:6 – NKJV) and that God, who is love, rebukes and chastens those who sin, and does not tolerate evil workers. So true love rebukes the brethren who sin against us, and does not tolerate evil workers.

Paul wrote to the saints in Thessalonica: “Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12). Brothers, let us pray for our brothers so that God may fulfill every good purpose of theirs and the work of faith with power.

Paul wrote to the saints in Galatia, who were troubled by some who wanted them to be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses, the following things: “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. ….. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you. I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you” (Galatians 4:9-11,19-20). The believers in Galatia had been begotten in Jesus Christ by the apostle Paul, but while Paul was absent they began to observe the days and the months and the seasons and the years of which the law of Moses speaks, which are all “a shadow of the things that were to come” (Colossians 2:17 – NIV), for some imposed these things on them saying that in order to be saved they had to be circumcised and to keep the law. When Paul heard that the Galatians had been troubled, he began to pray for them that they might come to their senses and obey the truth of the Gospel. The apostle Paul told them that he labored in birth for them again until Christ was formed in them; that is to say, he was wrestling in prayer for them that they might come to their senses and know the truth, from which they had strayed. Just as a woman is in labour before giving birth to a child, so Paul also, when he heard that the Galatians had been bewitched, was again in the pains of childbirth, and he began to pray for them with groanings which cannot be uttered (in other words, he prayed in the Holy Spirit), and his pains would end when Christ was formed in them. Brothers, Paul showed us what we must do if some of our brothers are bewitched like the Galatians.

What the apostles exhorted the saints to ask of God

Let us now look at some exhortations of the apostles concerning prayer, which show us what we must ask of God.

Paul, in speaking about the whole armor of God which we must put on in order to fight against our enemies, said: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:18-20). The apostle exhorted the saints to pray always in the Holy Spirit (I remind you that to pray in the Spirit means to pray in other tongues), and to be watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints, and for him as well, that God might enable him to preach the Gospel with boldness. Paul knew how the Gospel must be preached and thus he exhorted the saints to pray for him, for he was persuaded that the saints, through their prayers, could help him to preach the Gospel as he ought to preach it. Someone will ask: ‘How should the Gospel be preached?’ The Gospel should be preached with power, with the Holy Spirit and with much assurance, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. You may say: ‘Can the cross of Christ be made of no effect then?’ Yes, it is made of no effect (because it is emptied of its power) when it is preached with words of human wisdom. Know this, that all those who have been called by God to preach need our prayers, therefore let us pray for the servants of the Lord who proclaim the way of salvation, so that God may enable them to proclaim the Word of the grace of God with all boldness.

Paul wrote to the saints in Colosse: “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains” (Colossians 4:2-3 – NKJV). Now, when the apostle wrote these words he was in prison and exhorted the saints to ask God to open a door to him and to his fellow workers for the Word; this teaches us that God can open a door for the Word even in prison, because the Word cannot be chained; the ministers of the Word can be chained, but the Word cannot be chained. As you know, the Word of God bears fruit when those who hear it understand it, but it is necessary for God to open their hearts that they may understand the Word. Remember Lydia, who was a seller of purple; Luke says that “the Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14NKJV); that’s why Lydia understood the Word of God and thus she bore fruit. We still need the Lord to open the hearts of those who hear the Gospel, so that they may understand the Word of grace and be saved by it. Now let me explain to you what ‘a door open for the Word’ means according to the Scripture. While Paul was at Ephesus he wrote to the Corinthians: “But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:8-9 – NKJV). To understand what that ‘great and effective open door’ was, it is necessary to tell what Luke wrote about the work of Paul in the city of Ephesus. When the apostle Paul came to Ephesus to preach the Gospel, it came to pass that he met some disciples whom he baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and on whom he laid his hands so that they might receive the Holy Spirit and “the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6 – NKJV). Then “he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them …. And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts [who had practiced sorcery] brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” (Acts 19:8-12, 18-20). So all those who dwelt in Asia heard the Word of the Lord, but not all of them turned to the Lord; however, many accepted the word preached by Paul; even one of those who rejected the Word, whose name was Demetrius (a silversmith who made silver shrines of Diana), recognized this when he said to the craftsmen: “Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands” (Acts 19:26 – NKJV). Therefore, at Ephesus, by the ministry of Paul, many people accepted the Gospel of the grace of God, and many of them came and openly confessed their evil deeds; there were believers who received the Holy Spirit and also the gift of prophecy, there were many who were healed and delivered from demons in the name of the Lord Jesus; that’s the reason why Paul wrote to the Corinthians from Ephesus: “A great and effective door has opened to me” (1 Corinthians 16:9 – NKJV). Obviously, not always the door which is opened for the Word is so great, however we can say that whenever in a country or in a town some people turn to the Lord, even if they are not many, the Lord has opened a door to his servants for the Word. At this point it must be said that every time the Lord opens to His servants a door for His Word, there are people who oppose the Word of God and thus believers are persecuted by their adversaries (persecution can be just a verbal persecution but also a physical persecution with imprisonments, beatings, etc). In this regard I remind you that Paul said that at Ephesus there were many adversaries, which means that the Gospel met with strong opposition in that city, and this is confirmed by the following words of Luke: “And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way” (Acts 19:23 – NKJV), and also by the following words which Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many” (2 Corinthians 1:8-11 – NKJV). At this point, I would like to dwell upon the following words of Paul “you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many” (2 Corinthians 1:11), so that you may understand how much our prayers for those who preach the Gospel can avail and what they produce. First of all, you must understand that the ministers of the Gospel have many enemies, among whom there are wicked and unreasonable men who don’t have faith, therefore we must pray for the ministers of the Word that God may deliver them from these evil men. Paul exhorted the saints to pray for him and his fellow workers that the Word of God might run swiftly and be glorified (as it was at Antioch in Pisidia, as it is written: “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord” Acts 13:48 – NKJV), but also that they might be delivered from the wicked, as he wrote to the saints in Thessalonica: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 – NKJV). In this regard, I remind you of these words of exhortations Paul wrote to the saints in Rome, while he was going to Jerusalem to bring a relief offering for the poor among the saints who were in Jerusalem: “Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe ….” (Romans 15:30-31 – NKJV). These exhortations of Paul show us that Paul thought that the prayers of the saints to God for him and his fellow workers were useful. Paul, too, believed that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16NKJV), and not only did he believe that but also saw it with his eyes on many occasions. One of the occasions in which he saw God deliver him from wicked men, in answer to the prayers of the saints, was after he returned to Jerusalem (after he wrote the above mentioned exhortation to the saints in Rome), for in Jerusalem Paul was seized by some unbelieving Jews who tried to kill him but God delivered him from their hands.

Here are some other passages of the Scripture which confirm that the apostles believed that the saints could help them through their prayers (keep in mind that the following words were written from prison):

● “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ ….. But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly” (Philippians 1:19; 2:24NKJV). Paul, while he was in prison, wrote to the Philippians that through their prayers and the supplication of the Spirit of Jesus (who helps the saints in that He makes intercession for them according to the will of God) he would be delivered from prison, and he expressed his confidence with the following words: “And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith” (Philippians 1:25 – NKJV).

● “But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you” (Philemon 22 – NKJV). Paul, while in prison, told Philemon to prepare a guest room for him, because he was confident in the Lord that he would be granted to him in answer to his prayers (that is, the prayers of Philemon).

● “Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably. But I especially urge you to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner” (Hebrews 13:18NKJV). As you can see, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews told them that through their prayers they would hasten his deliverance from prison.

In addition to this, brothers, I want you to know that because of the answer of God to the prayers you make for the ministers of the Gospel, many believers will give thanks to God. Therefore your prayers on their behalf produce many expressions of thanks to the glory of God. Is it not amazing to know that we, through our prayers, cooperate in spreading the Word of God because we help the ministers of the Word to preach the Gospel with all boldness and we cause them to be delivered from wicked and unreasonable men?

It is written: “And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:15NKJV). Brothers, that the Word of God may be spread all over the world, it is necessary for God to send some men to preach the Gospel in those places where the name of Christ has not yet been preached. Therefore we must ask God to send out labourers into His harvest. Jesus Christ commanded us to do this, for He said: “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38NKJV).

The apostle John wrote: “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that” (1 John 5:16 – NIV). After a believer has sinned, he is troubled and unhappy, and it cannot be otherwise because James says that sin “when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15NKJV). Notwithstanding this, if he confesses his sin to the Lord he will be forgiven and made alive. Now, if we see a brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, we must pray to God that He may give him life, and God, in His faithfulness, will give him life (granting him repentance that leads to life). However, you must understand that if a brother commits the sin that leads to death (that is, the sin which leads the person who has committed it to the second death), we must not pray for that brother, because he has committed a sin which cannot be forgiven him.

The apostle James, the Lord’s brother, wrote: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray” (James 5:13NKJV). Now, when we suffer because of righteousness we must pray, because that’s what we are commanded to do. Peter says: “Therefore, let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19 – NKJV), and these words of Peter agree with those of James because when one prays to God in the midst of his tribulations he commits his soul to God. In the Scripture we have several examples of men who in the midst of their tribulations prayed to God: I will cite the example of Jeremiah, and that of our Lord Jesus. On one occasion Jeremiah prayed: “O LORD, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke. Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts. I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation. Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?” (Jeremiah 15:15-18). Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, before He was arrested, “began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed” (Matthew 26:37 – NKJV) and said to His disciples: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38 – NKJV), and while in that mood He fell on His face and prayed “that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him” (Mark 14:35 – NKJV). Here is how Jesus prayed in the Gethsemane: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36NKJV). Brothers, indeed, the best thing to do when we suffer is to pray, because through prayer we pour out our heart before the Lord confessing to Him our anguishes and perplexities, having confidence that He hears us and helps us with His powerful consolations.

James commanded the elders of the Church to pray over the sick, for he wrote: “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he hath committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14-15). Note that it is the sick person who has to call for the elders, and not the contrary, and furthermore that the elders of the Church must pray over him anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick” (James 5:15), says James. Therefore, the elders of the Church must pray over the sick in faith, with no doubting, in order to see the sick raised up by the Lord.

The Lord’s brother says also: “Pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16NKJV). Therefore, we must pray for those brothers who are sick, that God may heal them. When Mary, Moses’ sister, together with Aaron spoke against Moses, it came to pass that God struck her with leprosy, but Moses prayed to God for her, as it is written: “So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying: Please heal her, O God, I pray!” (Numbers 12:13 – NKJV), and God heard that prayer for after seven days, during which Mary was shut out of the camp, she was brought back because leprosy had left her. We can see how much the prayer of a righteous man for the sick avails in the story of Abraham also, for the Scripture says: “So Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants. Then they bore children; for the Lord had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife” (Genesis 20:17-18 – NKJV). There is another example in the Scripture which shows us how much the prayer of a righteous man for a sick person avails, it’s the example of the son of Abraham, as it is written: “Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren, and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived” (Genesis 25:21 – NKJV).

