Righteous Prayer
From Gethsemane Park onwards Lord Jesus was loaded with God the Father’s wrath and the sins of the whole world and He carried that to the grave to give us life and right standing with God to seek His blessings through prayer .

Righteous Prayer

         Lord Jesus’ teaching about the way to pray has its main element as fulfillment of God’s will and His glory. But on the other hand there is also the promise, ‘Ask and you will receive’. He called out the dead to life when there was no hope but also let the beheading of John the Baptist take place. In this scenario then what should be our prayer to God the Father, to answer our prayers or to do His will?

          Reasons for difficulty in praying and receiving answers –  God created Adam and Eve, gave them the charge of His Garden containing all that they needed and gave them dominion rights over every other created thing. He did not leave them or forsake them to subdue the earth with their own power and wisdom but visited them every evening (Genesis 3:8). These visits were as much about learning about their experiences of the day as about teaching them about their future actions. After committing the sin of disobeying God’s command, Adam and Eve hid themselves among the trees from that same loving God. The fact that they had to be redeemed from their sinful life and not permitted to live till eternity in separation from God, they were forced out of the Garden and barred from the Tree of life.

            God still did not stop them from getting near to Him and bringing their offerings, though Cain did not bring his best (Genesis 4:3). ‘Noah was found righteous in his generation’, when evil was so pervasive that God repented of having created man (Genesis 6:8-9). It took Noah 120 years to build the ark (the ship) as per the dimensions given by God at a time when the water level of the earth was so high that there was no need for rain to nourish the plants. All the people must have made fun of Noah to build a ship on dry land and none heeded his warnings to turn from sinful living. Noah was thus the first prophet to declare the coming destruction through the flood but was ignored like every other prophet after that, many of whom were also killed.

             The coming of the LORD on Mount Sinai was preceded by personal cleansing and preparation but with a warning that no one was to get near the mountain and cross the boundary marked by Moses (Exodus 19:14). A Holy God still visited His fallen people to give them guidelines for living as per His ways, to be acceptable to Him. The command to Moses to make the Tabernacle was an expression of God’s will to live with His people to encourage them to be in close relationship with Him. Even in the Promised Land, God commanded them to visit His Temple on special occasions every year to continue that close relationship (Exodus 23:14-17).

           To ensure worship and understanding by the Israelites, God ordained two types of religious leaders; first, a prophet; and Moses started this office to communicate God’s Word to the people. The second, the priest, and a High Priest to represent the people before God, to lead in worship and present their offerings. The Israelites were given the Promised Land by God and commanded to be different from the earlier inhabitants. All the elders of Israel sought Prophet Samuel to give them a king to be their judge. The Prophet of God was displeased but the LORD said to him, ‘Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them’ (1 Samuel 8:6-7).    

            Prophet Isaiah ‘saw the LORD sitting on a throne’ in the temple with seraphim (Isaiah 6:2-3). Each seraph had ‘six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ The seraphs were ‘full of eyes around and within’ their wings, where eyes represent knowledge and wisdom and these ‘living creatures’ that are in the presence of God have to be extraordinarily wise. In the presence of God they cover their faces, their glory, and their feet or their walk or ways, in humility and never tire of declaring the holiness of God.

          The essential nature of God is His holiness and He is just. In answer to Moses’ prayer to God to show him His Divine glory, God said, ‘You cannot see My face; for no one shall see Me and live’ (Exodus 33:20). But God is merciful and ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8) and He has always wanted a close relationship with mankind to bless them in various ways. The Scripture reveals that The LORD your God ‘will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, he will rejoice over you with singing’ (Zephaniah 3:17). Can we imagine God doing all this over His people and yet we feel that it is difficult to speak to God in prayer and get an answer from Him?

          Why do we receive no answers to prayers? Our Savior Lord’s brother has taught the way to ask ‘in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double minded man, unstable in all his ways’ (James 1:6-8). Lord Jesus has told in the parable of the widow and the unjust judge that she persevered in her pleadings to an unjust judge ‘who did not fear God nor regard man’, for justice against her adversary (Luke 18:1-6). The judge finally relented to ‘avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me’. The effect of the answered prayer on the one who is asking is weighed by God to see lest he be filled with pride and go astray. God then first prepares the person to receive the answer through changing situations in his life. Most people give up and change their prayer in line with changed circumstances.

          Apostle James has further told us, ‘you do not have because you do not ask’ (James 4:2). Many believers continue to live under this wrong impression that they require someone else to pray for them for their perceived low esteem and closeness to God. And because they feel uncomfortable in sharing details of the problem with others, they fail to get an answer. God is clear about His relationship with His people, ‘as many as received Him (Lord Jesus, the Messiah), to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name’ (John 1:12). Isaac loved his elder son Esau but his wife Rebecca loved Jacob to be God’s chosen to receive Abraham’s blessings.

