“We tried it all, fasting, all night prayers, name it, we did it but to no avail. We were not seeing the results we sought. It was the most frustrating feeling ever”. These were remarks from a dear brother who wrote to me a couple of weeks ago. He was sharing his past and how he is now enjoying a new lease of life as a result of knowing what Christ obtained for him through the finished work of the cross.
By Dr Doug Mamvura
I can also identify with that brother’s remarks, because I also used to struggle with my prayer life. I now realise that, it was because I was praying amiss due to ignorance, religion and wrong teaching. Prayer should never be burdensome. It is a time of fellowshipping with our heavenly Father.
I know as we start the year like this, many believers are on a prayer and fasting programme. Praise God! However, some believers occupy themselves with various irrelevant activities and programmes emanating from religion and the tradition of man during this period of prayer and fasting. We don’t realise that we are on a hunger strike not praying and fasting. Some believers tend to confuse the order and focus on fasting and then praying instead of praying then fasting. Prayer comes before fasting. Not understanding this order may account for why people fast without praying and this is what I call a hunger strike and it produces no results apart from hunger.
The emphasis should be on praying and because you are praying, you are consciously staying away from food. I really liked the way Pastor Chris once put it “The fast is on because you are praying and not because you are not eating.” This is awesome.
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). There are different kinds of prayer, just as there are different games in sports, each with its own set of rules. Rules that apply to netball do not apply to football.
Similarly there are rules for spiritual laws that govern certain kinds of prayer, but do not apply to other kinds of prayer. Our problem is that we just lump together all kinds of prayer. If we take the rules that govern one kind of prayer and try to apply them to another kind of prayer we won’t see the desired results.
As we look into God’s Word we discover that there are different kinds of prayer as shown in the above quoted scripture. Many believers think that every prayer should end with the words “If it be thy will”. They say this is the way Jesus prayed. But Jesus didn’t pray this way every time.
When Jesus prayed at Lazarus’ tomb, He didn’t pray “If it be thy will”. He said, ”Father I thank you that You have heard Me …” (John 11:41). He went on to command Lazarus “to come forth.” This prayer was one to change circumstances.
When you pray to receive something or to change circumstances, never pray “if”. If you do, you are using the wrong rule and it will not work.
The only kind of prayer in which Jesus included an “if” was a prayer of consecration and dedication. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed “Father if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me, nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Jesus wasn’t praying to change something. He was praying a prayer of consecration and dedication. It is only in this type of prayer that we put “if”. Much damage has been done by a misunderstanding and misapplication of Luke 22:42. Jesus knew it was the Father’s will for Him to be made an offering for the sins of the world, however because of His unique relationship with God (John 5:19-23), Jesus was asking to accomplish God’s will some other way at the same time affirming His commitment to do His Father’s will and not His own”.
For us to pray ”Lord, if it be thy will in response to a promise that God has given us is nothing but unbelief and is not even remotely related to what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. We already have God’s promise in His Word. It is His will that our needs be met such as healing, deliverance, forgiveness of sins and prosperity.
Mark 11:24 makes it very clear that whatsoever things you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them “. God promised His people beginning with the Old Testament that they would prosper, He would take away their sickness and the number of their days He would fulfil (Exodus 23:25, 26). We actually live in a much better covenant than the people in the Old Testament.
God is interested in everything that touches our lives and He has made provision for us. In 3 John 2, He says “I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers”. So why would you then pray and say if it is thy will that I prosper or get well?
Mark 11:24 quoted above is talking about the prayer of faith. This primarily is an individual situation. It pertains to your desires. It is you praying not someone else praying with you. It’s not someone else agreeing with you. When you pray, you believe that you receive. If you do that, you will have “whatsoever you desire”. You will get the results.
Baby Christians can be carried on a mature Christian’s faith, but after a certain period of time, God expects them to develop their own prayer life and their own faith. Unfortunately some of us have just remained baby Christians. When you were first saved, you were a baby. Naturally the pastor could carry you on his faith. There were Christians praying for you who would carry you, their faith would work for you. However you can’t remain a baby forever.
God expects people who know the full Gospel to operate their own faith. Yet many times they want to remain babies. If everybody in the church remain a baby, who would care for the new believers?
An evangelist is primarily interested in winning the lost. However if everyone were an evangelist, the people who get saved always would be babies. God saw these babies needed a shepherd and He set pastors in the church. He wanted the sheep to be fed. He also put teachers in the church to help people grow in faith and the knowledge of the Word.
On the other hand, often it seems the only kind of prayer we are familiar with is petition prayer. We are always asking or petitioning God to do something and of course this is scriptural.
However in Acts 13:2 we are told “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them”. In this scripture those Christians were not petitioning God to do anything.”They ministered to the Lord and fasted”
Most of our church services are designed so we come together and minister to one another. We sing, but in very few songs do we minister to the Lord. Instead we minister to one another. When we pray, our praying is primarily a petition. We are petitioning the Lord to move in our midst, to manifest Himself among us, to meet our needs.
We know God is concerned about us and wants to meet our needs. Jesus said our heavenly Father knows what we need and we should ask Him to supply these needs. However most of the time we are always begging God. We need times of waiting on God and ministering to the Lord, times when we are not asking for anything not petitioning but ministering to Him.
Perhaps we are already taking time for this in our individual prayer lives, but we need this kind of prayer as a group or a church. God can move in this kind of atmosphere. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, our text says, the Holy Ghost manifested Himself. God made man to fellowship with Him. He is our Father because we are born of God.
He certainly enjoys fellowship with us His children through prayer.
l Dr Doug Mamvura is a graduate of Charis Bible School. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @dougmamvura