Article: PRAY, BUT DON’T GET PENALISED | Pr. Ribi Kenneth
Prayer, in its true essence, is communication with God. And for every born-again child of God, it is the fundamental component of their daily life. When the scripture requires us to ‘pray without ceasing’, it is not the frequency that the holy spirit correlates to, but rather the continuity of devotion with God, without being disconnected from the supreme will. Incidentally, we cannot pray while we sleep and so it seems unthinkable to fulfil this commandment. But just as we continue to breathe and have life even while we sleep, prayer is the constant ‘switch-on’ connection with God the Father that fills us with His life. Thus we apprehend that prayer is both essential and powerful.
When children require something, they will approach their parents to ask what they desire. Similarly, the scripture requires us to ask God for everything in prayer. (Matthew 7:7 – Ask and you shall receive.) Jesus, even in His hypostatic state of being both fully God and fully human at the same time, set an example by continually being connected to the father in heaven for direction and provision. Further, the apostles whom Jesus taught to pray also went to God to ask for strength and deliverance. But prayers are not limited to a set list of our requests alone. If we believe that our father in heaven knows all that we need even before we come to him with our requests, our prayer cannot be confined to reaching God for our needs alone. So, at its core, prayer is also the relationship that a father & child enjoys more than just requests for self-fulfilment. This makes it imperative that we ask God for what He wants in our life, over fulfilling our desires and passions. James 4:3 [NKJV] says “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” While we are in our flesh, we cannot by ourselves comprehend the complete will of God. Jesus set yet another example for us in the garden of Gethsemane by praying “not my will, but Thine be done”. So we conclude that, while we have the right to ask, our prayers should be in line with what God purposes, over what we declare and command in the name of faith.
But God answers prayers, and that is the exact cause of concern if we genuinely know the heart of our Father God. We are indeed endowed with the privilege as children to reach to God in prayer, and we are directed by the scriptures to ask for our needs, but if we persist in prayer continually on our terms and out of the counsel of God, He will answer our request even when it is not His intent for us. This may sound absurd, but the scripture strictly warns us of this dire danger through many examples and instructions.
Consider the verse in Psalms 106:13-15 [NKJV] “They soon forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, And tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul”. To put this in context, we need to be reminded of God’s plan and acts on behalf of His people. God promised a set-apart nation in Abraham, God purposed and rescued Israel from the bonds of slavery in Egypt, God by the might of His power uprooted their enemy and provided the Israelites with miraculous victory, God led the Israelites for decades in the wilderness feeding them food and water and providing them clothing throughout their journey. In all this, God had a purpose for the Israelites. But they were insensitive to the purpose of God and did not wait for the council of God, nor did they try to understand what God wished for them and kept asking God repeatedly for their desires. God answered their prayers and granted them what they requested. But the answer to their prayer came with a penalty – leanness of the heart. The word of God tells us that in all that God did for His people, He was at the same time angry with them for forty years and swore in an oath that none of them in that generation will cross over to the promised inheritance. Two of them did cross into the promise, and they were not part of the insensitive and unyielding group.
We can ask, “is it not God who rescued them all and the one who provided them daily”?, “Is it not God himself who offered to Hs children the land as inheritance and would God send leanness to their soul just because they were persistent in asking their desires?” It seems baffling to comprehend that a God who purposed a nation and who delivered them from slavery and their enemies would send leanness with their answered prayers to destroy them.
So we can say, “Thank you Lord for both the answered and the unanswered prayers”, for where the prayers were not answered, God’s grace was sufficient to send a blessing and contentment to our hearts.
Consequently, prayer as both communication and relation to God should complete these three basic elements. Our appeals will then pass well ahead of our house roofs as an aromatic incense, into the perfect heavenly presence of God.
1. Pray according to His will – 1 John 5:14 [NKJV] This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
2. Pray and let your Joy be made full – John 16:23-24 [NKJV] “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.
3. Pray and let it glorify God – John 14:13-14 [NKJV] Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
So let’s Pray, without getting penalised.
Pr. Ribi Kenneth