Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 3: Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles)

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In 1 Sam 1, Hannah, being bitter and sorrowful, prayed to the Lord. It adds that she made a vow to the Lord. Her words are as follows: “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head” (NIV). In the context of the chapter, she made both a request and a vow. It seems that prayer and vows are close associates at the very least. Indeed, at the end of the chapter, she summarizes what she had done, she had prayed to God and asked him for a child, and, since her prayer was answered, she made good on her vow. Additionally, prayer is not limited to times of happiness. Hannah pried while she was filled with bitter sorrow because she was barren. Note also that Hannah was moving her lips but her prayer was in her mouth (1 Sam 1:13). Prayer, again, can be done in silence. 

In 1 Sam 2, we first see prayer as a way of praising God. Hannah, after having been given a son and then giving him over for service to the Lord, prays to God, saying, “My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. . . .” (2:1-10, NIV). Prayer can be a request or a praise.

In 1 Sam 8, when Samuel was old, the Hebrews wanted a king in his place, so Samuel prayed. Here is the first instance in which God says something about the situation and instructs someone in prayer. Prayer here is seen as communication or instruction. God is able to instruct and communicate with us in prayer.

In 1 Sam 12, Samuel called upon the Lord for rain and the Lord caused it to rain. Here the word “prayer” is not used, but Samuel does make a request. This request, however, was to make a sign for the people, so that they would see and recognize their wickedness. If we are to understand “called on the Lord” as “prayer,” then one of the intentions or agendas of prayer is not only to receive a response to a request, but also, at times, to create a response to a sign. Indeed, the rain came and the people then asked Samuel to pray for the Lord to make it stop raining. Using a sort of inclusio, we can legitimately conclude that they were asking Samuel to reverse his original prayer. From this conclusion we can infer that “called on the Lord” is the same as “prayer.” Indeed, Samuel relents, saying that he should not sin by failing to pray for them. Here is an element yet seen: to fail to pray on behalf of someone can be a sin. In this case, the people are not praying to God directly. They are relying on Samuel as the prophet to speak to God. As prophet, the divinely appointed messenger between the Lord and his people, Samuel had a responsibility to pray to the Lord on the people’s behalf, much like Moses did in Numbers, for example.

In 1 Sam 14, Saul prayed to the Lord on a couple of occasions. First, he wanted to know if he was going to have success, so he made an inquiry. The Lord did not answer him on that day. Second, he asked the Lord for the right answer through the casting of lots. Through the lots, the correct answer was revealed. The answer: Jonathan is the sinner deserving death. The men around them then pleaded Saul not to harm his son, Jonathan, because he had fought mightily against the Philistines with the Lord’s strength. Saul took very seriously his oath. Through prayer with lots he found the sinner. But he made an inquiry and God did not answer him on that day. Interesting, we might make an inquiry, but God may not answer at the time that we ask. God is not required to answer in a timely fashion.

In 2 Sam 7 (compare 1 Chr 17), David prays to the Lord. It is a lengthy prayer. It comes in response to the covenant that God reveals to him regarding the prosperity of his household. It refers to the Lord as the Sovereign Lord. It requests for God to stay true to his promise. But it also makes declarations out of praise. Here we see that a prayer can involve both requests and praises. Prayer can also plead for God to be true to his word.

In 2 Sam 15:31, David prays to the Lord, requesting that his enemy’s advisor may provide foolish advice. In 2 Sam 17:14, it seems that his request is granted, for it is determined that the advisor’s advice was not pleasing. Here we see that the prayer was offered, and though it was answered it was also delayed. But this may be only as a result of the narrative. In any case, David made a request. Again, we see that prayer is a request.

In 2 Sam 21, after David recovers the bones of Saul and Jonathan and puts them with Saul’s father’s bones, God answered prayer on behalf of the land. Prayer concerning the land is not off limits. The people were having a famine. David “sought the face of the Lord.” Here we see that prayer is an inquiry. But at the end of this narrative, it says that God answered the prayer on behalf of the land. We must infer that David’s prayer was both inquiry and request. Yet it is interesting that prayer can also be inquiry.