Some of the circumstances on which the apostles prayed

Let us see now some of the circumstances on which the apostles prayed in order to understand how much important was prayer to them.

The apostles, together with other brothers, prayed to God when they chose a successor to Judas Iscariot. With regard to this, Luke says that (after Peter said to the brothers that of those men who had accompanied them all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among them, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from them, one of them had to become a witness with them of His resurrection) they “proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said: ‘You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place’. And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:23-26 – NKJV).

In Jerusalem, after the whole multitude of the disciples chose the seven (that is, Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas) “they presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:6 – NIV). In this case, the apostles prayed for those seven men who had been chosen to wait on tables.

Paul and Barnabas founded some churches during their missionary journey, and “having appointed to them by vote elders in every assembly, having prayed with fastings, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed (Acts 14:23 -YLT). The apostles attached much importance to the election of the elders, for before having elders elected they prayed and fasted. (Remember that Jesus, before choosing the twelve apostles, prayed, as it is written: “Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself, and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles” Luke 6:12-13 – NKJV).

Peter and John prayed for the Samaritan believers “that they might receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:15NKJV). Therefore, it is scriptural to pray for believers that they might receive the Holy Spirit.

Peter prayed before raising Tabitha from the dead, as it is written: “But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said: ‘Tabitha, arise’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up” (Acts 9:40NKJV).

Paul prayed before healing the father of Publius, as it is written: “Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him” (Acts 28:8 – NKJV).

At Philippi, after Paul and Silas were beaten with rods they were thrown into prison, and there they prayed as it is written: “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25 – NKJV. What they did is the fulfilment of what James says in his epistle: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray” James 5:13 – NKJV).

At Miletus, Paul prayed with the elders of the Church of Ephesus before he left them, as it is written: “He knelt down and prayed with them all …. And they accompanied him to the ship” (Acts 20:36,38 – NKJV). The apostles prayed with the believers before departing from Tyre, as it is written: “And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed. And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again” (Acts 21:5-6). We also do a good thing when we pray before going on a journey. Know this, that to ask God for a safe journey is scriptural for Ezra wrote: “There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions” (Ezra 8:21 – NIV).

How the early Church prayed on two particular occasions

Let’s turn again to the Holy Scripture to see how the early Church prayed on two particular occasions.

Luke wrote: “And being let go, they [Peter and John] went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child [servant] Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child [servant] Jesus” (Acts 4:23-30; Psalm 2:1-2).

In this prayer we can notice that those believers first of all reminded God who He was (it is a right thing to remind God who He is, for God says: “Put me in remembrance: let us plead together” Isaiah 43:26 – so let’s follow the example of those believers), then they reminded God of what He had said through David about His Anointed One and how what He had said was fulfilled (therefore, it is correct, when we pray, to quote some passages of the Scripture). After that, they asked God to enable His servants to speak His Word with great boldness and to stretch out His hand to heal and to confirm His Word by signs and wonders. Someone will ask: ‘Was that prayer answered by God?’ Yes, it was, for it is written: “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31), and also: “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people” (Acts 5:12) and again: “There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one” (Acts 5:16). Brothers, today we must ask God for the same things, for His Word still needs to be spoken with great boldness and the testimony of Christ needs to be confirmed by healings, signs and wonders. In order to see people converted to the Lord, the Word of God needs to be preached with boldness and there must be the manifestation of the Holy Spirit; therefore, let us raise our voice and pray to God that He might bear witness to His Word both with signs and wonders, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Our desire is to see the Gospel preached with boldness as in the days of old, and also to see our great God confirm the Good News of the peace of God. Today, in this country, as well as in many others, the faith of many people is based on human wisdom and not on the power of God, for the Gospel is not preached with that power which marked the preaching of the apostles, but with words of human wisdom. This, beloved, should lead us to ask God to enable His servants to preach His Word with boldness.

I want to say another thing, which is this: the reason why many don’t fear God and don’t tremble before His Word is that they have never seen the true manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Someone may say: ‘Why do you call it the true manifestation of the Spirit?’ Because among the people of God certain things which are nothing but a counterfeit manifestation of the Spirit are passed off as the true manifestation of the Spirit in the eyes of the simple and of those who are unstable in all their ways; many mistake suggestion for the manifestation of the Spirit, and the manifestation of physical strength (displayed by some who preach the Gospel) for the power of God. Many preachers of the Gospel say to the crowds: ‘Concentrate, imagine now that you are healed and no more sick!’ as if a sick person can be healed by an intense mental concentration or the power of suggestion that they are able to exert on the simple. And many other preachers push the sick down on the floor and then they claim that it was the power of God who caused them to fall to the ground!!! And the time would fail me to speak of all those evangelistic meetings where the Gospel is preached with words only, without power and deep conviction, and where the deafening amplification gives the impression that the preacher is preaching with power. And I want to say also that there are many preachers who proclaim that God has healed many sick people (after they prayed for them), but afterwards, when one goes to talk with those who claimed that they were healed by God he finds out that most of them, or even all of them, are still sick. We are tired of hearing about healings which have never occurred, which are told by many unscrupulous preachers to attract people to their meetings and to become famous and rich. We long to see the sick healed, the blind see, the dumb speak, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead raised, the demon possessed delivered from the power of demons, the lepers cured, so that, seeing the mighty works of our God, sinners might believe and the faithful might fear God.

Luke speaks of another circumstance on which the church prayed to God and that prayer was answered; I refer to the imprisonment of Peter. He says: “Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover. Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts 12:1-5 – NKJV). As you can see, when Peter was put in prison the Church did not forget him, rather the Church began to pray for Peter. Now, even though Luke does not say what the Church asked God to do on behalf of Peter, we can deduce it from some words Paul wrote to the saints while he was in prison, which are these: “For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supplication of the Spirit of Jesus Christ …..” (Philippians 1:19NKJV); “…. I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you” (Philemon 22 – NKJV). Therefore, we think that the Church of Jerusalem prayed to God that He might deliver Peter from prison. Those constant prayers were heard because God sent an angel to deliver Peter from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people. I would like to underline something we read in this story, which is this: when Luke says that constant prayer was offered to God for Peter by the Church, he means that the saints prayed for Peter. This is confirmed by the Scripture which says that in the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, “many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12NKJV), therefore we can say that the Church which was gathered in the house of Mary was praying for Peter. Thus, the building where we gather together to worship God cannot be called ‘church’ because this is not confirmed by the Word of God. We are the house of God, as it is written: “We are his house” (Hebrews 3:6 – NIV); the place of worship or the house where we gather to pray is not the house of God.

Brothers, we are the Church of the Living God and we must pray for our brothers who are in prison (and treated as criminals) so that God may comfort them, establish them in Christ, and deliver them from prison. Of course, it is true that some of those who are put in prison because of the Gospel die in prison, however this happens because God wants them to die in prison and not because God cannot deliver them from prison. One day we will know why God did not deliver them from prison, but in the meantime (while we are waiting for the hidden things to be revealed to us) let us continue to remember the prisoners, offering constant prayers to God for them because God wants us to pray for them, as it is written: “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them ….” (Hebrews 13:3 – NKJV).

On what conditions our prayers will be answered

Our God has promised to answer our prayers on the following conditions:

If we pray in faith. Jesus said: “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22NIV. The NKJV reads: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive”). Now, “faith is being sure of what we hope for” (Hebrews 11:1 – NIV), therefore when we pray believing (or in faith) we are sure we will receive what we have asked of God. Jesus said: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24NIV); as you can see, these words also confirm that in order to be heard we must believe. What must we believe? We must believe that we have received what we asked for in prayer, for it is written first “Believe that you have received it” (Mark 11:24 – NIV) and then: “It will be yours” (Mark 11:24 – NIV) or “You will have it” (NKJV).

James, the Lord’s brother, confirmed the words of Jesus by saying: “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 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. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8). Note that first it is written: “Let him ask of God” (James 1:5) in faith, and then: “It shall be given him” (James 1:5). As you can see, in order to receive wisdom from God, we must ask for it in faith, with no doubting. For, while on the one hand he who prays to God in faith is heard; on the other hand he who prays doubting is not heard. He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind, and that man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord. The words of James are hard, yet true.

One day Jesus said to His disciples: “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says” (Mark 11:22-23 – NKJV). I would like to dwell upon these words of Jesus in order to explain to you what it means to pray in faith with no doubting. Note that Jesus said: “And does not doubt in his heart” (Mark 11:23); now, out of our heart spring the issues of life, therefore we need to keep it with all diligence, because if we pray to God not believing with our heart that we will receive what we have asked of Him (because we say in our heart that what we have asked is too hard for the Lord and He can’t give it to us), we will not receive anything from the Lord, we will get nothing but reproaches. When we pray, our heart must be firm, it must trust in the Lord; then we will receive what we have asked of God. When we pray, we must believe not only that God can do what we ask Him to do, but also that He will do it, for it is written: “Believe that you have received it” (Mark 11:24 – NIV) and also: “[Whoever] Does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done” (Mark 11:23 – NKJV). To explain to you what it means to believe that those things we say will be done, I will mention an event which happened in the days of Jesus, at Capernaum. It is written: “And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour” (Matthew 8:5-13). As you can see, when that roman centurion heard about Jesus, he came to Jesus and pleaded with Him to come and heal his servant who was lying at home paralyzed, and Jesus told him that He would come and heal his servant, but the centurion answered and told Jesus not to trouble Himself because he was not worthy that He should enter under his roof. He asked Jesus to speak the word and his servant would be healed. The faith of that man was amazing, because he believed not only that Jesus could heal his servant, but also that when Jesus would speak the word his servant would be healed. Jesus saw the faith which was in that man and granted his request. Note the expression of the centurion: “But speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed” (Matthew 8:8), for it shows that he did not doubt at all in his heart, but believed that the Lord would heal his servant through the word only. But note also the answer of Jesus, for it shows that it was done for him as he had believed. Is it not written that if he “does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says” (Mark 11:23NKJV)? Our enemy does not like the prayer of the righteous made in faith, thus when we pray it is necessary to resist the devil, standing firm in the faith. Know this, that the devil tries to make us doubt the Lord’s promises, so that we might not see their fulfilment in our life. I assure you that when we kneel down before the Almighty God and we pray in faith our enemies don’t remain indifferent. The devil tries through them to frighten us and lead us to think that God can’t hear us, or that what we ask of God is not for us today, and other harmful things; but you, beloved, don’t be afraid, because Jesus said: “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do” (John 14:13 – NKJV): have faith in these words spoken by our Lord and at God’s appointed time you will receive from the Lord what you have prayed for.

