Praying Lesson 8: Pray-ers that Pleases God

Lesson 8: Pray-ers that Pleases God

God is gracious in answering prayer. He does not demand perfection from the person offering the prayer. God is well aware of our failures, weaknesses, and sin. Because Jesus is our “great high priest,” we can approach God “boldly” to “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:14-16). Nevertheless, several passages in the Bible relate certain personal characteristics that should be evident in the life of one who approaches God in prayer.

  1. Righteousness  James 5:16

Qualities of a righteous person:

  1. Saved  Rom 1:17, 5:1
  2. Sincere (“not as the hypocrites” Mt 6:5; “effectual fervent” [lit “energetic, earnest”])
  3. Humble  James 4:6
  4. Obedient  John 15:7
  5. Overt, unrepentant sin in the life of a believer may hinder one’s prayers or even render them without effect.  Ps 66:18; Prov 15:29: Isa 1:15
  6. Faith Mark 11:23-24;James 1:5-7
    1. This does not suggest that prayer has no effect unless all doubt is removed from our hearts. We often have doubts concerning God’s will for us.
    2. This does not suggest that merely believing something means that God is obligated to grant our requests. Our personal desires and expectations are not the measure by which God acts. The fact that we may have convinced ourselves that we believe something does not compel God. We do not know the mind of God where he has not revealed it. We cannot manipulate God.

What would happen if God granted every request from everyone who truly believed that his request was God’s will?

  1. Faith does not eliminate other considerations; faith is not the only condition for answered prayer. Faith operates in conjunction with other requirements for effective prayer.
  2. Faith must have the right object—God. We have faith that God loves us, has wisdom to grant what is best for us, and is able to provide what we need.
  3. Submission 1 John 5:14-15
    1. Praying according to God’s will is not simply asking for biblical things.
      1. In one sense, we can count on God’s promises to do what he said he’d do. E.g., Rom 10:9; 1 John 1:9. We can and should trust God to do what he said.
      2. However, we should realize that what God wants people to do is not necessarily what people will do. People often violate his will. In other words, we recognize a difference between God’s prescriptive will (what he has commanded—his moral will) and his decretive will (what he has decreed to happen—his sovereign will). John is not guaranteeing that God will grant every request for people to obey his word. If that were the case, we could pray once and everyone would be saved and stop sinning!
    2. Praying according to God’s will means that we ask God to grant the requests that please him and conform to his eternal purposes. We don’t know God’s secret counsels, so we pray, “If it be your will.”

Quote: We pray, expressing our heartfelt desire, all the while subordinating our will … to the wise and providential Lord of life and history who is working all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph 1:11).[1]

  1. Good example: Daniel 3:17-18. The young men did not know if God would save them; they did not presume on God’s will. They were submissive to God’s purpose for them, whether it meant life or death. Whatever God allowed, they remained loyal to God. Their loyalty God’s prescriptive will (“no other gods before me”) meant that they were willing to accept whatever might be in God’s decretive will for them.
  2. Essentially, prayer for God’s will means that we pray for what God has already determined to do. This does not imply that prayer does nothing. God accomplishes his ends by means of the prayers of his people. God works through means (although he’s never limited/constrained by human activity or non-activity). God decrees both the ends and the means. Prayer is only one means God uses to attain his ends, not the only one (contra the idea that God does nothing except through prayer).
  3. Reverence Ps 145:17-19
    1. The “fear of God” describes a broad array of virtues. Fear of God is reverence, awe, honor, and worship in response to the transcendent holiness of God (cf. Isa 6:5). We may approach God boldly, yet with proper respect and decorum.
    2. The fear of God prevents us from approaching God with a frivolous, casual, overly-familiar attitude. Likewise, prayer is not merely getting from God what we want for ourselves. The focus of prayer is God and his will, not ourselves.
    3. The fear of God reflects a desire not to offend God. Those who fear God do not want to grieve him or provoke his anger.

The exercise of these virtues does not guarantee that God will grant our every request. But if they are present, but we can be confident that God is not declining our requests because of our own sin. Further, no one possesses these virtues perfectly. We should see consistent evidence of them but not expect faultless perfection. God is gracious and understands our weaknesses.


Praying Lesson 7: The Model Prayer Matt 6:9-15

Lesson 7: The Model Prayer (Matt 6:9-15)

This section of the Sermon on the Mount is often called “the Lord’s Prayer,” but it is more properly “The Model Prayer.” Jesus prefaces his remarks with the words “after this manner therefore pray.” This is the correct manner; this is how to pray. We need not repeat these exact words in every prayer, but prayer should follow this model and reflect these ideas.

  1. Pray to the right Person—“Our Father”  .9
    1. The words “our Father” imply a warm, personal relationship. This is how a child addresses his parent. The Jews rarely addressed God with such warm familiarity (cf. Isa. 63:16; 64:8). We must approach God in a humble and reverent way (cf. Ex 3:5; Isa 6:1-5; Heb 12:29). God is our Father, but He’s also our sovereign King. We approach Him reverently, not casually.
    2. Many people do not have the right to call God “our father.” Such is the exclusive right of those who are “in Christ” (John 1:12; 1 Jn 3:1-2). In a sense, God is the Father of all people by virtue of creation; yet God is the spiritual Father only of those who are saved. Jesus claimed that for some people, the devil is their father (Jn 8:44; 1 Jn 3:10). Thus, this model prayer is for believers only.
    3. Pray reverently  .9-10
      1. “Hallowed” – may your name be recognized as holy.
        1. One’s “name” stands for his character or essential nature; the name is identified with the person.
        2. The basic meaning of holy is “set apart.” Thus, to “hallow” God’s name is to recognize Him as unique and sacred; to hold God in reverence.
        3. Genuine believers desire that all people would recognize God as holy.
  2. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
    1. The “kingdom” Jesus is talking about here is the earthly reign of the Messiah. Only during this time will God’s will be accomplished “on earth as it is in heaven.” This kingdom has not yet come.
    2. God’s “will,” in this case, is clearly his moral will as expressed in the Law. Every believer wishes that God’s moral will were obeyed by every person.
    3. Pray for daily needs.  .11

