Exploring Prayer With
By Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
Chapter 28 — Be Careful What You Pray
This chapter could be called, "Safety in Prayer," "Safeguards in Prayer," or "Don't Pray the Wrong Thing."
In a previous chapter we dealt with the great heart of God and how God wants and loves to answer our prayers. Now because He does have such a tremendous desire, we must be very careful for what we pray. We have such promises in the Bible as, Ask what ye will." This places a great responsibility on the Christian to be careful got what He prays. With a God Who loves us so much and Who in many ways almost places a carte blanche before us if we walk close to Him and abide in Him, we must take special care for those things that are best for us and for God's work.
There is an interesting story in Numbers 22, Balaam had been invited to do an unwise thing; that is, to leave the will of God and go to Moab. Balaam, being the faithful preacher that he was, went to God and asked God what he should do. God very plainly said, "Thou shalt not go with them." (Numbers 22:12) Balaam returned to the princes of Balak and said in verse 13, "The Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you." Now that should have settled it, but Balaam was not careful in his prayer, for Balak became more insistent than ever. Balak sent more princes with more authority than the others, and again sought for Balaam's willingness to come to Moab. Balaam was again very emphatic when in verse 18 he said, "I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more," but he made a tragic mistake! In verse 19 he said, "Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more." The Lord didn't have to say anything more to Balaam! He had already told Balaam what to do, but Balaam did not build a safeguard around his prayers. He came back again, and for some reason known only to the great heart of God, God told Balaam this time to go ahead!
Why did God change His mind? Was He allowing Balaam to go ahead just to show him the consequences of doubting God's commandment? Was He trying to teach Balaam to be careful in the future? Did God acquiesce because He was weary? Was it that God wanted Balaam to have what he wanted? I don't know, but I do know that Balaam went to Moab and that an entire race was corrupted because of it! Tragedy came to thousands and thousands of lives because Balaam was not safe in his praying.
This same type of thing is found concerning divorce. God never wants any couple to divorce for any reason, but He does give a permission for divorce in the case of fornication. God is saying, "I want one thing, but I will permit another. I would prefer you not to divorce ever for any reason, but because your hearts are hard, I will allow you to do it for just one reason."
These safeguards in prayer that we will mention in this chapter are needful because God does tell us to ask WHAT WE WANT. Mark 11:24, "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." John 15:7, "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Psalm 37:4, "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart." Philippians 4:6, "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." John 14:14, "If ye shall ask any thing in My name, I will do it." All of these promises and others remind us that with such a blank check, we must be careful, very careful!
Of course, in prayer, as in salvation, we can come to God only through Jesus. Hebrews 4:14-16, "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." John 14:6, "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me." Hence, all prayer goes through Jesus, or to use a figure of speech, passes across His desk before it goes to the Father. Of course, all prayer is heard by Him because He is sitting on the right hand of the Father all the time.
There are several different attitudes that Jesus could have concerning our prayers as they come through Him to the Father. He may approve them; He may endorse them; He may recommend them; He may even plead for them. Hence, you can see that He could show different degrees of enthusiasm. There are many Scriptures in the Bible that teach us that the Father seeks counsel from the Son. Isaiah 9:6, "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." The word "counsellor" here deals mainly with the relationship that the Father has with the Son. Jesus is the wonderful counsellor. Especially is this true in His relationship with the Father. He counsels with His father; so as Jesus counsels with the Father, He may approve our prayer requests. He may be even more enthusiastic than that—He may endorse a prayer request; or He may go farther than that—He may recommend it; or He may even go so far as to plead for it. I wonder how many earthly parents love their children so much that they give them too much in response to the child's request. When one stops to realize how much God loves us, it is no wonder that we should be careful when we come to Him in prayer.
There are, thank God, some safeguards that we should remember concerning prayer.
1. Pray according to Bible principles. The Christian should know his Bible and know it well. This will lead him to pray according to the principles set down in the Word of God. This gives a great security, safety and safeguard to our praying.
2. Pray in the will of God. I John 5:14,15, "And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us: And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him." Notice how Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. Matthew 26:38,39, "Then saith He unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with Me. And He went a little further, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt." He told the Father His will, but then He prayed for the Father's will to be done. It is commonly believed that Jesus was talking about the cup of death, the cup of suffering or the cup of becoming accursed for sin. No, no, no! Jesus wasn't asking the Father to keep Him from dying; He knew He was going to die! He came to die! His death was called "the glory that was set before Him." He set His face like a flint toward Jerusalem. He wanted to die for us. He gladly laid down His life for us.
When He was praying, "let this cup pass from Me," He was afraid that He was going to die then; that is, there in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew that it was not the plan of God for Him to die there. He knew that He was supposed to go to Calvary on the day of the Passover and become our Passover and in so doing, pay the penalty for our sins. He was saying, "Father, let the cup of death pass from Me now." Let Me wait for the cross. That is why I came." Then He says, "Nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done." He said, "Father, You know best. I want it to be done according to Thy will." Added light is thrown upon this in Hebrews 5:7, " Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared." A real safeguard in prayer is always to pray in the will of God.
3. Live a spiritual life. Psalm 37:4, "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart." John 15:7, "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Psalm 1:1-3, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in His law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." If we walk in the Spirit and live a spiritual-filled life, we will then pray in the Spirit. How dangerous it is for a Christian to get in the flesh, as perhaps Balaam did when he came the second time and sought for God's permission to go to Moab!
4. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you make your list of requests that you are to take to the Father. Romans 8:26,27, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." As is mentioned in another chapter of this book, the intercession that the Apostle speaks about in Romans 8:26 is the Holy Spirit making intercession TO the one praying. In other words, the Holy Spirit tells us what to pray. Ah, here is a blessed safeguard! Ask the Holy Spirit to help you make your prayer list. With His help and His leadership there is great safety, and we can avoid making foolish requests. In verse 27 the intercession means intercession WITH us. Once the Holy Spirit has made intercession to us in telling us what to pray for, He then goes to the Father with us and makes intercession with us before the Father. Actually the Holy Spirit becomes our prayer partner as we present our petitions to the Father. This is a great way to prevent making a prayer that is a foolish one and risking God allowing us to do something that is not His first choice, such as in the case of Balaam.
5. Pray from the will of God. Oh yes, pray in the will of God, but always pray from the will of God. Always be in His will. When we are praying from His perfect will or, if we have forfeited His perfect will, from His permissive or acceptable or improvised will, we are adding another ticket to the fence of protection against an unwise request.
6. Remember how the prayer worked out in the past. Stop to think if it was best before. Use the past as a pattern for the future.
Because we have a God Who loves us so much, Who delights in answering our prayers and Who has given us so many amazing promises, we must be careful what we pray.
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