If we keep His commandments. Jesus said: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7 – NKJV). Also in these words of Jesus we find a ‘if’ to which we need to pay much attention, because it shows on what condition God will give us what we have asked of Him. Now, what does it mean to abide in Christ? To abide in Christ means to keep His commandments, as it is written: “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him” (1 John 3:24NKJV). However, Jesus said also: ‘If My words abide in you”, therefore it is necessary for His words to abide in us so that we may be heard by God. With regard to this, I remind you that we are commanded to let the Word of Christ abide in us, for Paul wrote: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly ….” (Colossians 3:16 – NKJV), therefore anyone who does not want to let the word of Christ abide in him does not keep the divine commandment, and thus when he prays he will not be heard. Some affirm that in order to be heard by God we just need to pray in faith; however, the Scripture teaches that in order to receive what we have asked of God, we need also to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel, for John wrote: “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22 – NKJV). Anyone who thinks that his prayers will be heard even if he conducts himself wickedly is deceiving himself.

Many teach that God will hear our prayers even if our conduct is not holy; however I will show you from the Scriptures that the prayers of those who walk according to the stubbornness of their heart and don’t want to listen to the Lord are not heard by God, and thus these teachers are deceiving themselves and others.

The apostle Peter says: “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them [your wives] with understanding, giving honour to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7 – NKJV). This means that if a believing husband despises his wife, he is unfaithful to her, and hates her, mistreating her and beating her, God will not hear his prayers because of his shameful behaviour. Beloved, God is holy and righteous, and thus He cannot tolerate evil.

Remember what happened to Saul, king of Israel; the Scripture says that when the Philistines came and encamped at Shunem to fight with Israel and he saw the army of the Philistines he was afraid and his heart trembled greatly “and when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets” (1 Samuel 28:6 – NKJV). Do you know why God did not answer him? Because Saul had not kept the commandments that God had given him through the prophet Samuel; God became an enemy of Saul and when he found himself in a distress and he inquired of God, He did not answer him.

Now, listen to the words God spoke to the rulers of the house of Israel through the prophet Micah: “Hear now, O heads of Jacob, and you rulers of the house of Israel: Is it not for you to know justice? You who hate good and love evil; who strip the skin from My people, and the flesh from their bones; who also eat the flesh of My people, flay their skin from them, break their bones, and chop them in pieces like meat for the pot, like flesh in the caldron. Then they will cry to the LORD, but He will not hear them; He will even hide His face from them at that time, because they have been evil in their deeds” (Micah 3:1-4 – NKJV). From these words also it is very evident that God does not answer those who do evil works and cry out to Him in the day of trouble.

Here is what Wisdom says to the scoffers: “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke” (Proverbs 1:28-30 – NKJV). Beloved, I say it again, if we don’t heed God’s voice, God will not hear us when we pray to Him.

Do you know how the Israelites conducted themselves in the days of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel? In this way: they treated father and mother with contempt, they oppressed the stranger, they mistreated the fatherless and the widow and the poor, they slandered, they committed abomination with their neighbour’s wife, they lewdly defiled their daughters-in-law and violated their sisters, they took usury and increase, they lied, they stole, they killed, they knelt down before idols and offered sacrifices and burned incense to them; yet, they had the cheek to come to appear before God in His courts to pray to Him. But God said to them: “Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear …. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity” (Isaiah 1:15; 59:3 – NKJV). The Israelites thought that God would hear their prayers even though they walked according to the stubbornness of their heart, but their thought was futile. And today there are some among the people of God who think the same thing, but they deceive themselves. Here is what happens among the Church of God: some who claim to be believers mistreat the fatherless, the widow and the poor, they take advantage and defraud their brothers, they have set up all kinds of idols in their hearts, they strike with the fist of wickedness, they tell lies to their neighbour, they expose their nakedness on the beach during summer, they commit adultery and they fornicate, they stay many hours before their television set to watch vanities and obscenities, they go to the amusement parks, they go to dance, they go to the cinema, to spend their money for what does not satisfy, and they serve mammon, and then they go to the place of worship to pray to God saying to Him: ‘Lord, we love You, hear us, and we will give You the glory due to Your name’. Listen to me, do you think that God can deny Himself? Do you think that God is unjust and He answers people who with their mouth show much love but their hearts pursue their own gain? The Scripture says: “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9 – NKJV) and also: “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard” (Proverbs 21:13NKJV). Do not let these words depart from your eyes, lest anyone deceive you with empty words.

When the Scripture says that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man, avails much” (James 5:16 – NKJV), it means that the prayer of faith made by a person who keeps God’s commandments avails much, because a righteous man is not only a person who has been justified by the grace of God, but also a person who does what is right in the sight of God, keeping His commandments. Listen to what God said through the prophet Ezekiel: “But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, And hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his neighbour’s wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman, And hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 18:5-9). In reading these words, we have come to the conclusion that a righteous man is a person who abides in Christ, and in whom the words of Christ dwell, therefore the following words of James: “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16 – NKJV) confirm fully the following words of Jesus: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7 – NKJV). Of course, if on the one hand we must proclaim that the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man, avails much, on the other hand we must proclaim that the prayer of those who refuse to obey God’s commandments avails nothing.

Brothers, let us examine carefully our ways and “let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1 – NKJV). Let us speak truthfully to our neighbour, let us do good clinging to it, let us help the poor sharing our material things with them and let us love one another sincerely, let us rid ourselves of all hypocrisy, and then we will have the assurance that God will hear us and will give us all the things we have asked of Him.

If we ask what is according to God’s will for us. John says: “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 [have asked] of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

Brothers, when Jesus said: “You will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7 – NKJV), He did not mean that no matter what kind of things we ask or no matter why we ask certain things, we will surely receive them. For you must understand that in order to receive the things we have asked of God they need to be according to the will of God for us.

James says to those who are not heard by God because they cherish sin in their heart: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3 – NKJV). As you can see, when our requests made known to God are not according to His will, they are not heard. Now, God wants us to ask good things, but if He sees that we ask amiss (that is, if He sees that we ask certain things with wrong motives), then He will not hear us. I am sure that if you fear God and tremble before His word, and you make all efforts to rule your own house well, bringing your children up in the training and admonition of the Lord, and one day one of your children comes to you and says to you: ‘Dad, give me some money because I want to go to the cinema’ you will not give him what he asks, rather you will rebuke him severely. Why will you not give him the money he wants? Because he asks amiss, that he may spend it on his pleasures. Let us suppose now that while you and your wife are walking near a jeweller’s shop your wife says to you: ‘My dear, I want to wear some jewellery to please you more; please, buy me a golden necklace and some golden earrings’, what will you do, if you who are a God-fearing man and know that God does not want your wife to wear those things? Surely you will not grant your wife her wish, not because you hate her, but because you love her as Christ loved the Church. Now, if you who fear God don’t grant the members of your household certain wishes, why should God, who is holy and just, grant some members of His household certain wishes, which are not according to His will? Those who ask and don’t receive because they ask amiss that they spend it on their pleasures, are those who love the world and the things in the world, who have become enemies of God because they follow the lusts of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and have become proud but God resists them.

It must be said also that there are some prayers which are not heard because God has decided to work differently, and thus those prayers are not according to His will (even though they are made in faith and sincerely), and not because he who prays is unjust, lover of pleasures and haughty. The Scripture teaches us that Jesus Christ, while He was in the Gethsemane, before being arrested, prayed to His Father saying: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36NKJV). Luke says that Jesus prayed saying: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42NKJV). How could God take that cup away from Jesus, when He had decided before the foundation of the world that His Anointed one had to suffer and be crucified? You should recognize, brothers, that Jesus’ request in the Gethsemane was not according to God’s will for Him. Praise God because whatever His will for us is, it is a will for our good and for the good of other people; it is true that we suffer when God does not answer one of our prayers because we ask something that is not according to His will, but in the end we must always recognize that if God did not hear us when or how we desired, and if He did not give us that particular thing but another thing, He has done this exclusively for our good.

The apostle Paul wrote: “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). In this case also, since Paul asked God to do something that God did not want to do, he was not heard by God; however, God acted in that way for his good, so that he might remain humble and might not become conceited. Dear brothers, when we say: ‘The Lord’s will be done’ we mean that we are willing to do the will of God even if it does not agree with our will. Therefore when we receive from the Lord a ‘negative’ answer or an answer that does not come up to our expectations, let us not complain; rather let us accept it with thankfulness and submission, knowing that God is wiser than us and He knows perfectly what is the best for us.

One day, Moses, while he was reminding the Israelites of the things which had happened during the journey in the wilderness, said: “And I besought the LORD at that time, saying, O Lord GOD, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might? I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the LORD said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter. Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan” (Deuteronomy 3:23-27). Now, God had said to Moses and Aaron at the water of Meribah (after Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it as God had commanded him to do): “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them” (Numbers 20:12 – NKJV). Therefore Moses knew the decision of God, yet he pleaded with the Lord to allow him to cross over and see the land of Canaan. However, God did not grant his request; even though Moses was a humble man, a man with whom God spoke face to face, a man of whom God said: “He is faithful in all My house” (Numbers 12:7 – NKJV).

The prophet Elijah was not heard by God on one occasion, for it is written: “And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:1-4), but God did not take away his life, because God had decided to take him to heaven without death, and also because Elijah had to accomplish other things for the Lord, for (forty days later) God said to him at Horeb: “Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room” (1 Kings 19:13-16).

King David on one occasion was not heard by God. The Scripture says that after David had committed adultery with Bath-sheba and killed her husband with the sword of the people of Ammon, God sent Nathan to David to announce to him His judgments against David and his house. Among other things, Nathan said to David: “The child also who is born to you shall surely die” (2 Samuel 12:14NKJV) and “the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground” (2 Samuel 12:15-16 – NKJV). However, God did not answer David’s prayer, for “on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died” (2 Samuel 12:18NKJV). As you can see, God could have answered the prayer of David, but He refused to grant his request.

What shall we say then after citing these examples of prayers which were not answered by God? Shall we say that God is unjust and merciless? Certainly not. We know and proclaim that God is righteous and full of compassion not only when He grants us our request but also when He doesn’t grant us our request.

God wants to give us good things, we are sure about this; however, He wants also us to ask them of Him, for Jesus said: “Ask …..” (Matthew 7:7 – NKJV) and also: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11NKJV). You see, brothers, the fact that God knows the things we need before we ask Him, does not mean at all that we don’t need to ask them of Him, otherwise Jesus would not have commanded us to ask. Therefore, to ask is a command and not optional. The Lord commanded us to ask and promised that it will be given to us, for Jesus said: “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24NKJV). We attest the truthfulness of these words, because we have seen their fulfilment in our life many times; when we were in need of something our heart was faint in us, however after we asked God to meet our need and we received what we had asked of Him, our heart was filled with a great joy, with such a joy that we were bound to say to God: “You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased” (Psalm 4:7 – NKJV). Yes, the Lord is faithful, and He is still ready to perform His word. Someone will say: ‘What can and should I ask of God?’ Whatever you need, because it is written: “In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6 – NKJV), and also: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7 – NKJV). Beloved, know that God not only knows what you need, but also wants to meet all your needs (according to His riches in glory), because He cares for you. Do not think that God is far from you or that He is not interested in you or that there is something that He cannot do for you. The God we serve is great “and His greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3 – NKJV); He is “mighty in power” (Psalm 147:5 – NKJV), therefore, come to the throne of God in full assurance of faith, keeping in mind that He is the One who formed man’s ear (therefore He is able to hear you when you pray to Him), and that He is the One who created the heavens, the earth, the sea and all that is in them (therefore there is nothing too hard for Him). Paul wrote that God is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20NKJV); ah! – may God enlighten the eyes of our heart that we may know “what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:19NKJV). Now I am going to tell you what many have asked of God and have received from Him.