The word “daily” signifies

  1. Something necessary for the day (emphasizing time)
  2. Something necessary for existence (emphasizing  amount)
  3. Thus, “Give us today the portion needed for today” seems to be the intended sense.
    1. “Daily bread” represents all manner of needs (not luxuries).
    2. We recognize our dependence on God to provide all our needs.
    3. Pray for forgiveness  .12
      1. Sin is like a debt. As only a creditor can forgive a debt, only God can forgive sin.
      2. God’s forgiveness of our sins is related to how we forgive others.
        1. If we forgive others, God will forgive us. If we refuse to forgive others, God will not forgive us.  .14-15
        2. Although believers enjoy full cleansing from sin, they still should pray for forgiveness from the ongoing sin in our lives (1 Jn 1:9). We still need the application of the cleansing blood of Christ on a daily basis.
        3. Remember that this prayer was given while the OT dispensation was still in operation. OT believers did not enjoy full and final forgiveness of sins. They had to repeatedly make their sacrifices to cover their sins. Christ made the final sacrifice for sins, and NT believers enjoy full and perfect forgiveness.
        4. God’s forgiveness of us is ultimately not based on how well we forgive others. Forgiveness is always based on God’s grace, not our efforts. There is no merit implied here. However, a forgiving attitude is very important. The disposition to forgive others is a proof of our own forgiveness. Read Mt 18:21-35.
        5. Pray for strength.  .13a
          1. “lead us not into temptation”
            1. God never entices people to sin (James 1:13). In that sense, God never leads people into temptation.
            2. The word “temptation” often refers to a trial, test, or difficult circumstance.
            3. It’s appropriate to pray for protection from affliction, adversity and trouble.
  4. “deliver us from evil”
    1. Evil in general—trials and problems, the consequences of immoral behavior
    2. The “evil one,” i.e., Satan. The Greek has “the evil.” Satan is frequently called “the evil one” (Lu 22:40; Mt 13:19; 1 John 2:13-14, 3:12).
    3. Pray with praise.  .13b[1]
      1. “kingdom, power and glory”: This doxology (ascription of praise to God) gives us our motivation for prayer—that that glory of God might be demonstrated in the granting of our petitions.
      2. “amen” – truly, so let it be


[1] The Doxology in the last part of verse 13 does not appear in the earliest NT MSS or in the early commentaries on this passage. Also, various forms of the statement are found in later MSS, some longer, some shorter than what is expressed in the KJV. However, the majority of Greek MS have the statement, it is in keeping with the rest of the Bible (cf. 1 Chron 29:11), and is a fitting conclusion to the Model Prayer.


Lessons in this Course
Table of Contents
Prayer Lesson 1: The Importance of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 2: Overcoming the Difficulties of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 3: What is Prayer?
Prayer Lesson 4: Our Perspective on Prayer
Praying Lesson 5: Praying in Jesus’ Name
Praying Lesson 6: How Not to Pray
Praying Lesson 7: The Model Prayer Matt 6:9-15
Praying Lesson 8: Pray-ers that Pleases God
Praying Lesson 9: Persistence in Prayer
Praying Lesson 10: Learning from Paul’s Prayers
Praying Lesson 11: Learning from OT Prayers
Praying Lesson 12: Prayer as an Expression of Spirituality
Praying Lesson 13: The Five Different Kinds of Prayer in the Psalms
Praying Lesson 14: Prerequisites to Effective Prayer
Praying Lesson 15: Prayer and Fasting

Praying Lesson 6: How Not to Pray

Lesson 6: How Not to Pray[1]

No one in the Bible was more interested in prayer than Jesus. Prayer was a natural and regular part of His life. He could speak to His Father spontaneously and almost conversationally. He could also devote long periods to planned prayer. Not surprisingly, prayer was one of the important matters in which He instructed His disciples.

A substantial portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:5-15) focuses on prayer. The positive side of Jesus’ instruction takes the form of the Lord’s Prayer, which is designed to provide a template for His followers to employ in their prayer lives. Immediately before the Lord’s Prayer, however, Jesus offers words of negative instruction. Before He teaches His disciples how they should pray, He describes ways in which they should not.

  1. Don’t pray like the hypocrites (Matt 6:5-6).
    1. Hypocrisy is an inherent danger in any spiritual exercise. How does one pray, give, or fast like a hypocrite? According to Jesus, spiritual exercises become hypocritical when they are performed in order to impress people—to “be seen of men” (Matt 6:1, 5, 16). One must choose between divine and human praise. Even the most holy exercises can be performed to impress people rather than God.
    2. No tendency is more natural than the desire to divert glory from God to self. This is exactly the inclination against which Jesus was warning. Those who engage in spiritual pursuits in order to be seen by people do get a reward—they receive worship, however briefly. But Jesus cautions that such people have received all that they are going to get—the praise of men. They should expect no praise from God.
    3. Consequently, Jesus commands that spiritual exercises are best performed in secret. The person who gives should not let his right hand know what his left is doing. The person who fasts should wash and dress as normal without telling others about his fast. The person who prays should address God privately. These acts, performed in secret for the pleasure of God alone, win God’s approval.
    4. Of course, pubic prayer is not wrong; the Bible contains many examples of public prayers. But we must be careful not to use prayer as a means of exalting ourselves. The focus must always be on God, not on self. Our attitude should be “Look at Him!” rather than “Look at me!”
  2. Don’t pray like idolaters (Matt 6:7-8).
    1. According to Jesus, idolaters pray in empty repetitions, believing that their many words will gain a hearing from their deities. The true and living God, however, is never impressed by pointless reiteration.
      1. We do not have to gain God’s attention in prayer. The prophets of Baal worried that they might find that their god was asleep, absent in travel, or otherwise indisposed. They wailed and cut themselves in order to get him to notice them. The true and living God is not like that. He is aware even of a sparrow when it falls. He knows His children in such detail that He notes the number of hairs on their heads.
      2. We do not inform God about our needs in prayer. He already knows them. He has anticipated our petitions before we utter them. Not only so, but God is already disposed to respond. He is not only aware of our needs, but also deeply concerned with them.
      3. Since God knows all about us, we are now free to devote our primary attention to the work of God instead of our immediate needs. Our lives need not be dominated by anxiety over daily necessities. God is willing and able to supply these things while His children devote themselves to the things that matter most. This confidence changes the way that we pray. While we certainly will wish to share our daily needs with our loving Father, our gaze should lift beyond our present little circumstances and our hearts should be quickened by His larger work in the world.
    2. Repetition need not be mindless or idolatrous.
      1. Jesus does not forbid some repetition. The Bible contains several examples of repetition in prayer. For example, in Psalm 136, every verse ends with the refrain, “for His mercy endureth forever.” This repeats twenty-six times.
      2. Jesus does not forbid the use of written prayers. Many of the psalms were written as prayers that are meant to be used and repeated by God’s people, whether individually or corporately. When we pray a psalm of David or Asaph, we are repeating someone else’s words, but the repetition is not empty. The opposite of vain repetition is not spontaneity (which may also be vain), but thoughtfulness.
      3. Jesus does not forbid the recitation of memorized prayers. We memorize portions of Scripture so that we can use them in our own prayer lives. We praise God using the words of the biblical authors (e.g., psalms of David, prophecy of Isaiah or Jeremiah, prayers of Paul). We may confess our sins using phrases drawn directly from the Bible (e.g., Ps 51:1-3, 139:23-24).
    3. Whether our prayer is one that we compose or one that we have learned, what matters is that it is spoken with understanding and offered from our heart. Sincere prayer is not mechanical, merely repeating words with no meaning. Sincere prayer is an expression of genuine devotion, submission, and expectation.


