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Pray the Scriptures

God’s will is written for all

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Prayer! Scripture leaves little room for speculation regarding its importance in the life of the believer, both individually and corporately. Accounts of God’s people communicating with Him in prayer are prominent in both the Old and New Testaments. We who have received Jesus Christ as the forgiver of sins and master of every aspect of our lives are commanded to pray—and to pray without ceasing.

A. B. Simpson understood the importance of the biblical mandate to pray—especially in accordance with the missionary effort—and established it as a priority for The Christian and Missionary Alliance from its earliest days.

In May 1890, Simpson began a series of sermons on prayer that continued until July. When the series ended, he published the sermons in a book, The Life of Prayer, and further extended the impact of his message. Knowing the importance of relying on God in prayer for the Alliance mission to move forward, Simpson proposed at the 1890 convention the formation of a Prayer Alliance to “pray for the evangelization of the world . . . and for the speedy coming of our Lord Jesus.”

Scripture reveals God’s many significant promises regarding prayer. For these to be fulfilled, believers are instructed to come to God with faith (Mark 11:24; Hebrews 11:6), confess all known sin (Psalm 66:17–19; 1 John 1:9) and have right relationships with others (Mark 11:25; Matt. 5:23–24; 1 Peter 3:7). These scriptural requirements align with God’s plan for Christians to be experientially sanctified and to make a decisive surrender of one’s self to God. The Christian must decide to separate from sin and separate to God—that is, to be dedicated to following and obeying God fully in all aspects of life. Therefore, James writes, “[t]he prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

The apostle John gives us further insight into how we are to pray so that our prayers are powerful and effective. His words provide a remedy for Christians who pray little because they aren’t sure of what to say, are intimidated by praying aloud or are uncertain about God’s willingness to act. John writes: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14–15). A promise like that should cause us all to rush to our personal and corporate times of prayer.

But how does the Christian know what to ask for? The answer: Pray the Scriptures!

God primarily reveals His will to us through His Word, the Bible. When we pray the very words of God, we can be assured that we’re praying the very will of God. And when we pray the very will of God, we can be assured of His answer.

Our church’s prayer team has persistently used verses from Philippians to intercede for our congregation: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:3–5).

Our Scripture-based prayer became, “God, we ask that You would enable our entire church Body to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Give us Your humility, so that we can consider others better than ourselves. Father, please help each of us look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others. And, Lord Jesus, may the Holy Spirit give our entire church a posture of heart that is just like Yours.”

Prior to these prayers, our church had struggled with internal bickering and an inwardly focused ministry agenda. Today, the church exhibits much greater harmony and grace in relationships and has greatly increased outreach to our “neighbors” and to those in much more distant places.

Another one of our prayer themes centered around Ephesians 4:1–3: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

We began to pray, “Lord God, give us the grace to live lives worthy of Your calling. Help us to be humble and gentle, to be patient and to bear with one another in love. Enable us to live daily in the unity of Your Spirit and in peace with one another.” As we persisted in this scriptural prayer, God met us, helped us to forsake our self-focused agendas and united us around His true calling for our church.

Scripture provides excellent prayer requests we can make on behalf of others and for ourselves. Believers can never go wrong by simply praying according to God’s revealed will in Scripture. The Apostle Paul provides us with amazing models for prayer in his personal intercession for believers recorded in Ephesians 1:15–20 and 3:14–19, Philippians 1:9–11 and Colossians 1:9–12. Christians who follow Paul’s example in these passages can know unequivocally that they are praying the will of God.

No Christian leader should neglect to emulate Nehemiah’s example of prayer-based leadership. Praying the Psalms can assure us and others of God’s watchful care in the midst of adversity and help us express our deepest longings and heartfelt gratitude for His faithfulness. New Testament commands regarding how believers are to live are expressed in powerful language that enables us to pray boldly for one another. And certainly the prayers of Jesus found in Matthew 6:9–13, Luke 11:2–4 and John 17:1–26 are the truest models on which to base our earnest prayers for the fulfillment of God’s purposes in our lives (see Mark Barnard’s excellent unpacking of the Lord’s Prayer in the December 1, 2012, issue of alife).

The Alliance must never forsake its heritage of prayer-fueled faith and resolve in taking the good news of Christ to the entire world. We must hold fast to all that God has promised His Church through prayer—especially prayer spoken in direct accordance with Scripture. Only then will Dr. Simpson’s passion be fulfilled, that “the voice of prayer go forth all night long . . . that the mighty God would work with all His power and glory.” Our prayers formed from the very words of Scripture are instrumental in unleashing this divine power and glory!

We can pray the Scriptures for our own lives, for fellow believers and for our churches. We can pray the Scriptures for those who know Christ and for those who don’t. Praying in accordance to God’s Word teaches us to offer our praise, our thanks and our confession of sin to the One who guarantees forgiveness and grace. By doing so, we acknowledge Him as the source of all power, mercy, wisdom and strength. And most of all, we honor His desire for us to enter into soul-reviving communion with Him.

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