Rediscovering Prayer: Six Prayers God Will Always Answer
In this, the final of four articles, we will sum up what the New Testament teaches about prayer. To put it succinctly, we should ask God to do what He has already promised to do through the gospel. The core of the gospel is that we have nothing, contribute nothing, bring nothing to God. It shouldn't come as a shock that prayer, which is made possible by the gospel and shaped by the gospel works exactly the same way!
The gospel tells us that God gives to us, we don't give to God. So we need to ask. We need to ask for help to understand what God has done for us, to live in the light of what He has done for us, to hold on to what He has done for us, to show other people what He has done for us...
Now in one sense, we don't need to get too uptight about this — in a marvellous passage in Luke 11, Jesus makes it clear that we are free to ask our Father for stuff knowing that He won't give it to us if it's bad for us, or bad for His kingdom (or plain stupid!). So what should we do? Get on with asking! We can cast all our anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7), which presumably includes praying.
But that's not actually the burden of the New Testament when it comes to prayer. It is actually very explicit in telling us what we should be praying for — or at least on what the focus of our prayers should be. That's because there are, of course, some prayers which God has said He will always answer. And the prayers which God has said He will always answer positively are those prayers which explicitly ask God to deliver on His new covenant promises — or to put it more generally, God will always answer when we ask Him to do His work through His word. So we should pray for God to do His new covenant work through the gospel.
I can find six basic prayers on which the New Testament encourages us to believe God will always come through: God will always answer our prayers when we ask Him to do His new covenant work through His word by the Spirit.
- If we pray for God to glorify Himself (Lord's Prayer, John 17);
- If we pray for forgiveness (1 John 1:9, James 5:13-20, Lord's Prayer);
- If we pray to know God better (John 17, Ephesians 1:15-22);
- If we pray for wisdom, to know how to live for God (James 1:5-6);
- If we pray for strength to live for God (Ephesians 3:14-21, the Lord's Prayer);
- If we pray for the spread of the gospel (Luke 10:2, Acts 5, Col 4, the Lord's Prayer).
How do we know God will answer these prayers? Because He says He will in the first place, but also because these prayers sum up the work of the gospel. This is what God has said He would do, this is what He does, and this is what He will do! These are all prayers for God to do His new covenant work through His word.
So do you want to become an "advanced prayer"? You don't need to learn new contemplative methods. But you do need to become an expert asker; this is gospel-driven prayer. To realise that the gospel yells at us "You are weak and sinful and flawed, but He is strong and gracious and good" — so ask Him to do what He has already promised to do. And above all, pray for the spread of the gospel, and God will answer, because this is how He displays His goodness and glory in our broken world. Keep doing it, until that day when we won't need to pray, because we will see our God and King face to face.