[1] Much of this lesson is from Kevin Bauder, “Don’t Pray Like This,” from In the Nick of Time, 5/4/12 and 5/11/12.


Lessons in this Course
Table of Contents
Prayer Lesson 1: The Importance of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 2: Overcoming the Difficulties of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 3: What is Prayer?
Prayer Lesson 4: Our Perspective on Prayer
Praying Lesson 5: Praying in Jesus’ Name
Praying Lesson 6: How Not to Pray
Praying Lesson 7: The Model Prayer Matt 6:9-15
Praying Lesson 8: Pray-ers that Pleases God
Praying Lesson 9: Persistence in Prayer
Praying Lesson 10: Learning from Paul’s Prayers
Praying Lesson 11: Learning from OT Prayers
Praying Lesson 12: Prayer as an Expression of Spirituality
Praying Lesson 13: The Five Different Kinds of Prayer in the Psalms
Praying Lesson 14: Prerequisites to Effective Prayer
Praying Lesson 15: Prayer and Fasting

Praying Lesson 5: Praying in Jesus’ Name

Lesson 5: Praying in Jesus’ Name

We commonly end our prayers with the short expression, “in Jesus’ name, amen.” Why should we do this? What is the significance of praying in Jesus’ name?

Note several things we should keep in mind regarding prayer in Jesus’ name.

  1. The Bible instructs believers to pray in Jesus’ name.

John 14:13-14  And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

John 15:16  Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

John 16:23-24  And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

Col 3:17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

  1. Prayer in Jesus’ name has specific implications.
    1. The significance of a name
      1. In our culture, one’s personal name has little significance beyond designation or description. E.g., most first names have no particular meaning.
      2. But “name” may have a broader connotation, referring to one’s reputation, as in “he has a good name in the community,” or “don’t drag my name through the mud.”
      3. In Bible times, one’s name stood for his person or character. One’s name stood for oneself. See Psalm 5:11, 20:1; John 17:11-12. The Jews had such reverence for God’s name that they would not pronounce it.
      4. Prayer in Jesus’ name implies approaching God based on Jesus’ person and work.
        1. We are unworthy sinners who have no right to expect anything from God. Our access to God is based solely on Christ’s merit. If we are in union with Christ (i.e., saved), then we have the right to approach God in prayer by virtue of Jesus’ work on our behalf. God hears those who are “in Christ.” Access to God always and only comes through Christ (John 14:6; Eph 2:18; Heb 10:19).

What does this imply about the prayers of those who come some other way? What about those who have not applied the merits of Christ to themselves (i.e., they are not saved)?

  1. Prayer in Jesus’ name means that our prayers are consistent with the person and work of Christ. We pray in a way that is in harmony with what we know him to be.

What does this imply about requests that are at odds with the person and work of Christ?

  1. Prayer in Jesus’ name means that we pray for what he would want for us. To pray in his name means praying like he would pray. We ask for what we think Jesus would want for us. Essentially, this means praying according to God’s will (1 John 5:14).

What does this imply about prayer outside of God’s will?

  1. Prayer in Jesus’ name means praying by his authority (Heb 4:16). Believers have the right to approach God in prayer because Jesus has given us that right. We do not assume this right unlawfully or inappropriately, but by his permission.
  2. Prayer in Jesus’ name means that Jesus fully sympathizes with us in our infirmities and temptations as a faithful high priest (Heb 4:14-15). He understands our problems.
  3. Prayer in Jesus’ name is not some kind of mysterious formula that unlocks God’s storehouse of blessings. Merely reciting the words “in Jesus’ name” during prayer has no magical power. Prayer in Jesus’ name is an expression of one’s understanding of who Christ is and what he has done to make prayer possible. In fact, tacking on the words “in Jesus’ name” is not necessary for one to pray in Jesus’ name. If you are approaching God on the basis of Jesus’ work for you, consistent with God’s will, and by his authority, you are praying in Jesus’ name.
  4. Pray to God the Father, through the Son (i.e., in his name), by the power of the Holy Spirit.
    1. Our primary audience in prayer is God the Father (cf. Mt 6:6; Luke 11:2; John 15:16). Our access to God comes via our relationship with Jesus (cf. 1 John 2:1; Heb 7:25).
    2. We may pray directly to Jesus as well. See John 14:14.
    3. The Holy Spirit helps our infirmities and makes intercession for us “with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom 8:26).


Lessons in this Course
Table of Contents
Prayer Lesson 1: The Importance of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 2: Overcoming the Difficulties of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 3: What is Prayer?
Prayer Lesson 4: Our Perspective on Prayer
Praying Lesson 5: Praying in Jesus’ Name
Praying Lesson 6: How Not to Pray
Praying Lesson 7: The Model Prayer Matt 6:9-15
Praying Lesson 8: Pray-ers that Pleases God
Praying Lesson 9: Persistence in Prayer
Praying Lesson 10: Learning from Paul’s Prayers
Praying Lesson 11: Learning from OT Prayers
Praying Lesson 12: Prayer as an Expression of Spirituality
Praying Lesson 13: The Five Different Kinds of Prayer in the Psalms
Praying Lesson 14: Prerequisites to Effective Prayer
Praying Lesson 15: Prayer and Fasting

Prayer Lesson 4: Our Perspective on Prayer

Lesson 4: Our Perspective on Prayer

Our prayer lives largely depend on our understanding of the character and nature of God. That is, what we think of God and of his interaction in the world will greatly influence our practice of prayer. A low view of God will naturally result in a weak and ineffective prayer life. A biblical view of God will (or should) result in a vibrant and meaningful prayer life. Nothing affects our perspective on prayer more than our perspective on God.[1]

How do people perceive of God’s character and nature? Note several options.