In 2 Sam 24, David decides to take a census of his army, which then results in the discipline of the Lord. David was given three discipline options, and he chose to have three days of plague in the land. As the angel was carrying out the Lord’s instructions, the Lord grieved for the people and told the angel to stop. David then said to the Lord that the issue is David, not the land, so deal with him instead. David then built an altar at the location where the angel stopped. As a result of the altar, the Lord answered the prayer in behalf of the land and stopped the plague. Here we do not see the word “prayer” in association with what David said to the Lord. But in connection with the end of the chapter, we must understand his words as a prayer. In this instance, his prayer is a request, a plea, really, but also confession. Here he confesses that the issue is him, not the land or people. Prayer can be requests but also confession.

In 1 Kgs 8 (compare 2 Chr 6), Solomon prays a dedication over the temple, in which he makes a request and praises God. It is a long prayer. It also, like David’s lengthy prayer, requests for God to stay true to his word, to the promises that he made to David.

In 1 Kgs 13, the man of God intercedes and prays for the king so that his hand would be restored to full health. Here prayer is a request, but the act of prayer is seen as an intercession. Or is it that prayer is both a request and an intercession? Or is it that prayer is intercession? At the very least, the man of God makes the request on behalf of the king. It is similar to how Moses interceded for Aaron as mentioned in Deuteronomy. Prayer on behalf of another is intercession.

In 1 Kgs 18, Elijah prays, asking God to answer him so that it will be revealed to the people that the Lord alone is God. While the altar had been drenched in water, Elijah was somehow supposed to ignite the offerings. He prayed, requesting God to send fire from heaven, causing the offerings to be consumed with the goal that all who see the fire will realize that the Lord is the one true God.

In 1 Kgs 19, Elijah prays, asking God that he might die. Exhausted from running, he sat down and gave up being seemingly defeated. Instead of answering this prayer, if he meant it literally, the angel of the Lord comes to Elijah in his distress and nourishes him with food. Perhaps Elijah was being sarcastic? Or maybe he was being honest? Maybe he wanted to die in the desert under the Lord’s hand rather than by the hand of Jezebel? Still, his prayer was a request.

In 2 Kgs 4, Elisha prays to the Lord, and then he laid on the boy and brought him back to life. The text does not tell us what he prayed. Prayer, however, is in association with the miracle. 

In 2 Kgs 6, Elisha prays, requesting that the servant’s eyes may be opened so that he can see the host of angels. Then he prayed, requesting to blind his assailants’ eyes, only later to request for their eyes to be opened. The Lord granted these requests. Again, prayer is request is the element we see here.

In 2 Kgs 19, Isaiah is sought out by king Hezekiah to pray for the remnant that survives the onslaught of Assyria. Isaiah responds with a prophecy, a word from the Lord, that Hezekiah should not be afraid for the Lord will cause the Assyrians to flee. Hezekiah then hears more word from the Assyrians, and he becomes afraid, and he prays. In his prayer, he acknowledges God as the creator of the heavens and the earth, and he requests deliverance. Prayer is here a request.

In 2 Kgs 20 (compare 2 Chr 32), Hezekiah finds out that he is about to die. What does he do in response? He prays. He said to the Lord, “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes” (NIV). This request for the Lord to remember Hezekiah’s faithfulness was enough to cause God to add 15 additional years to his life. It was a request, but was it requesting additional years? It was a plea to remember his faithfulness, and based on the covenant the Lord created between him and his people, Hezekiah’s request is therefore the equivalent for God to stay true to his word and bless him for his faithfulness with long life. In any case, it is a request, even if only his request is to remember his faithfulness.

In 1 Chr 5, the Reubenites and the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh went to war against the Hagrites. The text says that they were helped in fighting them “because they cried out to him in battle.” It says further that God answered their prayers because they trusted in him. It doesn’t say what they prayed or what they cried out. But here we see that prayer offered in trust is honored by God. Does this mean that when Saul prayed and God did not answer in 1 Sam 14 that it was because Saul didn’t trust in God? The text is not concerned with Saul. It is concerned only to describe the Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh. In their case, God answered their prayers because they trusted in him. Trust is apparently a very important factor in prayer.

In 1 Chr 29, David gives another lengthy prayer, and this time it is in praise of God, but then it also includes a request to help his son, Solomon, stay true to the Lord’s commandments. Praise and request go together in this prayer.

