Study 1 THE UNLIMITED POSSIBILITIES OF PRAYER
PRAYING ALWAYS WITH ALL PRAYER
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: 2 Corinthians 12:1-9)
In this first study we enter upon a very wide field of biblical research, and one which should prove to be of great and lasting profit to all of us. For ten weeks we are to become students; our objective is not simply to learn what the Bible teaches about the power and possibilities of prayer, but rather that we might be led by the Holy Spirit into a life of prayer. As we begin these studies we need to pray, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1); and if that prayer is answered, as surely it will be, something will be accomplished for the glory of God, for the blessing of others, and for the enriching of our own lives.
One of the most glorious prayer-promises in the Bible is in Jeremiah 33:3. This verse tells us how much the Lord is willing and waiting to do for His people if only they will come before Him in humility and make known their requests to Him. In this promise God seems to say to us – Psalm 81:10! How frequently we ask Him for a little, when all the time He is inviting us to ask Him for a lot!
There are two sides to every prayer – the human and the divine – man’s side and God’s side, the asking and the answering, and it is easy to see that these two aspects of prayer are contained in this key-verse. This means, of course, that there are two persons involved in prayer – the one who prays and the One who answers. It also means that prayer is conditional: the answer to prayer is conditional upon our praying. Look up and consider Matthew 18:19; James 4:2.
1. MAN’S PART: THE ASKING SIDE OF PRAYER
What is man’s part in prayer? Does it consist of some difficult and complicated process? Is there some formula that we have to learn? Is praying an intricate matter? Surely not! The simplest and most complete definition of the man-ward side of prayer is contained in the three words “Call to me…” Prayer is calling upon God, the creature calling upon the Creator, the child petitioning its father. These three words tell us three things about prayer:-
- 1. The source of prayer. Where does it begin? Does real prayer begin with the pray-er? No, prayer begins with God. He takes the initiative and by the Holy Spirit He makes man the channel of the petition (Romans 8:26). Compare James 5:16.
- 2. The simplicity of prayer. Could anything be simpler than just to ‘call’? – look up Genesis 4:26; 2 Samuel 22:4; 1 Chronicles 4:10; Job 12:4; Psalms 4:3; 50:15; 53:4; 91:15; 99:6; 102:2; Isaiah 55:6; Jonah 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:22.
- 3. The scope of prayer. How far does prayer reach? What are the limits of prayer? The answer to these questions is : ANYONE can pray (Romans 10:12-14), about ANYTHING (Mark 11:24), ANYWHERE (Matthew 18:19-20), and at ANY TIME (Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
2. GOD’S PART: THE ANSWERING SIDE OF PRAYER
Whenever man responds to God’s invitation to ‘call’, immediately there is a response on God’s part. It is impossible really to pray and not to have an answer, for God says, ‘You call, and as surely as you call I will answer.’ What kind of an answer does God give?
- 1. A CERTAIN ANSWER – “I will answer…” We cannot pray and fail to get an answer, for here is God’s guarantee about it. What a difference it would make if we could only take God at His word and believe what He says! When we pray:-
- (1) The answer may be DIRECT. Very often when we pray it is like taking a cheque to the bank and receiving the money before we leave the premises – look up Isaiah 65:24.
- (2) The answer may be DIFFERENT. It will come but it’s very different from what we expected. As an illustration look up 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.
- (3) The answer may be DELAYED. How often our prayers seem to be in vain, but God is simply saying to us, ‘Wait! I am going to answer your prayer in my time.’
- (4) The answer may be a DENIAL. Sometimes God says ‘No!’ Look up 1 Kings 19:4, and see what a good thing it is that God does not always answer our prayers in the way we want Him to!
- 2. A PERSONAL ANSWER – “I…you”. The greatest answer to prayer is God’s revelation of Himself – not the blessing that we want but an enrichment of our close walk and fellowship with Him. All this is illustrated in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. In receiving a revelation from the Lord and the promise of the sufficiency of His grace, Paul received a far more wonderful answer to his prayer than if God had removed the ‘thorn’; and just as God’s answer to Paul was a personal one, so His answer to you and me is personal.
- 3. A VISIBLE ANSWER. Notice the words “tell you” (or “show you”), and compare Matthew 6:6. When we pray God gives to us a demonstration of His power, so that we can say, ‘That is the answer to my prayer.’ Real prayer is not like sending arrows off into the sky and then never seeing them again; real prayer is making specific and definite requests before the Throne of Grace and receiving such definite and specific answers that we are able to say, ‘That is the answer to my prayer.’
- 4. A MIGHTY ANSWER. Notice the words “great and unsearchable” – meaning ‘inaccessible things’, ‘hard things’ – things that humanly speaking are impossible. How full the Bible is of illustrations of God doing the impossible in answer to the prayers of His people! Look up the following: Joshua 10:12-14; 1 Samuel 1:10-11 and 20; 1 Kings 17:1; James 5:16-17; 2 Kings 4:32-36; Daniel 2:28-30; Acts 12:5-18 etc. How challenged we should be about these historic evidences of the power and possibilities of prayer!
- 5. AN OVERWHELMING ANSWER. Notice the words, “things you do not know”. They almost suggest that answers to prayer may be greater than the last answer. Look up Ephesians 3:20 – God always gives more than all we ask or imagine.