Some have asked God for the Holy Spirit and received Him and thus in them it was fulfilled what Jesus said: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13 – NKJV); some, after receiving the Holy Spirit, have prayed to God that they might interpret the words they spoke in other tongues (as it is written: “Therefore, let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret” 1 Corinthians 14:13 – NKJV) and God granted their request; some have asked for other gifts of the Holy Spirit and God heard them giving them the desire of their heart; some asked God for wisdom and God gave it to them, as it is written: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5 – NKJV); some who were sick prayed to God that He might heal them (as Jeremiah did when he said: “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed” Jeremiah 17:14 – NKJV) and they were healed by God through their faith, and it was fulfilled in them the Scripture which says: “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Psalm 107:19-20 – NKJV) and also the Scripture which says: “By His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 – NKJV); some wanted to get married and so they asked God for a prudent wife and God granted their request and thus it was fulfilled in them the Scripture which says: “God maketh the solitary into families” Psalm 68:6 – Darby). Beloved, know that a “a prudent wife is from the Lord” (Proverbs 19:14NKJV) and those who asked God for her and received her are still rejoicing and giving thanks to God for her. Some, being unable to have children, asked God to give them some children, knowing that “children are a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3 – NKJV) and at God’s appointed time they received them; some, having received notice to quit, asked God for a new house and God heard them: some asked God to reveal them the ministry they had to fulfill and God heard them, and afterward He confirmed before the saints and through the saints that He had called them to fulfil that ministry: some asked God to reveal them where to go to preach the Gospel (the specific place, such as the country, the region, the town) and God heard them and it was fulfilled in them the word that God spoke to Jeremiah: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3 – NKJV). There are many more examples which I could cite to confirm that God is faithful and “all the promises of God in Him are Yes” (2 Corinthians 1:20NKJV), however, I think that those above mentioned are sufficient for the moment. Brothers, I exhort you to kneel down before God and to pray to Him in faith, asking Him for what you or other people need. Over the centuries, all those who have asked God for something which was according to His will for them were heard. Those who have obeyed the Word of God and have been blessed by obeying to it are a great many. However, also those who, knowing that God gives good things to those who ask Him, don’t ask and thus don’t have are a great many; in them it is fulfilled what James wrote: “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2 – NKJV).

Brother, when you ask God for a particular thing, you should never say: ‘This prayer is not according to the will of God because I don’t know any member of the church I attend who has ever made it!’ or: ‘This prayer is not according to the will of God because the pastor of the Church I attend has never said that he has ever asked God for such a thing’, or: ‘This prayer I am making cannot be according to the will of God because this or that famous evangelist has never made such a prayer’, or: ‘According to the statute of my denomination I am not allowed to ask God for such a thing’. It is not in this way that you will understand whether the prayer you are making is according to God’s will or not. First of all, search carefully the Scriptures to see if in ancient times someone asked the same thing or something like that, and if it is so keep praying and waiting for God’s answer. Furthermore, know the following things: perhaps no member of the Church you attend has ever wanted the same thing you are asking; perhaps no member of the church you attend has the same measure of faith God has given to you. And maybe the other brothers, not knowing the Scriptures, consider your desire to be a wrong desire, and regard you as a strange person; however, brother, fear not, pray to God in faith, keeping His commandments, continue in prayer without paying attention to all those voices that would like to silence you. Remember that when Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by, he began to cry out and say: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ (Mark 10:47NKJV), but the multitude warned him to be quiet, but he cried out all the more. Do you know what happened then? It happened that Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called and when he came to Jesus He gave him the sight, that is, the desire of his heart. A blind man wanted Jesus to have mercy on him; he did not want Jesus to give him costly garments, he did not want Jesus to give him riches nor did he want to become famous, but he wanted to receive his sight; it was a lawful desire for a blind person, yet there were many who, when they heard him crying out ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ warned him to be quiet. Brother, know this, that when you begin to cry out to God that He may perform signs and wonders to make sinners obedient, or when you begin to covet earnestly the spiritual gifts as the disciples of old did, you also will be rebuked by some, who will warn you to be quiet because you are disturbing the Church. But know this, that you are not disturbing God, rather you are disturbing some believers who are asleep and don’t want to wake up, or maybe you are disturbing someone like Diotrephes, who wants to have the preeminence among the brethren. I know by experience that if you humble yourself before God and you seek His face, and you begin to ask God for spiritual things, which are for the edifying of the Church, all those who live according to the worldly lusts will rise up against you, they will sadden you by their bitter words and their indifference toward spiritual things; however you must not give up, you must not resign yourself to their will, remember that there is nothing too hard for our God and that you are not the first believer who has asked God for these things because some other believers you don’t know have asked God for the same things and at His appointed time their prayer was answered. You, who fear and love God and seek His face with all your heart without ceasing, must understand that there are some who don’t want to know the power of God nor the power of His works and since they don’t desire the gifts of the Spirit or the Lord to reveal them certain useful things, don’t want others to desire those things either, and consequently those who don’t have because they have not asked despise and want to put to silence those who want to receive the things “which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 – NKJV)

Now let us consider some prayers made by those of old, which might have seemed ‘not according to the will of God’ to someone, yet they were answered by God because they were made in full assurance of faith and were according to the will of God.

It is written: “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months” (James 5:17). Someone may say: ‘What! A man prayed that it might not rain and God answered his prayer? How could such a thing be? Obviously it is easier to hear that someone prayed that it might rain than it might not rain; yet, Elijah, who was a man of God, made that prayer. In order to understand why he made that prayer, we need to see what the Scripture says about the conduct of the King of Israel as well as of the people of Israel at the time. The Scripture teaches us that in the days of Elijah, the people of Israel forsook God, bowed the knee to Baal and kissed him, except seven thousand men. In addition to this, the children of Israel torn down the altars of God and killed the prophets of God. Ahab and his wife also behaved in the vilest manner, for it is written: “But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up. And he behaved very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel” (1 Kings 21:25-26 – NKJV). As you can see, the sins committed by the children of Israel were serious and deserved to be punished. God had warned the Israelites through the law, saying to them: “But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant …. I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass” (Leviticus 26:14-15,19). Elijah knew that warning of God, therefore no wonder that he prayed earnestly that it might not rain and God answered his prayer. Be careful, I am not urging you to pray that it may not rain on the wicked, but I am just saying that for some particular reasons and needs, still today one can be moved by the Spirit to pray that it may not rain for a certain period of time on a certain place and God answers his prayer.

There was another prophet who asked God to do some particular things on a specific occasion; his name was Elisha. The Scripture says that when the king of Syria knew that Elisha told the king of Israel the words that he spoke in his bedroom, he sent a great army to get Elisha. The king of Syria sent horses and chariots and a great army to Dothan, and they came by night and surrounded the city. “And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the LORD, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. And Elisha said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria. And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria(2 Kings 6:15-20). Then the prophet Elisha told the king of Israel to set food and water before those men, and after they ate and drank, the king of Israelsent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel(2 Kings 6:23). As you can see, Elisha asked God to do a particular thing towards both his servant and the Syrians. Someone may ask: ‘What was the good of those prayers of Elisha?’ Well, those prayers were useful because when his servant saw the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire he was reassured, while what happened to the Syrians persuaded the Syrians to come no more into the land of Israel (2 Kings 6:23). We, on our part, have to recognize once more that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).

Now let us see what Gideon asked of God. The Scripture says: “And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground” (Judges 6:36-40). Someone may say: ‘God had already spoken to Gideon saying: “Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? …. Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:14,16), why then did Gideon asked God for those signs?’ Well, Gideon was convinced that he needed to ask God for those signs, and I don’t feel like criticizing his behaviour. However, I want to remind you that Gideon had to go to fight against an army of about 135.000 Midianites with only three hundred men. Realize that the hands of Gideon had to be strong and through those sings they were strengthened. No one can affirm that Gideon, by asking God for those signs, tempted God, because he did not ask for those signs in order to tempt God but that God might confirm His call to him to lead the children of Israel in victory against the Midianites. Some believers have called the example of Gideon ‘a poor example of faith’, however I wonder: ‘What would these people have done, who criticize even Gideon’s behaviour, in seeing all that multitude of Midianites?’ You see, some teach that we must have faith in God, and then, instead of asking God for the money they need in their bedroom, waiting for God to provide, they extort the money from the saints by their craftiness (they know how to extort it), and then we hear them saying that asking God for signs is not fitting for us who have believed in Christ because it is a lack of faith in God. But God granted Gideon’s requests, and we know that Gideon’s requests and what he did for Israel were written for our learning. Moreover, I would like you to note that God, after He gave those signs to Gideon, told Gideon to go down to the camp of Midian to hear the telling of a dream had by a Midianite and its interpretation. Why did God want Gideon to hear the telling of that dream and its interpretation, which foretold the defeat of the Midianites? Because He wanted to strengthen Gideon’s hands, as God said to him: “And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host” (Judges 7:11). And what else can I say? In the epistle to the Hebrews, Gideon is numbered among those who “obtained a good testimony through faith” (Hebrews 11:39NKJV) and among those who “became valiant in battle” (Hebrews 11:34NKJV) and “turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Hebrews 11:34NKJV). I would to God that there might be more courageous men like Gideon in the midst of the Church, who are willing (even after asking God for some signs) to serve him with pure conscience, renouncing the hidden things of shame; yes, right those things about which the men of corrupt minds boast, about whom the Scripture says that their glory is in their shame.

Brothers, it is not a sin to ask God for some signs in order to be strengthened in a particular work we are going to do to the glory of God. Some who teach the word of God speak in a way which is not clear and furthermore it reveals their unbelief in certain things and their dislike for these things. They don’t want to talk about visions, dreams, and signs, as if the Scripture called these things ‘useless things’ or ‘things which we should not dare to ask of God’ or ‘evil things of which we should beware’.

The truth is that many believers have never experienced certain things, also because they have never attached importance to these important things: that’s why they speak against these things and want to deceive the other believers into believing that these things were useful to the ancients but they are no longer useful to us, who are ‘modern’. Many judge wrongly the particular prayers of some faithful and sincere brothers and sisters because they don’t have the same measure of faith as they have or because they think that God is not able to grant them their request or because they think that God has ceased working certain things He did in ancient times. But God in due season has showed some of them that He has not changed and that “the desire of the righteous will be granted” (Proverbs 10:24NKJV) and that “His ways are everlasting” (Habakkuk 3:6 – NKJV). For there are some believers who once thought that God has ceased giving the gift of the Holy Spirit and then they repented; there are some believers who once thought that God does not heal the sick any longer and then they repented: there are some believers who once thought that with the death of the apostles the Holy Spirit ceased giving His gifts but then they repented: there are some believers who once thought that God ceased speaking to men in a vision or in a dream and then they repented; there are some believers who once thought that asking God for a sign, as the early saints did, is not for us and then they repented. As a result those believers who once were regarded by them as ‘believers who had gone out of their mind’ (because of their faith in God) or ‘dreamers and visionaries’ (because of the things God had revealed to them), then were judged to be sound of mind and sound in the faith (even though they were already sound of mind and sound in the faith).