In 2 Chr 7, the Lord comes to the temple and declares that he will be attentive to prayers in the temple. He also says that when the people stray from commitment to the Lord but then humble themselves and pray or seek his face while turning from their wicked ways, then he will listen to them. Prayer is a request here, but it is done in connection with turning from wickedness. Prayer is about seeking the face of God. There are no specific words listed here to pray, but the intent associated with the prayer is that of humility. Humility is an essential aspect of prayer. But so is righteousness. 

In 2 Chr 30, Hezekiah interceded on behalf of the people, requesting that God spare them for eating of the passover meal while being unclean. The Lord granted his request. 

In 2 Chr 32, both Isaiah and Hezekiah prayed to God because the Assyrians were insulting the Lord as they were laying siege to Jerusalem. The Lord answered their prayer, annihilating the Assyrians, causing the king of Assyria to flee, only to be killed by some of his sons. We don’t know the prayer they prayed, but we know they made a request. Again, prayer is request.

In 2 Chr 33, Manasseh, who did evil in the sight of the Lord, was exiled by God. But in his exile, Manasseh repented and prayed to God. The text says that the Lord was moved by Manasseh’s entreaty and took pity on his plea. His prayer was seen as an entreaty and a plea. It was a request, a humble plea. The Lord granted the request and Manasseh was able to return to Jerusalem.


Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 2: Joshua, Judges, and Ruth)

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In Judges 13, Manoah makes a request for God to reveal to him how to rear his child. Again, prayer is understood to be a request. 

In Judges 16, Samson makes a final request and prays to God, asking for a final stand of strength. Prayer is seen as a request. But here the text says that he wanted the strength so that he could take revenge. His prayer was for God to enable him to take revenge. So, is it up to us to take revenge? Or does vengeance belong to God? Was Samson the instrument for the divine vengeance? We can entertain such questions, but the point here is that prayer is a request, and it just so happens that the purpose here was so that he could take revenge.

Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 1: Pentateuch)

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In Genesis 20-32, prayer is a request to God. It could even be done “in the heart” (i.e., silently?) as in Gen 24:25 or on behalf of another as in 25:21. In Gen 20, God reveals to the king in a dream that the king needed to hand over Abraham’s wife, and Abraham would pray for the king so that he would be healed. God reveals that Abraham’s prayer would be a petition on behalf of another. God also reveals that if the king did not return Abraham’s wife, the king would die. The king returned Abraham’s wife, and Abraham prayed to God to spare the king. 

In this instance, did God give the prayer to Abraham to pray back? I can see the potential for thinking that he did, but the text doesn’t answer this question. The text is concerned only in telling us that Abraham prayed and the king’s life was then spared.

In Gen 24, Abraham’s servant was out on the search for a suitable wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac. He prayed to God for success. Again, prayer is seen as a request. His prayer was answered, for as soon as he was done praying, he saw Rebekah, who then became Isaac’s wife. 

In Gen 25, Isaac prays to God on behalf of Rebekah, because she was barren. Here is another example of a request being made on behalf of someone else. 

In Gen 32, Jacob prays to God, asking him for protection from Esau. Again, prayer is seen as a request.

In Ex 8-10, the Pharaoh asks Moses to pray to God, requesting that the frogs, thunder, hail, and locusts be taken away. Here prayer is also seen as a request. In this case, prayer is also on behalf of another, for the plagues affected the Egyptians and sometimes the Hebrews as well.

In Numbers 11, Moses prays to the Lord, which led to the Lord’s fire dying down. Here we see prayer is a request in what appears to be an appeasement, but the text does not actually say that the prayer itself appeased the Lord’s anger. 

In Numbers 21, Moses is asked by the people to pray to the Lord in order to get the snakes taken away from among them. Moses prayed and the snakes went away. Again, prayer is seen as a request, and this time it is made on behalf of others.

In Deuteronomy 4:7, the Hebrews understood that when they prayed God was near, which was in stark contrast to the other nations who did not have gods that were near when they prayed. Here we see an element not yet seen before in explicit words: in prayer God is near.

In Deuteronomy 9, Moses identifies that when he prayed for the Hebrews and for Aaron, God spared his wrath, because the Lord listened to his prayers. Prayer is seen to be a request, and in this case it is done on behalf of others.

Theology of Prayer: Preface

I originally posted this content on Facebook around 2010-2012. I can’t remember exactly when. I later deleted my Facebook account and this introduction never transferred to Iakobou. I found it on my hard disk and am putting it up here to complete the series.

