Prayer is Communication with the Author of the Book

Think about being given a book that contained a story about an author along with his design for living that would lead to the most incredible life anyone could live on this earth. A life full of freedom, joy, fulfillment, contentment, successful marriages and families, and successful relationships.  How about not just being given this incredible book, but having the author, who is the greatest person who has ever lived, willing to walk with you every day to show you how what he instructed in the book applies to various things in your daily life?   Sounds like it would be a great deal and a great privilege.  Who would refuse that?  This is the amazing design God has provided for His people.

I had the great privilege of meeting with a famous veteran of the Charismatic Renewal. He has spoken to great crowds throughout the world, helped provide a magazine for several years that impacted millions of people from all denominations, and worked with many famous leaders giving instruction and counsel.

There were about 14 of us around a table for several hours and I felt like the stories I had read in Eusieubus’ Early Church History about the Apostle John’s final days at Ephesus.  They would carry him out and sit him among groups of disciples and he would instruct them.

When our friend and hero began to talk we all pulled out our cell phones to catch the wisdom that was flowing from his lips.  He quickly began to cry and with passion in his voice he began to say, “It’s all relational.  The Kingdom, the church, Christianity is relational walking with Jesus and hearing His word.”

He went on to say that “we must have the ‘Word’ (Greek Logos which is what God has said and revealed through all of Scripture, Jn 1:1-14, Ps 119:89, 1 Pet 1:25), but also the ‘Word’ (Greek Rhema which is what He continues to say in speech and ongoing communication Mt 4:4, Lk 4:4).  If we only have Logos without Rhema it will lead to dead religion.  Logos can’t trump Rhema and Rhema can’t trump Logos.”

Back to what I said earlier, we must have the book and walk with the Author of the book who out of a living relationship will speak His specific word towards specific issues.  If we only walk with the Bible and not the Author of the Bible we can commit “Bible idolatry.”  This is what the religious leaders did and Jesus rebuked them for it.

John 5:38-40 “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. (39) “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; (40) and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.” John Stott

Prayer, Logos, and Rhema

Prayer is essential to walk in the ongoing dialogue with Jesus where He speaks His Word to us.  Most of the time God speaks (Rhema) to us things from His Word (Logos) specifically directed towards our life and circumstances.

It works like learning a foreign language.  You learn words so you can enter into dialogue with people because the dialogue comes through the language you learned. God has “forever settled His word” (Logos Ps 119:89).  He continues to speak to us (Rhema) from His word in everyday life.  If the language isn’t in us we will have a hard time determining what He is saying.  This is why we must read and study His word.  We learn the language of God.

One of my friends used to say, “when you open the Bible you look into the face of Jesus.”  When we communicate with Him in prayer we hear His voice (Rhema) as He speaks from His word (Logos).

His voice is discerned from His word. If we don’t have the language from His word (Logos) we will tend to hear things that may not be Him.  They can be our emotions, fantasies, or preferences.  A good rule of thumb is “If what His is saying contradicts what He has said then it isn’t Him who is saying it.”  His Rhema word will never contradict His Logos word.

Prayer is the place where we learn to hear His word (Rhema) from His language (Logos).   It is where we get to learn and hear the voice from the Author of the book. Prayer is above all else communication with God and His word is to be in it.  There is a problem with people who don’t pray in order to hear His voice from His word, as well as those who don’t know His word which is the language by which He speaks.

Two extremes we must avoid.

  • Prayer and attempting to hear from God without His word (Logos) = Crazy Charismatic subjective hearers who are driven by their own fantasies or desires. This is inner subjectivism clothed in spirituality.
  • Having His word (Logos/Bible) without prayer and hearing His voice (Rhema) = Dry and dead intellectuals who twist and use the Bible to their own ends.  They use the Bible for themselves.  This is when the Bible becomes idolatry.  It is using His word without Him.



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What about Delayed or Unanswered Prayers?