  1. God does not exist; prayer has no effect.
    1. Some atheists see the existence of God as a harmless philosophical question to which they answer “no.” Beyond that, they have little or no interest.
    2. Some atheists not only do not believe themselves, but also demand that others do not believe in God. The concept of God’s existence is morally repulsive to them; God must not exist. People should not and must not pray. Only fools pray.
  2. God does exists but is not personally responsive to prayer.
    1. Some suggest that God created all things, wound up the universe, and set it to run on its own without any divine intervention (Deism). God observes the universe, but does not interact with it. God does not tinker with the system.
    2. Prayer in this case is again futile. Nature is going to run its course and no amount of prayer is going to change things. Man should praise God and thank him, but God is not moved by human requests. God may sympathize with us, but does nothing to help us.
  3. God exists and occasionally steps in to rescue his people.
    1. Many so-called religious people hold this viewpoint. They believe that God created the universe, watches over it, occasionally interacts with it when necessary, but leaves most mundane matters to nature or to human choice. When the Red Sea needs to be parted or the Egyptians need some persuasion (the plagues), then God does something remarkable. Otherwise, events happen naturally, spontaneously, and/or randomly. God certainly may intervene, but usually is not directly involved in earthly events.
    2. Prayer from this perspective may be effective, depending on the nature of the crises and who is doing the praying. If the crisis is genuine and people pray sincerely and fervently, then perhaps God will pay attention and send some relief. Small, everyday matters are of little consequence to God; no need to pray for them on this view.
  4. God exists and responds to those who know the “secrets” of answered prayer.
    1. God has many good things in store for those who know the secret combination to opening the storehouse of heaven. One must say the right words, assume the right posture, and/or ask with enough fervency to convince God to open his hand.
    2. God is dependent upon man in this scenario. God wants to do certain things in the world, but man thwarts God’s plans. God is limited by man’s sinfulness, lack of prayer, weakness, and failures. God will not violate human freedom by acting without being asked. Prayer influences God and may even get him to change his mind.
  5. God exists and actively upholds, directs, governs, and disposes of all things according to his own purpose and will.
    1. Few today, it seems, uphold the biblical idea that “God the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, to the end for the which they were created.”[2] On this perspective, God is not some passive observer of the passing scene, but an active participant in all events.
    2. God is absolutely sovereign over nature. Briefly skim through Psalm 104 and note the various aspects of nature that the psalmist attributes to God’s control. Also see Matt 10:29-30.
    3. God is absolutely sovereign over human affairs. Consider the following texts:
      1. Gen 20:6 – God controls human hearts (affections, intentions, purposes).
      2. Dan 2:21 – God controls human leadership (cf. Rom 13:1f).
      3. Isa 10:5-6 – God controls political and military movements.
      4. Acts 4:27-28 – God controls the wicked activity of evil men.
  6. Our understanding of God influences our prayer life.
    1. If God does not exist, then don’t pray.
    2. If God is merely a spectator, then petition/supplication is futile.
    3. If God only occasionally interacts in human affairs, then we should pray only when necessary (crises, danger, opportunities, etc.).
    4. If God responds only to those who know the secrets of prayer, then we must find those secrets and employ them to get what we want.
    5. If God is sovereign, we pray according to his will, expecting him to accomplish his purposes. Prayer is much more focused on God and his glory than on our wants and ourselves.


[1] Storms, 65.

[2] From the Second London Baptist Confession (1689), chapter 5, “Of Divine Providence.”


Lessons in this Course
Table of Contents
Prayer Lesson 1: The Importance of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 2: Overcoming the Difficulties of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 3: What is Prayer?
Prayer Lesson 4: Our Perspective on Prayer
Praying Lesson 5: Praying in Jesus’ Name
Praying Lesson 6: How Not to Pray
Praying Lesson 7: The Model Prayer Matt 6:9-15
Praying Lesson 8: Pray-ers that Pleases God
Praying Lesson 9: Persistence in Prayer
Praying Lesson 10: Learning from Paul’s Prayers
Praying Lesson 11: Learning from OT Prayers
Praying Lesson 12: Prayer as an Expression of Spirituality
Praying Lesson 13: The Five Different Kinds of Prayer in the Psalms
Praying Lesson 14: Prerequisites to Effective Prayer
Praying Lesson 15: Prayer and Fasting

Prayer Lesson 3: What is Prayer?

Lesson 3: What Is Prayer?

We might wish that the Bible clearly defined what prayer is. We find many examples of prayer in the pages of Scripture, but no complete definition of the concept. Over the years, many people have tried to define what prayer is or what it should include. Most definitions seem to fall short in one way or another. Today’s lesson will attempt to define prayer by looking at the elements of prayer.

  1. Prayer expresses worship.
    1. God is worthy of unending adoration and praise for who He is and what He has done (Ps 150:2). Expressions of worship are not merely the prelude for prayer; prayer is worship. The primary goal of prayer is to bring glory to God.
    2. God is pleased when His people express their appreciation, praise, and adoration for His person and work. We should tell God what He means to us and rehearse before Him His great ways and works.
    3. OT examples
      1. 1 Sam 2:1-10
      2. 1 Chron 29:10-16
      3. Neh 9:5-6
      4. Jer 32:17-22
    4. NT examples
      1. Matt 6:13
      2. Luke 1:46-55
      3. Rom 11:33-36

Quote: Praise purges our souls of selfish indulgence and turns our attention to him to whom all things are due.[1]

Note: We must avoid irreverent familiarity when approaching God in prayer. Many today pray to God as if they were talking to a neighbor or a buddy. We must approach God in a manner fitting with His majesty and power and with our own sinfulness and weakness. We may come boldly, but never arrogantly, flippantly or presumptuously. Our prayer language should be respectful and honorable.

  1. Prayer expresses dependence.
    1. Petition or supplication is asking for God something.
      1. God invites believers to come boldly before the throne of grace (Heb 4:16) to make our requests (Phil 4:6). We should find it remarkable that God is sensitive to the desires of His sinful people. God is concerned about the seemingly trivial matters in the lives of believers (Mt 10:29-31). We can ask God for anything in keeping with His will and character.
      2. Unfortunately, the greed and selfishness of human nature often corrupt our prayers to the extent that we ask for things merely to “consume it upon [our] lusts” (James 4:3). We must be very careful not to reduce prayer to a self-centered repetition of “give me.” Our goal in prayer is to request what we think God would want for us, not merely what we want. God is not some kind of vending machine who can be manipulated into giving us what we want when we say the right words. God is not constrained by the creation. God does not depend on us; we depend on Him.
    2. Thanksgiving recognizes God as the source of the good things we enjoy (James 1:17). It is always proper to give thanks to God (Phil 4:6; 1 Thes 5:18). Lack of thanksgiving characterizes unsaved people (cf. Luke 17:17; Rom 1:21; 2 Tim 3:2).
  2. Prayer expresses confession.
    1. Confession is the acknowledgment of our sins and of our unworthiness, apart from Christ, to receive anything good from God. In confession, we agree with God that our sin is reprehensible and that we are guilty of it. We plead for God’s grace and cast ourselves on His mercy (Ps 25:11).
    2. Biblical authors like Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah often included themselves when confessing national sins (e.g., Ezra 9:6-7; Neh 1:5-6; Dan 9:4). David is famous for the confession of his sin (Ps 51). Solomon urges sinners to confess and forsake their sins (Prov 28:13). In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus stated that believers need to acknowledge their sins and seek reconciliation (Luke 11:4). John assures us that if we confess our sins, God will forgive our sins (1 John 1:9). God delights to forgive those who come to him in humble confession (Micah 7:18-19).
  3. Prayer expresses love.
    1. Intercession is likely one of the most common forms of prayer. We intercede for others when we lift up their needs to God in prayer. Prayer for others is an expression of love for them.
    2. Prayer for the salvation of the lost follows Jesus’ example (John 17:20). God uses intercessory prayer for the lost to bring them to salvation. Paul’s great burden for the salvation of his people led him to pray for their salvation (Rom 9:1-4, 10:1).