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What is prayer?

Prayer is fascinating and powerful. But what is it? Is it something that influences God or does it change us? Is prayer the very element of God passing through us? Is prayer a divine boomerang in which God gives us the words to pray, and we pray them back to God in turn?

These questions are unsettling as they seem to reflect not biblical but theological-philosophical thinking. Far be it from us to think about prayer apart from Scripture! We should ask different questions: (1) what does the Bible say about prayer, and (2) what prayers are found in the Bible? Question one inevitably looks for any sort of explanation of prayer as well as commands concerning prayer. Question two looks for models to follow. Ultimately, after we examine the Bible for what it offers about prayer, we will look at the facts and then draw some conclusions, especially concerning our initial, uncomfortable questions.

When we examine Scripture, we will not merely make a parenthetical reference taken out of context. We do not want to be guilty of proof-texting. No, we want to examine Scripture in context. Therefore, our examination from Scripture will be lengthy, for we will summarize those passages that concern the topic of prayer. When we examine the facts, we will condense our findings from Scripture into palpable data, so that we can draw simple but faithful conclusions about prayer from a biblical perspective, which we will call a theology of prayer.

When we say that we are working out a theology of prayer, we mean a biblical theology and not a systematic theology. Systematic theology concerns neat and orderly systems of theology; biblical theology concerns specific strings of theology throughout Scripture. Therefore, a biblical-theological perspective on prayer may not be so neat and orderly.

Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 21: Acts)

In Acts 1, the disciples returned to Jerusalem after the Lord’s ascension and gathered together, constantly praying with the women, with Mary, Jesus’ mother, and with Jesus’ brothers. Peter determined that Judas’ spot should be replaced, so they prayed, saying, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs,” and then they cast lots. Prayer for guidance. It is a request, but it is also in tandem with casting lots.

In Acts 2, the believers were reported to devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to communion, and to prayer. The community of believers from the outset have been devoted to prayer.

In Acts 3, Peter and John went to the temple at the time of prayer–3 in the afternoon. The Jews had set times for prayer, and the evening prayer was during the ninth hour of the day, 3pm.

In Acts 4, the believers prayed,

Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

Why do the nations rage
and the people plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together against the Lord
and against his anointed one.

Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

After they prayed, their meeting place was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit; they spoke the word of God boldly. Here we see prayer as declaration, recounting the events leading up to the particular circumstances, and request, including a request for miraculous healing. These requests are based upon the name of Jesus. Again, we see that healing and prayer are associated. But now we see that prayer requests are based on the name of Jesus.

In Acts 6, the Apostles decide to appoint seven faithful servants who would devote themselves to the daily distribution of food for the widows, so that they would be able to devote themselves to prayer and the Word. When seven were chosen, the Apostles laid hands on them and prayed for them. Here again we see the laying on of hands in association with prayer.

When Stephen, one of the seven, was being stoned to death as told in Acts 7, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” and falling on his knees he cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Here we see two requests in prayer.

In Acts 8, after the believers in Samaria had been baptized, Peter and John went to them and prayed for them in order that they would receive the Holy Spirit, and through placing their hands on them, they did receive the Spirit. Again, prayer and the laying on of hands are associated. When Simon the Sorcerer saw what happened, he offered money to Peter and John in exchange for the same ability. Peter charges him with wickedness and orders him to repent and pray to God that he may be forgiven. Simon, an apparently slow learner, then asks Peter to pray for him in order that nothing Peter said might happen to him. Again, prayer as request–a request for forgiveness.

In Acts 9, after Paul’s conversion, he was praying, and the Lord called to Ananias in a vision, saying, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. . . .” All we can really say from this report is that the Lord acknowledges those who are praying and sees them in their prayer. Later in Acts 9, Peter brought a dead woman back to life after praying. Again, prayer and healing is hand-in-hand.

In Acts 10, Cornelius, the Roman centurion, is reported to be a devout, God-fearing man who was generous to the poor and prayed to God regularly. An angel of the Lord approached him, saying, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. . . .” The next day, Peter went onto the roof of the house he was staying at in order to pray. Peter ultimately sees a vision and is instructed by God to go with some messengers that were about to arrive. He obeys, and he is brought to Cornelius. Cornelius said that the angel came to him while he was praying. Peter spoke, retelling the good news, and while he was speaking, the Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius and his family. Here we see that prayer and vision go together. Peter recounts his own prayer and vision in Acts 11 to defend himself regarding the Jewish accusation that he associated with Gentiles.