Beloved, believe in the holy and faithful promises of God, and not in the empty words of some who don’t walk in the Spirit.

How Jesus taught to pray

Let us see now how Jesus taught His disciples to pray. He said to them: “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7-8 – NKJV).

First of all, Jesus has commanded us not to use excessive words (that is, vain repetitions) when we pray, as those who don’t know God do. One of the characteristics of the prayers of those who don’t know God, is their excessive length; they pray for many hours repeating mechanically the various prayers which are written in their books, and we can see this in this country also. What induces so many people to pray in this way? The conviction that they will be heard because of their many words. Now, Jesus said: “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22 – NIV), and not ‘if you use many words when you pray, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer’; I say this so that no one among you may think that the more words he says to God the more possibilities of being heard he has. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8 – NIV), said Jesus; therefore we don’t need to use excessive words when we pray to God in the midst of our distresses. David said to God: “For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether” (Psalm 139:4 – NKJV), which shows that our God knows perfectly what we are going to ask of Him, even before we speak to Him. Whereas on the one hand Jesus told us how we should not pray, on the other hand He said to us how we should pray, as He said: “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9-13). Brothers, keep in mind that this prayer was taught by Him who was with the Father in heaven before He came into this world. We know that the Son spoke to us the things which He had heard from His Father, therefore these words also are Word of God. Do not underestimate this prayer because its efficacy, when it is said to God with a pure heart and in faith, has not decreased over the centuries.

I want to comment briefly on this prayer. First of all, when we pray to God we must call Him ‘Father’ and not ‘Daddy’. I say this because some call Him ‘Daddy,’ not showing the proper fear of God and the proper reverence toward His Holy Name. You see, some think that since we are sons of God we have the right to call God ‘Daddy’. However, I think that we should not call Him in this way, that is to say, in this familiar way, even though He is our Heavenly Father, the One who gave us birth through His word. On the night Jesus was betrayed, when He prayed to the Father, He called God ‘Holy Father’ and ‘Righteous Father’. It grieves my heart to see some Christians using this improper familiarity with God. However we are not surprised to see this, for we know that many have forgotten who God is as well as the Scripture which says: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29 – NIV). Jacob called God “the Fear of Isaac” (Genesis 31:42 – NKJV; Asaph called God “Him who ought to be feared” (Psalm 76:11 – NKJV); while some call Him ‘Daddy’! I think that these people with the passing of time will become like those children who call their father ‘little daddy’ and they play with him thinking that they can mock their father! They call God ‘daddy’ and in the meantime they are dressed in a odd and indecent way; not only this, when they pray, some of them pray with their hands in their pockets, and some of them refuse to kneel down before God. I ask you this question: ‘Why do they behave in that way?’ Is it not because they don’t want to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling? I am sick at heart in seeing that the heathen who bow down before their dumb idols show more reverence and fear toward their dead works than some believers toward the living and true God. Judge for yourselves what I say.

We, as sons of God, want the name of God to be hallowed through us. For God said in the law: “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified” (Leviticus 10:3). Now, so that the name of God may be sanctified, we who are near Him (we once were far from God, but now in Christ Jesus we have been brought near God by the blood of Jesus Christ) must keep His commandments. Therefore, if we say to God: ‘Hallowed be your name’, but at the same time we refuse to obey Him, we lie to God.

According to the Scripture, one day the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and we will reign on the earth. All this has not yet taken place; however we know that day is coming quickly; yes, we want the Kingdom of God to come, that’s why we say to God: ‘Your Kingdom come’.

In addition to this, we want the will of God to be done on earth as it is done in heaven. What do the holy angels of God do in heaven? What do the righteous do in heaven? They do the will of God, for they praise and serve God. Are not they doing what we must do on earth? We say to God: ‘Your will be done’ because we want Him to accomplish His will in us.

Man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3 – NKJV); this means that we need to feed on bread as well as the Word of God, and we feed on the Word of God by hearing it and keeping it. Now, we need to eat bread to live; God knows that, and He wants us to ask Him for it. Jesus said: “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7 – NKJV), therefore when we ask for our daily bread God hears us and He gives it to us. The Psalmist says to God: “These all wait for You, that You may give them their food in due season. What You give them they gather in; You open Your hand, they are filled with good” (Psalm 104:27-28 – NKJV). Consider the goodness of God! He cares for all the birds and the fish giving them the food they need. If God does not neglect animals, how could we think that He will neglect us who are His sons? We are “of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31NKJV), and of more value than any other animal that God made, therefore we firmly believe that God will make sure that we don’t lack our daily bread.

Beloved, “we all stumble in many things” (James 3:2 – NKJV), that’s why we are bound to ask God to remit our debts. The sins we commit are called debts because to break the word of God is to get into debt toward God. But thanks be to God because when we come to Him and confess our debts to Him asking Him to forgive us our debts, we obtain the remission of them. Isn’t this a clear manifestation of the faithfulness of God? However, besides being faithful, God is also righteous for if we don’t forgive our debtors (that is to say, if we don’t forgive men their sins), neither will God forgive our debts, therefore let us take heed to ourselves and let us forgive men their sins, otherwise God will cause us to pay all our debts!

We know that the devil is the tempter and as he tempted the Son of God in the days of His flesh, so he tempts us. It is impossible for us not to be tempted by the devil, however, we can bear the temptation, that’s why we need to ask God to lead us not into temptation but to deliver us from the evil one. You should keep in mind that God allows us to be tempted (consider that God allowed His own Son to be tempted also), but He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, for Paul says: “But God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 – NKJV). Therefore, God has promised that when we are tempted He will provide the way of escape that we may not fall into temptation. Bear in mind, however, that the fact that God will provide the way of escape so that we may bear the temptation does not mean that God does not require any effort from us lest we fall into temptation, otherwise Jesus would not have said: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Mark 14:38 – NIV), and again: “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40 – NKJV). We often forget that in order not to fall into temptation, we must not only watch but also pray.

Let us pray instead of being anxious

Brothers, if we want to live a tranquil life we must pay attention to the following exhortation delivered by Paul to the saints in Philippi: “The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-7 – NKJV).

Let me comment briefly on these words. First of all, our Lord is near to us and not far from us, this is something which comforts us in the midst of every distress and affliction. David says that “the Lord is near to those who have a broken heart” (Psalm 34:18 – NKJV) and also that “the Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Psalm 145:18 – NKJV); therefore, beloved, in the midst of all your distresses remember these words, because they comfort the afflicted soul. Now, since the Lord is near to us, we must not be anxious; why should we worry about the future when we know that God is with us and for us? You see, when we become anxious for something our soul is filled with anguish and agitation, which take away from us the peace of God, which is the result of our firm and unshakeable faith in God; that’s why the devil tries to cause us to disobey the command of God which says: “Be anxious for nothing”. However, we are not ignorant of the devices of Satan; therefore, beloved let us not become anxious for anything lest we give place to fear and doubt, which would destroy us.

Whereas on the one hand we must be anxious for nothing, on the other hand we must present all our requests to God, for Paul says: “Let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6 – NKJV). Therefore there is not a single need in which God is not interested or about which it is useless to pray to God. No matter what we need, God wants us to cast all our care upon Him, and not just a part of it. How must we make known to God our requests? “By prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6 – NKJV), says Paul; this means that as we pray to God about our needs we must thank Him for everything, yes, because we must be vigilant in prayer with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2). If we obey this exhortation, we will be greatly blessed because God will cause His peace to reign in our hearts and in our minds, and this peace will protect our hearts and minds from all the wiles of the devil while we wait for the divine answer.

Praying with one accord

Brothers, when we pray to God together we must be with one accord in order to be heard by God, for Jesus said: “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:19-20 – NKJV). Therefore, Jesus said that His Father will hear those who agree concerning anything that they ask; as you can see, that ‘if’ indicates the condition on which the prayer made with other brothers will be answered by God.

In the book of the Acts of the apostles there is an example of prayer which was made with one accord; it’s the prayer that the early disciples said to God when Peter and John came to their own companions after they were threatened by the Sanhedrin, for it is written that “they raised their voice to God with one accord” (Acts 4:24 – NKJV). In that prayer they asked God that He might grant to His servants that with all boldness they might speak the Word of God and He might stretch out His hand to heal, and that signs and wonders might be done through the name of His Holy Servant Jesus Christ, and that prayer was answered.

When we pray to God together with other brothers (as well as when we pray alone) we must pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ. The following verses of the Scriptures attest this:

● “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23-24);

● “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:16);

● “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13);

● “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14).

Remember that Jesus Christ is the High Priest of our confession and that He is at the right hand of God and He makes intercession for us. Jesus prays to God for us because He is the mediator between God and us, that’s why we must pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ. If we prayed to God in the name of Paul or Peter we would not be heard by God, because Paul and Peter, even though they are with the Lord in heaven, cannot mediate between God and us. They cannot hear our prayers and pass them on to God, therefore it is absurd and vain to rely upon their mediation. Many people all over the world believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, makes intercession for them before God; the devil has deceived them into believing a lie. Mary cannot hear men’s prayers and thus she cannot pass them on to God nor to Jesus because it is written: “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5 – NKJV). By the grace of God we have the privilege to come to God, the Almighty, in the name of His Son, and we have the confidence that He hears our prayers. To God be the glory forever. Amen.

Praying in the Spirit

There are some passages of the Scripture which speak of a particular prayer, which is the prayer made in the Spirit. Here are these passages:

● “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit ….” (Ephesians 6:18)

● “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 20-21).

He who prays in the Spirit prays to God in an unknown language (which he never learnt, thus he does not know the verbs nor the words, nor the syntax nor the phonetic of that language). The following Scriptures attest what I have just said to you:

● “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27 – NKJV)

● “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Corinthians 14:14-15).