If we define prayer by its various elements, we could say that prayer is praise and worship, petition and thanksgiving, confession of sin, and intercession for others. We are not suggesting that every prayer must contain all of these elements. Any one of them constitutes legitimate prayer. All of them express our dependence upon God as our Father and Creator, and all of them should be included in our devotional prayer life.


Prayer Lesson 2: Overcoming the Difficulties of Prayer

Lesson 2: Overcoming the Difficulties of Prayer

  1. Prayer is difficult.
    1. People misunderstand prayer.
      1. They don’t understand what the Bible says about it.
      2. They fail to appreciate the necessity of prayer. “God is going to do whatever He wants anyway, so why pray?” “It doesn’t seem to matter if I pray or not.”
      3. They have false expectations about it, and when prayer doesn’t get them what they want, they quit.
      4. They underestimate what biblical prayer requires. Prayer is hard work. It demands concentrated effort. It places demands on mind and body. It requires extended time and a quiet place. Some are unwilling to invest the energy and time necessary to have an effective prayer life.
      5. Some are unsure about what to say and how to say it. They are intimidated by the flowery prayers they’ve heard in the past and don’t think they can pray correctly. They don’t know the mysterious formulas or incantations people use to address God.
    2. Biblical indications that prayer is difficult.
      1. Mt 26:41Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
      2. Rom 15:30  … strive together with me in prayers to God for me,
      3. Eph 6:18Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
      4. 1Pe 4:7  But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
    3. Prayer may become a burden, a duty more than a delight.
      1. We know that we should do it, but find it difficult, boring, and/or unfruitful.
      2. We find that our minds wander, our bodies are uncomfortable, and we don’t know what to say.
    4. Worldly influences insist that prayer is meaningless superstition.
      1. It’s a relic of the dark ages, little more than empty wishes. Prayer is a psychological means of coping with the difficulties of life. Answers to prayer are merely self-fulfilled expectations or happy coincidences that only gullible people attribute to God’s intervention.
      2. Educated people know better; they don’t waste their time “wishing upon a star.”
    5. The Bible lists several hindrances that make prayer ineffective.
      1. Unbelief  (James 1:6-7)
      2. Disobedience  (Isa 59:1-4)
      3. An unforgiving spirit (Mark 11:25)
      4. Unconfessed sin (Psalm 66:18)
      5. Failure to ask or asking with wrong motives (James 4:1-3)
  2. We must overcome the difficulties of prayer.
    1. Understand the importance of prayer (review last week’s lesson).
    2. See that prayer is a privilege, a gift of grace. We approach God “to find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:14-16).
    3. Recognize that prayer is the means by which we maintain intimacy and communion with God. We connect with God through prayer. Prayer is an essential component of Christian spirituality; you cannot experience a full Christian life without it.
    4. Affirm that prayerlessness is essentially a failure to understand and appreciate the nature of God. People don’t pray because they don’t know God. “If we are lethargic in prayer it is because we are blind to the nature of the God to whom we pray.”[1]
    5. Hints for effective prayer
      1. Pray to God, in Jesus’ name, through the power of the Holy Spirit. John 16:24; Acts 12:5; Eph 6:18
      2. Follow the ACTS pattern in your regular devotional prayer life.

Adoration  Nehemiah 9:6-7

Confession  Prov 28:13; 1 John 1:9

Thanksgiving  1 Thes 5:18

Supplication  Phil 4:6; James 4:3

  1. Plan your schedule so you can pray regularly. Read Ps 55:17.
  2. Find a quiet place away from distractions so you can concentrate.
  3. Use a list. E.g., the bulletin, church directory, make your own
  4. Make prayer an absolute priority in your daily life. Discipline yourself to participate in this essential Christian exercise.


[1] C. Samuel Storms, Reaching God’s Ear (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1988), 18-19.


Lessons in this Course
Table of Contents
Prayer Lesson 1: The Importance of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 2: Overcoming the Difficulties of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 3: What is Prayer?
Prayer Lesson 4: Our Perspective on Prayer
Praying Lesson 5: Praying in Jesus’ Name
Praying Lesson 6: How Not to Pray
Praying Lesson 7: The Model Prayer Matt 6:9-15
Praying Lesson 8: Pray-ers that Pleases God
Praying Lesson 9: Persistence in Prayer
Praying Lesson 10: Learning from Paul’s Prayers
Praying Lesson 11: Learning from OT Prayers
Praying Lesson 12: Prayer as an Expression of Spirituality
Praying Lesson 13: The Five Different Kinds of Prayer in the Psalms
Praying Lesson 14: Prerequisites to Effective Prayer
Praying Lesson 15: Prayer and Fasting

Prayer Lesson 1: The Importance of Prayer

“Lord Teach Us to Pray” A Study in Practical Prayer[1]

One might assume that all Christians naturally understand the importance of prayer and spend time daily communing with God in this way. One would be wrong in this assumption. Many Christians spend little or no time in regular prayer. They pray at church, in crisis situations, and occasionally on religious holidays or when called upon in public, but rarely beyond that. Perhaps they don’t comprehend the importance of prayer, or perhaps they struggle with the mechanics or the form or it. For whatever reasons, believers often neglect prayer.

Note the Quote: Contemporary Christians appear to face two problems related to prayer. One is that many simply do not pray. The other is that, when they do pray, they pray badly. By no means are these problems confined to isolated instances. They are pervasive.[2]

This series of lessons is designed to encourage believers to pray rightly by examining what the Bible says about this critical spiritual discipline.

Lesson 1: The Importance of Prayer

Eph 6:18  …praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints

Why is prayer so important?