Peter was later arrested as told in Acts 12, but the church was praying for him. The Lord freed him from prison miraculously, and Peter went to the house where the church was praying for him. When he showed up at the door, Rhoda, the woman who answered the knock, did not let him in right away. She reported it to the church, and they did not believe her despite their prayers. Prayer as request, but what they prayed we do not know.

In Acts 13, Barnabas and Saul were identified to do God’s special work. The church in Antioch fasted and prayed, laying hands on them, and sent them off. Here we see a threefold combination of prayer, fasting, and the laying on of hands. Similarly, in Acts 14, Paul (formerly Saul) and Barnabas appointed elders through prayer and fasting in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas converted Lydia at a place of prayer by the river in Philippi. Here we see that a specific place was devoted to prayer. Later, when going to the place of prayer, they encountered a woman with a spirit who could tell the future. The woman followed them around incessantly, constantly repeating, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” Paul eventually became fed up and cast the spirit out of her in the name of Jesus Christ. He and Silas were arrested and flogged as a result. After their flogging, around midnight, they began praying and singing hymns. What they prayed we do not know, but their bonds were broken, the prison shaken, yet they did not flee. The jailer thought he would be killed thinking that they escaped, but Paul revealed himself to him, which provided the opportunity to testify, resulting in the jailer’s family believing in God. Here we see the power of prayer in dire circumstances.

In Acts 20, Paul commissioned the Ephesian Elders before kneeling down and praying. Here we see that prayer can be done while kneeling. Similarly, Acts 21 shows that Paul and company knelt on the beach and prayed.

Paul recounts his conversion in Acts 22 leading up to his return to the Temple in Jerusalem where he prayed and fell into a trance. Again, we see prayer and vision together.

Paul states in his defense before Festus and Agrippa that he prays to God that all who listen to him would become a Christian as reported in Acts 26. Prayer as request.

Prayer is also a request in Acts 27 when the ship Paul was on was stuck in dangerous conditions at sea. The sailors dropped four anchors and prayed for daylight.

After the ship ran ashore on Malta, Acts 28 reports that Paul healed a man inflected with fever and dysentery. He prayed for him and laid hands on him, and the man was healed. Here we see prayer and the laying on of hands in association with healing.

Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 20: John)

Ask. John 14. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Remain and ask. John 15. “If you remain in me and my words remain in your, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Furthermore, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” Here we see that prayer is a request. We also see that requests must be linked with right action.

Jesus’ lengthy prayer. John 17. Prayer for his glorification. “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” Prayer for his disciples. “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” And, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Prayer for all believers. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” After finishing this prayer, Judas, some Roman soldiers, and a few Jewish leaders arrested Jesus. Jesus prays first for himself, then for his disciples, and then for everyone else who would believe as a result of their work. Jesus prays for their unity, that the unbelieving world might see that through them God has loved the world. These are all requests, and we can pray for ourselves, for our believing brothers and sisters, and for the unbelieving world. Yet, this prayer also makes many declarations about God, Jesus, and the world. It is a lengthy blend of declaration and request.

Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 19: Luke)

In Luke 1, we find that a worship assembly was praying outside. Zechariah was among the assembly, and he was the priest chosen to go into the temple and burn incense. He went into the temple where he was met by an angel who told him that his prayer had been heard. We know not what he prayed, but the answer to his prayer is reported: “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. . . .” We see two things here: assemblies may pray; we can pray for offspring.

In Luke 2, we find that a prophetess stayed in the temple fasting and praying, worshipping night and day. Here we see that prayer can be coupled with fasting, and both are a form of worship.

In Luke 3, we find that prayer is coupled with baptism.

In Luke 5, we see that Jesus heals a man with leprosy; in fact, he healed crowds of people in need of healing. Again we see that healing is coupled with prayer, for “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” What we see is not only is prayer a counterpart to healing, but it is or can be a solitary practice. Also in Luke 5, Jesus and his disciples are questioned for not fasting and praying. Jesus responds that the disciples need not fast while the bridegroom is present, but rather they will fast when the bridegroom has been taken from them. Here we see that there is a time to fast and pray and a time to refrain.

