QUESTIONS/ANSWERS FROM THE QUESTION FORUM
Group Number 17
SOME QUESTIONS ON PRAYER
When some people confront the sick, immediately start praying for a miracle. Do we have a scriptural precedent for this?
Prayer is not regulated by a procedure or formula. We are encouraged to let our "requests" be made known to God (Phil 4:6). They ARE "requests," not demands. Nor are such prayers asking the Lord to fulfill what He has promised. I know of no place where God has guaranteed health to His people. Some are fond of quoting John's desire for Gaius: "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers" (III John 2). The key in that text is "as your soul prospers." That would mean the sure death of many I know. Too, it was a deep seated desire of John, not a condition promised by God. Were it something God promised, John would have exhorted Gaius, not prayed for him.
If the people who pray for your sister really desire what they are requesting, I would not discourage them from making their request known to God. It does not have to be in your sister's presence to be effective. God invites them to let their request be known to Him. Like He did with Paul and his thorn, He may not answer as they desire, and they should be resolved to accept His answer. If, on the other hand, they are praying mechanically, imagining that it is God's will to keep His people in a state of perfect health, they are not praying from their heart but from their head (and a confused one at that). Such prayers bounce off the ceiling, so to speak, and are reprehensible because they are not driven by faith.
You may recall Jesus often asked questions of people who came to Him. He asked the mother of James and John, "What do you wish?" (Matt 20:21). In that case, He denied the request because it was off-center. The mother did not realize what she was asking, but was evidently sincere in asking it.
On the other hand, Jesus asked the two blind men on the road to Jericho, "What do you want Me to do for you?" When they said they wanted their sight, He had compassion on them and healed them. In Mark's account of the healing of Bartimaeus, Jesus said, "Go your way; your faith has made you well" (Mark 10:52).
I understand these cases to reflect the Divine manner. It is like saying "Let your request be made known." However, that is not to be equated with a guarantee of an affirmative answer. Philippians 4:6-7, after admonishing us to make our requests known, promises that God's peace will keep our hearts and minds not that the request will be answered as we desire.
People who pray for miracles should have a faith that corresponds with their request. There is nothing in Scripture that indicates such prayers are out of orderbut if they are to be answered, they must be motivated by faith, not feeling. Repeating the prayer often and loud does not obviate the need for faith.
My understanding of miracles is that they were performed to authenticate a new revelation or the bearer of the new message.
I was brought up under this teaching. It is not, however, a statement or concept affirmed in Scripture. It is a human conclusion, not a Divine affirmation. I believe it was developed largely to counteract false claims of miracles. While it is true miracles often authenticated the messenger, or validated a new revelation, that was not always the case. Sometimes sheer compassion motivated the Lord. The feeding of the 5,000, healing the Nobleman's son, the Gadarene demoniac, the daughter of the Syrophonecian woman, Peter's mother-in-law, raising the son of the widow of Nain, and the healing of the woman with the issue of blood are cases in point.
Some have developed special classifications of Divine workings, choosing to call some "providential works," and others "miracles." I personally think they have been to aggressive to make a distinction where none is really required. James (who was not an Apostle) spoke of the sick calling for the elders, who were to pray over the sick person, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The promise is, "the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (James 5:16). To me, it is evident this is not a mere procedureand it should never be approached as though it is. The thing that makes the prayer effective is faithit is "the prayer of faith" that brought the results. I can tell you this prayer cannot be prayed at will. Nor is any other kind of prayer guaranteed an answer. This is not for people who live at a distance from the Lord. It is possible, however to live close enough to the Lord to have prayer answered. I know of no revealed limitation on how close we can come to God in Christ Jesus. He is still able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think according to the power that works in us (Eph 3:20). Receiving benefit from Divine ability, however, is in strict accordance with the power working through usnot in spite of us. All of that postulates that the individual is in close communion with the Lord. Even then, the prayer is circumscribed by the will of God, as shown in the case of Paul's thorn.
I believe that "with God, nothing is impossible"; but we should be understanding about how to pray within God's will, shouldn't we?
God's will is the foundation upon which all answers to prayer are granted. Often that will is hidden from the holiest of people. Recall the mighty prophet Elisha. Ordinarily, he had insights that transcended that of ordinary men. On one occasion, however, he confronted a widow whose son had been born miraculously through the prophet's word. He asked the widow how the boy was, not knowing he had actually died. When he detected by the widows action that something was wrong, he said to his servant Gehazi, "the LORD has hidden it from me, and has not told me" (2 Kgs 4:27). The prophet then proceeded to find out what was hiddenor to know the will of the Lord. He knew he could not operate independently of that will. Neither can we.
The promise is, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him" (1 John 5:14-15). The Spirit continues by promising life will be give to a wayward soul because of the prayer of a faithful one (verse 16). Even in that case, however, the will of the Lord dominated, for "the sin unto death" (or a sin that was in order to death, like Ananias and Saphirra, and Judas) could not be corrected by prayerfaith or not.
At no point does the human will ultimately supersede the Divine will. However, I have heard many speak as though this were the case. They deride asking things according to the Lord's will. They are ignorant of the fact that our Lord Himself prayed in strict accord with the will of His Father, choosing to forfeit His own in preference of God's (Lk 22:42). James reminded us we should say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that" (James 4:15).