  1. God commands believers to pray.
    1. Pray without giving up (Luke 18:1)
    2. Watch and pray ( Luke 21:36)
    3. Pray with supplication, watchfulness, and perseverance (Eph 6:18)
    4. Pray earnestly, vigilantly, thankfully (Col 4:2)
    5. Pray continually (1 Thes 5:17)
    6. Pray seriously and watchfully (1 Pet 4:7)
    7. God’s people pray.
      1. Jesus (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12): The words “pray” and “prayer” are used at least 25 times in connection with our Lord’s earthly ministry. Jesus continues to intercede for his people before God’s throne (Heb 7:25).
      2. Abraham (Gen 18:23f)
      3. Moses (Ex 33:11)
      4. David (Ps 17:1, 86:1)
      5. Daniel (Dan 6:10)
      6. The Apostles (Acts 6:4)
      7. Church fathers, martyrs, missionaries, pastors, theologians, teachers, etc. Virtually anyone who’s served God in any significant way has been a person of prayer.
      8. Prayer is God’s appointed means for obtaining things God would give to us.James 4:2
        1. God is not obligated to work through human prayer. He does whatever he wants. It is pure grace that God listens to our requests. He often says “no.” There is no magic “key” to persuading God to give us what we want.
        2. God hears and answers prayer according to his will (1 John 5:14). Our desire should be that God would grant our requests according to his will and for his glory. Our intent should not be to change God’s mind or overcome his reluctance to provide something we want.
        3. God grants mercy and grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:16). Christians need grace and help all the time, especially in times of crisis. Unfortunately, many Christians come before the throne of grace only during such times.
        4. We can legitimately tell God our requests in prayer (Phil 4:6). God promises to give us what we need, but not everything we want. When we cast all our cares upon God in prayer (1 Pet 5:7), we enjoy the peace that “passeth all understanding” (Phil 4:8).
        5. Prayer promotes sanctification and spiritual maturity. (Luke 21:34-36)
          1. Sanctification (Ps 139:23-24; Heb 13:18)
          2. Spiritual maturity (Ps 119:18; James 1:5)
          3. Prayer empowers our work. E.g.,Eph 6:18-20;1 Thes 5:25—“pray for us”
            1. God works through prayer in the conversion of the lost.
            2. God works through prayer in the strengthening of the church.
            3. God works through prayer in virtually every aspect of Christian life and service—preaching, teaching, evangelism, discipleship, parenting, etc.


Quote:  Prayer will root out heresy, allay misunderstanding, sweep away jealousies and animosities, obliterate immoralities, and bring in the full tide of God’s reviving grace. In the hour of darkest portent, when the case of the church, local or universal, has seemed beyond hope, believing men and believing women have met together and cried to God and the answer has come.[3]



[1] Some of this material follows How to Pray by R.A. Torrey (Revell, 1900). Freely available at Also helpful was C. Samuel Storms, Reaching God’s Ear (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1988). Other sources cited as used.

[2] Kevin Bauder, In the Nick of Time, “Teach Us To Pray.” 6 April 2012. Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis.

The Christian Walk: Lesson 14: Walk in the Spirit, part 3 – The Permanence of Spiritual Gifts

The Christian Walk: Lesson 14: Walk in the Spirit, part 3 – The Permanence of Spiritual Gifts

Theologians and Christians of all stripes differ in their opinions on the permanence of the sign gifts. Without doubt, the sign gifts were miraculous by their very purpose (cf. Heb 2:4, “gifts” is literally “powerful deeds, works of power.” These are classed with miracles, signs, and wonders.). We cannot deny that these miraculous gifts existed among the apostles and within the early church. But were the miraculous gifts were designed to be permanent?

  1. Viewpoints[1]
    1. Essentially, there are only two sides of the debate: either the miraculous sign gifts persist into the present as practiced in the early church or they do not. A “cessationist” says that the sign gifts have ceased or are no longer practiced as the NT describes them. A “continuationist” asserts that the miraculous gifts have persisted and will continue throughout the church age. There is no middle ground.
    2. Most of the argument revolves around whether God is still directly communicating with man today outside of Scripture. Are the miraculous revelatory gifts still operational? Either God is speaking today apart from His Word or He is not.
      1. If so, then the Scriptures are not a sufficient guide for Christian life, and the church must comply with additional prophecy as it’s revealed.
      2. If not, then the church must reject and expose the fraudulent claims of modern so-called prophets, especially when they contradict Scripture.
    3. Various views
      1. Pentecostal/Charismatic/Thirdwave: All miraculous gifts exist today, including the gift of prophecy (and possibly the office of apostle). God speaks through prophets and to His people both audibly (through dreams, visions, words of knowledge), and inwardly (inaudibly in the mind or heart). Anything is possible; one should not “put God in a box.” E.g., Jack Deere, John Wimber, the Kansas City Prophets, the Assemblies of God and the Word of Faith movement.
      2. Mysticism/Spiritual Formation: By employing various disciplines and spiritual exercises, God will speak to us both audibly and inaudibly. The maturing Christian should expect to hear the voice of God on a regular basis, independent from Scripture, and that voice will reveal God’s individual, specific will for his life. E.g., Henry Blackaby, Beth Moore, John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Mark Driscoll and C. J. Mahaney. Some of these might be considered “open but cautious.”
      3. Cessationist: All miraculous gifts, including prophecy and tongues, have ceased by God’s intentional design. The sign gifts were given specifically to the apostles (and some associates) for the founding of the NT church but did not persist after the apostolic era. E.g., Jonathan Edwards, BB Warfield, John MacArthur, Charles Ryrie, RC Sproul.

Charismatic influence permeates most of the evangelical world today, as well as most of the main line denominations. Estimates suggests that almost 600 million professing Christians endorse charismatic practices[2] (i.e., they are continuationists to some degree). By comparison, only about 285 million believers identify themselves as Evangelical (and many of these would be charismatic). About 35% of Americans claim to be either Pentecostal or charismatic. Although just 8% of the population is evangelical, half of evangelical adults (49%) fit the charismatic definition. A slight majority of all “born again” Christians (51%) is charismatic. Nearly half of all adults who attend a Protestant church (46%) are charismatic. One out of every four Protestant churches in the United States (23%) is a charismatic congregation. Four out of every ten non-denominational churches are charismatic.[3] So the continuationist perspective is much more common today than the cessationist position is. However, numbers do not necessarily indicate faithfulness to truth (e.g., the RCC has about 1B members, more are Muslims).