Now, one of the things a man does not know is what he should pray for, as Paul says that “we do not know what we should pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26). Why does Paul make this statement? Because we, as human beings, when we pray, are not able to express ourselves adequately with our own words (that is to say, we run out of words). Is it not true that many times we would like to say to God many things we feel inside we should ask of Him, but because of our weakness (remember that our body is weak) we are not able to say these things to God? That’s why we often say to God in prayer: ‘Lord, I don’t know how to say it to You!’ In addition to this, we don’t know what our brothers (those brothers we don’t know) need urgently at a certain time and in a particular place. But God, knowing the limits of our body and our mind (that is to say, knowing our weaknesses), has sent the Holy Spirit to help in our human weaknesses. How does the Spirit supplement our lack of knowledge and adequate and exhaustive expressions? By prompting us to pray in tongues, that is to say, by praying through us. The Spirit knows everything (thus all the needs of every saint who lives on the earth) and thus He knows what to pray for. While we do not know everything and we do not know how to totally express our hearts’ worship to God when we speak to God because our language is inadequate, the Holy Spirit, having an infinite knowledge and not running out of words, is able to pray for all the saints. Oh, how marvellous are the ways of God! The Holy Spirit enables us to pray beyond our understanding, and thus God uses us to work His purposes in the lives of others.

Praying and fasting

Several times in the Scriptures of the Old Testament prayer is mentioned together with fasting (I remember you that to fast means to abstain from food and drink for a certain period of time).

In the book of Ezra, with regard to the return of the Israelites from Babylon, it is written: “Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions …. So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer” (Ezra 8:21,23 – NKJV).

It is written in the book of Nehemiah that when Nehemiah heard that the survivors who were left from the captivity in the province were there in great distress and reproach and the wall of Jerusalem was also broken down and its gates were burned with fire, he prayed and fasted: “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven (Nehemiah 1:4 – NIV). God answered the prayer of Nehemiah, for King Artaxerxes, whom he served at the time, granted him to return to Jerusalem for a certain period of time to rebuild the walls of the holy city.

These are some examples taken from the Scriptures of the Old Testament which show how under the law, on some occasions, prayer was accompanied by fasting.

Under grace also it is right to pray and fast. The Scriptures which confirm this are the following ones:

In the book of the Acts of the apostles it is written: “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:1-3).

The Scripture says that Paul and Barnabas “had elders elected for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord in whom they had put their trust” (Acts 14:23NIV).

Paul, before receiving his sight and the Holy Spirit through the laying on of the hands of Ananias, did not eat or drink anything for three days, and when he had that vision in which he saw a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight he was praying (Acts 9:1-13).

When Cornelius had that vision in which an angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him to send men to Joppa and call for Simon Peter, he was praying and fasting. Here is what he said to Peter: “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing” (Acts 10:30NKJV).

Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer ….” (1 Corinthians 7:5 – NKJV).

As you can see, there are several Scriptures which attest that under grace it is right to fast and pray before God.

One can have a vision while he is praying

Brothers, know this, that while one is praying God may visit him and give him a heavenly vision. For the Scripture teaches us that in ancient times various men had visions while they were praying to God.

The prophet Daniel says: “And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God; Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision” (Daniel 9:20-23). In this case, while the prophet Daniel was praying he saw the angel Gabriel, whom God sent to him to teach him certain things.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had a vision in the garden of Gethsemane while he was praying, as it is written: “And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:41-43). In this case Jesus was comforted by God through a vision in which He saw an angel of God.

Saul of Tarsus had a vision while he was praying in the house of Judas located in the street called Straight at Damascus. Here is what the Scripture says: “And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight” (Acts 9:10-12). God showed Saul what it would happen within a short time; note that when Saul had that vision he was not yet able to see with his physical eyes, and that he had that vision before he was baptized in water and with the Holy Spirit.

Paul had another vision while praying (while he was praying in the temple of Jerusalem). He told this vision to the Jews. He said: “And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; And saw him [Jesus] saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me” (Acts 22:17-18).

The apostle Peter also had a vision while he was praying; he told that vision to those of the circumcision who contended with him for he had gone into the house of the uncircumcised men and eaten with them. He said: “I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven” (Acts 11:5-10).

Cornelius, who was a roman centurion, before he got saved, had a vision while he was praying. For he said to Simon Peter: “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee” (Acts 10:30-32).

Praying on one’s knees

What posture should we take when we pray? According to the example left to us by Jesus, the apostles and the prophets of old, the best posture to take when we pray and seek God is that on our knees. Here are some passages of the Scripture which show us in which position prayed the prophets of old, our Lord Jesus Christ, the apostles and the early disciples.

The prophet Elijah, when “he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit” (James 5:18NKJV), prayed on his knees, as it is written: “Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees” (1 Kings 18:42NKJV).

The prophet Daniel used to pray on his knees, for it is written: “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:10).

As Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, “He knelt down and prayed” (Luke 22:41 – NKJV). Mark says that Jesus “fell on the ground and prayed ….” (Mark 14:35NKJV), and Matthew says that Jesus “fell on His face and prayed …” (Matthew 26:39 – NKJV).

The apostle Peter, before raising Tabitha from the dead, prayed on his knees, as it is written: “But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up” (Acts 9:40).

The apostle Paul prayed for the saints on his knees, for he wrote to the Ephesians: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:14-16); at Miletus, after he spoke to the elders of the church of Ephesus, “he kneeled down, and prayed with them all” (Acts 20:36); at Tyre, before boarding the ship together with his fellow workers, he and all those who were with him knelt down and prayed, as it is written: “….we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed. When we had taken our leave of one another, we boarded the ship, and they returned home” (Acts 21:5-6 – NKJV).

As you can see, God willed that the posture the saints of old took when they prayed should be written in the Scripture. I know that “whatever things were written before were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4 – NKJV), and that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 – NKJV), therefore even those passages of the Scripture concerning the posture that the saints of old took when they prayed are useful to our spiritual growth. Can you affirm the opposite? As for me, I don’t dare to affirm it.

Some, not wanting to kneel down to pray together with the Church for they think that it is a useless and humiliating thing for them, defend and cover their haughtiness with empty and deceptive words. Here are their words: ‘We should bow the knees of our heart rather than the knees of our legs!’ and, ‘God listens to us even if we pray on our feet or while we are sitting!’.

As for the former expression, I tell you that if these people bowed ‘the knees of their heart’ (as they call them) they would bow also the knees of their legs; however, since they don’t bow the knees of their heart they don’t bow the knees of their legs either. I am convinced that those who are humble in heart have no difficulty in bowing their knees before God. Those who don’t want to humble themselves before God – bowing their knees – take the following words which God spoke to Samuel: “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 – NKJV). Now do you think that Jesus and the apostles did not know those words? Of course, they knew them, however they did not interpret them wrongly as some do today. Know this, that these words do not mean that God does not care about the posture we take when we pray to Him; if that were the meaning of these words, why then did the Holy Spirit say: “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Psalm 95:6 – NKJV)? As you can see, God wants us to kneel before Him, there is no doubt about it. Consider this for a moment: the Son of God, who was in heaven with His Father before the foundation of the world, in the days of His flesh (that is, when He lived on the earth) prayed to His Father on His knees. John the Baptist, speaking of Christ, said: “He who comes from above is above all” (John 3:31NKJV); now, if He who is above all prayed on His knees, who are we, who are of the earth and are under Him, not to pray on our knees? I have come to the conclusion that in order to reveal the haughtiness that is in the heart of some who appear humble outwardly, God wanted several things to be written (which give the impression of being of little importance), among which that of praying on one’s knees. Today, in many Churches if you say that you want to have a luxurious mansion with a swimming-pool and a special-body car, and that you are praying to God so that He might give them to you (this means to ask amiss in order to spend it on your pleasures), you are considered a humble person, full of faith in God, holy and just, and you are even respected; on the contrary, if you say that you want to pray on your knees and it is a good thing to pray on one’s knees when the saints come together as a church, then you are contradicted and grieved with all kinds of empty and counterfeit words, you are looked on unfavourably and regarded as a person who causes divisions in the Church. Ah! I am sick at heart when I hear the proud speaking from the pulpit, who want to deceive believers into believing that praying on one’s knees is something which is fitting only for ‘bigoted’ believers (that’s how they call those believers who fear God and tremble before His word). Sooner or later those who are haughty in their heart will reveal themselves; they are not able to keep their haughtiness hidden in their heart, in due time their haughtiness shows itself. Their empty speeches are applauded by crowds of believers who have lost discernment and don’t want to humble themselves. We are not surprised at seeing that these idle talkers have a hold over crowds of people, because we know that many believers (most of them) don’t want to bow their knees before God. However, I want to say that many of those who refuse to bow their knees before God, have bowed ‘the knees of their heart’ (as they call them) before Mammon and before that idol called ‘television’ which they have in their house.

As for the latter expression, of course God hears us even when we pray on our feet or when we are seated (we have experienced this, for sometimes we also pray on our feet or while we are seated) and we can’t affirm the opposite; but if it is a person without legs and feet (or unable to kneel down because of a serious illness) who says to me that God hears him even when he prays to God while he is seated I fully understand him and I have nothing to say against it; but when these words are spoken to me by a haughty person who has two strong and tough legs but does not want to bow his knees before God in the presence of the faithful then I am sad because of his haughtiness and I cannot but rebuke him.

I tell you another thing: there are many people who don’t know God who are not ashamed to kneel down before a statue and to pray to it, while there are some who know God who are ashamed to kneel down before the Living and True God. I remind those who don’t want to bow their knees when they pray that it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me” (Romans 14:11; Isaiah 45:23 – NKJV), and that “the allies of the proud lie prostrate beneath Him” (Job 9:13 – NKJV), therefore, do not deceive yourselves, because the day is coming when God will cause you to bow your knees before Him.

Brothers, let us humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, also by taking this posture before Him when we pray to Him, He is worthy of this.

Where to pray

As for the place where to pray, it is necessary to say that we are allowed to pray everywhere for it is written: “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8 – NKJV). However, let us see that we are not like the hypocrites because Jesus said: “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” (Matthew 6:5 – NKJV). As you can see, the hypocrites also pray in the places of worship and outside them, but only for one purpose, that is, to be seen and honoured by men. What is their reward? Their reward is that they are seen by men.

In our private life, we should pray in our room for Jesus said: “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6 – NKJV). Our God is in the secret place and sees in secret, thus we know that in order that our prayer may be answered it suffices to be seen and heard by God alone. Many times we have experienced the truthfulness of the words of Christ because after we have prayed to God secretly (without making known to anybody else our specific request), we have been rewarded by God openly obtaining before others what we asked before Him alone.

Here is what the Scripture says about the places where the prophets of old, Jesus and the apostles and the early disciples prayed.

The prophet Elijah prayed on a mountain.

Moses prayed on Mount Sinai and in the wilderness.

Daniel prayed to God in “in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem(Daniel 6:10 – NKJV).

Jesus “often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (Luke 5:16 – NKJV); on one occasion “He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray” (Luke 9:28NKJV).

The apostles and the disciples, while they were waiting for the promise of the Father, prayed in the upper room; and they prayed also in the temple which was in Jerusalem.

While Peter was in prison, the brethren were praying to God in the house of Mary.

Peter, while in Joppa, prayed on the housetop of the house of Simon, a tanner.

Paul and Silas prayed in the prison of Philippi. Paul often prayed in prison for the saints.

Paul and his fellow workers prayed together with the disciples of Tyre on the shore.

The prophet Jonah prayed to God from a fish’s belly, as it is written: “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly” (Jonah 2:1 – NKJV).

