Monday, June 12, 2017

P2 - Principles Of Effective Prayer - Romans 8:26-28

Romans 8:26-28 "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. 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."


In our last post we began considering some principles for effective prayer. Romans 8:23-28 is our target text. As a Christian and a pastor, I desire to be more effective in my prayer-life. There are some 600 prayers recorded in the Old and New Testaments. Author Richard Foster captures the importance of effective prayer in the opening of his book: "Prayer, Finding The Heart's True Home":

"We do not need to be shy. He invites us into the living room of his heart, where we can put on old slippers and share freely. He invites us into the kitchen of his friendship, where chatter and batter mix in good fun. He invites us into the dining room of his strength, where we can feast to our heart's delight. He invites us into the study of his wisdom, where we can learn, and grow and stretch...and ask all the questions we want. 

As Foster continues on with this metaphor of God's relationship with us as that of a home, he later writes:

"The key to this home, this heart of God, is prayer."

In the last post we looked at the first two principles for effective prayer: persistent expectancy of God to act on our behalf and reliance upon the Holy Spirit. Today we will close out this short study by considering two other principles. 

Acknowledging Your Weakness. Rom 8:26b-27a

This may be the most difficult of the principles to follow. No one that I know of (including myself) likes to admit they're weak. Weakness of any sort is viewed as a great liability in our world and sadly, a greater liability in the church. Only when we are acknowledging our weakness will the Spirit lend His aid.  

If there is one thing missing in our American church world, it is the sense of dependency on God. We like to come off like we have it all together: showing of strength, human ingenuity, professionalism, cleverness, no problems, personality and the like. The American church has by-and-large pursued such "shows of strength" to appeal to what it perceives the public desires. Such an environment can never foster the type of atmosphere wherein the Spirit of God will show up in supernatural power. 

Only when we are broken by God will we then be fit candidates for His deeper and healing work. I ran across this quote by Vance Havner:

“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”

Consider again what we learn in prayer, and apply it in your Christian life or the church world: "His power is made perfect in weakness". We must approach our Heavenly Father as a little wee child comes to their daddy with upheld arms, moistened eyes and quivering voice saying: Daddy, please help me! Would any decent father reject such a plea? Hardly! How much more our Heavenly Father will grant the co-equal, co-eternal Spirit in powerful aid to those crying out in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). Our strength lies in our weakness. This message of "finding His strength in our weakness" is so alien to our culture. Nonetheless, this is what is called for in praying with power: namely praying in our weakness or dependence upon God.

Yearning by faith to do God's Will. Rom. 8:27b-28

Roman 8:27-28 contains two phrases that indicate the need to yearn for God's will as a pre-condition to effective prayer. Paul writes in Romans 8:27-28 "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. 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." 

The first underlined phrase could be literally rendered: "according to God". God is the standard that everything moral, spiritual, physical and human relies upon for its existence. God's will is His desire and determination from which everything proceeds and by which He governs our world. Praying according to the will of God is prerequisite to having any assurance in prayer (see Matthew 6; Luke 11; 1 John 5:14-15).

Some aspects of His will He has chosen to not reveal and others He has chosen to reveal in His Word (see Deuteronomy 29:29). There are other matters that God permits by way of secondary causes such as historic events and free-moral agents - whether they be human beings or angelic hosts. God's revealed will is the domain of human responsibility and is found within the pages of scripture. 

As we pray according to God's revealed will - we meet one of the preconditions for God acting on our behalf, since we are aligning our will with His own (see 1 John 5:14-15). As the late preacher Adrian Rogers wrote in his book: "What Every Christian Ought To Know", page 212:

"As Christians we must realize that nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God. Prayer can do anything that God can do, and God can do anything!" 

The second underlined term is found in Romans 8:28 and deals with the realm of faith - or what the Christian can know to be the case in terms of God's will. Romans 8:28 is a flagship passage for bolstering faith, since it affirms God's Sovereignty in matters of spiritual life and life in general. Sovereignty is defined in Psalm 103:19 "The Lord has established His throne in the heavens,
And His sovereignty rules over all."

The sphere of "all things working together for the good" includes all the details of our world: human sin and righteousness, working to their Divinely appointed ends to achieve God's Divine purposes in Christ. Faith, according to Hebrews 11:1, is the substance of things hoped for and the certainty of things not yet seen. Thus, when we put these two underlined concepts together - we arrive at our final point of yearning by faith to do God's will. 

Closing thoughts

Today's post aimed to lay-out the remaining principles of effective prayer that we find in Romans 8:23-28. It is hoped that this study has encouraged readers. The following principles were uncovered in our study of Romans 8:23-28 -

Persistent Expectation
Reliance upon the Holy Spirit
Acknowledging your weakness
Yearning by faith to do God's will

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