  1. Biblical rationale for cessationism
    1. Revelatory gifts (prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc.) were necessary during the founding of the church. Once the apostolic era ended, those gifts were no longer needed. The principle that determined which gifts remained in the church and which ones ceased is that of miracle. Once the transition from Law to Grace was made (John 1:17) and the NT was completed, the miraculous gifts were no longer necessary.
    2. Apostles and prophets were foundational in the church (Eph 2:20); they served at the beginning of the church. Once the foundation was laid, there was no longer any need for miracles to validate the message of the apostles.
    3. The word “apostle” refers to a particular set of people who had abilities to perform miracles (2 Cor 12:12). The only NT apostles were the Twelve, Paul, and perhaps Barnabas and James. The sign and revelatory gifts are mostly associated with the apostles or with the apostolic age (Acts 2:43; 5:12).
    4. The office of apostle has not continued; it did not pass to the next generation. Paul claims that he was the last of the class of those who had seen Jesus, a requirement for apostles (Acts 1:22; 1 Cor 15:8). In fact, Paul’s apostleship did not fit the pattern in some ways (e.g., he was not a companion with Jesus during His earthly ministry).
    5. In the years following the founding of the church, miracle-working power did not seem to be associated with particular individuals. For example, Paul, who had done miracles, did not exercise that power all the time (see Phil 2:26-27; 1 Tim 5:23; 2 Tim 4:20). In James 5:14, the instruction is to call the elders of the church to pray for healing, not to call a miracle-working apostle. This suggests that miracle-working ability slowly ceased.
    6. As the NT canon nears its close, the divinely inspired authors unite in pointing their readers to the apostles as the inspired human source of truth. They did not point their readers to new or fresh revelation but to the words spoken previously by the prophets and apostles. See 2 Tim 4:1-5; 2 Pet 3:2; Jude 17; Rev 22:18-19.
  2. The nature of miracles
    1. A miracle is an event in nature, so extraordinary in itself, and so coinciding with a prophecy or a command of a religious teacher or leader, as to convince those who witness it that God has done it, thereby certifying that this teacher or leader has been commissioned by Him.[4] A sign points to something or certifies something, namely, that a teacher is speaking for God. Miraculous sign gifts authenticated the apostles as official spokesmen for Jesus Christ. See 1 Kings 17:20-24; John 3:2, 20:30; Acts 2:22; 14:3; Heb 2:2-4.
    2. God can certainly still do miracles (Mt 19:26). But most claims of the miraculous today don’t fit the biblical pattern. Jesus and the Apostles instantly and completely healed people who were blind, paralyzed, deformed, or dead. Biblical miracles are usually immediate and permanent, unlike much of what passes for “signs and wonders” today.[5]
    3. Most miracles happened in one of three relatively brief periods of biblical history: in the days of Moses and Joshua, during the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, and in the time of Christ and the Apostles. None of those periods lasted much more than a hundred years. But even during those three eras, miracles were not normal occurrences that happened to average people. Miracles were uncommon and isolated events; that’s what made them special.
    4. Miracles are usually associated with giving of revelation. Since the Bible is complete and the apostles are gone, God’s revelation is finished. Through many signs and wonders, God has authenticated the truth of the Bible. Do we need ongoing miracles to substantiate the Bible? No. The Scripture has been attested; the foundation has been adequately laid. The need for such miracles no longer exists.

Note the Quote: There are no miracle-workers performing miraculous signs to attest the redemptive revelation they bring from God…. The progress of redemptive revelation attested by miraculous signs done by miracle-workers has been brought to a conclusion in the revelation embodied in our New Testaments.[6]

  1. Other Considerations
    1. The key theological epistles of the NT (Romans, Galatians, Ephesians), along with the Pastoral Epistles (Timothy and Titus) mention nothing about employing miraculous sign gifts. If these gifts persisted and were normal, one would think the epistles would say something about their use.
    2. If genuine, biblically legitimate miracles were continuing today as a normal pattern among God’s people, no believer would deny it. But such is manifestly not happening. We do not see the same kind of sign-gift activities in the church after the death of the apostles. The contemporary experience of continuationists is clearly not the same as we find in the NT.
    3. An emphasis on the miraculous often leads to an obsession with sensational experiences, which in turn almost inevitably lead to fraud and abuse. Sign gifts can be and often are faked or used by false prophets (just as Jesus warned in Mt 7:22). They are a means by which confusion, disorder, and heresy can enter into the church. False prophecies undermine confidence in the truth of God and in His declarations to His people in Scripture. We see many evidences of such fraud and abuse within the charismatic movement. Many practices in that movement fail to pass the “decent and in order” test (1 Cor 14:40).
    4. Signs and wonders are not the true test of God’s presence or power. The only true test of whether a person or a movement is from God is teaching and behavior that conforms to the Word of God. The highest expression of God’s power in the world today is not some spectacular, unusual sign or wonder but the transformation of a soul from darkness to light, from death to life. Regeneration, sanctification, and the presences of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) mark genuine believers, not miraculous signs.
    5. Historically speaking, the signs ceased soon after the close of the apostolic era. Other than a few fringe groups, Christians did not practice or expect the sign gifts between the time of the apostles and the rise of Pentecostalism in the early 20th century.[7]
    6. God is perfectly capable of doing anything, including miracles, according to his purpose and will. God can work sovereignly and supernaturally in any way he chooses. But God’s intent and purpose for the miraculous sign gifts seems to have been limited to the founding of the church and not the entire church age.


Note the Quote:  Scripture contains everything that the Christian needs in order to be “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:17). Therefore, let us not be shaken by the claims of those who state we must experience the miraculous sign-gifts in order for our Christianity to be whole, our Gospel to be full, or our lives to be God-honoring.[8]

[1] See Gary Gilley, “A Case for Cessationism,” IFCA Voice, Nov-Dec 2012.

[2] According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (Dec 2011).

[3] According to Barna in 2007,

[4] John MacArthur, “Does God Do Miracles Today?” Some of the material in this lesson directly from MacArthur.

[5] In fact, Charismatics freely admit that what they consider “signs and wonders” differ significantly from those seen in the NT.

[6] Sam Waldron, To Be Continued? Are the Miraculous Gifts for Today? Quoted in Les Lofquist, “Cessationism and IFCA International,” Voice (Nov/Dec 2012), 8.

[7] Pentecostals typically argue that the resurgence of the sign gifts marks the end of the church age and prepares the world for the Second Coming of Christ.

[8] Andrew Webb, “The Miraculous Gifts of the Spirit: Continuation, Restoration, or Cessation?”

The Christian Walk: Lesson 14: Walk in the Spirit, part 2—the Gifts of the Spirit

The Christian Walk: Lesson 14: Walk in the Spirit, part 2—the Gifts of the Spirit

A study of what it means to walk in the Spirit would hardly be complete without considering what the Bible says about spiritual gifts. The evidence of the Spirit-filled, sanctified life is the presence of the fruit of the Spirit. The evidence is not, as some claim, the gifts of the Spirit. The fruit is shared by and expected from all Christians alike, while the gifts are parceled out to various members of the body of Christ as the Holy Spirit wills (1 Cor 12:8–11). No matter what gift a person has, his exercise of that gift should be in keeping with the fruit. In other words, the Christian should use whatever gift or gifts he may have been given lovingly, joyfully, peacefully, patiently, kindly, and in keeping with the other fruit of the Spirit.[1]

With this in mind, let’s look at some facts about the gifts of the Spirit. Read 1 Cor 12:4-11.


  1. Words associated with spiritual gifts

There are several NT words used to denote the gifts of the Spirit. Each may emphasize some aspect of the gift or the Spirit’s work. They all refer to essentially the same thing—the gifts.

