Wrong kind of teaching
The wrong kind of
teaching can prevent us from praying in the right way. At its worst, it can
lead us astray or paralyze our prayer. It is important where we direct our
prayers, another thing worth noticing is the number of times we need to pray about
the same issue.
WHERE SHOULD WE DIRECT OUR PRAYERS?
One important issue in praying is the direction. It is important that
our prayers are always directed to God, not to anything else. Sometimes people
concentrate more on the devil and evil spirits than on God. These people may
perceive all problems as caused by the devil, thinking that salvation of people
also depends on him, and for this reason, they have turned more to the devil
than to God.
This may be due to teaching on spiritual warfare, in which
"prayer" has been used to fight the devil and as an authority against
the devil, while pleading to God has been rejected. This is why many people may
have spent hours talking to the enemy and drifted into a deep distress because
of dwelling in the wrong company.
We may wonder, however, whether these people have gone
deeply astray. If we look at the Bible, we cannot find any teaching on
concentrating on the devil for hours or thinking about him. Instead, the Bible
says that the direction of our prayers must always be God who is in Heaven,
and when we turn to Him, we can also expect to get answers to our prayers.
So did Paul, for example, when he wanted his compatriots to
be saved. He did not concentrate on the
enemy, but prayed for these people (Romans 10:1). Among others, his example
shows that if we pray to God who is in Heaven, we will not go astray. Many
great men of God have not concentrated on the devil, but have prayed to God,
spent time with Him and then acted from the fullness of the Holy Spirit – that
has been the secret of their power.
- (Ezra 8:23) So we fasted and sought our God for this:
and he was entreated of us.
- (Rom 10:1) Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God
for Israel is, that they might be saved.
- (Acts 12:5) Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was
made without ceasing of the church to God for him.
- (Matt 6:9) After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father
which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name.
- (Matt 9:38) Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into
- (Dan 9:3-4) And I set my face to
the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and
sackcloth, and ashes:
4 And I
prayed to the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the
great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him,
and to them that keep his commandments
In addition, if we look at big revivals of the past, we can clearly see
that the most important factor in those revivals was prayer. These revivals were
not created by concentrating on the enemy, but by searching for God in enduring
Charles G. Finney, whom God used in many revivals, told in
his biography how prayer was the most important means used in revivals. When
people first prayed to God, the forces of the enemy collapsed. We can,
therefore, expect that if the same is done today, God will start to act and
people will change their attitude towards the Gospel:
I have said many times that
in revivals the most distinctive feature has been a prevailing spirit of
prayer. (…) Answers to the prayers were so many that people had to be
convinced of a God who answered prayers every day and moment.
The situation was such in
Stephentown that I had to move there. And so I did. In the meantime, I had been
overpowered by a powerful spirit of prayer, as that one lady had also been. The
power of prayer soon spread and grew, strengthening our work at the same time
so that the Word of the Lord stroke down even the strongest of men, making them
helpless. I could mention several incidents like this.
I have not yet spoken about
the spirit of prayer, which prevailed in this revival, and I must not forget to
mention it. (…)
My aids in the revivals were
simple sermons and prayer, which were used abundantly both in private, small
group meetings and public prayer meetings. A lot of emphasis was given to
prayer as the main means in the progressing of the revival.
As I have told, the most
important factors in the revivals were prayer meetings, personal contacts
and visits, handing out leaflets and the tremendous efforts of ordinary people,
both men and women. As far as I know, the priests were not against it anywhere.
I believe that they were mostly sympathetic towards it. But there was such a
large general trust in the power of prayer that people seemed to put prayer
meetings before sermons. A common idea seemed to be, "We have received advice
and guiding enough to make us hardened, now it's time to pray.” The prayers
were constantly answered and in such surprising ways that it got the attention
of people in the whole country. We clearly saw that as an answer to our
prayers, the windows of Heaven were opened and the Holy Spirit was poured over
us like a river. (2)
IS ONCE ENOUGH?
Another wrong view people have of prayer is that we only have to pray
once, and we will immediately receive an answer. This may be the case with, for
example, teaching on how to pray for other people to be saved.
But is this view correct: is one prayer always enough?
Let’s look at this in the light of the next examples:
- Jesus as an example. Firstly, an excellent example of a person who
prayed several times for the same issue is Jesus Himself. When He was on the
Mount of Olives, He prayed for the same thing not just once, but three times –
that is, when He was searching for the will of God in His own life. In other
words, as Jesus has given us this kind of a model, we are certainly not in the
wrong if we do the same.
On the other hand, it has been told about Jesus that He
also spent a whole night praying to God. It is unlikely that during this time
He would have prayed for a million different issues: he most likely
concentrated on certain issues He had in mind. He prayed, among other things,
that Peter would not lose his faith:
- (Matt 26:44) And he left them, and went away again, and prayed
the third time, saying the same words.
- (Luke 6:12) And it came to pass in those days, that he went out
into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
- (Luke 22:31-32) And the Lord
said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you
32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and
when you are converted, strengthen your brothers.
- Examples of enduring prayer. When Jesus taught about prayer,
He also emphasized enduring prayer. A good example of this is the allegory of
the widow and the wrong judge.
It is important to note from this allegory how the widow
again and again brought the same issue before the wrong judge. She did not
bring new issues to the judge, only the one that pressed her mind. The
consequence of the woman’s perseverance (constantly bothering the judge with
the same issue), was that she finally got a favorable answer. In the same way, when
we again and again bring the same issue before God in prayer, we can also expect
that He will answer our prayers:
- (Luke 18:1-7) And he spoke a
parable to them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
2 Saying, There
was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
3 And there
was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, Avenge me of my
4 And he would
not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God,
nor regard man;
5 Yet because
this widow troubles me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she
6 And the Lord
said, Hear what the unjust judge said.
7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night
to him, though he bear long with them?
- The salvation of other people is also something that
requires persistent prayer, bringing the same issues before God again and
again. Even though all of us can immediately personally receive such gifts as
salvation, baptism of the Holy Spirit, or health on the basis of Jesus'
fulfilled work (we do not need millions of prayers of “Save me!”, but can
receive salvation as a gift from God; Rev 22:17), it is still quite a
different thing when we are praying for the salvation of other people, or when
we pray, for example, for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Issues like revivals
are usually the results of persistent prayer.
Sometimes we have to pray for months or years for the saving of other people
before we can witness it. For example, George Muller - who received thousands
of answers to his prayers - had to wait for decades before a couple of people
were saved. He brought these people before God daily for years, but they were
not saved until just after he died. Muller is a great example of persistent
The whole big secret is in
not giving up before the answer comes. Over the course of 52 years, I have
prayed every day for two men who are the sons of a childhood friend of mine.
They have not yet been saved, but they certainly will be! How could it be
otherwise? I rest on the unerring promises of Jehovah. One great fault of the
children of God is that they are not persistent in prayer. They do not stand
firm. If they wanted to receive something for the glory of God, they would pray
until they received it. Oh, how good, kind, merciful, and condescending towards
us is He, whom we are dealing with! He has given me, the unworthy, more than I
imagined to pray, or even think about! I am only a weak, sinful man. But He has
heard my prayers tens of thousands of times and used me to lead tens of
thousands of people to the truth. I say tens of thousands in this and other
countries. These unworthy lips have preached the Gospel to multitudes, and
many, many have believed and received eternal life." (3)