Following is a series of articles originally published in The LaGrange Daily News weekend edition over a period of several weeks.
In 2000, “The Prayer of Jabez” by Bruce Wilkinson became one of the fastest selling books of all time, with more than 9 million sold. The premise of the book is that if you pray “the prayer of Jabez” (1 Chr. 4:10), you can change your life for the better. Certainly, prayer is a very good thing and can have a very positive impact on our lives. The problem is that it made Jabez’s prayer a kind of “magic word” formula to receive blessings from God on demand. It was as if the prayer was the currency for a blessings vending machine. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to the biblical principles involved in the prayer of faith.
While we might learn from the way people in the Bible prayed, there is no prayer of the Bible that is to be taken and repeated as just a rote formula that obligates God to respond the way we want Him to. Nowhere in the Bible are we ever told that Jabez’s prayer is an example of how we are to pray. Rather, it is an example of someone who obviously had trusting faith in God’s ability and willingness to bless him and he entreats God for those blessings.
The closest we could come to finding a “formula” for prayer in the Bible is the prayer Jesus taught His disciples (Matthew 6:9-13). Many take this prayer and just repeat it verbatim with no real understanding of what is being prayed. But Jesus didn’t tell His disciples to “repeat after me.” In Luke 11:2, Jesus says “When you pray, say,” in Matthew 6:9, He says, “In this manner, therefore, pray.” So, even when He says “say,” this prayer, He doesn’t mean to just repeat it in the same words He uses. No, Jesus taught a “manner” for prayer. The Greek word translated “say,” in Luke 11:2, means “to put word to word in speaking, join words together” (Thayer’s). So, Jesus was telling His disciples that when they pray they were to put words together “like this,” i.e. “in this manner.” The prayer that the Lord taught to His disciples teaches the principles involved in the prayer of faith, not a “magic word” formula to just repeat by rote at God. In the very context of this example payer, Jesus said “when you pray, do not use vain repetitions.” Vain repetitions would be the very thing people do with the prayer Jesus taught in the following verses; i.e. just repeating the words verbatim without any true understanding of those words or any true expression of heartfelt faith.
Principles for The Prayer of Faith:
When Jesus said, “in this manner” pray, He was giving us some principles to follow in offering up our heartfelt expression of faith to God in prayer. He started out with the Divine Person to whom our prayers are addressed, “Our Father in heaven.” Do you know that Jesus never, not once, ever instructed anyone to pray to Him? Every time Jesus prayed, and every time His disciples prayed, those prayers were addressed to the Heavenly Father (John 17:1, 11, 25; Colossians 1:3).
Jesus taught that when the Heavenly Father is addressed in prayer, He is to be addressed with reverence, “Hallowed by Your name.” The word translated “hallowed” means “to render or acknowledge to be venerable, to hallow” (Thayer’s). It means that God is to be addressed with “great respect.” When we pray to our Father in heaven we honor and glorify Him with great respect and reverence.
Jesus taught that when we pray we are to pray for the kingdom of God, “Your kingdom come.” We know that when Jesus taught this prayer the kingdom of God had not yet come. Jesus and the disciples were preaching that the kingdom of God was “at hand,” i.e. coming soon (Matthew 4:17; 10:7; et al). So, here is an example of where the exact words of this prayer cannot even be scripturally repeated because the kingdom of God has already come. Rather, we follow the principle of the prayer to pray for the kingdom. Not that it will come, because it already has (Matthew 16:18, 19; Mark 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4, 41, 47), but that it will continue to grow and prosper (cf. Colossians 1:9-14; 2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2; Hebrews 13:20, 21; et al).