           Apostle Peter has said, ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality’ and since He is perfect in every way, He much more than man would shower His love equally on all His children  (Acts 10:34). The problem is not in God’s giving but in our asking or not asking. Apostle James has further said, ‘You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures’ (James 4:3). ‘All the ways of man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the motives’ Proverbs 16:2). Deep within us there are latent desires that we do not acknowledge but are there and influence our thoughts and actions. I may be seeking a large number of people watching our programs and visiting our website but the hidden desire may not be greater glory to God but my own recognition by others as a great preacher, to satisfy my own ego. I may be saying to myself as well as to others that the aim is to get more believers  but God sees the inner thoughts and will not grant such a prayer.

          Jacob, while fleeing from Esau, his brother, to go to his mother’s place, stayed at Luz and had a dream (Genesis 28:12). In the dream he saw ‘a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it’. The LORD God stood above the ladder and blessed Jacob with Abraham’s covenant blessing. The sequence of angels move was ascent first and then descent, thus implying that they carry our prayers to heaven and come back with the answers and the LORD God on top keeping a keen watch over this channel of communication made available to mankind. Angels have been referred to as ‘ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation’, or all believers (Hebrews 1:14).   

           Prophet Daniel had been fasting and praying for 21 days and then Gabriel, the Archangel, came to tell him that his prayers were heard at the very moment ‘that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God’ (Daniel 10:2; 11-14).  He was then informed about being stopped by the devil till Michael, ‘one of the chief princes (an Archangel) came to help. Prayers that concern major changes in the lives of others take longer to be answered for, firstly, God prepares us; secondly the answer is delayed till the time has fully come and Satan definitely resists in the spiritual realm our receiving the answers. When Nathanael was brought to Lord Jesus by Philip, He told Nathanael about His connection to God and to mankind, that ‘you will see heaven open, and angels of God ascending and descending upon Son of Man’ (John 1:51). The ladder that Jacob had seen in Bethel was represented by Lord Jesus in His role as the Messiah for He through His sacrifice, opened a way for mankind to get back into a close relationship with God as His children.  He became the intercessor for all of humanity, bore their sins on Himself on the cross and thus the angels ascended and descended on Him.

           Lord Jesus has declared that ‘whatever you ask in MY name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son’ (John 14:13-14 ).  He further repeated the promise, ‘If you ask anything in MY name, I will do it’. But why should we ask Him in His name?  His name is not a password to open a lock to grant access but in ancient culture, name represented the character of an individual. All prayer requests that are made in line with His ways will resonate with His plans for mankind and will be answered but anything that is in line with the devil’s ways will be rejected. The devil’s role in the world is to destroy and it includes relationships, lives, financial, social and physical aspects of a person’s being (John 10:10). Any prayer that in any way will affect these aspects is in line with the devil’s work but prayers that build up will bring glory to God the Father. Before we start praying, we must analyze the effect of the answer to that prayer on us and on others to ensure that God gets the glory in answering and the devil suffers a loss.

           Aligning our prayers with God’s will -This question has baffled mankind always, for there are situations when the will of God the Father must hold supreme, overriding the prayers of His children. Lord Jesus’ prayer in the Gethsemane Park was, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me, nevertheless not My will but Yours, be done’ (Luke 22:42). His prayer is also clothed in God’s will and final decision is also left in that only. On the other hand the story of the persistent widow and the judge teaches us to press for fulfillment of our requests. He has also assured us that whatever things you ask in prayer ‘believe that you receive them, and you will have them’ (Mark 11:24). This is proof of our faith that we will receive an answer in full to our prayers.

           How do we do both, be assured of an answer and also be prepared for a refusal? It is argued that if it is not as per God’s will, He is not obliged to answer but that is contrary to what the Lord has said. But how many of our prayers have an underlying thought ‘God though You have promised but will You really do it?’ Whenever we pray considering ourselves as partners with God in doing His kingdom work our confidence will be high in receiving the answer. Faith for such a prayer is God given and not manufactured. But then we may blame God for not really being true in fulfilling His promises, by not giving us faith. Apostle Paul gives the answer to the dilemma, ‘the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God’ (Romans 8:27). Thus I will petition God as the one who is loved and loves Him, His glory, His church and His creation. I will also pray for more faith to pray more boldly with high expectations, as one who has a blank cheque signed by the King of kings and Lord of lords. But I will also pray ‘thy will be done’ leaving my Father in heaven the choice to give me and to those I pray for by giving what is best suited for the occasion. I will continue to hope for fulfillment of the prayers in future as also for the Holy Spirit to guide me and pray with me and for me as my intercessor.

             God did not create the Garden of Eden for His own comfort but for Adam and Eve and everything required for their needs was provided for therein. The two were given total dominion rights over all of creation and as a loving Father, even today He desires to give all that we seek. But in His love, He denies certain requests for He is aware of our going astray if such things were given. Our duty is to bow down before this loving and caring Father in heaven and in love keep placing our petitions and supplications before Him about all things. We definitely seek and answer while surrendering ourselves to His will and through that glorify Him.

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