In Luke 6, we see that Jesus spends a night praying on a mountainside. Here we see that prayer can be done all night long. Furthermore, Jesus charges his disciples to pray for their enemies, those who mistreat them.

In Luke 9, we see that Jesus was praying in private, though his disciples were with him. Again we find prayer as a solitary practice. Later, Jesus takes Peter, John, and James with him on a mountain to pray. Again we find prayer on a mountain.

In Luke 11, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray.

Father, let your name be holy, let your kingdom come, give us each day our daily bread, forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us, and lead us not into temptation.

He uses a parable to show that those who ask do not trouble God and will be answered with good things.

In Luke 18, Jesus teaches his disciples to be persistent in prayer in seeking justice. In a parable comparing a seemingly righteous Pharisee and an unrighteous tax collector, Jesus declares that the former who prayed, fasted, and tithed was not justified like the latter who prayed humbly. He concludes that God wants us to pray in humility.

In Luke 19, Jesus clears the temple of the marketers, quoting Is 56:7 and Jer 7:11: “‘My house will be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”

In Luke 20, Jesus warns against teachers of the law who devour widows’ houses and make lengthy prayers for eye-service. He states that they will be punished most severely.

In Luke 21, Jesus teaches about the end of the temple, and he tells his disciples to pray that they will escape its destruction.

In Luke 22, Jesus, in response to the disciples’ quarrel about the greatest among them, states that he has prayed for Peter not to lose faith. Later, Jesus goes to Mount Olives to pray with his disciples present. He instructs them to stay in one place and pray, and he goes off on his own to pray. He asks God to take away the cup, but yields to His will. In anguish, he prayed even more earnestly. Returning to the disciples, he found them sleeping, and again instructs them to stay and pray. Here we see that we can pray to keep faith.

Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 18: Mark)

Mark 1 tells of Jesus getting up early in the morning to pray. We know not what he prayed, but we know that he prayed early in the morning while it was still dark. Prayer can be done early in the morning. But this morning prayer session followed in the wake of his healing many. Healing and prayer are closely associated.

Mark 6 shows that miracles are closely followed by prayer. After feeding the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus went up onto a mountainside and prayed.

The disciples failed to exorcise a demon from a boy, as told in Mark 9, but Jesus was able to rebuke the demon. The disciples asked him why they couldn’t drive out the demon, and Jesus replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” Here we see that prayer is more powerful than mere words, but we don’t have any other details. Yet, Mark does not tell us that Jesus prayed. Was it a silent prayer? We should not go any further except to say that prayer is identified as a more potent command than words themselves.

Mark tells us that Jesus clears the temple in the 11th chapter of the gospel. He overturned the tables of the merchants, refusing to allow anyone to carry merchandise throughout the courts, quoting both Isa 56:7, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations,” and Jer 7:11, “But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” When they left the temple, the disciples see the withered olive tree, which Jesus had cursed beforehand, and they were amazed. Jesus tells them to have faith: “Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Jesus adds a stipulation: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Here we see that the temple was supposed to be a house of prayer; Jesus’ curse is equated with prayer; prayer in faith is powerful; but prayer must be coupled with a forgiving heart.

Mark 12 warns against teachers of the law who make lengthy prayers for a show. Jesus says that they will be punished severely. Here we see a warning not to use prayer for eye-service.

According to Mark 13, Jesus tells his disciples to pray that the flight into the Judean hills will not take place in the winter. Prayer, it is implied, can have an uncertain affect on future events.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, as told in Mark 14, Jesus prayed. He told his disciples to sit and pray there. He took Peter, James, and John with him elsewhere in the garden, where he told them to stay and watch. He went on by himself and prayed with a distraught heart. He prayed, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” He returned to Peter, James, and John, who were asleep. He wakes them up, and he commands them, watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation, for “[t]he spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went off on his own again, praying the same thing. Returning to the disciples again, he found them sleeping once more. Apparently he went away, prayed, and returned, what he prayed we do not know, but upon his return he found the disciples sleeping at just the moment that he was about to betrayed. Here we see that prayer can be repeated or even quoted perhaps; prayer can be offered with a distraught heart; prayer aids the willing spirit and weak flesh. We see also that prayer can ask God for something but still submit to his will when the desire opposes God’s intentions.

