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« The Language of Prayer (Part One) | Main | The Language of Prayer (Part Three) »

Prayer Prepositions

Every person who loves Jesus and desires to be a better and more effective disciple has—-or ought to have—-an intense interest in prayer. At one point, his disciples made this request of Jesus, “Teach us to pray.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”

Ernest Holmes said, “Through the art of affirmative prayer the limitless resources of the Spirit are at my command. The power of the Infinite is at my disposal.”

In our previous study, we looked at the practice of prayer as a language and discovered that the language of prayer is subject to the rules of language. Breaking prayer down into the parts of speech helps us to see how prayer is used in precise Biblical terms and shows us important distinctions in kinds and styles of prayer. Some remarkable truths appear to us when we look at the prepositions of prayer.

A preposition describes a relationship between other words in a sentence, like to, for, about, in, etc. Whenever the same word is followed by a different preposition, it may greatly modify the meaning of the word. For example, the phrases “running to”, “running for”, running through” and “running around” all mean very different things even though each of them contains the word “running.” So, every time a Bible reference to prayer shows up in the context of a different preposition, we need to pay close attention.

Specifically, we gain a new appreciation of prayer when we see the difference between praying to, praying for, praying against, praying about, and so on. As we carefully examine the subject of Biblical praying, we soon discover that each prayer preposition opens up an exciting and meaningful realm of divine communication and communion.

Praying to… DIRECTION

Prayer must always address the true and living God. While this may seem too obvious to state, the scriptures place great importance on this point. “…So I prayed to the God of heaven.” Nehemiah 2:4. Jesus said, “…Pray to thy Father which is in secret…” Matthew 6:6. Praying to the true God made all the difference in the world to Cornelius who “…prayed to God alway.” Acts 10:2. We must consciously and deliberately direct our prayers to God. In other words, we don’t get credit for sincerity, passion, desperation or sacrifice if we do not pray to God. God is a person, not just a power or a force. Our prayers must interact personally with God himself.

Praying to God forces us to acknowledge Jehovah as God. He becomes the focus of our faith. Focusing on the true God means we cannot give room to any competing power. Praying to God makes the sin of idolatry impossible. Praying to God gives glory to the only one who deserves all worship and honor. We do not pray to presidents or kings. We do not pray to saints or religious icons. We do not pray to political or economic systems. We do not pray to celebrities or heroes. We do not pray to doctors, lawyers or scientists. We do not pray to insurance companies or educational institutions. We pray to God. Praying to God places us squarely in the sanctuary of divine truth.

Make sure you focus on God as you pray. Sift through the biases and leanings of your heart to cull out any false placement of faith in people, systems or carnal ideas. God alone must be the recipient of your absolute trust.

Praying for… Support

Praying for people may be separated into three distinct meanings: support, mediation and needs. First, when we pray for people, we lend our support to them in their spiritual struggles and ventures. Many times, for example, friends and family members will ask us to pray for them as they go for a job interview, make a major purchase or anticipate a stressful confrontation. They recognize their need for divine help. In Colossians 1:9, Paul says, “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”

In 1 Samuel 12:19, we read “And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the LORD thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king.” We make people stronger when we pray for them. Through prayer, we lift them up above their circumstances and bring the favor of God upon them. Through prayer, we confer upon them certain of the attributes and gifts of God, like peace, joy and love. David wanted this kind of prayer for his beloved Jerusalem . “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem : they shall prosper that love thee.” Psalm 122:6. To the Thessalonians, Paul wrote, “Brethren, pray for us.” He gave this as an unspecified and general prayer request that confessed an overall need for God’s help.

Pray for wisdom. Pray for strength. Pray for God’s blessings on your day. Pray for your family and friends that they may be edified.

Praying for…Mediation

Second, praying for others means to take up the role of a mediator, or an intercessor. We intercede for people when they cannot pray for themselves. Perhaps they have fallen out of a right relationship with God and feel too ashamed to pray, or they have been so weakened by injury or disease that they cannot pray themselves. They may not even desire to pray due to overwhelming doubt or rebellion in their hearts. Whatever the reason, we have a biblical mandate to step forward and pray in their behalf. Never was there a greater need for us to assume this powerful role than in the world today.

The most famous example of mediatory prayer comes from Abraham’s prayer for sinful Sodom . He prayed, “Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?” Genesis 18:24. When he received a merciful answer from God, Abraham ventured on further in his prayer. Finally, he stopped after requesting mercy for ten righteous people. “And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.” Genesis 18:32-33. Note that Abraham stopped asking before God stopped answering! Some have speculated that the outcome may have been radically different if only Abraham had continued on in his prayer.

Job also took the role of an intercessor. In Job 42:8, God says, “Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.” Evidently, God requires a mediator in some cases because he will not accept the prayers of another. Do we really know how many people rely on our intercessory prayers? Other instances in the Bible confirm this perspective of prayer.

  • And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the LORD thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us.” Jeremiah 42:2
  • “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Matthew 5:44
  • “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Luke 22:32

The Apostle Paul stressed the role of reconciliation to the Corinthians. “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. The ministry of reconciliation involves prayer as much as preaching, witnessing or any other form of outreach.

Take the needs of other persons upon your shoulders. Pray in their stead, as though they had no ability to pray themselves. Go outside your selfish interests and let the problems of others consume you for a season of prayer. Be a bridge, a connecting point, a life-line.

Praying for…Needs

Finally, praying for people means praying for God to meet their specific needs. When Jereboam’s hand was withered, he cried for the man of God to pray for it to be healed. “And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Intreat now the face of the LORD thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again. And the man of God besought the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored him again, and became as it was before.” I Kings 13:6. We have the right and authority to ask for healings, miracles and wonders. One popular belief today holds that we should let fate take its course; that we should not ask for divine intervention in our personal, physical lives. Besides, the thought goes, God no longer confirms his word with healings and miracles as he did when he lived here in the flesh. Yet, the Bible says, “Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8. If we do not get an answer to prayer the way we wanted, it should not be because we have failed to pray. Someone has rightly said, “God cannot and will not answer a prayer that has not been prayed.”

Furthermore, we have the scriptural right to pray for people to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. “Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost.” Acts 8:15 . When people come forward in our services to pray, we should accompany them and pray for them to receive the Spirit. Prayer is one way for the church to take part in the new birth process for many spiritual babies.

  • “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.” Romans 8:26.
  • “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1.
  • “Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.” Hebrews 13:18.
  • “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” 1 John 5:16.

Pray for healings. Pray for miracles. Pray for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Pray for special dispensations of God’s power. Pray boldly for great things.

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