  1. spiritual” (l Cor 12:1): This word means literally “a spiritual thing” and describes the gift as proceeding from the Holy Spirit and to be exercised in the realm and power of the Spirit.
  2. gifts” ( l Cor 12:4; l Pet 4:10): This term (charismata) means “a grace gift” and refers to an unmerited, gracious endowment from God. This word denotes extraordinary powers distinguishing certain Christians and enabling them to serve the church of Christ, the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating in their souls by the Holy Spirit.
  3. service” (KJV “ministries” l Cor 12:5; 1 Pet 4:10): This word emphasizes the usefulness of the gifts. The gifts are employed in serving one another.
  4. energy/activity” (KJV “operations” l Cor 12:6): This word emphasizes the power operating in the gifts; the power, activity, and energy of God and the Holy Spirit.
  5. Definition:  A spiritual gift is a visible, God-given, Holy Spirit-energized ability, whether naturally inherited or miraculously endowed, whether temporary or permanent, given to each believer for the edification of one’s local church for the glory of God.
    1. A spiritual gift is an ability, a capacity for service. In the case of the non-miraculous gifts, they need training, development, and nurture. E.g., the gift of teaching required that one learn and develop communication skills.
    2. A spiritual gift may be natural or supernatural, i.e., miraculous or non-miraculous in bestowal and function. In some sense, any gift must be supernaturally energized for its function, but this does not make it miraculous.
      1. A natural spiritual gift is one that is inherited naturally but made useful for spiritual service in the local church at salvation.
      2. A miraculous or supernatural spiritual gift is one that is imparted in a direct manner from God and it produces an ability that the person never possessed before. Its function is a special work of the Holy Spirit and cannot be explained in a natural or ordinary manner. The ability to speak in a language you never studied (e.g., tongues) was such a gift.
    3. The distribution of spiritual gifts
      1. Spiritual gifts are sovereignly distributed (l Cor 12:11, 18, 23; Rom 12:6; Heb 2:4). One may desire a gift (1 Cor 12:31), but God determines who receives which gift(s).
      2. Every Christian has one or more spiritual gifts (l Cor 12:7; l Pet 4:10). There are no useless members in the Body of Christ. Each believer has a function to serve in the local church, and God has gifted him accordingly. Your gift “finds you” as you serve in the local church. Failure to use your gift for the benefit of the church is a simple violation of NT commands (cf. 1 Pet 4:10).
      3. No believer has all the gifts, and the gifts vary among the believers (l Cor 12:8 ff). Everyone contributes something to the body. Ideally, if everyone serves, all the gifts will be present. However, certain local churches may not have all the available gifts due to such factors as the maturity of its people, its state of growth, its spiritual condition, its population, etc.
      4. Gifts also differ in value, although all gifts are important and necessary for the healthy function of the local church. See l Cor 12:28 (“first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then …”) and 12:31 (“the greater gifts”), and l Cor 14:5, 19 (prophecy is greater than tongues).
  6. The gifts

Gifts can be categorized as sign, service, revelatory, leadership, and proclamation gifts. Gifts probably overlap to some degree. Further, a precise definition of each gift is almost impossible to give because the NT often does not define the gifts or explain how they were used. The lists of the NT gifts are probably to be considered exhaustive in the sense that all the gifts are either so named or would be subsets of some of the named gifts.

  1. Teaching (Rom 12:6-8; l Cor 12:7-11, 28; Eph 4:11-12): the ability to explain clearly the meaning of the Word of God. Teachers are individuals that God gives to His church, and teaching is an ability that these people have. Teachers help believers mature by instructing them in the faith.
  2. Ministry (Rom 12:7 “serving”; 1 Cor 12:28 “helps”): aid, especially to the weak and needy.
  3. Administration (Rom 12:8 “to lead, rule”; 1 Cor 12:28 “governments”): an ability to organize and administer with efficiency and harmony; the ability to give leadership and direction. One with this gift can probably see issues, discern the real factors involved, and provide direction.
  4. Evangelist (Eph 4:11): an itinerant announcer of the gospel’s good news who often also worked to organize local churches (much like a missionary does today). All pastors are to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5).
  5. Pastor (Eph 4:11): both a responsibility and an office. It requires shepherding abilities (including ruling, administering, exhorting, etc.) and a place or office in which to act as shepherd. A pastor must meet the qualifications (1 Tim 3;Titus 1) and be duly elected and authorized by the local church to function in that capacity.
  6. Exhortation (Rom 12:8 “exhort, comfort, encourage”): The word has two senses:

1.         to comfort, strengthen, or encourage

2.         to exhort or appeal to action

  1. Giving (Rom 12:8 “to give, share”): the ability to give to the work of the Lord consistently, liberally, sacrificially, with wisdom and cheer.
  2. Mercy (Rom 12:8): to give aid to those in misery of some kind, including the sick and afflicted.
  3. Faith (1 Cor 12:9): the ability to believe and trust God beyond the ordinary.
  4. Apostle (Eph 4:11; l Cor 12:28): a position of authority in the early churches. The basic idea of apostle is a representative, a “sent one.” An apostle had a special ministry of preaching the gospel, founding local churches, and writing Scripture.
  5. Prophecy (Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 12:10, 28; 14:1-40; Eph 4:11): the ability to receive revelation from God and proclaim it to others (cf. 1 Cor 14:29-32). A prophet had a part in founding local churches (Eph 2:20) and in bringing revelation when needed, especially before the NT was finished.
  6. Miracles (1 Cor 12:28): signs to certify a messenger with a divine message.
  7. Healing (1 Cor 12:9, 28, 30): the miraculous ability to heal diseases and deformities as a sign to authorize a messenger with a divine message.
  8. Tongues (1 Cor 12:10): the miraculous ability to speak a language not previously known to the speaker. It was a sign gift primarily, although an element of revelation may have been involved in the content of the tongues-speaking. The content of tongues was praise, giving of thanks, extolling God, etc. (Acts 2:11; 10:46; 1 Cor 14:16).
  9. Interpretation of Tongues (1 Cor 12:10): the miraculous ability to interpret or translate a language not previously known to the interpreter.
  10. Discerning of Spirits (1 Cor 12:10): the supernatural ability to discern a true prophecy from a false one, when direct revelation was being employed (cf. 1 Thess 5:20-21).
  11. Wisdom (1 Cor 12:8): the capability of receiving revealed truth and presenting it to others. The wisdom of God is the whole system of revealed truth (1 Cor 2:6-12).
  12. Knowledge (1 Cor 12:8): receiving and communicating divine revelation; the ability to understand and exhibit clearly the wisdom of God.
  13. The purpose of the spiritual gifts

A spiritual gift is to be exercised within the ministry and outreach of one’s local church. While the larger Body of Christ may benefit from the gifts, the exercise of spiritual gifts is properly to be done under the ministry of one’s local church. Spiritual gifts are always for the benefit of others. For one to have a gift and not use it within the church is a great shame.



In the third part of this lesson, we’ll consider the permanency of the spiritual gifts.

[1] Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology