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Question #1:

Hello Professor,

I just wanted to ask you for prayer for Daniel, a good friend of mine. We've known each other for many years and he has been one of my closest people, but never one to discuss the things that really matter, which is also why more recently we've not been in touch as much. He's been living an empty life for a long time now and today I decided to share the gospel with him. To my surprise, he was listening attentively, he asked a few good questions. Maybe, with all the emptiness in his life and his current problems he is ripe to receive the truth. It would be something truly wonderful.

In our Lord,

Response #1:

I will certainly add Daniel to my list (I have put him on the Ichthys list as well). This is the kind of "surprise" in answer to prayer in which we all rejoice – and it is a "specialty" of the Lord.

Wishing you safe travels if not, and for a blessed time with your family.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Romans 10:9 talks about confessing Christ. But what is a confession? A confession completely changes a criminal procedure. When the criminal confesses, justice has changed. The old rules of justice no longer apply to the criminal who confesses, instead an entirely new procedure of justice is used.

Response #2:

It's not the best English word to use in Romans 10:9 for homologeo. This is the same word we find in 1st John 1:9, and "confession" is a bit problematic there too, even if most people are familiar with a legal versus a religious usage of the word in English. The Greek word in terms of etymology means to "say the same", that is, "to agree" or even to "admit" that what the other person is saying is correct, and sometimes this even means "to praise". In Romans 10:9 it's clear from context that the idea is to "profess" or state verbally with conviction. There isn't any notion of legal proceedings here. The profession is evidence of genuine faith, just as the belief in one's heart it parallels is genuine faith which leads to open profession of being a believer.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hello Robert,

How do we address confessions of sin and accountability to our brothers as opposed to our confession of sin and accountability to our Father for forgiveness? There are situations here where we are being asked for a list of past sins that we need to confess to our church fellows?

Your sister in Christ

Response #3:

With all due respect, that is a "weird" and, if you ask me, very dangerous practice. Any group involved therein is suspect in my view.

And the error is twofold: we confess to God alone (1Jn.1:9); and once we confess, we are forgiven. Failing to accept that as the truth is essentially calling God a liar. He's not too weak or stingy to forgive, is He, especially when He indisputably says that He will – God forbid!

The Roman Catholic cult has always relied heavily on the psychological guilt people feel over sin – as opposed to legitimately ruing bad behavior, repenting, confessing, and then moving on – and putting a third party intermediary in the mix to "hear" our confession merely guarantees that all manner of bizarre and unhelpful situations will result. Sometimes tragic ones. What this practice will not do, however, is to result in any true forgiveness. That is because only God can forgive sin, and also because anything big enough to be remembered was undoubtedly already confessed to God in the past and so has already been forgiven.

If for whatever reason leaving this church is not something you want to do, take my advice and at least "take a vacation" for a month or so until they "get over" this very dangerous folly.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Dear Dr. Luginbill -

I have only recently come across your site and reading steadily. I am not clear where I stand with God at this point. I understand that all sins need to be confessed in order to be forgiven by God. If I have returned to faith after many, many years, how can I possibly remember all the individual sins I have committed to be confessed? I feel distant from God like there is a mountain of sins I cannot clean up because they are not confessed, even though I might have turned from doing at least some of them. I am having difficulty even talking to God because I know this mountain is there. I can't pray for others because I know that God won't hear my prayers because of unconfessed sins of the past and now sins of the present because God won't forgive the present ones because He is not listening on account of the past ones not all confessed. This "feels" like a sledgehammer of condemnation and pain but scripture is clear I cannot be restored until I find a way to make sure each sin is confessed to be forgiven. How does one clean up such a mess?

Sincerely,

Response #4:

Good to make your acquaintance. There is a good deal written about all this at Ichthys, although your question poses a bit of a wrinkle I do not usually hear. Here is what I read in scripture:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9

AND

If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared.
Psalm 130:3-4 NIV1984

The first passage tells us in no uncertain terms that God forgives all sin and all unrighteousness when we confess to Him; the second makes clear what is perspicuous from many passages in scripture, namely that sin is a much more ubiquitous and subtle area than most people have any idea. Anything we think, say or do may be sinful, depending on motivations, etc. If we had to be accountant-like in our confessional practices, "who could stand?" Answer: no one. As long as we are not deliberately holding anything back, when we confess sin to the Lord we are forgiven with a blanket forgiveness that includes all things in the past – in the same way that the prodigal son's father immediately honored his son's return and contrite attitude and forgave him everything without demanding a detailed accounting (Lk.15:20-24). All we are asked to do is to confess when we err, and do so in an contrite and honest way:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.
Psalm 51:17 NKJV

God is not a legalistic CPA. Our Father is a loving Father, One who loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son our dear Savior Jesus Christ to die in our place for all of our sins. That is the truly important thing to remember: the price for all of our sins has already been paid, exacted from our Lord Jesus when He bore them in His body on "the tree" of the cross (1Pet.2:24; cf. 2Cor.5:21). Having been forgiven all of our sins already at salvation and having been rendered righteous by the blood of Christ (Rom. chap.3-4), there is now nothing that can separate us from the love of God (Rom.8:35ff.), for He will surely deliver us from condemnation since Christ has already suffered death for all of our sins (Rom.5:9).

Why then confession? Confession is the vehicle God has graciously given us as believers to own up to the mistakes we make after being saved and thus to be restored to full fellowship with Him (1Jn.1:3). We all err (Rom.3:23); we all stumble (Jas.3:2); we all sin (1Ki.8:46). And we are all instantly restored into the good graces of our Lord and Savior and our heavenly Father whenever we confess. It is not necessary for us to agonize over things long past. As with the prodigal son, our Lord is interested in our return, not in some legalistic rote or ritual. He want's our hearts, not dead religion. So if we do return to Him after making a mistake – and that is what biblical repentance is – we are instantly forgiven everything when we confess. What is going on in our hearts is the critical thing. So as long as we are not deliberately failing to confess something we have done, willfully hiding it from the Lord (Ps.66:18; cf. Matt.6:14-15; Mk.11:26), we need not worry about forgetting this, that or the other thing we did years ago. If we ever do remember something, it doesn't hurt to confess it, but we shouldn't think that we are not forgiven because of our forgetfulness (or specially blessed because of now remembering and confessing). Indeed, we have all committed many more sins than we have any idea, and done many sinful thing we don't honestly think are important or may not even recognize as sin – but Christ had to die for them all for us to be saved, and for the sins of the entire world. So it is what Christ has done that is important. By confessing, we are merely demonstrating our desire to be restored to fellowship with Him. And what if we are just not sure about something or other, whether it is really a sin or not? Guilt is one of the devil's prime weapons, and he takes pains to try to make us feel guilty about things which were in fact not wrong and to feel worse about other things than we should and to continue to feel bad even after we have confessed and have been restored to fellowship (all of which is spiritually enervating). Here is what I read in scripture on that:

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
1st John 3:20 NKJV

God is for us, not against us. He has made it easy for us in Jesus Christ . . . who did the truly hard thing by dying for these sins we merely confess. Harder than we presently have any possible idea.

Here are some links which may proved helpful to you in all this (and do feel free to write me back about any of the above):

Confession of Sin, Fellowship, and the Filling of the Holy Spirit

John's primer on sin.

BB 3B: Hamartiology: The Biblical Study of sin

Fellowship and the Filling of the Spirit (in BB 5)

Confession in 1st John 1:9

1st John and sin

Sin according to the Bible I

Sin, Forgiveness, Confession

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Also, just one minor question appeared to me as I was writing - when we have sinned and we are preparing for confession we are not under the power of the Spirit - but could we still ask God for discernment and for the Spirit to help us examine ourselves? I thought that's something we can do, even if we are not under the control of the Holy Spirit having sinned.

Response #5:

I wouldn't put it that way, exactly (and I'm pretty sure I've never put it that way; reference?; this sounds more like Col. Thieme than it does me).

We are dwelling in bodies of sin – and yet the Spirit dwells in us in a completely sanctified way. When we sin, that is a turning away from the Lord, but of course it's not absolute (we are still saved) and doesn't in most cases represent a complete stall in momentum or orientation. So I would resist seeing confession in those terms. I knew a fellow seminarian who told me that he would make a practice of sinning (something small) so he could confess it and then know for certain that he was "in fellowship". That is absurd of course (I think he got beyond that pretty quickly), but it would be the logic of over-thinking confession. If we are certain we have sinned, we should confess. The Spirit is in us and is helping us in whatever we do that is right and good, and in resisting (through the truth and our consciences) whatever we are doing or contemplating that is bad. We are never as fully under His influence as we might be, and we are never without it as long as we hold fast to our faith. For more: "Peter #16: The Leadership of the Holy Spirit".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hello Professor,

Understood and it's a good point about not seeing the Spirit's control in absolute terms.

