PRAYING BY GOD’S RULES
[God’s Prayer Rules are Simple but Not Easy]

Few subjects in the Bible are more mysterious or less understood than the subject of prayer. Few indeed know how to pray or what to pray about. And what is the proof of that statement? The proof is that most prayers are never answered. Hundreds of millions of people a day pray in vain. They get no answer to their prayers. Why is this? Is there an answer as to why most prayers go unanswered? Absolutely, there is. Will most people accept the only and true Scriptural teaching on this subject? I’m afraid most will not.

There are many cliches regarding prayer, and some are absolutely true. It is said that God has one of three answers for all prayers: "Yes, No, or Later." This is basically, albeit not totally true. This one might be closer to the truth: "Your way, My way, or No way."

There is an interesting essay on prayer in which it is stated: "I got nothing that I asked for, but everything that I could have ever hoped for." That may make for a nice sentiment, but few would ever believe such a thing deep in their heart. Most people do not believe that they got everything in life that they could have ever hoped for.

Christians and heathens alike, ignorantly and stupidly believe that they can change the mind of a Sovereign God Who always knows long in advance how He will fulfill His perfect plan and purpose under every and all circumstances. Many imagine that answered prayer is when God changes His mind with regards to the way things were going in your life. In other words: You change your ways to please God, and God will change His mind and begin blessing you. NOT TRUE. God never, ever changes His mind about anything.

This subject of unanswered prayer is so incredibly simple that a child can understand it; yet many learned theologians and clergymen have not even a clue as to the ultimate Scriptural statement regarding prayer. I will first give you the number one pre-requisite to having prayers answered, and then I will give you a most amazing second witness from a Scripture that is preserved in very few Bible translations.

THE GREATEST DRAMA OF THE AGES

If you like drama, then Matt. 26:36 is the place to find it. Few pay close attention to what is really going on in these few verses of Scripture. The humanity of Jesus is brought into direct conflict with the will of His God and Father. First I will jump ahead of our story slightly so that you understand the setting of this greatest of all prayers in the history of the universe. After praying for one hour Jesus returns a short way back to His Apostles and says:

"Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41).

Was the "flesh" of Jesus any stronger than that of His apostles? No, it was the same flesh. Paul tells us that, "…there is ONE kind of flesh of men…" (I Cor. 15:39). Jesus was given this same "one kind" of flesh (John 1:14 & Rom. 1:3). And so the flesh of Jesus was just as "weak" as that of His Apostles. Jesus instructed His apostles to stay awake and pray with Him for one hour. None of them could do it. None of us could have done it. They just ate a meal and they were now sleepy (not only physically sleepy, but especially spiritually sleepy.) Now back to the beginning of this great drama:

"Then comes Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and says unto the disciples, Sit you here, while I go and pray yonder [over there.] And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee [James and John] and began to be SORROWFUL, AND VERY HEAVY. Then said He unto them, My soul [His fleshly, conscious humanity, not His spirit] is EXCEEDING SORROWFUL, EVEN UNTO DEATH [spirit doesn’t die, it is our flesh that must die.] Tarry [stay] you here, and watch with Me.

And He went a little farther, and fell on His face, and prayed saying, O MY FATHER, IF IT BE POSSIBLE, LET THIS CUP [this cup of death—being beaten beyond recognition, being made sin offering, and crucified for the sins of humanity] pass from Me: NEVERTHELESS, NOT AS I WILL, BUT AS THOU WILL" (Matt. 26:36-39).

"And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:43-44).

I doubt that any of us can ever fully appreciate what unfathomable human trauma and agony was taking place for those three hours in the garden that night two thousand years ago. The eternal destiny of the entire human race was at stake, and Jesus KNEW IT! And believe me, Jesus’ Father was agonizing right along with His Son:

"In all their afflictions, He [GOD] was afflicted… in His love and in His pity He redeemed them…" (Isa. 63:9).

"Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He SUFFERED" (Heb. 5:8).

And oh how Christ was suffering that night in the garden! But right there in the garden is the answer to all prayer. "O MY FATHER… nevertheless, not as I will, BUT AS THOU WILL." Jesus not only prayed that way; Jesus thought that way:

"I can of Mine Own Self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not My Own will, but the WILL OF THE FATHER WHICH HAS SENT ME" (John 5:30).

And again:

"For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine Own will, but the will of HIM THAT SENT ME" (John 6:38).

Did Jesus pray as earnestly as it is possible to pray that God would "let this cup pass?" YES, He did.

Did God grant Jesus His desire to "let this cup pass?" NO, He didn’t.