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come,” we understand that this was before the establishment of the church in Acts 2. The disciples were praying for the coming kingdom that John the Baptist, Jesus and the disciples were preaching about (Matthew 3:1-3; 4:17; 10:7-8; Mark 1:14-15). From Acts chapter 2 onward the kingdom is no longer spoken of as coming but as present (Acts 2:47; Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:9; et al). So, the principle for our prayers today is not to pray for the kingdom to come, because it already came, but to pray for the increase of the kingdom (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
The next part of Matthew 6:10 also teaches us to pray for the kingdom of God. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” this is a prayer for the increase and faithfulness of the kingdom. Where is it that people live according to the will of God? It is in the kingdom, the church of Christ, that men understand the sovereign rule of God and submit to His will for their lives. In the world, apart from God, people live according to their own will in denial of God’s authority as the sovereign ruler of all creation.
That this is a prayer for the faithfulness of the church, the kingdom of God, is made clear when we see what Jesus said in connection with His building His church (Matthew 16:18-19). When Jesus said, “I will build My church,” He went on to say that He would give the apostles “the keys of the kingdom.” Clearly, the church and the kingdom are the same thing. Jesus certainly wasn’t promising the apostles to build one thing, the church, and to give the apostles “the keys” to something else, the kingdom. That wouldn’t make any sense! He said He would build His church/kingdom and the apostles would be given the ability to open the way into it. The keys of the kingdom that the apostles were given was the inspired gospel they preached after being baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). When the gospel was preached men were convicted of their sins and wanted to know how to be saved (Acts 2:37-38). When the people gladly received what was preached by the apostles they were added to the church (Acts 2:40-41, 47), i.e. conveyed into the kingdom (Colossians 1:13). They used the keys – the gospel – to open the way into the kingdom!
Now, look at what Jesus said the apostles would do when they opened the way into the kingdom (Matthew 16:19). They would bind on earth what had been bound in heaven and they would loose on earth what had been loosed in heaven. That is, in the kingdom/church men would live according to the law of heaven. It is in the church that the will of God is “done on earth as it is in heaven.”
So, the prayer of “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is a prayer for the will of God to spread over the earth as the borders of the kingdom spread over the earth. For this prayer to be fulfilled, the disciples of Christ must be preaching and teaching the will of God, and bringing as many people as will hear and obey the gospel into the kingdom of God, in submission to His sovereign will. If you’re praying the prayer are you doing the work? May the church of Christ continue to grow and prosper in accordance with the will of God and to the salvation of souls!
As we continue to look at the principles of prayer Jesus taught in Matthew 6:9-13, we see the three final principles of faithful prayer being: Provision, Pardon, and Protection.
Pray for God’s Provision
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” it is a prayer for God’s provision of our necessities. At the time and in the culture that Jesus made this statement, it was common for people to earn their living as day laborers. They would have to find work for that day so that they could receive a day’s wage. Without that opportunity to work they would not be able to purchase their daily necessities. Jesus used this cultural setting in His teaching often (cf. Matthew 20:1-16; Luke 10:7; John 4:34-38; et al).
With the cultural setting of this statement in mind, we see that Jesus wasn’t teaching His disciples to pray for God to provide something for them that they themselves were not willing to work for. Rather, such a statement would have been understood as praying for the opportunity to work and earn their daily wage so they could buy their daily bread. It is only in a society that believes they are owed something that such a statement would be taken to mean that God is supposed to just give me whatever I want without me having to do anything for it. No! God expects us to do our part! If we desire the opportunity to work and provide for our necessities then God, based on our faithful petition of His involvement in our lives, will open opportunities to us to have the necessities we need. The old saying, “God helps those who help themselves,” isn’t found verbatim in the Bible but the principle certainly is. Laziness and an unwillingness to work is never spoken of as a good thing in the Bible. God’s blessings are for those willing to work! (Proverbs 13:4). Just as laziness is contrary to God’s will for man, so is selfish ambition (Philippians 2:3) and haughtiness (Proverbs 16:18). Rather, we must have godly ambition, recognizing that our provisions come from God and are assured in our faithful service to Him (Matthew 6:28-34). The prayer for provision is a prayer both seeking God’s providence to open opportunities to us for us to work and provide for our necessities and a prayer of thanks to God in acknowledgement of where those provisions come from.
