God’s Power and Prayer

“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

-Jesus

The sinfulness of man requires the power of God to overcome our nature, bringing us to Christ and setting us free from our sins, removing us from the kingdom of darkness and placing us into the kingdom of God, adopting us as sons of God and joint heirs with Christ, establishing both our ability to stand before the righteous throne of Almighty God as well as establishing our right to do so by virtue of Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to our account.

Therefore, our prayers are heard and answered upon this basis, seeing that God has opened up the doors of heaven, and by virtue of the cross of Jesus has welcomed us in.

In this post I’d like to briefly focus upon three prayer types: 1) Adoration and worship, Thanksgiving; 2) Confession; and 3) Supplication and Petition.

1. Adoration/Worship and Thanksgiving

The first prayer type (grouping three similar types together) is prayer of response. When we pray with thanksgiving and adoration, we are responding to the acts of God which reflect his power to redeem, provide, create and sustain. Some examples of these in the Scriptures are:

Adoration and Worship – Exodus 15, “Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and said,“I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted;The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.“The Lord is my strength and song,And He has become my salvation;This is my God, and I will praise Him;My father’s God, and I will extol Him.“The Lord is a warrior;The Lord is His name.“Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea;And the choicest of his officers are drowned in the Red Sea.“The deeps cover them;They went down into the depths like a stone.“Your right hand, O Lord, is majestic in power,Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.” (Exodus 15:1–6, NASB95)

Thanksgiving – Psalm 138, “I will give You thanks with all my heart;I will sing praises to You before the gods.I will bow down toward Your holy templeAnd give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth;For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.On the day I called, You answered me;You made me bold with strength in my soul.All the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O Lord,When they have heard the words of Your mouth.And they will sing of the ways of the Lord,For great is the glory of the Lord.” (Psalm 138:1–5, NASB95)

In your life God has shown you his mighty power, whether it has been through salvation, provision, guidance, providential care, healing or some other way. Does your prayer life reflect this?

2. Confession

Confession is made with the belief that:

  1. We have an omniscient God who knows our sin and we agree with him that we have transgressed his law. Prov. 5:21; Ps 51:3.
  2. We have sinned against our holy God who cannot look upon sin and is just in punishing our iniquity. Ps 51:4, 11.
  3. We have a merciful God who can remove the dark stain of sin through the blood of Christ’s substitutionary death upon the cross. Ps 51:7-10.

Some people, even Christians, live with the awful burden of past sins that they believe are unforgiven and unforgivable, even by God. 

First Corinthians 6:9-11 is the hope of Christ and the power of God demonstrated to the worst of sinners. It says:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Take your eyes off of your sin and put them on Christ! 

3. Supplication and Petition

Supplications and petitions can be placed roughly into two categories:

First, Personal prayer needs (for self and others). Biblical examples of such prayers include:

  1. For food (Matt 6:11)
  2. For healing/trials (2Cor 12:7)
  3. For persecution relief (Acts 12:6-19)
  4. For pain and suffering (Psalms of David, Job)
  5. For wisdom (James 1:5)

Second, Prayer for the Work of the Kingdom, including:

  1. For open doors of opportunity (Col 4:3)
  2. For strength in times of persecution (Acts 4:29)
  3. For boldness in the face of opposition (Acts 4:29)

In the area of supplications and petitions we can become reluctant to pray as we should. We need to answer the questions: Can he answer? and Will he answer? Consider the words of Jesus himself:

“And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mk 11:22-24)

“And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”” (Mk 9:23)

Do we use, “If the Lord wills” as an excuse for our lack of faith? Many things the Lord wills, but we often fail to ask (James 4:2).

Consider these verses:

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb 11:6)

“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matt 21:22)

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:17-18) 

Do these verses cause you to imagine what God could do? Do they set your heart racing? Or do you find yourself doubting, and adding exceptions? The ability for your prayers to be answered is not so much about who you are, as much as it is about who God is! Pray dear friend!

Three Lessons from a Sack Lunch

But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”” (Matthew 14:16, ESV)

I think that the strangest and most puzzling parts of the Bible sometimes yield the best gems when we take the time to ponder their meaning. Take for instance the above passage, where Jesus insists that the disciples feed the crowd of 5,000 men even though he knew that they couldn’t do it, and knowing that he would feed them himself a few moments later.

Why would Jesus say this? Why would he put such a gigantic responsibility upon the disciples to do what they couldn’t do? I think could be three possible reasons, and with each reason a lesson for us:

1. He wanted his disciples to learn compassion for the people, as he had.

Two verses easier Jesus is described as feeling compassion for the large crowds gathered. His healing ministry was an outgrowth of this compassion. Although it may be that the disciples had compassion, large crowds and the consuming needs of this crowds can begin to gnaw at the best of people. The needs were overwhelming and yet, Jesus continuously had compassion for the sea of humanity and their needs.

Whether it is Los Angeles, Chicago, Mumbai, Caracas, Tokyo, or Melbourne, the megacities of our world are teeming with hurting people. Sometimes Christians avoid the cities because the needs are so great, but Jesus felt compassion because the needs are great. And the needs are greater than the need for only bread and fish. They are lost and need the gospel.

2. He wanted the disciples to learn to come to him for the needs of others.

Of course the disciples didn’t have enough food to deed an estimated 20,000 people! That’s about the capacity of Madison Square Garden in New York City! But the disciples needed to learn that the five little barley loaves and two small fishes were not their only resources. Their greatest resource was looking them in the eyes and telling them to do the impossible. But they could not see beyond their small abilities.

So many pastors and churches are like those disciples. The city is so big. The sin is so great. The hearts are too hard. The church is too small and weak. We do not have enough resources and our power is weak. YES!! In ourselves we do not have enough. But we are not by ourselves. We must learn to go to our heavenly Father with our needs and ask of him on behalf of the communities we serve. He wants us to ask! He does not expect us to serve the needs of the world in our own strength.

3. He wanted them to see the power he would demonstrate once they came the end of their own meager resources.

There is no biblical record of the reaction the disciples had when they saw the crowd eat their fill. Nothing is said about what the twelve thought as they picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. We can only guess, and it isn’t a wild stretch to say that they must have been awestruck. What sort of power, compassion, and love had they just observed? They would need this memory to carry them after the ascension to remind them that no matter how meager their own strength and resources would be, Jesus Christ was enough.

The Western Church can have a hard time realizing that without Jesus we can do nothing. We think that our programs, buildings, crusades, media, and education almost guarantee our success. And when these don’t seem to do the trick, we quickly switch to something that will work. That’s the American entrepreneurial spirit at work–which has taken our country far, but has no place in the Church.

It is only when we sense our weakness and need for Christ in everything we do that we will see and benefit from his empowering and grace. And when that happens, we will be certain to stand in awe as the disciples knowing that there was nothing we contributed to the things we are witnessing. All glory will go to God alone, and that’s the way it should be.