Every person who has ever served God wrestles with the issue of delayed or unanswered prayer.  The Bible tells us in many places that we are to specifically ask for things in prayer.  It also promises that we will receive them.  At the same time, we all have had experiences of prayers that were not answered.  This dilemma can rob us of the Biblical motivation of faith in prayer.  Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him

Biblical reasons for unanswered prayer

Considering the different scriptural possibilities of unanswered prayer can be perplexing.  Here are some of them.

  • There is the problem of a lack of faith.

James 1:6-7 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. (7) For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord.

Mark 11:22-24  “Have faith in God…(24)  “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.

At the same time, there are many examples in Scripture of anxious, ambivalent people receiving things from God they ask for.

  • There can be the reason of bad motives or praying outside of His will.

James 4:3  you ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 

1 John 5:14-15  This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  (15)  And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

  • Other times it could be a lack of persistence.

Luke 11:9 Amp  So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you.

We must broaden our perspective on prayer

God is always “working in us” based on where He is taking us, not where we are at now.

There can be broader explanations for delayed or unanswered prayer.  We don’t know our future, only God does. God knows that what we desire right now we will probably not desire five years from now.   Things that we think are good for us right now may not ultimately be good for us over the course of a lifetime.  The thing we desired a few years ago (the opportunity, etc.) that didn’t happen may have taken us away from His purpose for our lives.  If God would have answered some of our prayers we prayed for in the past we may not have have experienced “this present result” as Joseph said in Genesis.

Genesis 45:5-8  “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life… (8)  “Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God..

Genesis 50:20  “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

Joseph probably prayed many times about his trial but only after 17 years had passed did he finally realized that God was actually bringing about something good through the delay.

Some unanswered prayers are only because God doesn’t want to do something for us. He wants to do something through us. Bill Johnson

There is at times an element of not granting our desires that God simply understands things better than we do.  In realizing this it will help us keep from losing heart when prayers seem to go unheeded.  When we keep praying over time about certain things most of the time our desires become clarified.  Some grow stronger and others fade away.

It is also important to remember our walk with God is the most important thing about consistent prayer.  We serve a God who is eternal.  He is without beginning or end.  He stands outside of time a space and sees all things at once.  He sees years ahead of us right now.  He not only sees what has happened but what will happen. Over the course of time as we walk with Him we are adjusted, strengthened, receive revelation, and we overcome by His strength and ability.  We grow and develop through a consistent walk with Him.

This is not to suggest that we should not be bold and specific in prayer or expect to receive specifically what we ask.  Scripture commands this in many places.  Yet we must also keep in mind that long-term persistence in prayer is not only encouraged but expected and God is always at work for good as we pray (Romans 8:28).

In the parable of the widow (Lk 18:1-8) Jesus told us that we should always pray and not lose heart; then He gives us a story as an example.  Clearly, He was showing us that we should not give up praying about specific, personal concerns, no matter how long it takes to receive an answer.  In the persistence, over the long haul, God is at work doing things in us as well as others beyond what we understand.  It is a little like what the great hockey player Wayne Gretsky said when asked about the secret of his ability, “I never skate where the puck is, I always head to where it is going.” God is always dealing with us based on where He is taking us.

I remember reading a story about staying persistent in prayer and the positive effects God works in us as we do.

There once was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Saviour appeared to him.

The Lord told him He had a work for him to do, and showed him a large rock explaining that he was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, and for many days he toiled from sunup to sundown; his shoulder set squarely against the cold massive surface of the rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling his whole day had been spent in vain.

Seeing that the man showed signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture – placing thoughts in the man’s mind, such as “Why kill yourself over this?, you’re never going to move it!” or “Boy, you’ve been at it a long time and you haven’t even scratched the surface!” etc. giving the man the impression the task was impossible and the man was an unworthy servant because he wasn’t moving the massive stone.

