"My House shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples" (Isa 56:7).
THREE GREAT PRINCIPLES
SPEAKING OUT OF GOD'S WILL
THREE GREAT PRINCIPLES
We have said that God has a will for everything. Yet God does not act independently; He will not do anything by Himself. Even though God has a will, He wants the free will on earth to echo His will before He does anything. If there is only a will in heaven, God will not move.
The heavenly move is accomplished on earth only when the earth wants the same thing as heaven. Today this is called the ministry of the church. Brothers and sisters, the ministry of the church is not only the preaching of the gospel. This does not mean that we should not preach the gospel; it means that the ministry of the church is not merely the preaching of the gospel.
The ministry of the church is to bring the will in heaven to earth. How does the church bring the will in heaven to earth? It is by prayer on earth. Prayer is not as small and insignificant as some may think. It is not something that is dispensable. Prayer is a work. Prayer is the church saying to God, “God, we want Your will.” Prayer is the church knowing God’s heart and opening its mouth to ask for what is in God’s heart. If the church does not do this, it does not have much use on earth.
Many prayers for spiritual edification, prayers for fellowship, and prayers for supplication cannot replace prayers which are in the nature of work or ministry. If all your prayers are prayers for spiritual edification, fellowship, and supplication, they are too small. A prayer which is in the nature of work or ministry is one in which you stand on God’s side, wanting what God wants. Brothers and sisters, if a prayer is uttered according to God’s will, it is the most powerful thing.
For the church to pray means that it finds out God’s will and speaks out this will. Prayer is not just asking God for something. For the church to pray means that it stands on God’s side to declare that man wants what God wants. If the church declares this, the declaration will be effectual.
We affirm that the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, though written by men, was supernaturally inspired by God so that all its words are the written true revelation of God. It is therefore inerrant in the originals and authoritative in all matters. It is to be understood by all through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, its meaning determined by the historical, grammatical, and literary use of the author’s language, comparing Scripture with Scripture.
We affirm that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, proceeding from the Father and Son and equal in deity. He is the giver of all life, active in the creating and ordering of the universe: He is the agent of inspiration and the new birth; He restrains sin and Satan; and He indwells and sanctifies all believer
We affirm that Adam, the first man, willfully disobeyed God, bringing sin and death into the world. As a result, all persons are sinners from conception, which is evidenced in their willful acts of sin; and they are therefore subject to eternal punishment, under the just condemnation of a holy God.
We affirm that the return of Christ for all believers is imminent. It will be followed by seven years of great tribulation and then the coming of Christ to establish His earthly kingdom for a thousand years. The unsaved will then be raised and judged according to their works and separated forever from God in hell. The saved, having been raised, will live forever in heaven in fellowship with God.
SPEAKING OUT OF GOD'S WILL
Now let us consider three great principles in ministerial prayer from Matthew 18:18-20.In verse 18 the Lord says, “Whatever you bind on the earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on the earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Who is the “you” here? It is the church because verse 17 mentions the church, and verse 18 is a continuation of verse 17.
Whatever the church binds on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever the church looses on earth will be loosed in heaven. This is a very important principle: today God works through the church. God cannot do anything at will; He has to do everything through the church. Without going through the church,
God cannot do anything. Brothers and sisters, this is a very sober principle. God cannot do anything by Himself today. There is a free will besides His will. If this will does not cooperate with Him, He cannot do anything. The amount of power that the church has expresses the amount of power that God has because His power is expressed through the church. God has placed Himself in the church. The height and extent that the church reaches is the height and extent that God’s power reaches. If the power of the church is small and restricted,
God cannot express the height or extensiveness of His power. The water department’s reservoir may be great, but if you have only a small tap in your house, a great amount of water will not flow out. If you want more water in your house, you have to install a larger pipe. Today the capacity of the church determines the degree to which God’s power is expressed.
This can be seen from God’s expression in Christ; the capacity of Christ is the degree of the manifestation of God. Today God is expressed in the church; the capacity of the church determines the degree of the expression of God and also the amount of knowledge one can have about God.
OUR HOPE FOR PRAYER
Thankfully, Paul doesn’t leave us stuck with a huge problem. Ephesians 2:13 begins with a pivotal phrase: “But now . . .” Something big has happened, and Paul hammers it repeatedly in the passage that follows. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” That’s a reference to the death of Jesus, which deals with both horizontal and vertical alienation, producing well-being between Gentiles and Jews, and between God and human beings. Paul repeats himself in Ephesians 2:14: Jesus “has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” And just in case we haven’t yet gotten the message, he says it again: Jesus’s purpose was to “reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Ephesians 2:16).
The only way we can be brought into communion with God (and therefore have him hear and answer our prayers) is through the death of Jesus: his blood, his flesh, his cross. Only this will address the real, objective problem of prayer — not how we feel, but rather the way we are (sinful), the way God is (holy), and our lack of access to this holy God. Jesus’s death is the only hope for our prayers.
When we come to see the real problem and the only hope for prayer, our humility, gratitude, and wonder at being able to commune with God will soar. Our careless and flippant attitudes toward prayer will plunge. We’ll appreciate prayer as a blood-bought privilege to be savored. This is the beginning of a transformed prayer life.
True Pattern of Prayer
THE TRUE PATTERN OF PRAYER
There’s more good news. Jesus’s redemptive work does more than bring us to God; it also creates a pattern of communion with God, and therefore a pattern for prayer. We see this in Ephesians 2:18: “For through [Jesus] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access in one Spirit to the Father.” John Bunyan built his definition of prayer on this Trinitarian structure: “Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit.”
We pray to God the Father, as Jesus himself taught us to pray (Matthew 6:9), as he regularly modeled in his own prayer life (Matthew 11:25; 26:39; John 17:1), and as the apostles prayed (Ephesians 1:16–17).
Because our access to the Father is through the atoning death and continuing advocacy of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:34), we approach the Father in Jesus’s name (John 14:13; 15:16; 16:23–24, 26).
We come “with confidence” because we’re “in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11–12). Jesus, the Son of God by nature, makes us sons of God through adoption — and children have access to their parents. Francis Chan tells of speaking at a large venue to thousands of people. During his talk, his little daughter, who had been sitting in the front row, wandered away from the person minding her, up onto the stage, and stood there beside Francis as he spoke. She simply assumed that she could have access to her dad anytime. It’s like that for us because of the work of Jesus Christ.
And, as Bunyan says, we pray in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness, interceding for us (Romans 8:26). So, we have double help in our prayers. Both God the Son and God the Spirit speak to God the Father on our behalf.