But, did Jesus get His prayer answered? YES, He surely did. How so? Because Jesus’ greater desire was that His Father’s will be done, rather than "let this cup pass." This example from our Lord is the answer to answered prayer and it is also the answer to unanswered prayer.

If you always pray, "not as I will, but as THOU will," all of your prayers will be answered too. Whether you always get what you desire or you don’t get what you desire, if your greatest desire of all desires is for "THY WILL be done," then you can rest assured that from this day forward, all of your prayers will be answered always. God’s will (that is His intention for the way He has preordained everything to go,) will always be done. No prayer has ever changed God’s plan or purpose in any way whatsoever. (Read my series on "free will.")

Now then, if it was God’s intention for you to be blessed by some particular favor, and God inspires you to pray for that favor, then it will surely be given to you. If on the other hand, if it was not God’s intention for you to be blessed by some particular favor, then no amount of praying will cause God to grant it to you. Either way, God’s will must be done, and if that is the greatest desire of your prayer for God’s will to be done in your life, then whether you receive some particular favor or you don’t receive it, nonetheless, YOUR PRAYER WILL BE ANSWERED.

I’m, personally, okay with that. Many of my readers may not be okay with that arrangement of things; but nevertheless, that is the way things are and that is the way things will always be—"THY will be done."

Why is this the only way that we can understand what is such a mystery to many in the Church? Because they do not believe that God is Sovereign. God’s Sovereignty is absolutely not compatible with a fabled "free" will of man. Those that argue contrary just do not understand their own arguments.

God has never made a mistake. God has never ever changed His mind. God has never been surprised by anything that anyone has ever done. God knows everything that will happen before it happens. And the only reason that God can do this is because God is Sovereign and man has no such thing as a "free will." (Don’t everyone send me Gen. 6:6 at the same time now, insisting that God does change His mind—He does NOT.)

No man has ever in the history of the world received an answer to a prayer for something from God that God did not already have in His plan to give him. People hate the very thought of a God Who is totally and completely Sovereign, and the reason is simple. If God is Sovereign, then man has no free will that can thwart the sovereign foreknowledge of God. God cannot know for certain a future event if mankind possesses a power that can thwart God’s perfect foreknowledge. Not even most of the greatest minds in theology have thought this apparent enigma through. Had they given sufficient thought to this Truth of God’s Word they would not be teaching such a plethora of unscriptural and damnable heresies.

When God wants to answer someone’s prayer, the first thing He will always do is inspire (cause) that person TO PRAY. How can God answer a "prayer" if someone doesn’t "pray?" God can bless us and do favors for us, but God cannot answer our prayers, if we don’t pray. That is why I get excited when I feel inspired to pray, as I am encouraged that God is getting ready to bless or favor me in some way.

SEVEN SCRIPTURAL PRINCIPLES GOVERNING PRAYER

[1] "And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, [everything in heaven and earth must be in accord with God’s will {His purpose and plan, Eph. 1:11} or it won’t happen] He hears us: And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him" (I John 5:14-15).

[2] "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, [I cannot stress enough the importance of a clean and clear conscience] then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we…

[3] keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight

[4] And this is His commandment, That we should believe on the Name [and everything that that Name stands for and represents] of His Son Jesus Christ…

[5] And love one another, as He gave us commandment" (I John 3:21-23).

[6] "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts [so don’t think that it’s okay to pray for your Mother to hit the Lotto Jackpot either, as I believe that God can see through such feigned benevolence]" (James 4:3).

[7] "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing [Having faith and trust, not just hoping and wishing. True faith can be based only on God’s Word—see James 1:6-7] ye shall receive" (Matt. 21:22).

All seven of these principles are in keeping with "Thy will be done." We will now take a close look at a Scripture that cannot be discerned from most translations.

AN AMAZING SCRIPTURE ON PRAYER HIDDEN IN THE KING JAMES

This Scripture will blow you away if you have never before seen it properly translated. Here it is first in the King James Version:

"For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man sees, why does he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8:24-26).

Paul makes a connection between "hope" and "prayer." Hope is something we expect, but do not as yet experience. All of Christendom has this subject wrong when they claim that they are already in this life "saved" in the past tense. Paul tells us that we are "saved by hope," but if it is already a reality, then there is no need to still be hoping for it. He then states that, "Likewise…" (in the same way and manner) when it comes to praying, "we know NOT what we should pray for." Just as we do not yet SEE what it is that we "hope for" (we do not yet possess it,) likewise we do not see what we are to "pray for" based on another one of God’s rules, not based on our ignorance (or ‘as we ought’.) This much we can learn from the King James.

