Vol. 10 March-April, 1948 No. 2
Prevailing Prayer
By ALEXANDER THOMSON

We are impelled to issue a strong appeal to those who accept the divine Scriptures as God's revelation, yet who disbelieve, in theory or in practice, in the power of prayer, This tendency is specially to be found among those who have studied Dispensational teaching, or who accept the teaching that everything is of God.

Any teaching which makes true prayer virtually unnecessary must be unbalanced. There is something very far wrong with your views if you do not continually supplicate God, and obtain clear responses. Examine the periodicals of the most "advanced" teachers of the present time, and you will find that the number of pages devoted to this subject, which was reckoned by the Apostle Paul to be of great importance, is extremely small.

It is very distressing that dispensational light, which should have been a blessing, has instead produced a blight. Our fatalist friends feel the future is foreknown and firmly fixed, so that neither God nor His people can change the smallest event.

Reduced to plain English, this means that our God does not come up to the standard of the average human father. Every good father allows his children a certain freedom in making requests, and within reason will grant these. The parents may attain their aims in the education of their children in more than one rigid plan. For certain contingencies, even the best of fathers may not have made provision; he may first desire the approval or co-operation of his child. He may decide to do nothing, until approached by his child.

Our God Is Amazingly Human
Our God, as revealed by Christ, is amazingly human. It is utterly unthinkable that He is less to be moved by His children than is the human parent. If the Most High is kind to those who are both ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35), surely He seems like one who will go out of His way to do much for His own people. Would you decline to aid your kin when he is in great need? Have we not a strong obligation to those who are nearest and dearest to us? We, however, are God's own kin (Acts 17:28). We are His family, His race. The Divine Race and the Human Race are most closely linked. As His kin, we may approach Him, reverently and yet boldly, as it were on His own level. This is what God loves us to do. He yearns for that feeling of kinship with His own Race.

No wonder that Abraham of old, doubtless aware of the impending doom of the cities of the plain (Gen. 18: 17, 21) was quite undeterred in pleading with Jehovah face to face for the doomed cities. Had he been a fatalist, he would have argued that everything was fixed, no one can make Jehovah change His mind, there is no faint hope left.

Hezekiah was plainly informed what God's will for him was. He was to die, and was told through Isaiah to get ready for death. But this did not prevent Hezekiah from beseeching Jehovah for life. Fifteen years were added to his life, because Jehovah heard his prayer and saw his tears (Isa. 38:5).

Jehovah Is No Immovable God
When Jehovah saw that mankind had become very corrupt before the Flood, He decided to destroy man and beast, because He had changed His mind or attitude regarding them (Gen. 6:7). The Hebrew word (nacham) does not strictly mean "repent". God did not require to repent. But He is permitted to change His mind if He cares. He is no unmovable God. He is at liberty to alter His attitude and His plans if He wishes. That Nineveh was to be overthrown in forty days was no idle threat (Jon. 3:4). This was God's revealed will. Yet when the people turned from their evil way God changed His mind (A. V. repented) about the evil He said He would do to them, and did not (v. 10).

God Answered Prayer for England
God has revealed various goals He has in view. But He may attain His objects by means of different channels. His revealed objectives, such as the Millennium, the Judgment, the Second Death, the Return of Messiah, the restoration of Israel, the rapture of the Church in a moment to heaven, are fixed. We cannot alter these facts of history. Must we therefore conclude that all daily matters in our lives are likewise inexorably fixed beforehand? Some people have no choice but to proceed to their place of employment each day. That is their duty. But it may be left to them to reach that employment by three or four different methods or routes. When the cities of Britain were being nightly bombed, in answer to the agonizing cries of His people that He could make this stop in a hundred different ways, God provided the necessary distraction by making Germany attack Russia. God is not fettered by the future, apart from what He had promised. It is unthinkable that God has less liberty in the 'matter of choice than human beings have.