Still, do you think it could there could be a place for a pre-confession prayer? I don't want to over-think that or introduce any legalistic rites for the readers and this is perhaps the only small issue where I'm uncertain. This is not something I read on your website or elsewhere, just a question that occurred to me.

The reason is that although we will normally be exactly aware of what we've done and where we've gone against God's will, there could be some instances where we may not know that something we've done is actually sinful (but I know that this would be a problem of one's spiritual growth rather than just the confession itself) or we could fail to recognise exactly how we've been deceived or led to a certain sin. This is only a hypothesis and I know it could be wrong, but I wanted to ask about this. These are the verses which made me think this is a possibility:

9 "The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
10 "I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds.
Jeremiah 17:9-10 NASB

23 "How many are my iniquities and sins?
Make known to me my rebellion and my sin.
Job 13:23 NASB

2 Examine me, O Lord, and try me;
Test my mind and my heart.
Psalm 26:2 NASB

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
Psalm 139:23-24 NASB

In our Lord,

Response #6:

Rather than "pre-confession", I would say, based upon the fact that a great number of the sacrifices for sin in the Mosaic Law are for "sins of ignorance", that there is no problem confessing sin in general on a regular basis given that we all commit sins of ignorance all the time, since none of us is spiritually "smart enough" to understand every single wrinkle of sin and sinfulness nor to judge ourselves objectively with absolute completeness at all times. When in doubt pray. When in doubt confess. Or better yet, don't doubt, just keep praying and confessing. I think that is the idea behind all of these scriptures you quote here.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hello Professor,

On what you wrote - should we confess our sins of ignorance also? Should we include a statement in our prayer that we acknowledge before God that there are sins we don't recognise and seek His forgiveness for these too?

In our Lord,

Response #7:

My personal application is to follow 1st John 1:9 which merely says "if we confess our sins"; it doesn't say we have to accurately catalog things we've forgotten or things of which we may be in ignorance or things we're not even sure about. For outrageous sins about which there is no doubt, Psalms 32 and 51 are good models. For the former sorts of things, a general confession every day when I pray and also whenever I feel it necessary is what I do.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hi Bob,

What is the meaning of epiousios in the Lord's prayer?

Sincerely,

Response #8:

I translate the verse in which the word occurs in Matthew as follows (Lk.11:3 has identical wording for "daily bread"):

Give us today the bread [we need] for the coming day.
Matthew 6:11

The adjective is derived from the participle of the verb come/go plus the preposition epi which commonly "points"; so "coming here" is the meaning, namely, in the near future in a temporal context (and we know it is a temporal context from the verse: "this day"). So "daily bread" is not a bad translation. Our Lord provides for us each day for what we will face that day, and if we follow scriptural advice we will not be concerned about yesterday nor will we worry about tomorrow, for we can be sure that He will take care of us "today", "as long as it is called 'today'" (Heb.3:13).

Here are a couple of links on this:

The Lord's Prayer

Essentials of the Lord's Prayer

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hi Dr

I hope all is well. I am reading 2 Cor 12:7 and in my Scofield study bible NIV translation gives one of the reasons for Paul's thorn: "to caution against presumption in prayer". It references Paul's prayer in v.8 of the same passage as the reason why. "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me".

I don't see it as being presumptuous. I don't even think one can be presumptuous in prayer because to me being presumptuous is being bold in your prayer request. (Micah 7:7, James 5:16, 1Jn 5:14-15, James 1:5-8 are some of the verses that come to mind).

Where am I going wrong? Can there be instance where we can be presumptuous in our prayer? I don't see that in His Word.

Thanks for your help and clarification. In Christ Jesus our Lord

Response #9:

I absolutely agree with you – great scripture references, by the way. There was no "presumption" in Paul's prayers. Our Lord graciously let him know that it was His will for Paul to endure this for His glory – not as some kind of punishment for praying!

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, "In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ "For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’" And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"
Luke 18:1-8 NASB

Here is a related link: "Persistent Prayer"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi Bob,

I'm trying to make more of an effort in prayer because I feel like it is definitely an area I could stand to improve a lot in. I'm also trying not to view it with blinders on, letting it be what it really is: talking to God (whatever the specific parameters). In other words, I'm trying not to let any notions of "praying wrong" interfere with my frequency or dedication.

However, I'm also trying to "pray right." Passages in the Bible that talk about the power of prayer (mountains jumping into the sea and what have you) always have God's Will built in. For prayer to be effective, it needs to align with God's Will.

While I understand this generally, I've really thought myself into knots trying to figure out exactly what I should pray for and what my prayers actually do vis-a-vis God's Will.

1) One line of reasoning is that God foreknows our prayers and takes them into account in his plan.

Consider Abraham asking God to spare Sodom for the sake of the righteous in Genesis 18. One way to look at this passage is that the Lord "would have" destroyed the city had Abraham not intervened, but since he knew Abraham would intervene (omniscience), it was never in His Will for the city to be destroyed.

Such a view does not mean God is dependent upon us to pray for the right things, because he already knows what we are going to pray before we pray (and has perfectly taken our prayers into account in His plan).

Taking this view, God's Will is not separate from the prayers of His people. When God formed His plan before history, He took our prayers into account. So they do actually "do something" – it's just that this "something" has been perfectly foreordained before time.

However, another line of reasoning suggests that God's Will is separate from our prayers. That is, if it is God's Will for something to happen, it will happen whether or not we pray in accordance with God's Will.

This would seem to imply that God would have destroyed Sodom even if Abraham did not pray. Abraham prayed in line with God's Will and his prayer was answered (=God's Will was done). But Abraham did not "change God's Will" – he merely identified God's Will (something independent from his prayers) and prayed in line with it.

Which way of looking at things is correct?

2) Say there is a man with an unbelieving family member. In one scenario, he persistently prays for his family member's salvation. In a second scenario, he does not. Are we to believe that God gave the unbelieving family member more chances to believe in the first scenario (=answering the prayer)? If not, then can prayer be called efficacious if it ultimately does not change the outcome?

Wouldn't the first scenario in some sense violate the free will of the unbeliever in question (i.e., if God actually made it more likely for them to believe on account of someone else's prayers on their behalf)?

How does this example relate to (1)?

3) Is it even appropriate to pray for salvation explicitly as in (2)? If God never violates human free will, then it seems like it would never be possible for such a prayer to be answered. God wants all to be saved and provides the perfect opportunity for each and every person to be saved according to their own free will. How then do our prayers in this regard change anything?

4) There is one particular lady in my church who has a tendency to pray for what I might term "the best possible outcome" in all scenarios. For example, someone has metastasized breast cancer – instead of praying that God would bless the doctors' efforts and that His Will would be done in the situation, she prays for a full miraculous recovery.

Is this a good way to go about things? What if it is God's Will for said person to develop stage 4 breast cancer for them to serve as a witness? Would not praying for their full recovery in that sense be praying for something counter to God's Will for that person?

On the other hand, what if it God's Will to miraculously heal the person? Not praying for miraculous recovery would then run counter to God's Will.

How is one to know what to pray for? Should we pray for miracles understanding that God is fully capable of performing them in response to our prayers, but not being disappointed if he chooses to work otherwise? Should we pray more generally that he would work in situations according to His unsearchable wisdom?

Happy Easter!

In Him,

Response #10:

Hope you've had a happy Easter as well!

As to your question, both points of view are correct, but the logical (and theological) conclusion from either the man-ward or God-ward side of this the same: "pray, pray, pray!"