But the real problem with the King James is the next phrase "as we ought." That unfortunately does not carry the impact of what this most profound verse is telling us. The Greek word translated we ought is defined by Dr. Strong as follows:

G1163

de??

dei

die, deh-on'

“Third person singular active present of G1210; also de?? deon which is neuter active participle of the same; both used impersonally; it is (was, etc.) necessary (as binding): - beho[o]ved, be meet, must (needs), (be) need (-ful), ough[t]".

This is a dogmatic word—NECESSARY, BINDING, BEHOOVES, MUST BE, NEEDFUL.

Fifty-eight times this word die is translated "must;" and seven times "behooved;" and five times "must needs". When we read this verse in the King James and many versions that copy the King James, we get the feeling that Paul is stating that we just don’t know how to pray as well as we could or should pray. This is not the point of his declaration. Paul is stating that the knowledge necessary to pray according to what MUST BE (what God has already predestined and determined is and must be done in His plan and purpose,) none of us are aware. None of us knows for sure what MUST BE in God’s purpose, and so we cannot possibly always pray for what God desires for us to have. This being so then, God’s Spirit aids our infirmity in this area and helps us pray according to God’s will, which is just another way of saying according to what must be.

Notice how this word is emphatically used throughout the New Testament:

"And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not trouble: for all these things must [Gk; die] come to pass, but the end is not yet" (Matt. 24:6).

Jesus is not saying that these things "ought" come to pass, but rather they MUST come to pass.

  • Likewise: "…the Son of man must [Gk: die] suffer…" (Mark 8:31).

  • Not that He only "ought" to suffer. "…for such things must needs be…" (Mark 13:7).

  • "…the gospel must first be published…" (Mark 13:10).

  • "I must be about My Father’s business" (Luke 2:49).

  • "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7).
    "…that He must rise again from the dead" (John 20:9).

  • "…we must through much tribulation…" (Acts 14:22), etc., etc., etc.

Prayer must be in accord with what "must be." Here are a couple of Versions that bring this out clearly:

"And, in like manner also, the Spirit doth help our weaknesses; for, what we may pray for, as it behoveth us , we have not known, but the Spirit himself doth make intercession for us with groanings unutterable" (Rom. 8:26, Young’s Literal Translation.)

The word "behoove" means "necessary." Not what should or might be, but what is absolutely "necessary." And "necessary" is the first definition of this word in Strong’s Greek Dictionary.

"Now, similarly, the spirit also is aiding our infirmity, for what we should be praying for, to accord with what must be, we are not aware, but the spirit itself is pleading for us with inarticulate groanings" (Rom. 8:26, Concordant Literal New Testament.)

This Version, along with Young's gets the word order correct according to the Greek manuscripts, and therefore also showing that it is not "as we ought" that is being discussed, but "what must be."

Notice the word order from a few Interlinears:

"In like manner and also the Spirit jointly helps our weaknesses; for that which we should pray for according as it beho[o]ves [is ‘necessary’], we know not, but itself the Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings inexpressible" (Rom. 8:26, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Berry, Zondervan.)

"In like manner and also the spirit helps the weaknesses of us; the for what we should pray as it behoves, not we know, but itself the spirit intercedes on behalf of us with groans unspoken" (Emphatic Diaglott Interlinear.)

"AS-SAMELY YET AND THE spirit is-TOGETHER-supporting to-THE UN-FIRMNESS OF-US THE for ANY WE-SHOULD-BE-PRAYING according-to-WHICH IS-BINDING NOT WE-HAVE-PERCEIVED but SAME THE spirit IS-OVER-pleadING to-groanings UN-TALKED" (Concordant Greek Text, an Ultraliteral English Translation in the Sublinear.) (All underlines are mine.)

The reason that translators and expositors do not teach the truth on this verse is because they don’t believe it is true as written in the manuscripts. It appears from most translations and virtually all teaching on the subject of prayer, that they cannot believe the truth of this verse because it substantiates the Sovereignty of God and contradicts man’s fabled free will. To better understand what is being taught here on prayer, I will now quote Rom. 8:26 and continue through verses 27 and 28 from the Concordant Literal New Testament:

Now similarly, the spirit also is aiding our infirmity, for what we should be praying for, to accord with what must be, we are not aware, but the spirit itself is pleading for us with inarticulate groanings. Now He Who is searching the hearts is aware what is the disposition of the spirit, for in accord with God [with God’s will] is it pleading for the saints. Now we are aware that God [KJV leaves out "God"] is working all together for the good [things don’t "work together for good" by themselves—ALL good comes from God—James 1:17] of those who are loving God…"

