Discretion in Prayer

I. The word of God is designed to give knowledge AND discretion. PRO 1:4. A. discretion: Ability to discern or distinguish what is right, befitting, or advisable, esp. as regards one's own conduct or action; the quality of being discreet; discernment; prudence, sagacity, circumspection, sound judgement. B. Scripture teaches us not only to pray, but how to pray, what to pray for, and what not to pray for. C. Instruction is needed in the area of prayer to facilitate discretion. LUK 11:1. 1. “...we know not what we should pray for as we ought...” (ROM 8:26). 2. Christ's disciples knew not what they asked for. MAT 20:22. 3. We may “...ask amiss...” (JAM 4:3). 4. We may errantly pray for the benefit of those for whom no such prayer should be made. JER 7:16; 14:11; 1JO 5:16. 5. We should examine our ways in prayer as we would examine our ways in other things. LAM 3:40-41 c/w 1TI 2:8. 6. For the lack of discretion, one may be praying “against the grain” of God's will for oneself and for His kingdom in general. 7. For the lack of discretion, one may be assuming false burdens in prayer. D. Have you ever felt overwhelmed with all the prayer requests that friends, family or “causes” request of you? E. Have you ever entertained the notion that the very fabric of civil society is hinged upon your personal prayers for the remedying of all injustice? F. Have you ever felt obligated to honor prayer requests for the health or prosperity of someone you don't even know? II. Here are some areas where knowledge and discretion are needed in our prayer life. A. What about the idea that the more people we have praying for something, the more likely it is that the prayer will be answered? 1. What about JAM 5:16, “...The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”? 2. Here is a single prayer made by a single man which avails much. 3. See JAM 5:17-18; GEN 20:7; 1SAM 7:5-10. 4. The idea of getting lots of people to pray for something is fed by the mistaken notion of “prayer power.” a. The reasoning is that if the power is in prayer, then more prayers would mean more power. b. “Prayer power” is not a Scriptural expression. c. The power is not in prayer but in God Who hears prayer. As such, our confidence should be in God, not in prayer. 1JO 5:14-15. d. If a multitude are in agreement on a wrong petition, it does not make their petition acceptable. They may well receive an answer in judgment. PSA 106:14-15. B. Should we indiscriminately pray for the health or prosperity of people we don't even know? 1. What if that person is a fool who would be destroyed by prosperity? PRO 1:32. 2. What if that person is suffering in the flesh for disobedience to God? 2CH 26:19; LUK 1:20; NUM 12:9-15. 3. Our first concern about any person should be their salvation from sin and ignorance unto the obedience of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the great blessing we should pray for. ACT 3:25-26. 4. What profit would there be for a man to gain the whole world but lose his own soul? MAR 8:36. 5. Sometimes it takes ill-health or the threat of death to save the soul. NUM 21:6-7; PSA 78:34. 6. John's prayer for Gaius was “...that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3JO 1:1-2). a. even: Exactly, precisely, ‘just’. Now chiefly arch. after Bible use... a. of manner; often followed by as, thus, so. b. Mind that this was a prayer for a faithful believer whom John knew as such. c. Prosperity of soul should be our first concern in praying for other believers; how much more so should it be for those whom we do not even know? 7. A suggested prayer for people we don't know: “Lord, you know best the state of that person's soul and if health or prosperity are in the best interests of the soul, so grant. And if not, then withhold as You see fit.” C. Sometimes we are asked to pray for unconverted family or friends when they are facing surgeries or major health issues. 1. I have strived to make such prayers, both in public and in private, to be for the sake of the faithful saint who is affected by what their unconverted acquaintance is facing. Therefore, I am really praying for God to have mercy upon you, the saint. 2. When it came to praying for deliverance from evil, Christ prayed for His own, not for the world. JOH 17:9, 15. 3. The unconverted need our preaching more than our prayers for their health. It is by preaching that faith comes so that unbelievers may call upon God for deliverance. ROM 10:13-17. 4. The most important things that unconverted souls need are repentance and faith, not successful medical treatment. 5. If unbelievers reject our preaching, God will not hear their prayers for deliverance in their calamity. PRO 1:20-33; 28:9. 6. Recall that when Judah continually refused to heed the preaching of God's servants, Jeremiah was told to NOT pray for them. JER 7:13-16; 11:10-14; 14:10-12. 7. If unbelievers regard our church enough to solicit our prayers, why do they not attend our church? 8. Someone might say, “If we pray for someone's healing and they are healed, they might want to come to our church.” But we should not want someone to join our church because of our prayers for them but rather for what Jesus Christ did for sinners on the cross and for what He expects of all men: repentance. ACT 17:30. D. We are told to pray for all men and for those in authority “...that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1TI 2:1-2). 1. The “we” here is the church, the saints. 2. Obviously, we cannot pray for every specific person in particular in or out of authority. 3. What we are actually praying for here is not the prosperity of all men and all in authority but for the wellbeing of the church of Jesus Christ! 4. If others' prosperity means our wellbeing, then God grant it. 5. If others' judgment means our wellbeing, then God grant that. 6. We are praying that God would so order men that our godly, honest conversation would be attended by a quiet, peaceable existence. 7. See JER 29:7. E. We are commanded to be “...praying always with all prayer...and supplication for all saints” (EPH 6:18). 1. Saints are holy persons. This is the term Paul uses to designate baptized believers, the members of the local church. a. Even though saints are holy, they still have needs for salvation and mercy. PSA 86:1-3. b. Saints in general on earth are the targets of Satan's attacks and should thus be prayed for. REV 12:17; 14:12; 13:7; 18:24. 2. EPH 6:18 commands prayer not only for ourselves but for all saints, i.e., all members of all churches everywhere, from the least to the greatest. a. We cannot possibly know and name them all but we can pray for them in general terms. b. Mind that the model prayer of MAT 6:9-13 is in the first person plural (“our,” “us”). (1) As such, it is supplication for all saints as Paul instructs. (2) Have you ever wondered how you could obey EPH 6:18 if Paul intended that we are to pray for the specific name and need of every saint, given the limitations of knowledge, time, energy and conflicting obligations? Wonder no more. (3) Mind how that in this prayer the glory and will of God are foremost. c. A review of Paul's prayers shows that he focused on spiritual concerns (1CO 1:4-6), and he is our pattern to follow for the abiding of the God of peace. PHIL4:9. d. We can, like Paul, pray in general terms for all saints, emphasizing spiritual concerns and knowing that fleshly concerns come as a bonus. MAT 6:33. e. The conflicts that other believers face should be included in our prayers for saints. HEB 13:3. F. We are commanded to pray for Christ's preachers. EPH 6:19-20; COL 4:2-4; 2TH 3:1-2. 1. These are ultimately prayers for the conversion of souls by preaching. 2. Praying for evangelism is a critical part of our warfare since Satan hates the spread of the gospel which turns men from his power unto God. ACT 26:15-20. 3. When Peter was imprisoned, “...prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him” (ACT 12:4). a. This was prayer for a preacher's life so that he could continue the work of Christ. b. This was prayer which accorded with Paul's instruction, above. c. This was prayer made by a single church for a preacher they knew. d. There is a big difference between a whole church praying for an apostle of Christ to be spared and a whole church praying for the successful some member's neighbor's first cousin's son whom they do NOT know. e. Paul's instruction to the churches to pray for evangelism was for specific churches to pray for ministers that they knew. f. We are not required to be informed of every minister or every “ministry” so as to labor in prayer for all in specific detail. g. Pray specifically for the ministers you know and for the cause of Christ in general. G. God has divided up the work of His kingdom among local churches so that no one man or group has to do all the work, including the work of praying.

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