Since you've framed this all in terms of God's will, let me examine the question from that perspective. To begin, I can't think of a single instance where anyone is reproved for praying or where a particular instance of a believer praying is held up as an example of what not to do (Pharisees not included). Since you and I both have heard many prayers with which we personally have had "issues" and/or would be unwilling to pray for "that sort of thing" or in "that particular way", this absence of a scriptural guard rail, so to speak, seems to me to be important to point out. One thing I have noted in the Bible when it comes to areas of application such as prayer is that in fact there usually are verses which, properly understood, point out the two extremes of any issue, and by considering both of these any believer will have a good idea where the sweet spot is so as to stay in the middle of the road of correct application. But I don't find in scripture any such verses that would lead me to believe it's even possible to pray too much or for too much.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
Matthew 7:7-11 NIV

He replied, "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
Matthew 17:20 NIV

"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."
Mark 11:24 NIV

Pray continually.
1st Thessalonians 5:17 NIV

There are innumerable verses in scripture which commend pray, command prayer, describe prayer. What do find on the other side? A few things, perhaps (as in the hypocrisy of the Pharisees when they prayed only "for show"); but the paucity of such other verses and the specifics of them do more to reinforce the idea that we should "pray, pray, pray" rather than agonize about whether or not we are doing it right:

If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that.
1st John 5:16 NIV

"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
Luke 18:10-14 NIV

You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4:2-3 NIV

"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words."
Matthew 6:7 NIV

So here are the negative guard rails, such as they are, none of which really discourages prayer (even in John's case we see diffidence about putting it quite that way): 1) It is perhaps not profitable to pray for people who are absolutely determined to do wrong and have demonstrated that stubbornness to the point where they are dying for it and still won't change (1Jn.5:16) – not that it's necessarily wrong to pray even so (diffidence on John's part on that point), just not the best use of time, and of course if we can't have confidence that what we are praying for might even potentially happen, then we should rethink the prayer; 2) If our prayer amounts to bragging to God, if it dishonors God, if it exalts us rather than God, if it is done for show only (cf. Matt.6:5) – in other words, if our "prayer" is really not a prayer at all, then how may we expect it to be heard (Lk.18:10-14)? 3) Motivation is also clearly important in prayer; if we are asking from lust for something that only serves to fulfill that lust, how would that not be abominable to the Lord? But even here James first reproves his listeners for not praying enough – the way they should be praying, that is (Jas.4:2-3). 4) It is also insincere to reduce our conversation with the Lord to a rote ritual devoid of any meaning (one thinks of the Roman Catholic system of prayer); again, is this actually even something we would think of as prayer (Matt.6:7)? Is this something a genuine believer would even think to do?

I'm sure I've missed some passages that may occur to you, but the pattern I see here is that the negatives regarding prayer are so obvious as to barely needing to be mentioned in the first place. They are not the sort of things that any baby believer who is even trying to go the right way will be likely to fall into; rather they are mostly correcting or condemning the behavior of people who may not even be believers and contrasting that to the godly prayer of the believer (or in the case of 1Jn.5:16 pointing out the probable futility of praying for those who in that other dubious category).

Since these "negatives" are swamped by the positives, again, "pray, pray, pray" seems to me to be the overall message of the scriptures, and I would be loath to buy into to any systematization of an approach to prayer which might inhibit it out of some doubt about the precise Will of God. Clearly, if something is absolutely NOT the Will of God, praying for it would be a mistake (and when we do petition Him for something we need to do it out of faith "without wavering": Jas.1:6). Praying for some fellow believer with whom one is angry to lose salvation and be cast into hell is clearly NOT the Will of God – but that presupposes all manner of sinfulness before such a "prayer", a total disrespect for the Lord and lack of godly fear of Him, and an infantile spiritual status to begin with. In other words, the times when we will even be tempted to pray for something that is clearly and absolutely NOT the Will of God are few and far between – or should be if we are making any progress in spiritual growth whatsoever.

It also doesn't take a spiritual giant to understand that praying for the success of one team or individual player or another in a sporting event is probably a bad idea. But what if it is a friend or family member who desperately needs to do well therein for one good reason or another? It may indeed be God's will for said individual to "do well". Praying for the success of political candidates is also questionable in my view, but there is certainly a lot of that going on – on both sides in any given contest. But if it is God's will for a country to have a particular government/leadership then I can't say dispositively that such prayers are never answered.

What is God's will? We know the answer to that question in general terms, but we would be flirting with arrogance at the very least to suggest that we know the answer when it comes to various specifics in this world and even in our own lives. We know what we want. We can't always be sure that what we want is what God wants. After all, we don't really have any idea what is around the next corner, let alone how all of the small details and events in our lives are going to combine to bring about what God has in mind and will surely bring about – but we certainly can and should trust Him completely (Rom.8:28).

God wants all to be saved. And He wants all who are saved to win the highest possible eternal rewards (along of course with all that has to take place for that to happen). We human beings as we naturally are want to avoid pain, trouble, disease, disaster, setbacks, and all manner of negative things; we also want our share (more than our share) of all manner of positive things – and that is certainly also legitimate as long as we don't cross the line la James 4:3. But we don't actually know – can't actually know – how exactly the Lord is going to be combining the what we call good with the what we call bad to produce the best possible actual GOOD in the perfect plan of God. But we can pray even so. And we should pray, even so (putting the matter in God's hands is one of the ways He has given us to have confidence that He will work it out for good). And if we worry too much that what we are praying for may not be exactly what the Will of God has in mind we may not be praying as much as we should pray. God's Will will be done (cf. Jas.1:17-18). Praying simply just for that and not in specifics is often a good thing, especially in situations where what we think is best is not what others are doing or going to do (e.g., Acts 21:14). I would guess that, our Lord excepted of course, the greatest believers in history probably had less than a 50% "success rate" in specific-request-prayer – if by success we mean "asked for X and X happened exactly as requested"; however, all believers (who are avoiding the obvious mistakes detailed above) have a wonderful percentage of success, if by success we mean "prayed for X or Y or Z and while it didn't happen exactly that way God did bring about ABC which was actually 'for the GOOD' in every way and took our prayer into account in so doing".

In short, if challenged to do so, any believer who's spent some time in scripture could probably come up with a dozen reasons why almost any prayer directed at a particular life circumstance (as opposed to something general such as "Thy Will be done!") might be "not in the Will of God" in terms of how God is actually going to work things out specifically. But we are told to pray . . . in faith.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Mark 11:24 NIV

And everything that does not come from faith is sin.
Romans 14:23b NIV (cf. Jas.1:6)

Faith moves mountains (by prayer). And John the baptist did, so to speak, move mountains, for a purpose (Lk.3:5), and our Lord will (literally) as well on His return, for a purpose (Zech.14:4-5). So we are right to appreciate the former and pray for the latter in due time, and also to pray for the equivalent ourselves, if the situation likewise requires it – or for whatever the situation requires (see the link: "moving mountains").

We know that nothing is impossible for God (Gen.18:14; Job 42:2; Jer.32:17; Matt.19:26; Lk.1:37; 18:27) – and we believe it. So we also know that there is not a single prayer we might utter (at least not one which is not obviously contrary to His will and which does not violate the obvious prohibitions discussed above) which will be definitively outside of His will, at least in general terms. The fact that we can't see ahead of time just HOW He will work things out is not a reason, in my opinion, not to pray. In fact, we should, I think, have that in mind when we do pray for something specific, namely, in full and humble understanding that we don't have all the details, and that if we could dictate exactly how things were to be accomplished, we would mess the entire plan of God up in no time – God forbid! And praise God that we can't!

So we are free to pray for specifics in faith even as we are confident in our faith that our mis-appreciation of precisely what the Lord has in mind when it comes to specifics won't be held against us or the person(s) we are praying for. We know that He hears our prayers, that we are doing our part in this unseen warfare by praying, that more prayer rather than less prayer is better, that as we grow we will get better at refining our prayers and better at understanding just how our prayers are involved in this conflict in which we are involved . . . and better at being resolved to accept the will of God come what may, even when and if things go contrary to our desires and expectations – and specific prayers. That can happen in this life (just ask Job!), but it doesn't mean that we are outside of the will of God for praying. In fact we are in the will of God when we do so. So in the meantime, in between time, and at all times, "let us pray".

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
1st John 5:14-15

We may not "have" the exact thing we ask for, but we know that He does always hear us and that He is working things out for the "good" which He has in mind . . . and which lies behind all legitimate prayer.

Feel free to write me back about any of this, especially if you don't feel I've addressed some issue in the hypotheticals you proposed.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi Bob,

I appreciate the approach you take here, hammering home all the positive the Bible has to say about prayer and the notable "lack of guard rails." I'd never looked at it from this perspective before.

I already basically agreed with much of what you say (cf. from my first email "I'm trying not to let any notions of 'praying wrong' interfere with my frequency or dedication"). But you did address my last question, namely, "how should we pray if we can't possibility know the specifics of how God is going to work in any given situation?" According to my understanding of your reply, the answer is something like:

There's nothing wrong with praying for something specific, even if it turns out God works it out differently in the end. There is also nothing wrong with praying in general for God's Will to be done in a situation if we're not sure how things are going to play out. As long as our motives are pure, neither one of these approaches is strictly better than the other. As long as we are praying from the right motivations, God will not fault us for not understanding exactly what his perfect plan entails beforehand. We should take care to understand, however, that God's "answer" to our specific prayers may be what's actually best (fulfilling the general desire behind the prayer for X to turn out for the best) rather than something that maps to our request 1 to 1.