Brothers, all the above mentioned examples confirm that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers” (1 Peter 3:12NKJV), wherever they are. Therefore, we believers will continue to pray to God everywhere (knowing that He is everywhere, as God says: “Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him? ….Do I not fill heaven and earth?” Jeremiah 23:24), lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting, because this is what God wants us to do.

Man must pray with his head uncovered, while the woman must pray with her head covered

Paul says to the Corinthians: “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power [a sign of authority] on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:3-16).

Now, Paul says that the head of every man is Christ and that if a man prays with his head covered he dishonours Christ, which means that he deprives Christ of the honour He is worthy to receive from us. The angels who are in heaven say with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12NKJV). As you can see, among the things Christ is worthy to receive there is honor, therefore if a man prays to God with his head covered with a hat or a veil, he does not give to Christ, who is his head, the honor which is due to Him. The reason why a man must not cover his head is that he is the image and glory of God. Note that Paul does not say that even if a man prays with his head covered he does nothing wrong, because as a matter of fact he does something wrong, for who can affirm that to dishonour Christ is not a wrong thing? Only a man without discernment and full of self-seeking could affirm such a thing. As for the woman, on the contrary, she must cover her head because she is the glory of man for she came from man. Remember that when God made the woman and brought her to the man, Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23NKJV). Now, the head of woman (unmarried woman as well as married woman, and widow) is man; and if she prays with her head uncovered she dishonours her head. If a woman does not want to cover her head with a veil she should have her hair cut or shaved off. However, since in our judgement it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, we tell her to cover her head with a veil. What does the veil symbolize? It is “a symbol of authority” (1 Corinthians 11:10NKJV) which she ought to have on her head because of the angels. For the angels of God watches us and need to see a symbol or sign of authority on the woman’s head (that is, a sign that shows them that she is under man’s authority). Therefore if a woman prays without a veil on her head she dishonours the man before the angels of God because she does not give to man the honour which is due to him.

Love does not delight in evil, therefore, any man whose heart is full of true love will not pray with his head covered lest he dishonour Christ; while any woman whose heart is full of the love of God will pray with her head covered lest she dishonour her head, that is, man. Obviously, if the heart of a woman is full of self-seeking instead of the love of God, she will refuse to cover her head with this symbol of authority.

Today, in the Church, some women, instead of being subject to man and respectful to him, are rebellious and disrespectful toward him, therefore no wonder that they don’t want to cover their head when they pray. They are willing to have their hair dyed, to change their hairstyle, to smooth their hair with gel, to spray their eccentric hairstyle with hairspray to keep it in place, but they are not willing to cover their head with a veil. Why? Because of the pride of being a woman (that’s how the children of this age call it) by which they were deceived. Today, in this country, we see many policewomen and many traffic policewomen, who wear a hat. That hat is weightier than a veil, and they are not ashamed to wear it, and if you ask them why they wear it, they will tell you that they wear it because they obey an order, that is to say, they are ordered to wear it. On the contrary, in some Churches some women are ashamed to cover their head with a veil and they say with much haughtiness that they are not willing to wear it, and thus they refuse to obey God’s order. What a contrast in behaviour! (Of course, the hat of a policewoman or a traffic policewoman indicates that she has authority over someone or something, while the veil on the head of a Christian woman indicates that she is subject to man, who is her head).

Some sisters affirm: ‘I have long hair, therefore I don’t need to cover my head with a veil, for my hair is my veil’. Sisters listen to me, ‘Surely if you have long hair, it is a glory for you, but your hair is not the veil with which you ought to cover your head, because your long hair is given to you for a covering (1 Corinthians 11:15) but it is not the veil you must wear.’ Therefore, long hair is certainly a glory to the woman (for it adorns her as an ornament and its appearance contributes to her beauty), but long hair is not the sign of authority on her head which must be seen by the angels of God, because her hair is given to her “as a covering” (1 Corinthians 11:15 – NIV), that is to say, it serves as a shawl for her, thus her hair is not the veil she must wear. This is confirmed by what Paul says in verse 6: “If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off,” (NIV) for if we were to substitute ‘hair’ for ‘covering’ this statement of Paul would be ludicrous. Listen how it would read, ‘If a woman does not have her hair, she should have her hair cut off’!!! My question is: ‘But if her hair is already off, how can she have her hair cut off?’ That’s why to the question of Paul: “Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?” (1 Corinthians 11:13NKJV), we answer that it is not proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered (even if she has long hair).

Some say that the commandment about the veil divides the Church; however, if this were true then we should mutilate the epistles of Paul! But as far as I know, the commandments given by the apostles are for the edifying of the Church and not for the destruction of the Church, therefore the reason why these so called ‘divisions’ arise in the midst of the Churches is not the veil but rather what is in the heart of some men and women.

I mean that the reason why in the midst of the Churches some accept this commandment while others are opposed to it, is that the former are willing to obey God while the latter are not willing to obey God for there is self-seeking in their heart. Know this, that the sharp discussions which arise about the commandment concerning the veil are caused by the envy and self-seeking which dwell in the heart of those who don’t want to keep this commandment. The fact is that in talking with these people one realizes that they boast and lie not only against this commandment but also against other commandments of God. “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16 – NKJV) says James, that’s why the life of these people is a disorderly life, full of evil deeds, because they are self-seeking and oppose the truth. The commandment about the veil is just one of the commandments they don’t want to keep, for they object to all the sound doctrine of God. They object to everything: according to them, the apostles should not have written certain things!

Of course, this commandment is not one of the most important commandments, yet it is still one of the commandments given by the same man who spoke with other tongues more than all the Corinthians, by whom God did extraordinary miracles, and who wrote most of the epistles of the New Testament.

I exhort you, daughters of Sarah, to pray with your head covered with a veil (both inside and outside the place of worship), and not to be contentious, because that would be unprofitable for you. Does anyone want to be contentious? Let that person know that “we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God” (1 Corinthians 11:16NKJV).

It is lawful to weep as we pray

When we weep during our prayers (this happens sometimes and not always) we don’t do something which God dislikes. I am forced to write even about this subject, for some among us affirm that God does not want us to weep as we pray. The Scripture says that in ancient times some prayed to God weeping.

Ann (when she asked God for a child) “prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish” (1 Samuel 1:10NKJV).

When Ezra heard that some of the children of Israel had taken some foreign women as wives for themselves and their sons, prayed to God, wept, and confessed the sins of the people before God. Here is what the Scripture says about that circumstance: “Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly” (Ezra 10:1 – NKJV).

Hezekiah king of Judah prayed and wept before God. The Scripture says: “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live. Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. …. And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD” (Isaiah 38:1-3; 2 Kings 20:4-5). As you can see, God told Hezekiah that He had heard his prayer and seen his tears.

In the days of His flesh, Jesus prayed to God with tears, as it is written: “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 [or for his piety]; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Hebrews 5:7-8).

Brothers, it is a good thing to pour out one’s heart before God, weeping. There are moments, while we pray, in which the Spirit of God reminds us that we are nothing, and that all the things we are able to do for the sake of the Lord can be done by the grace of God, which is with us, and not by our own abilities; as we pray, the Spirit of God reminds us of the sins we have committed so that we may confess them to the Lord; and in the day of trouble He reminds us that only God can deliver us from our troubles; that’s why, sometimes we as newborn little babes weep before God. God sees even the tears we shed in His presence, as it is written: “You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle” (Psalm 56:8 – NKJV).

I want to say something else about this subject: many believers tell jokes and take delight in laughing hysterically during the worship service; it is a rare thing to see believers praying and weeping before God for they acknowledge their sins and confess them to God, and those few believers who, prompted by the Spirit, weep before the Lord are mocked. Why does this happen? Because we live in a country where there are so many material goods, and where there is so much freedom to profess one’s faith, that many, having become rich and puffed up with pride, have forgotten the Lord. They think that they don’t need to humble themselves before God, because they have everything and have need of nothing; they have become friends of the world. James says to these people: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:8-10).

Beloved, it is time for you to seek the Lord with all your heart, it is time for you to lay aside your false joy and your so called ‘holy laughter’ and to humble before God. You should be grieved for the corruption, the worldliness and the falsehood which are in the midst of the Church, you should weep before God; let us confess our sins to God and let us forsake them, let us call on God in truth, and He will cause His glory to appear upon us, as He did in ancient times toward the children of Israel when they humbled themselves before God.

Praying with perseverance

Paul told the saints of Rome to continue “steadfastly in prayer” (Romans 12:12NKJV); to the saints of Colosse: “Continue earnestly in prayer” (Colossians 4:2 – NKJV), and to the saints of Thessalonica: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17NKJV).

Paul himself left us an example for he prayed day and night and he remembered the saints in all his prayers. The passages of the Scripture which confirm this are the following ones:

To the saints of Rome he wrote: “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers” (Romans 1:9)

To the saints of Ephesus he wrote: “Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:15-16)

To the saints of Colosse, who had not seen his face in the flesh, he wrote: “We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you …” (Colossians 1:3)

To the saints of Thessalonica he wrote: “Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power …” (2 Thessalonians 1:11)

To Timothy he wrote: “I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day” (2 Timothy 1:3).

It is evident from the exhortations of the apostle Paul and from his example that we need to pray always for the saints, thus let’s do it for the edifying of the Church of God.

Jesus Christ exhorted His disciples to pray without ceasing and not lose heart, speaking to them the following parable: “There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 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. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:2-8). As you can see, even though that widow had the right to obtain justice against her adversary, she did not obtain justice for a while, for it is written that the judge “would not for a while”. Now, if that judge had granted her justice against her adversary on the first day she went to him, that widow would not have continued to go to him and say: ‘Avenge me of mine adversary”; however because the answer of the judge did not come immediately she kept going to him till she obtained justice. You see, brothers, even though we who are the elect of God pray to God, who “loves righteousness” (Psalm 33:5 – NKJV) and hates wickedness, the answer to some of our prayers comes only after many days or many months or many years. The fact that God does not answer some of our prayers immediately or within a short period of time it is not a strange thing. Therefore, do not be surprised if some of your prayers have not yet been answered. Know this, that God will answer your prayer at His appointed time, which we know by experience is always the right time. The Scripture says: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 – NIV), which means that God will meet all our needs at His set time, and thus we are sure His help will never come late or in advance. Our God is not an absent-minded God, and no earthly event can distract Him; He rules the universe, thus He is in control of all the things which happen to us, including all the distresses in which we find ourselves. Sometimes we, seeing that time is passing by, are tempted to think that God is no longer in control of the situation in which we are, but this thought is vain and harmful and is absolutely wrong. We can affirm from experience that right in those moments when the enemy tries to make us doubt the faithfulness of God, yes, right in those moments, God is caring for us (as always) by not answering our prayer. Someone will say: ‘What are you saying? Do you mean that the fact that God does not answer our prayer when we want shows us that He cares for us? Exactly! For I tell you from experience that till now God has manifested His love toward me by not answering my prayers when I wanted or I thought He would answer them. I don’t blame God for compelling me to wait for Him patiently (with many tears), rather I praise Him for this. If God answered our prayer when we desire, that would mean that God is at our beck and call and also an unwise God. If God answered our prayers when we wish, He would spoil His work with His own hands, but thanks be to His glorious name because He has not changed over the centuries; He continues to say to us: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways … for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9 – NKJV). God knows the minute, the hour, the day, the month and the year in which we will receive from Him what we have asked of Him. The fact is that while on the one hand He knows all these things, on the other hand we don’t know them, and every time we think that God will answer our prayer on our time we are mistaken. Remember that Jesus said that we must ask, but He did not say when we will receive what we have asked; He simply said: “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7 – NKJV). What we must do is to ask, then God will answer our prayer; He knows how and when to answer our prayers, better than what we can imagine. One thing is sure: what we have asked of Him will be given to us if we have prayed in faith, with no doubting in our heart. When will it be given to us? When God wills; thus I am not worried when I see that God has not yet answered some of my prayers.

