Romans Bible Study Lesson 27

Printer friendly version

 

Prayer

Romans 8:23—27

Summary

So far in chapter 8 Paul starts with our assurance in Christ (no condemnation) continues with our walk in the Spirit and our obligation to live holy lives. If we do this, we will suffer, either through the world’s persecution or just the constant struggle we must endure in order to lead lives pleasing to God. Sin has caused all believers to groan and long for the return of Christ to glorify our bodies and free us from this corrupt creation and the pervasive presence of sin. Paul ends with a focus upon our hope (verse 23—25). This is where we need to keep our focus. If we can live our live looking upward, we can live a life outside the realm of fear and worry. By continually renewing our minds, we can rejoice through even the impossibly tough times. By seeking out His biblical will for us—that which is written directly to the Church, the Body of Christ—we can be assured of not being lead to obey things that weren’t written to us. The only way to please God is to know what He has written to us.

Colossians 1:9—12 9For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12giving thanks to the Father…

Verse 23—25

Even though we are groaning and all of creation is groaning because of the effects of the original Adamic sin, we have a hope of the glory that is to come. Heaven is such a glorious future that Paul was not allowed to tell us anything about his visit there when he was caught up into the third heaven. Could it be that many of us would desire heaven so greatly that we would not be able to concentrate on our earthly tasks? Like a child waiting for Christmas could we be so distracted by our future that we disregard the present?

The point of these verses is that we have an absolutely certain future that we look forward to expectantly. If we already have obtained our promised future we would have no reason to hope. However, God has given us as much as we need to know so that we can look forward to and wait eagerly for our final destination while fulfilling our duties on earth. God has given us this hope so that we can get through the suffering and pain that we all will experience. Everything we need to live through now is a minor inconveniences when we compare it with our future in heaven. In the mean time we need to put our trust completely in God.

Verse 26—27

The phrase “In the same way” refers to the previous verses about the Holy Spirit. By looking back we can see how the Holy Spirit is referenced:

Verse 2: We are living under the Law of the Spirit.

Verses 5—9: We are living according to the Spirit if the Spirit dwells in us.

Verse 11: As Christ was raised by the Father through the power of the Spirit so shall we.

Verse 14: Those who are being led by the Spirit are children of God.

Verse 16: The Spirit testifies with our spirit.

Options of interpretation:

1. As the Spirit helps us to live godly lives He helps our weakness…

2. The power of God is demonstrated by the Spirit and can therefore help our weakness.

3. As the Spirit testifies with our spirit He helps our weakness…

4. As the Spirit helps us in all areas of our life, he helps our weakness…

We are weak in all areas of our life. It is the Holy Spirit who makes up for our weakness. Notice He is not giving us the strength but He is our strength. He is the one who makes up for our weakness. This is why we need to depend upon the Spirit for the ability to please God. Without the Holy Spirit indwelling us we are incapable of pleasing God.

Galatians 5:19—23 19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

We see from this verse (26) that the Spirit specifically helps us when we pray. Previous to this we saw how the Spirit helps in leading us (verse 14), in giving us assurance (verse 16), and in guaranteeing our future glorification (23). Now we see the Spirit helps in our prayer life.

It’s obvious from this verse that we do not pray directly to God the Father. Everything goes through the Holy Spirit. All of this is to our advantage since the Holy Spirit is continually with us, He knows us better than even we know ourselves. He is able to reach down into our inner person to understand exactly what we are going through and what pains us and then to interpret these thoughts, feeling, desires, struggles, longings and hopes and bring them directly to the Father, all of this being done within the will of the Father. This can be very freeing to us since it is impossible for us to pray incorrectly or outside of God’s will. This actually is a good deal for us because God doesn’t blindly answer any pray that we are capable of praying but goes way beyond that to answering things that we are incapable of even thinking. All of this is being done through the power that dwells within us, the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,

Beyond this, we are told to pray for every little thing that bothers us. If it is a concern to us, it is a concern to God. In return, we are not promised that He will answer every prayer according to our desire but that we will be given peace, a peace that will guard our hearts and minds.

Philippians 4:6—7 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

There are many who take verses like Ephesians 6:18 to mean that we should be speaking in tongues. However, if we view the Ephesians passage with the Romans passage and add a little Galatians we will see that praying in the Spirit would be part of our walking in the Spirit. It is done through His power but has nothing to do with speaking in tongues. Praying in the Spirit is possible because we, as believers, ARE in the Spirit (Romans 8:9). Just as we need to depend on the Holy Spirit in our daily walk we need to depend upon Him in our prayer life.

Ephesians 6:18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

Galatians 5:16, 23 16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

Contained in this verse is the presumption that all believers need to pray. We don’t pray to get stuff from God, we pray because it shows where our trust is. A lack of prayer may be an indication we are relying upon our self instead of God. When we understand how weak and helpless we are it should drive us to God because He is our strength. Jesus acknowledged the weakness of His flesh by taking the time to pull back from His ministry and communicate with the Father (Matthew 14:23; Luke 5:16).

Luke 5:16 But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

Romans 12:12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,

Prayer in the Gospels

There is a big difference between how prayer was handled in the Gospels (while under the Gospel of the Kingdom) and prayer in the Pauline epistles (under the Gospel of the Grace of God). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told His listeners that those who believe would be able to ask anything and it would be done.

Matthew 7:7—8 7“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8“For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

As Jesus was preparing His disciples to take over the responsibilities that they were being trained for, He gave them the authority and the source of power to carry them out. Just as Jesus relied completely upon the Father, now the Disciples were to do the same. This worked because the Holy Spirit was the one directing and empowering them in all they did. Having two or more come together in agreement was a system of checks and balances. This would help guarantee that one of the Disciples was not asking anything selfishly or outside of God’s will.

John 11:21—22 21Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22“Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

John 15: 16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

Matthew 18:18—20 18“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.19“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

In the last verse we see that the Disciples were given the power to forgive sins. This was something that only God can do but this power was given to the Disciples to carry on the ministry of Jesus in His absence.

This same promise of having prayers answered “Yes” is also given in the books of James and 1 John.

James 5:15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

1 John 3:22 and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.

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

This same principle of prayer continues in these books because they are written with the Kingdom economy in mind. They are not connected to Paul’s message of Grace. If we were to take out all of Paul’s writings, the last three-fourths of Acts and Hebrews we would see no real break in God’s plan for Israel. All of these events hold together because they are all concerning the coming Kingdom. When we look at all of Paul’s writings we see continuity between all 13 of his books because he was writing about the new Dispensation of the Gospel of Grace—a Mystery revealed to Paul (Romans 16:25—26).

All of this was possible for believing Jews in early Acts because of the miraculous enabling by the Holy Spirit. This coming of the Holy Spirit was prophesied in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 36:27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

We see from the above verse that the Holy Spirit will take control of all believing Israelites in the Millennial Kingdom and cause them to obey the Law. Since they will continually be within God’s will they will always be able to pray within His will so that everything they pray for will come to pass. The events in early Acts were a prelude to the soon-to-come Millennial Kingdom therefore the events we see in a small group of believing Israelites at Jerusalem would soon spread to all believing Israelites after the King takes His seat in the coming Kingdom.

James 5:15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

Why pray?

Have you ever though it was silly to pray since God already knows what you are going to pray for and He already knows how He is going to answer. Will something actually change because you pray or don’t pray? Can you have an effect on how God acts? If you were an open theist you would think that God does not know all things and therefore your prayers could be effective in shaping the future because God is “open” to be influenced by people through prayer and actions. We seem to see this principle at work in the following account:

Exodus 32:7—14 7Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8“They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!'” 9The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. 10“Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.” 11Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12“Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. 13“Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'” 14So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.

God was going to destroy the Israelites because of their disobedience but Moses gave Him three reasons not to: 1) The Egyptians would think the Israelite God was evil. 2) God promised that Israel would be a great people. 3) He promised them land where they would dwell forever.

Is this an example of man changing God’s mind or is it an example of God changing man’s mind? On the surface it appears that Moses has changed God’s mind. However, there are many verses that show God sovereign over all of creation. He has everything worked out in accordance with His will. He knows the beginning from the end so nothing can slip by God. To be truly sovereign you must be both all-knowing and all-powerful. If God lacked in one of these areas He would not be a sovereign God.

Ephesians 1:11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

Psalms 115:3 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Isaiah 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;

It would appear that God was working in Moses through this incident. God knows everything that will happen before it happens, so instead of Moses changing God, it was God changing Moses. I believe God was preparing Moses to deal with the many times Israel would turn her back on God and go her own way. Having pled with God to save Israel from destruction he now would need to do everything possible to get them to follow God and not give up on them.

We act similarly with our children. If your son keeps leaving a toy in the middle of the floor, after being told to put it away, you finally pick it up and tell him: “I’m going to throw it away.” As he follows you to the trash can crying and pleading with you not to do it you finally tell him: “Well, Okay, I won’t throw it out but you had better pick up your toys from now on.”

Did your son cause you to change your mind? No. You already knew what you were going to do but you did this so you could change your son’s behavior.

In summary, there seems to be two possible ways of looking at how prayer works; either God uses prayer to bring about His sovereign will or man uses prayer to bring about his own will. I side with the former view.

Purpose of Prayer

I believe that prayer is very important in a believer’s life. We are told to pray and pray often. We see examples of this in Jesus and in Paul who always depended upon prayer to accomplish what they were sent for.

Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing

I can think of three purposes of prayer:

1. An acknowledgement of weakness. Your weakness should humbly drive you to the source of your strength.

2. To align our will with His will.

3. To actively participate in God’s program and will. He has allowed us to be a participant in all He does. There seems to be a connection between what I pray and what God does but just how that works is a mystery.

The main reason we should pray is because God said we should.

Peace

We are now given a promise of peace instead of receiving everything prayed for in faith. We bring all things to God through the Holy Spirit who interprets everything we say and then presents them to God the Father. We can have peace because we know God loves us and desires only the very best for us. The trials and suffering we experience are all a part of His plan for us to grow and mature in Him. As mature believers we are better able to build up and edify each other and reach out to the world with the message of reconciliation.

Philippians 4:6—7 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.