Pray for God’s Pardon
When we talk about praying for God’s pardon we need to be very clear about who Jesus is talking to when He says, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” It is very important to keep in mind here that Jesus is talking to people who are already His disciples. Nowhere does Jesus ever teach for people to pray in order to become His disciple. Rather, the prayer for forgiveness is for those who are already His disciples. The only way to be forgiven is to be cleansed in the blood of Christ. Nowhere are we told to pray for the blood of Christ. Rather we are told to be baptized into His death (Romans 6:3-5; Galatians 3:26-27). We are told to “arise and be baptized, and wash away” our sins (Acts 22:16). We are washed from our sins in the blood of Christ (Revelation 1:5), we are buried with Him in baptism (Colossians 2:12). Clearly, we come into contact with the blood of Christ when we are baptized into Christ. We do not contact the blood of Christ by praying a so-called “Sinner’s Prayer.” Such a prayer is nowhere in the Bible! It is after we have been baptized into Christ that we have access to the throne of grace to appeal to God for forgiveness when we sin as Christians (2 John 1:7-10; Acts 8:13, 20-24).
In part three, we left off talking about the prayer for God’s Pardon. That is, Jesus taught His disciples to pray for God to forgive them (Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4). One of the things we must be very clear about is that Jesus was talking to His disciples, i.e. those who had already become His followers and were already in fellowship with Christ and the Father. The reason this is important is because of the popular error of the alien sinner being taught to pray for their salvation. It is called the Sinner’s Prayer and it is not found anywhere in the Bible. It typically goes something like this:
Dear God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge to You that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived; I need your forgiveness.
I believe that your only begotten Son Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to turn from my sin.
You said in Your Holy Word, Romans 10:9 that if we confess the Lord our God and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved.
Right now I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This very moment I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior and according to His Word, right now I am saved.
Thank you Jesus for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins. I thank you Jesus that your grace never leads to license, but rather it always leads to repentance. Therefore Lord Jesus transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to you alone and not to myself.
Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life. AMEN.
The very website from which I quote this (http://salvationprayer.info/home/salvation/), says “Regarding the location of the Sinner’s Prayer in the Bible? Well, there isn’t one mentioned…” What? The prayer that is taught to numerous thousands of people by numerous denominations as the way they are to be saved isn’t in the Bible? Yes, that is what it says and it is absolutely correct. As a matter of fact, I am so sure that the Sinner’s Prayer is not found anywhere in the Bible that I have a video offering a $1,000 reward for anyone that can show it to me. How could we base the means of our salvation on an “implication”? That’s what the website says, that the Sinner’s Prayer isn’t in the Bible but it is implied? Would God really leave something so important up to our own interpretation of an implication? No! Of course not. The Bible is very clear about what it takes to be saved and it isn’t a so-called implied prayer.
The website says that the Sinner’s Prayer is implied in Romans 10:9, 10. That passage says, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Where does that passage refer, or imply, anything about saying a prayer?
The Greek word for “confess” in this passage is found 24 times in 21 verses. Of those, the closest someone could say that the word comes to prayer is in Hebrews 13:15, which is a different form of the word and is translated “thanks” in the NKJV. The form of the word used there means to profess publicly and is talking about worshipping God, not prayer specifically and certainly not an alien sinner’s prayer. And 1 John 1:9, where John says, “If we (i.e. Christians, not alien sinners) confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteous.” This is another example of why context is so important. John is talking to those who had already been saved by Christ that continue to repent and ask God’s forgiveness as a child of God. He is not at all including the alien sinner in this statement.