Theology of Prayer: Scriptural Support (Part 17: Matthew)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Matt 5, Jesus instructs his disciples to love and pray for those who persecute them, with the purpose that they might be children of God. This call to pray for the persecutor comes on the cusp of the instruction against resisting evildoers. Christians are to turn the other cheek and give to everyone who begs or asks to borrow from them. They are to love and pray for their enemies and not just for their friends and family. Here we see that prayer is done on behalf of others, and in this case it is to be done for both loved ones and enemies.

Still in the Sermon on the Mount, Matt 6, Jesus instructs his disciples how to pray. First of all, they are not to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Instead, they are to go into their room, close the door and pray to God. Second, they are not to babble on and on. The amount of words matter not, for God already knows what they need before it is asked. Jesus then gives them a prayer template:

Our Father in heaven, let your name be holy, let your kingdom come, let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

This prayer to forgive others is qualified: if you forgive, then you will be forgiven; if you do not forgive, then you will not be forgiven. Here we have an actual prayer that we can pray. Indeed, we are to pray this prayer: Jesus said, “Pray thusly” or “Pray this” or “Pray as follows.” Here is a prayer that we can indeed pray to God. In the sense that Jesus is God, the divine Son of God, we can say, much like the Psalms, that God has given us a prayer to pray back to Him. Whether this prayer is to be interpreted as a required prayer much like the Roman Catholics do or whether it provides the guidelines for prayer, we can learn something about prayer here. First, prayer is to be done so as not to attract attention to one’s self. Second, prayer doesn’t need to be verbose in order to be effective. Third, in prayer the disciple ought to revere God and seek both His kingdom and will on earth. Fourth, in prayer the disciple should ask for daily needs to be met. Fifth, the disciple should also ask for forgiveness of sins. Finally, the disciple should ask for deliverance from evil.

In Matt 14, after feeding the five thousand men with the five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. We know not what he prayed, but he did go by himself to a mountainside. We don’t know that it was secluded, but it may have been. What we can say about prayer is that, again, prayer should be done so as not to draw attention to one’s self.

In Matt 19, little children were brought to Jesus in order for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. The disciples that were with him rebuked the children. But Jesus said to let them come without hinderance. Here we see that prayer and the laying on of hands as some form of blessing can be done together.

Jesus went into the temple courts, as is found in Matt 21, and he drove out the market vendors, saying, “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.'” After driving these people out, the blind and the lame came to him for healing in the temple, and he healed them. Here we see that the temple was meant for prayer and not for transactions, and Jesus took serious offense to the temple being turned into a market place. Later in Matt 21, Jesus cursed a fig tree and it withered, and the disciples asked him how this could happen. Jesus replied that if one has faith and does not doubt, that person can curse a fig tree and cause it to wither or command a mountain to toss itself into the sea and it will happen. He said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Here we see that prayer is powerful when the one who prays does not doubt when asking for something.

According to Matt 24, Jesus tells his disciples to pray that their flight will not take place in winter or in Sabbath when fleeing to the mountains from Judea at the time the abomination of desolation takes its place in the temple. Here we see prayer as a request, and this request is to affect when this flight would not occur. It is, in a sense, a prayer for deliverance.

The final pieces of information about prayer in Matthew are from Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane before he is arrested (chapter 26). At the garden, he told his disciples to stay put while he went off to another part of the garden to pray, and when he went off he took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him. This prayer was a response to sorrow and trouble. He told Peter and the sons of Zebedee to keep watch with him. He fell to the ground and prayed, asking for this cup to be taken from him, yet not as he willed but as God willed. He returned to his disciples, who were sleeping. he woke them up, and asked them to watch and pray. He prayed again, saying that if the cup could not be taken, then God’s will be done. He returned to his disciples, and again they were found sleeping. This time he did not wake them up; he went away to pray again, repeating what he had already prayed. When he returned a final time, they were still sleeping. He woke them up and revealed that he was now being delivered into the hands of sinners by his betrayer. What do we learn here? Sometimes we may need to pray when we are downtrodden. Sometimes we may need to repeat our prayers. Sometimes we may ask for something but it won’t be done and we need to accept God’s will over ours.