The Marvel of Energized Prayer
James says that a righteous person's energized petition avails much (ch. 5:16). No statement could be clearer. Yet certain dispensationalists aver that this principle does not obtain in the present economy, oblivious of the fact that Paul says the same thing. If the person is energized, that is God's spirit working in him, it makes him pray in line with God's will. We find this in other words in Mark 11 :24, "All things whatsoever you are praying and requesting of yourselves (Middle Voice), believe that you got, and they will be yours." It is when we have faith, the faith of God in His own word (v. 22), that we got the petitions (already; past tense), that we are praying in accord with the divine will. Again, "This is the boldness which we have toward Him, that if we should request anything of ourselves according to His will, He is hearkening (or, listening) to us. And if we are aware that He is hearkening to us, whatever we may be requesting of our selves, we are aware that we have the requests which we have requested from Him" (1 John 5:14,15). The words "according to His will" do not imply that He has already willed any' thing with reference' to the subject asked for. They mean that the request is not contrary to His good pleasure. A child might ask its father whether it was against his will that it should go outside and play. The father's will would only come into operation when he was asked. We are too prone to think of God's will as already irrevocably fixed and unchangeable.

A Petition with the Object of Obligating God to Act
The principle, "Go on requesting and it shall be given you; go on seeking and you shall find; go on knocking and it shall be opened to you" (Matt. 7:7) is still true, for three times does Paul insist that we persevere in prayers. Once, indeed, he teaches us to use "all perseverance and petition" (or binding obligation), in Eph. 6:18. The petition is something much stronger than the prayer. The word (deEsis) signifies a petition with the object of binding God to accomplish something, or obligating Him to act.

If God is able to do excessively beyond all that we ask or apprehend (Eph. 3:20),—is not this a very strong incitement to us to pray for great things? The word "ask" is in the Middle Voice. This implies that we ask of ourselves, ask with our whole being, ask with our whole emotions and spirit. There is nothing formal in such asking. The whole man is behind his petition. God can do far beyond what the most energized believer can beseech.

It is sometimes said that we do not know what to pray for, and this is not necessary because what we do know is that God is making all things cooperate for our good. But this is by no means what Rom. 8:26 declares. Paul says, "What we should pray as we must needs, we are not aware." This refers to the form and manner of the prayer, and is connected with our weakness or infirmity. Very seldom does the verb "pray" occur in the N. T. with a direct accusative, as here. Paul says not a word here concerning what or whom we should pray for. He is concerned with the utterance. If saints live close to God, it is inconceivable that they do not know some' thing of the mind of the Lord, and that they are not guided as to what to pray for. Is it not "God who is energizing within you—viz., both to be willing and to be energetic, for the sake of His good pleasure"? (Phil. 2:13).

Prayer and its answers must ever remain a mystery. The mystery is simply that God condescends to allow us to decide His course in certain matters. Within certain bounds He leaves it to His people to formulate and submit requests which He may carry out. If we are inspired to persevere, our petitions are accepted, and henceforth become God's will. The astounding fact on Joshua's Long Day was not that Joshua got prior notice from God that the day was to be lengthened considerably, and acted on this knowledge, or that God inspired Joshua to pray in accord with a fixed and immutable plan of His to lengthen that day, but—"there was no day like that before it or after it, that Jehovah hearkened unto the voice of a man." (Joshua 10:14) . The love of a human father often causes him to be directed by the child's continued requests. What the child begs for becomes the father's will. Why should not the same principle apply to our heavenly Father?

Paul says in Rom. 12:2 that we should be "testing what is the will of God, (viz) what is good and well able to please (Him) and mature." If we put forward what is well able to please (euareston) God, what is acceptable to Him, we test and discover that this has become His good will.

Our time is short. Our opportunities are vast. Let us prevail upon God in Christ to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, because He is able and willing.

—63 Traquair Park West,
Edinburgh 12, Scotland Last updated 13.6.2006