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Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
Hello, and welcome to HBS. In case you missed it we’ve been studying the often repeated word “groan” in Paul’s teachings these past few weeks. In the last two sessions, we’ve taken a good long look at what our apostle Paul meant when he said, “the whole creation groans” and compared this to the pains a woman endures in the course of childbirth, and then we studied his statement, “we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves…”
This week we’re going to examine Paul’s phrase, “the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…” helping us in our weakness for we do not know how to pray “as we should” – or communicate with God which is all prayer is basically.
Let’s begin by reviewing the Bible passage. Please open your Bible at Romans, 8.
There’s a lot of ground to cover and we’re going to proceed slowly.
26: In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
27: and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Psalms 139:1; 1 Corinthians 2:10).
As I said earlier, prayer is communicating with God the Father in the purest sense.
It’s a well known fact that communication is vital in establishing relationships and in maintaining a healthy relationship. Human history reveals that we lack appropriate communication skills. Many of man’s problems can be traced back to this single issue. Multiple Studies have shown a lack of communication may result in confusion, misunderstandings, and the development of poor communication patterns.
Many a business, corporation, family, and marriage suffer today because of poor communication or the lack thereof. I’m not so old that I’ve forgotten the communication gap between my parents and myself when I was a teen-ager. We were speaking but we weren’t “talking” to one another. Likewise, nations today are speaking to each other but they’re not communicating to one another…
Yesterday I received a phone call from somebody representing someone’s company.
I couldn’t tell you who it was or what they wanted. English was not their native tongue. Although they tried to communicate with me they failed to get their message across. This incident brought to mind a phrase from the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
The problem concerning communication in our marriages is certainly no different from these other examples. Someone is talking but the other party isn’t hearing or they aren’t listening to the message - for various reasons.
Companies have been formed for the sole purpose of helping people improve their communication and “listening” skills in the business environment. Psychologists and evangelicals keep busy helping people who are struggling in their marriages due to poor communication. We have a problem!
All of this brings me back to Paul’s statement: the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should…
God has said that we do not know how to pray, -“as we should.” This brings us to a tender place in the book of Romans and an area where many a Believer struggles. If we’re honest with ourselves and with each other everyone needs some help with their prayer life. Hopefully, by the end of this lesson, you will be encouraged, because what Paul is saying in these verses is this: knowing that the Holy Spirit lovingly prays for us in our weakness should encourage us to pray with thanksgiving.
I wish I could adequately convey to you the number of times I’ve heard a Believer say something like, “Why should I pray; God never answers my prayers?” or “How am I supposed to know God’s will for my life?”
Does God want me to: “attend this school,” “get married,” “get a divorce,” “buy this home,” “move to Ohio,” “be a missionary,” “go on a diet,” or “accept this job?”
First, God has outlined His will for all of us in this book. It is clearly given.
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1Timothy 2:3-4).
As to these items mentioned above, and others, these decisions belong to the individual.
Nowhere in Scripture does it say that God is going to micromanage our lives. By this I mean to say you won’t find anything in the Bible about whether or not you should accept “the new job,” or “go on a diet” specifically.
But God has given you the ability to make choices (free will). Bearing in mind that you are now, justified by faith, the choices you make need to line up with His will.
For example: if the new job you’re applying for is a get-a-way driver for a bank hold-up team, then that’s not in God’s will. If you’ve seen a medical provider and were told you need to lose weight than yes, you need to go on a diet. This is God’s will for you. Be cautious of the refrigerator. Don’t you know you’re body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Are you interested in the personal affairs of your children? I’ll assume you said yes.
So then, yes, He is.
Will our Father answer our prayers? My response is: God is sovereign and is capable of addressing any need at any time.
But since most people fail to rightly divide Scripture and because of the way they were taught they sincerely believe God will respond to all their prayers in one of three ways: yes, no, or not right now.
But if we rightly understand the Bible’s teaching on prayer in this dispensation of grace and other matters, we will soon see our confusion, misunderstandings, and poor communication patterns disappear.
Some of the misunderstandings on this issue include that God is omniscient, perfectly good, and perfectly just, and He is working all things for good to those who love Him.
But none of these guarantees that we won’t endure trials, and suffer here and now.
Because God the Father is just, everything He does is fair (Job 38-42).
The other issue is the mistaken teachings on prayer that set people up for disappointment in their prayer lives. The most prominent of these is that God has promised to give us whatever we ask for, if only we ask rightly and have enough faith – in Jesus’ name.
This teaching is based on passages found in Mark 11: 22-24 and John 14:13-14.
Jesus gave His apostles this assurance specifically and only to the apostles on the night of His arrest. It was an assurance of the apostolic gifting and authority, meant to strengthen and encourage them after Jesus was taken away.
The phrase, “In my name,” does not mean we add Jesus’ name to the end of our prayers rubber stamping them with His “authorized signature,” nor does it mean praying according to His will. Rather, it meant “as my authoritative representative” here on earth. Likewise, you could hear a police officer shout out, “Stop, in the name of the law;” the police officer being an official representative of the law.
Only the apostles, who ministered to the Jew only (Matthew 10:5-7; Acts 11:19) under the dispensation of the Prophetic Program, were vested with Christ’s authority in this manner. So, only they could rightly claim and appropriate this guarantee. I could no more assume this assurance from Christ Jesus than I could assume a promise from my parents to my older brother; it is his and his alone.
