Series: An edited adaptation of the book Prayer, Power, and Proclamation by C.L.Peppler published by Chrispy Publications in 2009 (ISBN 978-0-620-43583-3). Chap 2; part 3:
Corporate, like personal prayer, starts with one-way communication. However, if we believe that God is immediately accessible to us, should we not expect him to respond immediately, in some form? Yet many of the prayer meetings I have attended reflect the clear expectation that God is not likely to respond immediately. We pray in tongues. We pray aloud simultaneously. We pray sequentially, adding to each other’s prayers. We pray silently. We break up into groups and pray. Yet seldom do we pause and wait expectantly for God to respond. However, if we understand prayer as our part in a bi-directional communication, then we should be expecting, and providing an opportunity for a response.
How should we expect God to respond immediately to our corporate prayers? Perhaps he will manifest himself in power as he did when the first disciples prayed and the place they were in was shaken (Acts 4:31). Perhaps he will speak a word through one of the people present (prophecy). Perhaps he will inspire someone to speak out a word of knowledge or wisdom. Perhaps he will place a vivid picture into someone’s mind. Perhaps he will bring to mind a scripture. Whichever way he chooses to communicate, we should be expectant, and we should therefore instruct one another and provide opportunity when we come together to pray.
Taking into account all I have written so far, why do we pray? We pray to communicate with God. Why? To express our dependence on him and to know his will. Jesus said, concerning himself, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” (John 5:19-20) This must also apply to us. Our purpose for living is to know Jesus, to become like him, and to help others to be and do likewise. We pray, in this context, to determine God’s will, and he responds because he loves us and is committed to our development and maturity.
I have mentioned words of prophecy, visions and so on, but the way God usually responds is through the Bible. This occurs at a number of levels. Firstly, if we study the Bible, and if we have read all of it, we will have a good idea of his general will. The Holy Spirit will help us to retrieve the biblical information we need from our memory banks. Jesus said, “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” (John 16:15) At another level, the Holy Spirit might lead us to a particular passage while we are praying. The words of the text might fill our consciousness, or he might make us aware of just the text reference, which we then look up. He might even illuminate a passage of scripture as we are reading it during or after a time of prayer.
Perhaps I need to give some concrete examples. Is it God’s general will that a sick person should receive healing? Yes. He instructed his disciples to heal the sick, and there are many New Testament injunctions to minister to the infirm. Therefore, the default position should be positive, and we should only refrain from ministering healing if convicted that, in that particular case or period, God has another purpose for the afflicted person. I have had this experience a number of times. I remember very clearly wanting to minister healing to a cancer sufferer when I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to prepare the man for heaven. I sat with him and read him passages from the book of Revelation. His face lit up and he was at peace. He died and went to be with Jesus just days later.
I have received text references in answer to prayer on many occasions. The one I remember vividly was the first time this happened. I was preparing to deliver my very first sermon, and I was nervous and apprehensive. I was asking myself “what if I mislead the people? What if I fail to meet their spiritual need?” As I was praying about this, the text reference Numbers 21:16 came into my mind. I looked it up; it read, “Gather the people together and I will give them water.” I was so encouraged! I understood immediately that God was telling me that my job as a preacher was to bring his people to the place where they could receive living water from him, but that it was his prerogative, not mine, to give them that ‘water’.
Many years ago my wife, Pat, became very ill. The doctors could not diagnose the problem, but she felt as though she was slowly dying. At her lowest moment, as she was reading the Bible and praying, the actual printed text started to glow as though the ink were made of gold. The verse read, “I am your God and will take care of you until you are old and your hair is gray. I made you and will care for you; I will give you help and rescue you.” (Isaiah 46:4) Just a day or so later the final blood tests came back from the lab and the doctor was able to diagnose her condition.
Prayer, as communication, has more than one facet; it consists of intermingled verbal and nonverbal speech both to and from God. It functions within a multidimensional model of reality.
To subscribe to Truth is The Word, click here.