(Do correct me if I'm reading you wrong).

I'm still a little bit fuzzy on the first three questions I raised. It might be easier to focus on the first one for the time being, since the salvation-specific questions may simply be resolved if I understand how the general interaction between our prayers and God's Will works.

Basically, I'm trying to understand how the following statements fit together:

God hears our prayers, and responds to them. (Our prayers are efficacious – they "do something").

God's plan was foreordained before time, perfect and complete. Everything that ever has happened, is happening, and will happen is in the plan; nothing happens that has not been planned by God from eternity past.

God does not violate human free will at any point in his plan. (Incidentally, his complete foreordination of all existence is necessary for this to be possible – not predestination or free will but predestination and free will).

Obviously, if God's plan is perfect and unchanging, then it doesn't need our prayers to "work." However, if our prayers do actually "do something", then God answering them in some way affects (affected?) his perfect plan.

Does this help clarify what it is I'm trying to grasp?

Yours in Christ,

Response #11:

You're most welcome, my friend.

As to this follow-up, I agree with your final three statements. However, I don't see what the problem or needed clarification is. None of these three things are mutually exclusive, given the coexistence of divine will and human free will in the plan of God. When you say the plan of God "doesn't need our prayers", while it is true that God can do anything He wills, it is also true that the plan of God is specifically designed to allow us genuine free will and yet be saved / live forever with Him as a consequence of our choice – but that came at the highest possible price, the death of our Savior on the cross for all of the sins of the entire world. In answering prayer, however He answers them, God does not change His plan; God implements His plan (which anticipated perfectly all we would ask).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi Bob,

I'll try to be more specific.

In PE #3, you state the following (which is relevant here, I believe -- emphasis mine):

1. The Overall Plan of God: Before the dawn of time, God existed in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Gen.1:1; Jn.8:58). We know from various statements in the Bible that at this time, before the creation, God produced His plan. His plan delineates all history, human and angelic (Ps.33; Is.25:1; 41:22-26; 43:9; 44:7-8 & 25-26; 48:3; Eph.1:11; 3:11). It is a plan so perfect and complete, that it comprises every temporal event, no matter how minute, from the beginning to the end of time. God's omniscience, omnipotence, eternity, and infinity mean that He exceeds time and space to an infinite degree. Therefore the task of designing and controlling all activity in the universe for all time, while mind-boggling to us, is easily within His capabilities (we should remember His power whenever we slip into an attitude of doubt: He can do it, whatever it may be).

a. The Divine Purpose: God is perfect. He cannot gain or lose anything. He needs nothing from us (Acts 17:25). Isaiah tells us that God created us "for His glory" (Is.43:7), that is, to make manifest His perfection, His righteousness and goodness. Time and space and the Plan of God that governs them both were all constructed for us, His creatures (Is.45:18), that we might come to know Him, love Him, and reflect the glory of His person. For more on this, please see Bible Basics 1: Theology: the Biblical Study of God.

b. The Divine Plan: We know, however, that not all His creatures (whether human or angelic) choose to serve Him. God could easily have constructed a universe where all people obey Him as naturally as plants turn to face the sun. Instead, He desired that those who serve Him choose to do so of their own free will. In His immense wisdom, God fashioned a plan which took into account the free will actions of all His moral creatures before they yet existed (Jer.1:5). Before God said "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3), He set the course of history according to his plan, and did so without compromising the free will of His creatures in any way: He was simply intelligent enough (in fact omniscient) to know "what we would do before we did it" and powerful enough (in fact omnipotent) to incorporate these actions into His plan. Therefore we should not imagine that God merely has the ability to intervene in history, but realize that He ratified and established every action that would take place before the dawn of time. For more on this, please see The Plan of God in Human History (in part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion series).

If I understand your last response (and the main thrust of the above section), in effect, what you're saying is that prayer is no different than any other action of ours that God took into account when forming his plan – it's just that its consequences and effects can be harder for us to see than for concrete actions we make (which makes it harder to think about). Is this correct?

In the bolded sections above, you state that God made his plan before (re)creation (and I know you've made the point before that creation itself is incredibly momentous because its undertaking would necessarily lead to the sacrifice of the Son by the Father). I checked the references, and am having trouble seeing from where we can confidently draw such a conclusion. Could you explain a couple of the verses in more detail to show how this is so?

I think a large part of my problem in all this (re: prayer and God's Will, God's Will being ratified from eternity past) is struggling to conceptualize God planning things "before time." In logical terms, "before time" is a contradiction – but of course God is eternal and outside of time (something he himself created), and it is His very nature to be. Thus, at times I get troubled by the fact that I can't understand how my prayer in the present could possibly have been perfectly taken into account in the past (?) to affect the future in exactly the right way to preserve human free will while still answering the legitimate part(s) of the prayer.

This might explain why I tend to struggle with understanding this in "waves" – sometimes I have a clearer head and am more capable of reasoning how all this fits together (things seem "to click"), while other times, as of late, I guess I get hung up on the seeming impossibility of conceptualizing these events outside of linear time. I'm not entirely sure why I've never had the same problem with "actions" in general (rather than prayer specifically) – I think part of it is just that we don't use the terminology of actions "changing God's Will" (he just foreknows what we are going to do), while sometimes people (wrongly?) use that terminology of prayer.

Which leads to the other big hurdle in understanding. I know you've commented before on the dangers of trying to get theology to conform to logical constructs, but bear with me here. (As before, I'm using this as a tool to help me identify where I'm going wrong rather than as a tool for building doctrine).

1) Due to his perfect nature, grace, mercy, and love, God wishes the ultimate best for every creature he has created. (Ultimate best not being unconditional salvation, but the best possible existence that the free will decisions of said creature allow for, also taking God's justice into account).

2) Due to his omniscience and omnipotence, God has the ability to make this so.

3) God listens to human prayer; that is to say, our prayers, inasmuch as they are proper and positive, have a real effect on the final outcome of whatever it is we are praying for.

4) There can only be one best course of action, by definition.

5) If prayer on our part "changes" what God would have hypothetically done (3), then, by (4), what God would have hypothetically done was not the best course of action, contradicting what we know to be true from (1) and (2).

6) (Unless what God would have hypothetically done is exactly the same as what he did do, meaning that prayer did not actually have a real effect on the final outcome, since it would have happened the same way if we did not pray.)

If this all seems too abstract, consider the examples of Genesis 28 with Abraham praying for Sodom and Exodus 32 with Moses praying for the Israelites in the Wilderness. Unless we take God's threats to be idle, prima facie, it looks like Abraham and Moses actually did "change God's mind" with their petitioning.

How does one explain all this?

I think we've talked about the concept of "God's first best Will" before...how this term is actually misleading because there is only one Will, and it is necessarily perfect. Perhaps thought along these lines can hep address the confusion above?

The illusion of "first best Will" in someone's particular circumstances arises out of the perception that things might have been better if (the consequences of) poor free will decisions in the past could be avoided. For example, at a certain point in time, it might have been God's first best Will for a man to go study Greek in college to prepare for a life of ministry. But if said man focused on beer and illicit sex during that time instead (none too uncommon in our day), and only came around to valuing the Lord's calling on his life 20 years later, God's first best Will is not necessarily for him to go study Greek in college (though it might be).

In other words, while there is a correct thing for us to do at any point in time (call it "God's first best Will" if you like), this changes with circumstances, and mistakes, one made, cannot be undone. By faith we know that God has placed us into the circumstances in this world that gives us the maximum possible reward according to the sum of the free will decision we make. So God would have, in this man's case, known that he would choose the world over his calling his first time through college – even though choosing his calling at this point of time would have been "God's first best Will" -- but this in no way diminishes the fact that the man is in fact in the best place for him to be according to the unsearchable wisdom of God.

If there is a balance between understanding that there is a right thing for us to be doing at all times and understanding that we are located in the world in accordance with God's one and only perfect will (that maximizes our benefit despite mistakes born of our free will that make our actual life less than optimal), I'm guessing there is a parallel understanding that clears up the above issues?

Thanks for your patience.

Yours in Christ,

Response #12:

It's no problem, my friend. We want to get this one right.

As to "am having trouble seeing from where we can confidently draw such a conclusion", I'm not sure what the alternative is – or rather I am all too sure. Either God is just a big super creature who reacts to events or He is GOD. In the former case, there is no reason to worry about Him whatsoever; rather we ought to "eat, drink and be merry" and not worry about tomorrow. If there is a God, well, what makes Him so special? Either we will be able to convince Him that He is wrong to condemn us or else He will give everyone a pass anyway – or even more likely He/he is therefore not much of a God/god at all, so why bother. After all, He's just reacting to events in the same way we are, only from a different perspective.