These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man and he started to ease up in his efforts. “Why kill myself?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time putting forth just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.” And this he did or at least planned on doing until, one day, he decided to take his troubles to the Lord.

“Lord,” he said, “I have labored hard and long in Your service, putting forth all my strength to do that which You have asked of me. Yet after all this time, I have not even budged that rock even half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”

To this the Lord responded compassionately, “My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. Yet still, you haven’t succeeded in moving the rock; and you come to Me now with a heavy heart and your strength spent. I, my friend will move the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done.”

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The Secret Place and Secret Reward of God

Prayer is the most important thing in the Christian life.  Prayer is our soul’s traffic way through which God speaks to us and we speak to Him. Jesus spoke about the importance of our ongoing relationship with Him through prayer, “Abide in the vine…He who abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing…if you abide in Me you ask what you want and it will be done for you” (Joh 15:1-7).  Prayer is about both a relationship with God and laboring together with Him as He accomplishes His will.

Prayer has a much bigger role in our life than simply asking God for things. There are effects that happen in prayer that go way beyond simply presenting a shopping list to God.  Your prayer life denotes how much you depend on your own ability or move in God’s ability.

The more self- confidence you have, the less you pray. The less self-confidence you have, the more you have to pray. Lars Widerberg.

In His famous teaching called “The Sermon on the Mount” Jesus contrasted a living relationship with God with the dead religion most people were living in during that time. One feature that He strongly emphasized was personal connectedness with God through prayer.

Mat 6:1-18 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven… 5  “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites…6  “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

There is something essential about our personal prayer life before God who “sees in secret.” There is also a unique “reward” that Jesus promises.  While our walk with God isn’t private (we walk with the people of God and live before an unbelieving world) it must be personal.   The core of our life is lived personally in the sight of God.  We connect personally with Him and He with us.   Without this personal foundation, it simply won’t work.

Living before an audience of One (noticed by God)

I remember during my football days how special it was for my dad to be at my games. He wasn’t able to attend many of my High School games due to his work schedule but later was able to make most of my college games.  There could be thousands of people in the stands but I always knew where my dad was sitting.  I wanted him to be proud of me and his perspective meant more than all the other people watching.  When I made a good play I would look his direction for eye contact.  When he gave an indication that he was happy with the way I was playing it was more rewarding than any of the other cheers or opinions. His look of approval and pride was its own unique reward.

The same was true when I was in other settings with my dad.  When things got out of hand or I was saying or doing something stupid just one look from my dad was motivation to change.  Like the old song, “just one look was all it took.”

There is a reward that comes out of living noticed by God.  Being noticed by God is that place in which you are looking at Him and you are aware He is looking at you.  This is the secret source of all Spiritual strength, direction, correction, and everything that has to do with living the Christian life successfully.

Three essentials that come from connecting with God in the secret place.

  • It is the source of all adjustments that lead to bearing fruit.  Joh 15:1-5 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  2  “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit…5  “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
  • It is where we personally hear God’s voice in order to be lead by Him.  Mat 4:4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”
  • It is that source of all Godly change.  2Co 3:3-18…Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  18  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Developing the secret life before Him

The only way to develop a life in which you become more aware of being noticed by God is to consistently have a personal prayer life with Him.   There is no magic pill that will do it for you.  Prayer is both a discipline as well as a delight 1 Timothy 4:7 discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. Sometimes the discipline comes before the delight.  I know from personal experience that many times I come before Him out of discipline at first but never fail to end up being delighted in Him that I did.

Never be satisfied with trying to fit prayer into your day but instead schedule your day around prayer.

If you aren’t doing it start now!  Set a time (even if you begin with a small amount) and don’t miss it.  One thought that has guided me over the years and helped me with consistency is, never be satisfied with trying to fit prayer into your day but instead schedule your day around prayer.   That means set the time, don’t miss it, and adjust everything else around it.  This is an important way to consistently walk in the “secret reward” of God which is essential to the Christian life.

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