Prayer and The Bible
The Foundation of the Prayers of Jesus
Jesus emphasised upon his hearers that he was sent into the world to establish among men the words, work, and will, of his Father. He repeatedly declared that he did not speak his own words, nor do his own work, nor impose his own will. To realise this profound truth is to increase our comprehension of what constitutes effective prayer.
Notice these statements of our Lord: "I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak" (John 12:49). "The works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me" (John 5:36). "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not" (John 10:37). "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me" (John 7:16). "I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 6:38).
We are impressed with the fact that, while in the days of his flesh, Jesus Christ by implicit obedience in all things enabled God to have his perfect and holy will done on earth, even though it had now become the very stronghold of Satan because of universal sin and darkness. Adam rejected God's will, and by his disobedience allowed the will of Satan to gain control; but the Man Christ Jesus rejected Satan's will, and by his obedience opened the way for God's will to be re‑established in the world. Satan's will brought death. God's will brought life (John 8:44; 6:40; 10: 10; Rom.5:19).
When Jesus had finished the work his Father had given him to do (John 17:4); when he had spoken all the words he was commanded to speak (John 17:8; 15:15); and when he had accomplished all the revealed will of God (Heb.10:5‑9; Psa.40:6‑8), he departed out of the world and ascended to the heavenly Father (John 16:28).
Part of the purpose of God was that Jesus should inform specially selected men of his Father's great Plan, that they also might know of the various orderly steps toward the salvation of mankind. For they were to continue the work of their Leader, that God's will might extend through them and finally be done in the hearts of all men. This important mission Jesus committed to his followers before he departed out of the world: "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained (appointed) you…that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you" (John 15:15,16). Just as Jesus was required to ask of the Father in prayer for the things necessary to re‑establish His perfect will on earth, so the members of the Church, the body of Christ, must also pray that God's holy will may continue to be accomplished. It is a necessary office, fulfilled by the very elect. Thus our Lord declared: "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you" (John 15:7; 16:23).
As the Lord Jesus did not act in his own name but in the name of his Father, so neither do we who follow act in our own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ the Victor. This truth is set forth by our Lord himself in these words: "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." "Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:8‑10.5).
If the words of Jesus are able to abide in us, we must understand the Scriptures which declare them. We must also have faith in the power of God that the words spoken shall be effective. Our Lord had no doubt on this point, for he exclaimed: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt.24:35). His words were not his own, but the Father's; and he knew that the most High had declared: "So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa.55:11). God has the power to carry into effect every detail of his mighty Plan of Salvation. He speaks, and it is done. He is the great Commander. All forces in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, are subject to Him. Therefore his every thought is realised. The Sadducees doubted the resurrection of the dead. Jesus rebuked them and said: "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures (the expression of God's will), nor the power of God" to bring his will into realisation (Matt.22:29).
God's Will may be known.
We cannot suppose that God who seeks for such as will worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23,24), would withhold from us the knowledge of his will; for this would make it impossible for us to pray according to his will. Jehovah does not give his favours with the right hand, and take them away with the left. If we are without definite knowledge of God's will, the fault is not with Him but with ourselves. For Jesus distinctly declared that if any man would do the Father's will, he, would know of the doctrine or teaching (John 7:16,17). He also said: "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Matt.5:6). Obedience is the condition to be observed if we would be filled with the spirit of the Lord, and gain his guidance and counsel in our endeavour to ascertain and do his holy will. The first step of obedience is to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is but our reasonable service (Rom.12:1.2). Until we obey in this matter we cannot expect a further revelation of the perfect will, for we would not be in the attitude to rightly use the knowledge.
We have a beautiful illustration of the sure result of obeying the loving invitation of our God, in the account of the construction and erection of the tabernacle in the wilderness. This is given in the last two chapters of Exodus; and the intimation that all parts of the work were completed as the Lord had commanded Moses is there repeated no less than eighteen times, as if to emphasize the importance attached to the implicit obedience of God's servant. Had he failed in any particular (Had he made the branches in the candlestick five, instead of seven; or covered the altar of incense with copper instead of gold, for instance) the presence of the Lord would have been withheld, because every detail had to be made according to the pattern shown in the mount (Heb.8:5).
We read that when "Moses finished the work. Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle" (Exod.40:33.34). Thenceforward the cloud served to guide the nation in their journeys through the wilderness (Num.9:15‑23; 14:14); it continued to give them light during the night (Exod.40:38); and God spake from it, that Moses might instruct the people unerringly upon every matter. (Exod.33:7‑11; Lev.1:1; Num.7:89; 11:16,17,25). These favours were secured, and assured, because of the obedience of Moses at the beginning.
Jesus said: "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him….If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:21‑23). Also: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments; and I will ask the Father, and he will give you Another Helper, that he (it) may be with you to the Age; the Spirit of Truth, which the world cannot receive, because it beholds it not, nor knows it; …Because it abides with you, and will be in you…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, which the Father will send in my Name, shall teach You all things, and remind you of all things which I said to you" (John 14:15‑26, Diaglott—See also John 16:12.13).
In these words we perceive the antitypical application in the Gospel Age of the wilderness experiences of Fleshly Israel. We Spiritual Israelites show our love for Jesus Christ by obeying his commands, and following in his footsteps of sacrifice even unto death. It is not possible for us to be his co‑workers otherwise. In acknowledgment of this we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit a manifestation of the presence of the Father and His son; and this Holy Spirit, which is said to be the Spirit of Truth, guides and teaches us throughout all our pilgrimage journey to the heavenly home. This applies collectively to the whole Church of the firstborn whose names are written in heaven, as well as individually to each child of God. It is not for us to question the means by which God can guide us in our walk of faith, and teach us his perfect will through the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 6:45). We must leave this matter to Him who cannot err. Our part is to take God at his word and make a covenant with him by sacrifice; for if we perform our part, the heavenly Father will certainly perform his (Heb.6:13‑20).
Just as Moses communed with the Lord in the glory‑cloud in the tabernacle, so we who are spirit‑begotten are filled with the Holy Spirit as we yield ourselves unreservedly to Him (Acts 2:4; 4:8,31; Rom.6.13; Eph.5:18); and by means of prayer we speak to our Father, and ask for that wisdom and guidance which is readily granted in time of need (Heb.4:15,16; James 1:5‑7; 1 John 2:27). The Holy Spirit of love, truth and power, fills us to overflowing and completely transforms us when we take the step of obedience in compliance with the Divine condition (Acts 10:38; 1:8; 2 Tim.1:7). The one follows the other without fail, for Jehovah is the God of Truth (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4; 2:33; Eph.1:13; Titus 3:4‑7). A literal translation of Romans 5:5, reveals much depth of meaning in the Apostle's words: "And this hope is not put to shame, because the love of God has been flooded in our hearts by that Holy Spirit which has been given to us." This love, which is "flooded" or "poured" abroad in our heart by the Lord's Spirit sweeps out of it those things of an earthly, selfish, nature and leaves in their stead rich ground for the implanting of the graces of the Christian character (Matt.13:18‑23). By keeping our heart with all diligence, cultivating the fruits and graces of the Spirit and excluding obnoxious growths, we become copies of God's dear Son, and meet for the Master's use (Rom.8:29; 2 Tim.2:21). We know that he who possesses this degree of love is a spirit‑begotten child of God, because God is love (1 John 4.6‑8: 5:3). He it is who has the right to pray, for he can truthfully call the mighty Creator his Father (Rom.8:14‑17).
Next time—The Diversity of God's Will