Let’s now understand this most profound truth. It isn’t just that, "…we know not what we should pray for as we ought…" No, it is much more profound than just that; it is that "….for we know not what we should pray for, to accord with what MUST BE, we are not aware…" Why does the spirit aid our infirmity? What is our infirmity? Our infirmity is that we don’t know what to pray for that will absolutely always be in accord with what must be God’s will, and God’s will is "what must be." And since none of us has perfect foreknowledge of what God’s will must be, God’s spirit aids those who are obedient to Him, in requesting and praying about the right things, so our prayers aren’t in vain.

It is the will and plan and preordained purpose of God Almighty, that’s what "MUST BE." "THY WILL BE done" (Matt. 6:10). Yes, God’s will MUST be done—always! One day we will all come to believe and appreciate the fact that God is Sovereign. God is always right. God always does what is best and perfect. And so it is vain to pray for something that is NOT "in accord with what MUST BE."

And only then does verse 28 make sense. Things don’t "just happen" to people who love and obey God (as most translations suggest in this verse.) No, we should now be willing to accept the truth "…that GOD [The King James leaves out the ‘God’ in this verse as if things just work themselves out without God] is working all together for the good…" And how is it that God works?

"In Whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who works ALL THINGS AFTER THE COUNSEL OF HIS OWN WILL" (Eph. 1:11).

And so, if we always pray according to God’s Will, with a clean conscience, obeying the commandments of God, and are aided by the Holy Spirit of God to pray only "in accord with what MUST BE," we will begin seeing answered prayer where we may have been frustrated in the past.

THE SO-CALLED "LORD’S PRAYER":

Christendom refers to Matt. 6:9-13 as "The Lord’s Prayer", when in reality, Jesus never once actually prayed this prayer. It is merely an outline: notice the words "After this manner therefore pray ye…" It means "thus" we should pray—in this way, not to just repeat these few words of the outline.

"Our Father which art in [the] heaven[s], Hallowed by Thy Name..."

This is personal and reverend. God is our Father: talk to Him as a Father, and give Him all your respect and honor.

"Thy kingdom come…"

We want God’s kingdom to come INSIDE OF US before it comes to the world (Luke 17:21.) And we are to seek God’s Kingdom above all our other desires (Matt. 6:33). Next comes the statement by which all prayers must be framed:

"Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven…"

Here we go again: Thy WILL BE done. There is never an exception to this rule. And notice furthermore, that God’s will is to be done on earth as it "IS done in heaven." Does anyone seriously believe that God’s will sometimes is not done in heaven? Then if His will is to be done in the same way "as" in heaven, on the earth also, how is it possible that maybe sometimes His will is NOT done in earth? Theologians and Christians try to tell me all day long that God’s will is not being done on earth. That God only has a "weak wish" that will never be accomplished when it comes to the really important things like being the "Saviour of all mankind" (I John 4:14 & I Tim. 2:4, and dozens more.)

"Give us this day our daily bread [‘give us our bread day by day…]"

Certainly we have need of physical bread daily, but this is speaking of our spiritual bread as well (John 6:51).

"And forgive us our debts [sins] as we forgive our debtors…"

We will be forgiven our sins ONLY if we forgive those who sin against us. We really need to give this some thought. We cannot bless God while cursing our enemy or our fellow man, and expect God to bless us (James 3:9).

"And lead us not into temptation…"

Can this statement be true? Doesn’t the Scripture declare:

"…for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts He any man" (James 1:13)?

So why should we pray that God will "lead us NOT into temptation?" Good question.

In addition, we have this apparent contradiction regarding our Lord;

"Then was Jesus led up of THE SPIRIT into the wilderness TO BE TEMPTED of the devil" (Matt. 4:1).

Are not these Scriptures contradictory? I’ll admit it takes some careful consideration to untangle this apparent enigma. Here are the facts:

Temptation has always been associated with the work of Satan throughout the Bible. Beginning with mother Eve, then Jesus, Paul, James, Peter, and John, we have ample testimony concerning the beguiling deceitfulness of Satan.

While it is true that "…God cannot be tempted with evil, neither temps He any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed" (James 1:13-14), we must also consider that wherever temptation is, there also is Satan:

"And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise… And the woman said [to God] The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat" (Gen. 3:6 & 13).

"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (II Cor. 11:3).

"Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil… All these things will I [Satan] give you [Jesus], if you will fall down and worship me" (Matt. 4:1 & 9).

"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts [desires, temptations] of your father ye will do…" (John 8:44).

"Be sober; be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion walks about, seeking whom he may devour [swallow down]" (I Pet. 5:8).

"And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world…" (Rev. 12:9).

Satan, not God, is the great tempter, and he has temped and deceived the whole world. But here is where God does come in. After we are tempted of Satan, God is our Redeemer:

"And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing [correcting] those that oppose themselves; if God peradvanture will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves [‘…but deliver us from the wicked one’ Matt. 6:13] out of the snare [Gk: ‘trap, temptation’] of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will" (II Tim. 2:24-26).

"For THINE is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen"

SO WHAT SHOULD WE PRAY FOR?

Anything you desire that accords with God’s will, and accords with "what must be." God has met my physical needs of food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. What I pray about are qualities of godliness—love, faith, courage, knowledge & understanding, wisdom, patience, self-control, thankfulness. I am a firm believer that if we think about the right things, we will then pray about the right things. I pray all day about everything and anything that is strongly on my mind. Why shouldn’t we, seeing that God is our Father and Jesus is our Saviour and Elder Brother? God wants to hear from us. Talk to your God. Anything important enough for you to think about or be concerned about is worthy of talking with God about.

Periodically I thank God for everything I have—I mean everything. Including the many things that most people take for granted. You have heard of counting sheep to fall asleep? Well I fall asleep many nights thanking God for all of my blessings. I start where I am—on my comfortable mattress and pillow, next to my wife, in an air-conditioned room.

You heard me right: I start by thanking God for my pillow and my comfortable bed. How many people in the history of the world have ever had a bed as comfortable as mine? Not even one percent. I thank God for my wife lying next to me. I thank God for my children. I thank God for our great little feline companions. I thank God for air conditioning in the summer and central heating in the winter. I thank God for our home, my office, our large living room for Bible Studies, our television that enables me to see the major news events of the world instantly, and documentaries (I watch a fair amount of the Science Channel, National Geographic, the History Channel, etc.)

I thank God especially for our refrigerator. Do you have any idea how much kings and queens of the past would have given for a refrigerator? And add to that, a plethora of fresh fruits, vegetables, juices, and ice cold water. I never take my refrigerator or all that is in it, for granted. I thank God for indoor plumbing. Most of the world does not have indoor plumbing or even good drinking water. How many in the world drink warm, muddy water? How blessed we are.

I thank God for all of my friends, and all those coming to our Conferences, and for all who read bible-truths.com and participate in our Discussion Forum. I thank God for the Truths that He has given me to share with all these people. I thank God for the miracles of electronic email (which takes up a great deal of my life).

I thank God that I don’t need to live in a war zone, for the protection of our civil authorities, and for emergency services.

I thank God for being such a great and loving God and for giving us the secrets of His plan and purpose, His kingdom, and our eternal destiny with Him. I thank God for His Word. I even thank God for our tribulations and ask only that He gives us the strength to endure and the spiritual understanding to see the purpose and value in all God does. There is so much to be thankful for, and God wants us to be thankful. Notice how little it took for Paul to be content with God’s dealing with him: "And having food and raiment let us be therewith content" (I Tim. 6:8).

Anyway, I often pray myself to sleep just giving God thanks for my many blessings. Here is one of my favorite Scriptures, and it just happens to be on proper prayer and meditation:

"Be rejoicing in the Lord always! Again, I will declare, be rejoicing! Let your lenience be known to all men: The Lord is near. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING, but in everything, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, that is superior to every frame of mind, shall be garrisoning your hearts and your apprehensions in Christ Jesus.

For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is grave, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is agreeable, whatever is renowned—if there be any virtue, and if any applause, be taking these into account. What you learned also, and accepted and hear and perceived in me, these be putting into practice, and the God of peace will be with you" (Phil. 4-9, Concordant Literal N.T.).

Ah, yes, "the God of peace will be with you." What more do we want? Really: what more do we want? I can swap war stories regarding my past life with the best of you, but to now know that "the God of peace will be with you" is the thing that makes it all worth it. Don’t hesitate to thank God for your trials and tribulations and persecutions—they are qualifying you for the incorruptible and immortal Kingdom of God. Answered prayer is a major proof that God exists and that God loves. Obey God’s rules governing prayer, and you too will begin to experience God’s intervention into your life. And finally, the second shortest verse in the Bible: 

"Pray without ceasing" (I Thes. 5:17)!

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