What about Romans 10:9, 10? The word “confess” there means “to profess.” If we look for an example of an alien sinner being told to pray for their salvation, we will find none. But if we look for an example of an alien sinner being told to confess in order to be saved we do have a very good example of what that means. In Acts 8:35-39 we have the example of the Ethiopian Eunuch’s conversion. Philip preached Jesus to him (Acts 8:35). The eunuch saw a pool of water and wanted to know if he could be baptized into Christ based on Philip’s preaching Jesus to him (Acts 8:36). Philip told him that the only thing hindering him from being baptized was whether or not he believed the word spoken about Christ (Acts 8:37). So the eunuch made a confession with the mouth unto salvation based on the belief of his heart (Acts 8:37; cf. Rom. 10:9, 10). Hearing his confession with the mouth unto salvation (i.e. in the direction of salvation), Philip took him down into the water and baptized him into Christ (Acts 8:38). After which the eunuch went on his way rejoicing in his salvation (Acts 8:39). There is the example of the roll Romans 10:9, 10 plays in someone obeying the gospel plan of salvation. Not a non-existent “Sinner’s Prayer.” Jesus did not teach the concept of a “Sinner’s Prayer” and neither did Paul. Obey the gospel plan of salvation to be born again through the word of God (1 Peter 1:23)!
I’ve had that video offering $1,000 for the Sinner’s Prayer in the Bible for a long time and haven’t had anyone claim that reward yet. But if you’d like to give it a shot please let me know. I’ll bring my checkbook and see how it goes.
In Matthew 6:13, Jesus taught His disciples to pray that they be not led into temptation. When we want to see what temptation is we can look at James 1:12-15. James says that we are “tempted” when we are drawn away from God by our own desires and “enticed.” We all face temptation because there are always things that we desire, things that entice us to leave off following God and turn back to the world (cf. 1 John 2:15-16). So, what is it we are praying for when we pray for God to “lead us not into temptation”? It is a prayer for God’s protection – His strength and encouragement – against those things that would “entice” us to sin.
Temptation itself is not sin. Jesus was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:15). But Jesus didn’t sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). James said that temptation leads to sin and sin leads to death. Praying not to be led into temptation is to pray that we not even set our foot in the direction of sin. It is cutting sin off at the roots. Temptation leads to sin so avoid those things that tempt you, those desires that draw you to go against God. “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;” (Psalm 1:1). The “blessed man” doesn’t even point his foot in the same direction as the ungodly!
If we are led by God then we are led away from temptation, not toward it. The next line of Psalm 1 says the blessed man delights in the law of the Lord day and night (Psalm 1:2). He is not led in the way of the ungodly so he’s not going to end up standing with sinners or sitting with the scornful. He didn’t even start down that direction because he was led by the word of God (i.e. “the law of the Lord). The apostle Paul tells us that, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). And, “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). So, the sons of God are not led into temptation because they are following the leading of the Spirit by the word of God.
The next part of the prayer in Matthew 6:13 says, “But deliver us from the evil one.” The devil will always be using the things of the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-16) – to try and cause us to fall. It is “the evil one” that wants to destroy our spiritual life! He “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). As long as we are led by the Spirit of God through His word, we submit to God and resist the the devil (James 4:7). In our submission to God’s word we have protection from the devil – he will flee from us!
Notice the protection we have through God’s holy word. We have “the whole armor of God” when we keep ourselves in His word (Ephesians 6:10-20). Every piece of that armor is provided by the word of God. Girded with truth (Ephesians 6:14) – God’s word is truth (John 17:17). Wearing the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14) – the word of righteousness (Hebrews 5:13). Feet shod with the gospel (Ephesians 6:15) – the preaching of God’s word (1 Corinthians 15:1). Holding up the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16) – the faith that comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). Having the helmet of salvation (Ephesians 6:17) – the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Taking the fight to the devil with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). We are fully clothed in God’s protective armor when we keep ourselves in His word!
Never forget how Jesus protected Himself against the temptations of “the evil one.” Every temptation that the devil brought against Him was answered with “It is written” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). We can, and must, protect ourselves against temptation in the same way – by saying with Christ, “it is written.”
When we pray for God’s protection from temptation and “the evil one,” we are praying for a stronger resolve to stay in the word of God for all the protection that God has put there for our spiritual defense (Ephesians 6:18-20). Paul wanted the diligent prayers of the church that the protective gospel of Christ would continue to spread and be preached with boldness. When you pray for God’s protection let it be an expression of your resolve to be led by the word of God and not to allow “the evil one” to draw you away from God.