Here are some examples taken from the Scripture which show us that God answers our prayers when He wills.

The Scripture says: “Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian. Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived …. So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb …. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them” (Genesis 25:20-21, 24, 26 – NKJV).

After her marriage to Isaac, Rebekah was barren so Isaac prayed to God, and he prayed insistently, and God answered his prayer by giving them two twin sons. When did Rebekah give birth to the two twin sons? When Isaac was sixty years old, that is to say, twenty years after Isaac married Rebekah. Someone may ask: ‘Why did God not answer before? Because it was not His will; He wanted Rebekah to give birth to her children twenty years after her marriage. And who dares to say to God: ‘What have you done?’

After Jerusalem was given by God into the hand of the Babylonian army, and many Jews were carried away captive to Babylon, it happened that “all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near, And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the LORD thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:) That the LORD thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do. Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray unto the LORD your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatsoever thing the LORD shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you” (Jeremiah 42:1-4). Jeremiah prayed to God for the people and “it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah” (Jeremiah 42:7). So Jeremiah called the people and told them what God had said to Him. In this case, the prayer of Jeremiah was answered by God after ten days. God had said to Jeremiah: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3 – NKJV), and Jeremiah called to God and He answered him at His appointed time.

In the book of the prophet Daniel we read the following incident which shows that on one occasion a prayer of Daniel was answered by God only after a certain number of days. It is written: “In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. And in the four and twentieth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel; Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude. …. And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling. Then said he unto me, 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. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days” (Daniel 10:2-6; 11-14). As you can see, the man clothed in linen, who appeared to Daniel, came to Daniel twenty-one days after Daniel had began to pray and mourn before God. God heard his words from the first day that he had set his heart to understand, and to humble himself before His God, but his prayer was answered after twenty-one days. Why? We find the answer to this question in the following words which the man of God said to Daniel: “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days” (Daniel 10:13). Who was the prince of the kingdom of Persia? He was not Cyrus the king who reigned over the kingdom of Persia at the time, but an evil spiritual being who lived in the heavenly places and who ruled over the kingdom of Persia. Brothers, remember that when we pray, the holy and mighty angels of God fight with all those heavenly beings which are under the power of Satan, which are our enemies (that try to prevent God from answering our prayers). Paul says to the Ephesians that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12), these spiritual beings mentioned by Paul are different categories of evil beings which have an evil influence on the inhabitants of the earth. Satan has set some of his ministers over the nations of the earth in order to exercise authority over them and to prevent the saints of God from doing the will of God. Satan is the prince of this world and he rules it everywhere through these evil spirits mentioned by Paul in the epistle to the Ephesians; that’s why men give themselves over to evil things and the Gospel and those who preach it meet with a strong opposition in this world. As for Daniel, as we saw before, the prince of the kingdom of Persia had withstood a messenger of God, whom God sent to bring a particular message to Daniel, but Michael (the archangel, the great prince who protects the children of Israel) came to help the messenger of God and thus the evil being did not manage to prevent the messenger of God from coming to Daniel. When we pray to God, His ears are open to our prayers, but we must not ignore the fact that our enemies also hear us when we talk to God, and they don’t want God to answer our prayers nor do they want us to continue earnestly in prayer, thus they try somehow to hinder us and God. However God said: “I work, and who will reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:13 – NKJV). Beloved, the devil and all his angels cannot prevent God from accomplishing His purpose and answering our fervent prayers, so I urge you to continue in prayer.

Now let me mention one of the prayers of Paul in order to show you that God answers some of our prayers even after several years. Paul wrote to the saints of Rome: “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established” (Romans 1:9-11 – NKJV). Now, Paul did not specify how long he had been praying to God, however we know that he had been praying to God that he might find a way in the will of God to come to the saints of Rome for many years because Paul wrote to the saints of Rome that he had been longing for many years to see them (Romans 15:23). When was that prayer answered? It was answered more than two years after Paul wrote those words. We say this because when Paul came to Jerusalem he was arrested and put in prison by the Roman authorities, and he was kept in prison for about two years, and after that period of time he was sent to Rome to appear before Caesar. According to what Luke says about these things, Paul was arrested in Jerusalem while Felix was governor of Judea – about two years before Porcius Festus succeeded Felix – and he was kept in prison for a certain period of time even by Porcius Festus (the successor of Felix) and afterward he was sent to Rome. This is the passage of the Scripture which confirms this: “But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound” (Acts 24:27 – NKJV). After Paul appeared before king Agrippa in Caesarea, he was sent to Rome with other prisoners, and after a journey which lasted several months he arrived at Rome, and when the brethren heard about Paul and his fellow workers, they came to meet them as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns and “when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage” (Acts 28:15 – NKJV). After he had prayed to God for many years that he might see the saints of Rome, his prayer was answered at last and thus he thanked God.

Brothers, continue steadfastly in prayer, even if you have been praying to God for days, months or years so that He might give you a certain thing, do not lose heart, do not think that God did not hear your cry because He heard it from the first day you decided to call on His name; He will answer your prayer at His appointed time. “You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest ….” (Isaiah 62:6-7 – NKJV), till He answers your prayer; yes, brother, keep coming to the throne of God, do not become weary, for He, because of your persistence, will surely rise and give you what you have asked of Him. To God be the glory forever. Amen.

The thanksgivings due to God

Brothers, when we pray we must not forget to give thanks to our God. The apostle Paul in his epistles exhorted the saints to pray to God and to thank Him:

He wrote to the Philippians: “In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6 – NKJV)

To the Colossians he wrote: “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2 – NKJV)

To the Thessalonians, after saying: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17NKJV), he said: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

To Timothy he wrote that he exhorted first of all that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men” (1 Timothy 2:1 – NKJV).

I find it necessary to mention something which is written about the prophet Daniel in order to confirm that prayers and thanksgivings are well pleasing to God: “And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Daniel 6:10 – NKJV).

As for giving thanks to God, we need to know the things for which we must thank God. First of all I want to tell you that each of us has many things to thank God for and that no one of us can say that he does not know what to thank God for; and furthermore that Paul and his fellow workers left us an example so that we may learn from them. In reading the epistles of Paul we realize that he and his fellow workers used to thank God without ceasing for many things; now I am going to mention their thanksgivings which were written for our learning;

Paul wrote to the Romans: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8), and also: “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).

He wrote to the Corinthians: “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you …… But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ ….. Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place …. But thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you. ….. Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (1 Corinthians 1:4-6; 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 8:16; 9:15).

To the Ephesians he wrote: “Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:15-16).

To the Philippians he wrote: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3).

To the Colossians he wrote: “We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you” (Colossians 1:3)

To the Thessalonians he wrote: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers … We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth …. But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth …. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:13)

To Philemon he wrote: “I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints” (Philemon 4-5).

Reading all the above mentioned thanksgivings made by Paul and his fellow workers we realize that they thanked God always and not only when they prayed to God.

Now, brothers, we ought to thank God always as the apostles did, therefore we have to thank God when we pray as well as when we do not pray. Furthermore we must thank God for the same things for which the apostles did give thanks to God; sometimes, while we are praying we restrict ourselves to say to God: ‘Lord, thank you for everything!’, of course, it is a right thing to say these words to God, however according to the example of the apostles we should thank God specifying both the people and the things for which we thank God. Do we not have time to specify them perhaps? Not at all, for we have the time to do it. You see, brothers, sometimes what we lack is not the time but the will to do it, because we often underestimate the giving of thanks or because we spend the time we have on talking about things that do not edify. Paul said: “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:3-4 – NKJV); if we consider this exhortation of Paul we have to admit that (it is a sad thing to say it and to realize it) we often hear believers speak of things which should not even be named while we rarely hear believers give thanks to God in everything.

The lack of giving thanks indicates a lack of gratefulness toward God; many take for granted many things and think that those things are due to them, but that’s not true because all the things we possess come from God, as it is written: “For all things come from You” (1 Chronicles 29:14 – NKJV). Let us not behave like those nine lepers who were healed by Jesus and did not come back to thank Him for healing them through the word. Instead let us imitate that Samaritan who, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, “and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks” (Luke 17:16NKJV).

We, as sons of God, must thank God for everything; now I will mention some of the things for which we are bound to thank God:

We must thank Him for His indescribable gift, that is, eternal life, which God gave us freely

We must thank Him for He has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light, let us thank Him with joy

We must thank Him for all His benefits, which are worthy to be mentioned

We must thank Him for the food, before we eat it, because this is a right thing. Jesus thanked God for the food, as it is written: “And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes” (Matthew 14:19NKJV). Paul (when he was on the ship) also thanked God for the food in the presence of other people, as it is written: “He took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat” (Acts 27:35 – NKJV). Some men, who are destitute of the truth and disapproved concerning the faith, think that they must not thank God for the daily bread, because they say: ‘It is not God who gives me my daily bread, for I earn it by the sweat of my brow!’. Now, it is true that God said to Adam: “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:19 – NKJV), but it is also true that God “makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate – bringing forth food from the earth; wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart” (Psalm 104:14-15 – NIV), and that: “The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season” (Psalm 145:15 – NKJV). Paul says: “Every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5 – NKJV), these words confirm that before we eat our daily food it is a good thing to thank God for it and that what we eat is sanctified not only by the word of God but also by prayer. Are not these words another confirmation of the power and utility of prayer?

We must thank God for our brothers; for He from the beginning chose them for salvation; for when they received the word of Christ as well as the word of the apostles they welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God; we must thank God for the zeal that He has put into their hearts for the sake of the Gospel; for the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the ministry gifts He gives to the saints; for both their faith in the Lord and their love toward the saints increase; for their liberal sharing with the poor among the saints; for all the benefits they receive from the hand of God, among which are the powerful deliverances they experience after they call on God.

I conclude by thanking God through our Lord Jesus Christ for giving me the grace and the wisdom I needed in order to write this teaching. To Him be the glory now and forever. Amen.

Author: Giacinto Butindaro

From: The New Way

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