This teaching is in the Bible to preserve the uniqueness and authority of the apostolic witness, not to encourage us to expect positive answers to our prayers.
It is difficult to set aside traditions and preconceived notions but this is what we must do in discussing the issue of prayer, and other matters, from a dispensational viewpoint. Please turn to 1 Corinthians, chapter 14.
1 Corinthians 14
15: What is the outcome then? I will pray (how) with the spirit and I will pray with the mind (or understanding -KJV) also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with mind also.
From this passage we see two ways to pray:
- With the spirit
- With the mind (or understanding)
When Paul says we are to pray with the mind, he means to say we are to have “the same mind” or understanding as the person speaking. We are to have a common grasp of ideas. In other words, our apostle Paul wants us to pray intelligently, knowing what God has said. Therefore, prayer is a dispensational subject.
Scripture reveals there are three time frames in history: time past, but now, and ages to come (see Ephesians 2:11, 13, and 7).
In this Age of Grace, we cannot go back into time past and appropriate doctrine for our prayer life for today. We can learn about praying, persistence in praying, and consistency in prayer from reading about how people prayed in that era. But the people in time past prayed for different reasons and expected certain things to happen when they prayed because of what they had been told.
Remember, prayer will always function in accordance with the dispensational program that is in effect. For instance, in time past blessings were promised for obedience and curses for disobedience (Deuteronomy 11:26-28); these were promised under the dispensation of the Law.
If you’ll examine Scripture, you’ll find in time past, sin separated Israel from God (Isaiah 59:1-3; Psalms 66:18; Proverbs 15:29) and this will resume in ages to come (Micah 3:4).
All of these Bible verses speak of “sin” restricting the prayer life of a Jewish Believer when it is to function in accordance with the Law. But this is hardly the case for you and me today, as Believers, in Christ Jesus. This is because we have something the people in time past never had – a standing in God’s grace, total forgiveness, and the acceptance of God in Christ.
In time past, people prayed specifically and there were specific results (Genesis 20:17-18; Judges 16: 28-30; 1 Samuel 1:10; 1 Samuel 1:27; James 5:17-18). God told Elias that if he prayed the weather would change, but God does not give us this same message today.
In time past, signs of the weather were an indicator the nation of Israel could look to and measure whether or not they were being obedient to the LORD God. Israel’s crops, military endeavors, and their physical circumstances were all indicators of their relationship and fellowship with the LORD God and their relationship with Him was a roller-coaster ride, if you know Scripture.
So, prayer being a dispensational topic, we need to pray with an understanding of the nature of our dispensation. Please turn to Romans, chapter 5.
1: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2: through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
The phrase, “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” is in reference to the work of the cross or what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross.
Now please turn to Philippians, chapter 4.
6: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything (how) by prayer and supplication with (what) thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7: And the (what) peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your (what) minds in Christ Jesus.
The very nature of this age is one of corruption, suffering, and trials. God has a program to deliver us but this is in the future. Our glory is coming.
However, many times, a Believer will look to deliverance for themselves or for a loved one in the here and now and is greatly disappointed when this does not come about. Consequently, when they receive no answer to their prayers, they may give up on God.
I know people who have ceased praying and given up on God for this reason.
I wonder if they ever considered thanking God for unanswered prayers…
In this Age of Grace, God has not promised good health, wealth, protection, or provision. We are not told to expect or ask for these things. We are told to expect difficulties, hardships, and trials (John 16:33; Ephesians 6:12; 2 Timothy 3:1-17). In light of this truth, we need to pray understanding the nature of our service to Him. Please turn to Romans, 12.
1: Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
2: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your (what) mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Believers need to get in step with God or we need to be of one mind.
Our lives here and now are to be “living sacrifices.” The issue of our service to Him is not our comfort, ease, or convenience but our responsibility is to do the will of God (2 Corinthians 4:11-12).
When we pray, we pray with an understanding of God’s will (Ephesians 5:15-17).
As Believers we are responsible to understand God’s will, which is found in this book.
(Colossians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:4).
God desires for Jesus Christ to live His life through you and me for His honor and His glory. How does this happen? By the Word of Christ dwelling in you “abundantly” and the Spirit of God strengthening and empowering you and me to live lives for Him.
The end result is Ephesians 3:18-19.
Please remember, we want to pray with understanding. We do not want to guess, assume, or pray on the basis of tradition or preconceived notions. We do not want to copy someone else’s prayer life. We do want to pray with understanding as to what God wants us to do (Ephesians 6:18) and with like minds.
There are no more apostles. This means that for all of us in this dispensation who pray, our prayers are petitions and we are not guaranteed positive answers, as they were.
I don’t want to sound harsh by saying this, but “no” is an answer to your prayer.
God isn’t ignoring His children when He says “no.” He listens, He considers, He decides, and He answers. You respond in like manner to your children’s requests…
Our loving Father in heaven understands that we are unable to discern His will completely and consequently the helplessness, or “weakness,” to petition Him specifically; and the Holy Spirit “fills” this communication gap, expressing to God those intercessory prayers according to the will of God.
When we do not know what to pray for – yes, even when we ask for things that God knows we should not have, we need not be anxious for we can depend on the Spirit’s ministry, “on our behalf.” And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of this important topic.
We’ll pick up on this subject where we left off in the next lesson.
(To be continued)
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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