One further consideration on this. It is essential that believers settle it in their minds to know the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, and never to seek things contrary to it determined to always pray in strict accord with the Divine will. Remember, God did not want Israel to have a king, yet they asked for one anyway. God granted their request, considering they had rejected Him (1 Sam 8:7). The Lord fed Israel with manna, food appropriate for their wilderness journey. However, they desired meat, and asked for the same. The Lord answered their request, giving them meat in abundance. Then, "while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was aroused against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very great plague" (Num 11:33). The time came for Hezekiah to die. He turned his face to the wall and asked for an extension of life. God reciprocated by adding 15 years to his life (2 Kgs 20:2-6). That merciful extension, however, became the occasion during which the nation was cursed (2 Kgs 20;12-19).
His blood covers sin, but do we pray for it to cover physical infirmities.
Associating the blood of Christ with illness is a human innovation. I know of no such connection in Scripture. Jesus' blood is associated with eternal life (John 6:54), remission (Matt 26:28), being brought close to God (Eph 2:13), peace (Col 1:20), cleansing the conscience (Heb 9:14), entering the holiest (Heb 10:19), the new covenant (Heb 10:29), cleansing (1 John 1:9), redemption (1 Pet 1:18-19), propitiation (Rom 3:25), justification (Rom 5:9), the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7), and sanctification (Heb 10:29) BUT NEVER HEALTH! That is an association men have made.
The death of Christ was necessary because of our alienation from God. The blood of Christ resolves that separation, being the means through which we are brought into fellowship with the Lord. If Christ's death, or the shedding of His blood is the basis for healingor if healing is in the atonement, as some claimthen sickness alienates us from God. I see no way to avoid this conclusion. A vicarious atonement is not required by sickness. Bodily infirmity does not alienate men from God, and thus does not require the blood of Christ. The Spirit reminds us, "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission" (Heb 9:22). He NEVER says, however, "Without the shedding of blood, there is no healing."
Pleading the blood over flesh and blood is an absurdity. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, having been cursed by God. Christ's blood has to do with eternal life, and its sole efficacy is in that arena. Bodily healing has to do with faith and the Divine will. No Divine guarantees are offered in regards to health.
If you accept that God is truly calling you home, then you can rest on his promises and find peace and even joy in a terminal situation. Any rejoinder?
At the close of his life, Paul said, "I am ready to be offered" (2 Tim 4:6). From an earthly point of view, if anyone had a reason to live, it was Paul. He was a "chosen vessel," and the ONLY Apostle of the Gentiles. Yet, he sensed the time of transition had come, and he was ready to go. Peter also knew he would "shortly" put off his earthly tabernacle (2 Pet 1:14). Our blessed Lord Himself yielded up His relatively young life, knowing He had finished His work. Some of the patriarchs would "gather" their feet into their bed, breathe their last, and be gathered to their people (Gen 49:33) indicating they were reconciled to their death.
Death, as you know, is by appointment (Heb 9:27). Our times are "in His hand" (Psa 31:15). There does come a time when we "finish" our course (2 Tim 4:7) and complete the race (Heb 12:1). When that time comes, it is a blessing to realize it, and look forward to gaining the prize. It seems to me that those who have an inordinate desire to remain in the body have only confessed their lack of faith. It is possible for Christ to be our life, and for dying to be gain (Phil 1:21). For the faithful, that means there are really no disadvantages in death. Death belongs to usit is ours, even though it is an enemy (1 Cor 3:21-23). It cannot separate us from the love of God, and in it, we are more than conquerors (Rom 8:35-39).
What about "prayer walks." Where does this come from? Am I missing a scriptural reference on this? Whole groups of people will spend rather large amounts of money to travel over to India or other far country, just to walk around city streets or idol temples and "pray down strongholds."
Again, this represents a human conclusion. I suppose it is based on the account of Israel marching around the walls of Jericho. Of course, God had given Jericho to Israel, else their marching would have been an exercise in futility. I am fully sympathetic with those who have a strong desire to see the bastions of idolatry and false religion overthrown. It is not my understanding, however, that this cannot be done procedurally. The whole approach smacks of Old Covenant religion. That covenant was procedural because the people themselves were alienated. Although we have numerous accounts in the book of Acts of the actions of holy people, there are no accounts of "prayer walks." Scripture does not tell us strongholds are "prayed" down, but that they are "cast down" (2 Cor 10:3-5). The utilization of powerful spiritual weaponry is not associated with praying, but with "walking by faith." I do not question that prayer is involved in such overthrows. However, the dissemination of light comes primarily through godly influence. While that can be assisted by fervent and effectual prayer, it is the individual's association with God that makes it meaningful.
If marching around a city is the means God uses to subdue it, it seems to me Jesus would have gathered His disciples and marched around Jerusalem. He did have a heart for that city. Too, when the whole city of Samaria believed and turned to the Lord, it was not the result of a "walk," but of the preaching of Philip. God did not tell Jonah to walk around the city of Nineveh, but to walk through it, preaching as he went. There simply is too much in God's Word on this subject for men to go about creating their own means.
If people want to walk around cities, people, etc., they have done no wrong. But a tree is known by its fruit, not its looks. If their action yields results because of their faith, I will be the first in line to give thanks for them and their work. But I will not adopt such a procedure as though it were the Divinely appointed and revealed means of overthrowing the wicked one.
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