On the other hand, the truth is that God is bigger than any human conception. The universe and all human history are child's play for Him. Arranging a universe a google times more complicated and a span of creature history a google times as long and still being able to anticipate everything perfectly is absolutely no problem for Him. What did "cost" the Godhead was sending the Son to become part of this creation by becoming a human being, then judging Him for all of human sin on the cross.

Every human fear and every failure of human faith can easily be explained by a parallel failure to appreciate just who and what God is, just how big, just how gracious, just how loving, just how all merciful, just how provident. After all, if we could see Jesus standing by our side, I have no doubt that our conduct would be different. If we could see hundreds of angels doing combat on our behalf, we would not only have more confidence in persevering through difficult circumstances, and we would also have a better appreciation of the fact that there is more going on here than just our own little set of troubles, complaints and questions.

If we could read or see "the Plan" and look ahead to see how everything is going to work out and look back and see how God arranged things perfectly for us so that everything would and did work out, we would naturally have a greater degree of confidence. While I have no doubt that we will indeed be given to see and understand all of these things on the other side, here and now down on earth, however, we are necessarily limited in what we can perceive ahead of time or even know after the fact. Here and now, these are matters of faith. By faith we understand that God is not reacting to events, since He planned everything ahead of time, and that therefore whatever we pray has already been heard in eternity past. To the extent, that is, that we really do have a clear idea of just how great our God is, to that extent none of these things – and nothing we have to deal with in life – is problematic at all. But that is not just a question of theoretical knowledge; that is a question of faith in these truths that transcends what we see, hear and experience. We know these things are true, but when we are getting "beat up" by the world, we have a tendency not to see the world so clearly through the eyes of faith and truth but dimly instead through fleshly eyes. It's a problem we all have, to one degree or another, and that is true even in the case of great believers – just ask Job.

So what I recommend is "pray, pray, pray!" We are within our rights to act in all ways within the temporal sequencing God has given us to order our lives (as the Psalms declare through their many examples); but as believers who have learned something of the truth, we also have the right to draw great peace and confidence from the fact that God is not surprised by what is happening the way we are surprised, and that He is not having to react to events the way we have to react to them. The more we begin to see things from His perspective, even as we have to deal with them from ours, the easier all this becomes. It all comes back to faith, which always relies on the veracity and character and nature and goodness of God, which is always shown most perspicuously by the cross. God is big – in every good and impressive way. He is certainly bigger than all of our problems . . . and all of our questions too.

So please remember that there is only one perfect plan, the actual plan of God which is actually playing out. There are in fact no hypotheticals because nothing hypothetical could ever possibly happen; that is God's point of view. From our point of view, we have to look at the world the other way as filled with possibilities as we chart our course, but the more we understand deep in our hearts that God has it all in hand, the more we can have peace even as we strive to run the best race possible so as to win the greatest rewards possible and be as pleasing to our Lord Jesus Christ as possible. That is our part in the plan, namely, to respond to the grace which has already been provided through the sacrifice our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I suppose we could look at these things as two sides of the same coin; the problem with that analogy is the unfathomably disproportionate "size" (for want of a better word) of God's side of that "coin". All of the hypotheticals, complications and problems all of mankind could think up in a google of years would be insignificant in God's eyes and no impediment whatsoever to carrying out His will. In fact they would be and are irrelevant. The distinction between "wills", again, a mere hypothetical, has to do with choice, that is, it has to do with creature free will. And this one perfect plan wherein Jesus Christ has now actually paid the price for the sins of all mankind has taken into account – an incredibly easy thing for God – every decision of every human being throughout all of history, that is, what we actually did choose at every point. So while we, human beings that we are, are very prone to dwell on "would have, could have, should have", in the actual plan there is only "was, is and will be". We are indeed and in fact actually choosing here and now for ourselves with the free will we have been given; but God already knows and has already ordained what we have, are and will choose . . . and that includes prayer.

For me, all of this is the woof and warp of scripture – which is why I affirm it confidently. Rather than provide scriptures which confirm this, I think it would be more profitable to ask what scriptures challenge what to me is the essential architecture of all divine truth in the Bible. What scriptures suggest that God is limited in any way whatsoever (Gen.18:14; Job 42:2; Jer.32:17; Matt.19:26; Lk.1:37; 18:27)? That there are things He cannot do (Rom.9:19-21)? That He is reacting to events (Jas.1:17)? That He is subject to time and/or space (1Ki.8:27; Ps.90:2)? That the cross was an after-thought (Rev.17:8; cf. Rev.13:8 Greek)?

And if the cross has always been the foundation of the plan of God, whereon Jesus had to die for the sins of the entire human race, including the vast majority of humanity who had not even been born – had to die, that is, for bad decisions not going to be made yet for thousands of years by billions of people – well then, how can things be any other way than how I have described them? The cross proves not only the love and grace of God, not only that this is the only plan and that with any single variation it would not be "the plan", but also that God had to have planned everything out in advance ahead of time in every minute detail, down to accounting for the last sins of the last sinner to draw breath before kingdom come. Otherwise these could not have been judged on the cross.

I'm happy to have scriptural discussion on specific point of any of this (though it might be prudent for you to wait until after finals). It's important; I don't think there is anything more important because salvation depends on our Lord actually having paid the price for our every single one of our actual sins.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hi Bob,

At first I was going to respond back along the lines of "why but of course I believe God is GOD not some super-creature who has to react rather than foreordain events"... but then the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was (is) actually part of the problem. Of course, it is not a matter of intellectual understanding per se. Along those lines, I obviously believe the former. But in terms of how much it actually affects my thought, speech, and behavior – that is, in terms of strong, positive belief in the truth to the point where it is useful, epignosis – there is still "much to be grasped by faith". As you say:

Every human fear and every failure of human faith can easily be explained by a parallel failure to appreciate just who and what God is, just how big, just how gracious, just how loving, just how all merciful, just how provident.

It's not so much a matter of knowing that this is true, but believing it to the point where it becomes a comfort in the trials of life (cf. how Rom. 8:28 affects us). And that is a lifelong process that we could all stand to improve in. (Though some of us more than others).

With all this being said, I think I've got much of this in hand now. Just to make sure, though (since, as you say, this is important):

The Timing of God's Plan

In terms of God's purposes being established from before the foundation of the world, I attempted to do a study on verses that support the concept. I'm just trying to trace, in more specific terms, how we get this idea from scripture directly. (I agree that the question "well, how else could it possibly be?" is a valid one).

From verses that talk about aspects of the plan (most notably Christ's sacrifice – the centerpiece of history – and God's relationships with individual humans) being foreordained "before the foundation of the world", we can infer that the whole plan must have been likewise foreordained. It would not make sense for God to have only planned/foreordained "some things", and not others (not to mention it would not be possible to do so – i.e., the plan would need to be complete for these things to be planned in the first place). Therefore, God's plan "before the foundation of the world" was/is perfect and complete.

Aspect: Choosing believers / damning unbelievers according to their free will

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.
Ephesians 1:4, NKJV

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.
Ephesians 1:11, NIV11

And all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
Revelation 13:8, ESV

The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.
Revelation 17:8, ESV

Aspect: Christ's sacrifice

Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.
1 Peter 1:18-20, NKJV

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.
2 Timothy 1:9, NIV11

Questions:

1) Is the argument above valid? Is there a better one for establishing this point?

2) Should we perceive any distinction between the phrases πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου (as in Ephesians 1:4) and πἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου (as in Revelation 13:8; 17:8)? The ESV translates this as "before the foundation of the world" in 13:8 but as "from the foundation of the world" in 17:8. Does this mean that the two phrases means essentially the same as, at least as it is being used here? (Why wouldn't the translators be consistent, since these verses very obviously parallel each other)?

3) Can we use Psalm 33:11 and Ephesians 3:11 to make an argument for an eternal plan, or just that God's plans/purposes do not change once he has made them? That is, does "standing firm forever" / "eternal purpose" = "established from eternity past to eternity future" or "unchanging and certain after the point of its conception"?

But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
Psalm 33:11, NIV11

According to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ephesians 3:11, NIV11

4) Can we use Isaiah 25:1; 44:8 in support of God's eternal plan without first presupposing an eternal plan (i.e., presupposing that "long ago"= "before creation" rather than "long ago in time")?

LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.
Isaiah 25:1, NIV11

Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one."
Isaiah 44:8, NIV11

5) I'd be perfectly happy to hear other verses or other perspectives you have on this concept. I'm trying not to "over-think it" or overlook God's character and awesome power (his "bigness", as it were) as I did in previous questions, but am certainly open to correction if you still think my viewpoint is starting in the wrong place.

God's Will and Prayer

This morning I finally put my finger on exactly what it was that has been confusing me in the God's Will / prayer / human free will interactions that I'd mentioned earlier. (Basically, what started off this whole email chain): interactions between two human wills and God's will.

Conceptually, it is much easier for me to grasp how God deals with humans as individuals. God will empower us to follow his plan for us based on our free will choices; conversely, he will give us over to our wicked desires based on our free will choices. Our actions reflect free will decisions on our part, as do our prayers concerning ourselves. For example, by praying for more discipline, we are reflecting a free will decision to ask God for help; God answering such a prayer is simply God responding to a positive free will decision, and "taking us as far as we are willing to go".

Where I was getting hung up is the sort of situation wherein person A prays for person B. B's free will has no bearing A's prayer – the interaction between God's Will / prayer / human free will is now more complicated because there are two human wills involved.

The confusion behind my salvation questions in the initial email (questions 2 and 3) was essentially how answering A's prayer (in whatever regard) could preserve B's free will since it was not B's free will decision to ask God for something. In a vacuum (i.e., perfectly hypothetical situation), it prima facie seems that God answering A's prayer for B would violate B's free will since it was not contingent upon B's free will.

After thinking about your last email, I think I finally understand how this can work. See if you think this is right:

There is no conflict between God answering a A's prayers on B's behalf and B's free will because God is simply so intelligent and his plan so perfect that for all manifestations of the A, B relationship in the history of the world, God has positioned the individuals in question in such a way that A's (legitimate) prayers on B's behalf are fully efficacious, yet do not violate B's free will.

In symbolic logic:

If

A: A believer praying for B

B: A human being (believer or not)

C: A response by God to A's prayer, accounted for in his perfect plan

Then

∀ A, B ∈ {humans with free will} ∃ some C : A's prayer is fully efficacious and B's free will is preserved (= "for all A, B that are members of the set of humans with free will, there exists some C such that A's prayer is fully efficacious and B's free will is preserved")

This train of thought can be generalized to the nth degree. Suppose there are 25 believers A...Y praying for person Z. Then the statement above still holds, because God is simply that big – intelligent enough to perfectly place these people in relation to one another such that the prayers of A...Y are answered but Z's free will is preserved.

How am I doing this time around?

Yours in Christ,

Response #13:

I think you have it exactly – and, yes, we ALL need to do better with this (yours truly included):

The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we’re going to drown!" He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. "Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him."
Luke 8:24-25 NIV

How is what we do whenever we doubt to even a small degree any different from these "hard of heart" disciples who didn't yet realize that the One with them was the Maker and Sustainer of the universe? It may be different – it may be worse. Because we KNOW that He is who He is, that He is everywhere, that He is in us and that we are in Him, that He has given us His Spirit, and that our every provision has already been foreordained. And yet . . .

The centurion replied, "Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it." When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, "Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith."
Matthew 8:8-10 NIV

We understand all this, but do we UNDERSTAND it? The centurion was great in faith not because he knew theoretically that "if" someone was God and that "if" that Person gave the word, then indeed it would happen, but because he actually did understand and believe to the point of absolutely no doubt who and what Jesus was, and because he had internalized this truth through faith to the point of being able to draw this conclusion in perfect and complete faith as if it were the most elementary logic of all. And of course it is the most elementary logic of all – for those with rock solid faith. But that is a very rare thing, and so our Lord was amazed at finding it. We today have precious little excuse, having read all these passages many times, for behaving in a less faithful and trusting way than did this centurion.

As to your questions:

1) It is valid and a fine place to begin, should one wish to begin. But as I say, I think this too is "elementary" if one accepts the truth of scripture as a whole.

2) There's no accounting for inconsistencies in translations. As to the difference in meaning, the point is the same; the question is merely the perspective of from that point of creation forward (which presupposes prior existence) or before that (which emphasizes prior existence).

3) I believe so. I use them too in my treatment of the Plan of God (see the link under "divine decrees").

4) I'm not sure what you mean by "without first presupposing an eternal plan". Why would one not want to do so, since it's ubiquitous in scripture? I think it's clear from these passages you cite as well.

5) I think what you say is fine . . . until you get to the formal logic of it. It's not only that I'm not up to speed on this (and I'm not up to speed on this), but it's also that I realize that God is "theological" and hence "supra-logical". If you've ever heard of "the crocodile's dilemma" or "the liar's paradox", you'll see what I mean about that in terms of this issue. I'd stick with "God is simply so intelligent and His plan so perfect that for all manifestations of the A, B relationship in the history of the world, God has positioned the individuals in question in such a way that A's (legitimate) prayers on B's behalf are fully efficacious, yet do not violate B's free will".

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Mark 11:24 NIV

Best wishes for your finals, final projects, and final papers!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hi Bob,

Is this basically what you're saying:

1) It's not that God planning out all history before creation cannot be demonstrated from scripture, but simply that doing so is rather unnecessary because the whole woof and warp of scripture points to this. (How else could it be?)

2) The following statement is correct: "God is simply so intelligent and his plan so perfect that for all manifestations of the A, B relationship in the history of the world, God has positioned the individuals in question in such a way that A's (legitimate) prayers on B's behalf are fully efficacious, yet do not violate B's free will."

It is best to avoid formal logic when dealing with God (or at least to avoid relying on it wholly) since God is theological rather than simply logical.

In Him,

Hi Bob,

Sorry to blow up your inbox. Now that I've started going through the link to BB:4B Soteriology, I see that you have actually addressed my question concerning timing (among many other things) very thoroughly there. So no need to repeat yourself: I've started going through that section, and will report back if any further questions arise.

(I would still like confirmation that the wording of my statement in the second point is correct).

In Christ,

Response #14:

It's no problem, my friend. It's hard to get everything the first time through; sometimes we don't actually "get" things until we start to wrestle with them. That is one reason why teaching is the best learning experience there is.

Yes, I like your restatement very much!

Best wishes on the final push (last day of classes here today).

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hi Bob,

I discovered that I have become guilty of the sin of greed. I was praying to God for a large sum to get two or three new cars (our current ones keep breaking down) and to pay off some debts. Later God exposed this love of money that was latent in my heart.

"For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and damnation. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
1 Tim. 6:7-10

All the people of God need to learn to be content with food and clothing. If we are hungry or naked, then we might have a cause to ask God to supply us materially.

Response #15:

As we grow, our prayers become more refined, but as long as we are not in fact asking out of lust (Jas.4:3), God understands the real motive and the real need behind all of our prayers.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hi Bob!

Grace, Mercy, and Peace be yours in abundance.

THANKS SO MUCH for standing with me in prayer concerning my siblings and mother being delivered out of the clutches of the cult, Way International. Great news.....very recently I learned that my sister's two sons have left this cult. Praise God!!!! What a mighty, faithful, and prayer answering God we serve!!

My brother, I ask that you continue to stand with me trusting the Lord to lead all of my siblings, their sons/daughters, and mother into His saving faith and loving arms.

Bob, even though we've never met, I feel like I've known you all my life....being brothers who dwell together in unity...nothing like it!

Have a blessed and fulfilling week my friend.

I look forward to meeting you on the other side glory....it would be great to meet you on this side as well.

Thanks very much again.

Your brother in Christ,

Response #16:

Wonderful news, my friend! I have been keeping you in prayer on this and I am thrilled to hear of more progress. We will continue to fight this fight until total victory is achieved.

Thanks for all your good words, my friend. Wishing you and your family continued spiritual progress in Jesus Christ our Lord, and a great reward when we stand together in glory.

In Jesus Christ who is our all in all.

Bob L.

Question #17:

Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? - Matthew 9:5

When I shared with a friend the results of recent xrays, he looked at me and unexpectedly reached across the table and took my arm saying 'I want to pray for you'. There was something in his look that was nothing like someone saying 'lets do what makes me feel good'. No. The Spirit moved him, and I was blessed to see it. The same Spirit I try to remember that loves me and cares about me, reaching through a friend that loves me. Since his prayer, something has taken place, but not quite like a Tiny Tim from 'A Christmas Carol', or 'blind Bartemeus', but my walk was eased because the Spirit moved through him. Many of us have been afflicted in one way or another, and overlook the true 'miracle healing'. The one that says 'the affliction is Mine, as you are Mine'. G-d doesn't just want the things we choose to give him, but even the things we feel we can't. My walk has been eased, literally, because of the remembrance brought through a friend of G-d. Faith, that I am not alone with anything, though I may choose to think so. Today, remember- Stop treating G-d like a buffet, and give Him all of you, to be seated with all of Him in Heaven, through the gift of His resurrection. Happy Easter.

Response #17:

Thanks!

Question #18:

My family has traditionally said a prayer at meals all together, more like a creed almost than anything else. It goes "Come Lord Jesus be our Guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed, Amen" ... and that's it. I have sometimes taken to saying my own more personal prayer, but was wondering what you thought about the whole thing. Most other families I know (grandparents, cousins, friends) have one person actually pray out loud and ask for God's blessing on the food and sometimes for safe travel, peace, etc. This always seemed to be the more "right" way to do it, but I've never brought it up with my family. Is this a big deal?

Response #18:

Your family's approach is typical enough and I would not want to find fault with it. When you have your own family, you can do it your way, naturally. In the meantime, I see no problem with going along (or with being inventive yourself if this does not offend). Any believer should be aware that earthly food and drink is a provision from the Lord and it really only symbolizes the truly important provision: the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, His throwing in of His lot with us by taking on true humanity, and His work in dying for all of sins – that is the foundation of all things, and good to remember whenever we eat and drink (Deut.8:3).

Question #19:

Good Afternoon my friend.

While I was at your site, reading a response you were giving, it read as if you were having a difficult time with something. Is there any thing more specific I can pray for you later today?

I will be sure to ask for His assurance in your life.

You are a blessing to many,

Response #19:

Thank you for your concern, my friend! These email responses are processed and posted sometimes as long as two years after the fact. We believers here in the devil's world are all suffering "tribulation" of one sort or another – none of us is immune (1Pet.5:9).

Things here have been a lot worse!

So thank you for any and all prayers for this ministry and myself.

Keeping you and yours in my prayers day by day.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hi Dr., I hope all is well. The last response was apropos. I believe believers and non believers alike do not have a reverent fear of God.

I believe as you state He makes it possible so as not to undermine our free will. That is why I pray the Lord never let me lose that sight of Him.

Good point and if most believers follow your line of thinking we won't be lackadaisical and/or lukewarm in our walk.

Hi Dr, It is me again. Sorry to keep disturbing you but you are my Pastor so I go to you with questions and requests. I hope I am not a pest.

I would like for you to say a short prayer for me. God will be delivering our family a blessing with my job situation and while I do not have an offer, I believe the offer is imminent and it will be advantageous financially and career wise. I would like a short prayer, if you don't mind, that the Lord keeps me humble and keeps my eyes on the prize which is eternal life and rewards and growth in Christ our Lord.

I usually pray for humbleness and not a haughty heart because that is a sin that plagued me previously and do not want to fall into the trap of complacency when God blesses you.

The prayer I am asking from you is for Christ to make me an ambassador for Him at work, work like I work for Him and continue to maintain my regular studies even in the midst of additional responsibilities. I have asked the Lord to not give me any job that takes my focus off of Him.

I appreciate your prayers. This doesn't have to be a daily prayer but a one-time prayer if you don't mind.

In Christ Jesus our Lord.

Response #20:

It's always good to hear from, my friend. I want you to know that I have said a prayer for you on this, and that I keep you and your wife in my prayers every day. Sometimes when we have more to deal with (i.e., in this case, a more challenging job) we manage to get more done than when we had less to deal with. I have certainly experienced that. The Lord knows what He is doing, alright, and often times we do need to be stretched so as to get the most out of us. We trust that He will work this together for the good as He always does.

Thanks much also for your prayers, my friend. They mean a great deal. I also appreciate your kind observations about the weekly posting.

Please let me know how this goes.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi Bob,

God is outside of space and time. So if someone has died, then it is possible that one could pray for him postmortem and have God answer that prayer while that person is still alive.

Sincerely,

Response #21:

Anything is possible for God. In this case, however, although theoretically He could do it, in fact He isn't doing this (we are required to deal with things chronologically even though He is not). We are "in the arena" while we are alive. Anything we wish to do for our brothers and sisters in this world (like praying for them) we have to do while still alive – or not at all.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:

How I feel about praying for this country:

"Son of man, if some country were to sin against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it and cut off from it both man and beast, even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves,' declares the Lord GOD." (Eze. 14:14)

Response #22:

As I have written about it before as you know, it's very likely that this will become the Babylon of the Tribulation. Be that as it may be (in the future), as to praying for one's country here and now, regardless of how a person may feel about political events, here is what I find in scripture:

"Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way."
1st Samuel 12:23 NKJV

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
1st Timothy 2:1-2 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hi Bob,

Just to head off a potential matter of concern, the church in which I am living is solid and orthodox. Not perfect, but the closest I've found in our times. I was initially leery of being so closely tied to the church, but I do believe the Lord has led me here for a reason. My sister attended here during her time at this school, and there is a degree of real teaching going on. I don't agree with everything, mind you, but the points of doctrinal disagreement are in regard to certain individuals and not the "church position" (which in fact does not exist for many areas). This is to say, I do not see conflict between what is being taught generally and what you teach, it's just more that they focus on a smaller subset of doctrine. I did bring this issue up (not teaching the full realm of Biblical truth) with one of the older men at the church, and I find the reasoning for this situation not unfollowable. There are people at the church who hold views on, say, the timing of the rapture and doctrine of kenosis. But by and large the teaching is at a lower level than these things when gathered together as a full group. Interested parties may get a certain level more from discussions with qualified people in the church (of whom there are several, sometimes with different views, but never unreasonable about putting differences aside for common unity).

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the church is actually of some more use than just fellowship, which sets it apart from almost all Laodicea. I can get things out of the teaching going on here, but it is still not sufficient in the way I find Ichthys sufficient, for example, because it doesn't cover nearly as much.

However, there is one potential matter of concern. You may recall that the church I attended at my former school had the practice of praying in a decidedly unbiblical way (highly emotional, everyone praying out loud at the same time, etc.). There is nothing of the sort going on here – nothing childish or immature. Rather, there is a time during the service where members take turns bearing each other's burdens by praying over community prayer requests. Requests are gathered in a very orderly matter, and then members of the congregation simply pray for one another, again done in a reasonable way, with people praying as they feel led (there is no "peer pressure" involved in any step). Additionally, before the service, there is a time of fairly brief prayer over the service (which is optional: people may join in only if they want to). Nothing that smacks of hoopla or excitement, just a desire to have God work through the community.

We have talked about this sort of thing before, where there is a danger of praying to impress others (Matthew 6:5) and of making it institutionalized rather than Spirit-led (people praying for the sake of it rather than for some specific purpose). I believe that by and large the prayer occurring here is heartfelt (not Pharisaical) and has clearly defined purpose (in the first case, praying for concerns in the community from week to week; in the second case, praying for God's blessing on the time of worship and teaching to come). But I still do not see a lot of this sort of thing in scripture, and it makes me want to understand more.

When I brought it up (they were happy to have me asking questions – a good sign), a verse that was brought in was 1 Corinthians 14:26. I pointed out that prayer is not actually one of the things explicitly mentioned here. But I do understand the line of reasoning. It is not unreasonable for Paul to not list out every possible thing that could be offered by members of the body, so members sharing prayers isn't necessarily out of line with what this verse is getting at. At the same time, it isn't actually mentioned, which makes it somewhat of an interpretation. (Also: when the last time someone shared these other things within the assembly?)

Bob, I'm just trying to run this by you to see if passes a reasonable test of common-sense orthodoxy. I did make it very clear that prayer of this sort was simply new to me – not "good" or "bad" at this point, but unfamiliar. My conscience led me to very quickly disagree with the prayer at my previous church, but I do not feel any repulsion nearly so strong here. In fact, without being "primed" by the former, all this might have seemed perfect normal and not uncomfortable in the slightest. It is hard for me know.

One final thing to mention. I found the 1 Corinthians verse above (discussing how the body cares for itself with each of its members taking part) much more convincing support for a practice like this than commonly adduced support such as Acts 1:14, 8:15, 16:25, 20:36, etc. Nowhere in these verses is prayer explicitly said to be out loud, people just assume it and then use it as a proof-text for their particular behavior. I did some looking through scripture, but couldn't actually find a verse that explicitly discusses people praying out loud together (with more than one person praying at the gathering). Do you know of one, or have anything written on the subject?

In Jesus Christ, our dear Lord and Savior,

Response #23:

Prayer is a powerful and wonderful thing. We have the right of access to the throne room of heaven based upon our position in Christ who is now seated there at the Father's right hand (Eph.2:8; 3:12; Heb.4:16). So perhaps the biggest reason that I personally am not a great proponent of institutionalized group prayer (aside from the potential Pharisaical aspects which you mention and which we have discussed before) is the tendency it may have to "dumb down" prayer and also to make it seem some kind of laborious and remote thing – whereas in fact it is a direct conversation with the Lord empowered by the Holy Spirit, properly done. I don't have anything against praying before a service or remembering the needs of the group in the service. It's become somewhat de rigueur in evangelicaldom. It's just that I'm not that impressed with the actual implementation almost everywhere I have seen it. I suppose that is to some extent an individual thing for each person in the congregation when it happens. The tighter the group, the more this is likely to be a plus – as when you ask me to pray for something or I ask you. As you know, I have a prayer list at Ichthys, but the nature of it allows people to pray about some or all or none of the concerns whenever they wish to – as opposed to being a captive audience because they attended the service.

During the years before the Civil War there was a great prayer revival on the east coast in particular. People would give up their lunch hours to meet in various spaces (not churches) and pray together. There were rules. Each person had a limited time to get the prayer out. A moderator with a little bell would ring it when the time was up. Believe it or not this movement was wildly successful with thousands coming out at various times in the day for several years in Philadelphia and New York, for example, and hundreds of thousands of people seem to have been saved (or at least become fully involved in Christianity) as a result. But these were prayer only meetings. It may be a personal prejudice, but I would prefer separating things out not only for the sake of the teaching but also for the sake of the prayer. In what experience I've had of these things personally, I've never gotten much out of group prayer when it was part of a service, but have seen the exact opposite in prayer-only meetings.

Of course, no one is perfect and nothing is perfect this side of heaven. I don't have any doctrinal objections to praying in a group of Christians, however it is done – as long as its done according to the verse quoted to you, "decently and in order" (I agree with you that this is speaking about activities resulting in edification and not about prayer as we are discussing it here). After all, there is the famous Groucho Marx rule: "I wouldn't belong to any club that would have me as a member". At some point we have to accept the fact that perfection is not attainable; on the other hand, there's no point to anything worthwhile without some standards. In between is an area of judging between applications. If you are OK with it, I'm certainly not going to object.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Hi Bob,

I suppose for the sake of being precise I'll clarify a little bit more.

The church itself is right around 50 people. There are 3 elders that are in charge of running the church, 2 deacons that handle administrative tasks (such as finances and setting up/taking down chairs and tables), and several people who aren't formally part of either of the preceding groups but who teach what we call "second hour classes" (the teacher in the church also leads one of these). One of these other fellows has what I would consider reasonable qualifications (as in the original languages, hermeneutics, a decent grasp of history and culture, etc.), while most of the other leaders are just more mature Christians that are facilitating meaningful discussion rather than teaching per se (for example, about the content of the sermon, or about another matter). From my time here, I have found the teaching sessions more useful than the discussion sessions, but the latter are not as useless as most "Bible study discussions" are (i.e., truth is understood as not being relative/subjective, and most of the time is spent reflecting on the message/passage and thinking about application).

There are 4 main types of prayer that occur in the church (other than personal prayer):

1) The time praying before the service. I went to this last Sunday, and it was just two other people with me (though normally I think it is somewhere more around 4-5). The younger man (younger than me actually) opened us. Things prayed about were, as I recall, people's safety as they came to the service, and the circumcision of our hearts and minds during the time to come. The older man (one of the deacons) prayed about similar things, and added on a request for God's protection and blessing on the church plant that this church is sponsoring. Altogether, it took probably 10 minutes or so. Nothing unreasonable.

2) The time praying during the service. While I am still pretty new here (learning names and faces), due to the small size, everyone who has been here more than a couple weeks knows each other. So when someone asks to "pray for X's dad who is recovering from breaking his hip", for example, most everyone knows X, and many probably know her dad as well. This makes it substantially different than most churches of our day wherein you most certainly do not know everybody, and prayer is a bit more impersonal. (I agree with you on this: generally praying for people we know personally will be more genuine and meaningful).

Prayer requests or points of thanksgiving are gathered separately from the time of prayer itself. The person leading worship that week (reading scripture throughout the service and running the proceedings prior to the teaching: usually one of the elders or deacons) will write down people's requests/points of thanksgiving as they are shared. After gathering all of them, this person runs through them all again to remind everyone what they are, and the time of prayer begins.

During this time, members of the congregation choose which things they pray for/about, and sometimes add additional things of their own. From my observation being here for the weeks that I have, some people participate consistently in this while some people do not. I can only think of one person whose prayers I found lacking, and part of it is a general difficulty being around this person in general (along the lines of loving all our brothers and sisters in Christ but not necessarily "liking" them). I would estimate that the prayers for each request are simple – probably about 15-30 seconds each. I've noticed that a good bit of the content of these prayers is quoting or paraphrasing passages of scripture. No one is obligated to pray for anything specific, or even to pray at all. Anything forgotten or not prayed about by the congregation is handled by the worship leader praying for these things as he closes us. I'd estimate the total time for both the gathering and the praying to be approximately 10 minutes out of an hour and a half service.

3) Praying over the shared meal. After church, there are the second hour classes, mentioned above. After these, the entire congregation comes together for a meal on Sunday. Before this, one of the elders or deacons will pray a blessing over the food, thanking God for the volunteers who prepared it and for the time of fellowship over the meal. Again, pretty normal, probably about 15-20 seconds.

4) Prayer among small groups. This is something I didn't mention in the email above because I just became aware of it yesterday. This is almost directly analogous to the pre-Civil War prayer meetings you mentioned. Among close friends or people in the church that know each other well, people will schedule time during the week in groups of 2-3 and spend time praying together.

Some of the focus is on praying for each other specifically, and some of it is just listening to each other talk to God for encouragement. From my understanding, only some people in the congregation participate in this type of meeting. This is the most foreign type to me, because I've never had an experience like it before.

I think a large part of my uncertainty stems from not knowing what exactly Biblical group prayer is as a concept. Personal prayer I understand. It's just praying with others that I don't have a good base of knowledge to go on.

1) Would you consider this as something that is left to individual churches to figure out on their own? In the ideal situation, should there be group prayer as a church in the first place?

2) Is praying out loud for someone close to us for the purpose of encouraging them something Biblical (or at least something that is reasonable)? For example, would you find the idea of husbands and wives praying out loud to each other "good" or "bad"?

Yours in Christ,

Response #24:

From what you report, it sounds like you've found yourself a pretty good church! Seems to me they're making a real effort to do things the biblical way. Even if some of these things here are in the realm of application (and that is fine; Q #1), and though we all might not be in 100% agreement or might do things a little differently if it were all up to us personally, I don't find anything much in what you have said to be alarmed about. As to the praying to each other in public (Q #2), that does seem weird and of course is not in scripture. But then it's hard to find a church (or any ministry) that is totally devoid of all kinks.

No doubt this is an important part of your own pastoral preparation, making you sift through things and also making you consider how you might direct things once you're in charge in your own ministry somewhere – building on what's good and tested, eschewing what's superfluous or questionable.

Keep up the good walk in Jesus Christ, my friend!

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #25:

Ty so much Robert. I have a difficult time with prayer more so when it comes to praying for others. There are so many people and issues to pray about that sometimes it becomes overwhelming to me. Would you be so kind as to share with me a way to pray from the heart yet not feel rushed and get everyone and everything in? I pray that my brothers and sisters will be saved but how much time should I allow for each person or issue? Do I only pray/ask one time for the same issue or should I continually pray again and again for the same thing until something positive happens as you did and are doing for me? Hope you have a lovely 4th of July weekend!

Yours in Christ,

Response #25:

Here are some links I have on the subject:

Prayer Questions

Prayer and our walk with Jesus

*Prayer: the Persistence, Purpose and Power of

The Lord's Prayer

Essentials of the Lord's Prayer (in CT 7)

The Will of God and Prayer

Praying for Wisdom

Eyes open in prayer?

Holding up Holy Hands

Imprecatory Prayer and Blessing by Association

Cumulative Prayer

Corporate Prayer: "When Two Agree"

The main thing I would say about this is that in general there is no right way or wrong way to pray; we all adopt our own methods and our own regimens and they are all "good" . . . as long as we are praying in the Spirit. The more we grow spiritually the better we will get at it (and our approaches will vary too, the more we learn). My advice is to try and think of it as a wonderful privilege more so than an obligation. With that in mind, it's a very good idea not to tell some you've been praying for them if you haven't or that you will be praying for them if you're not absolutely sure that you can be consistent in doing so. Better to say "I said a prayer for you" and "I will say a prayer for you" – since that is probably true in the former case and easily possible in the second.

God knows what we all need and has already pre-programmed our deliverances into the Plan of God – of course He's also plugged in the prayers that were actually said, so it is of great importance that we do pray. This is the best weapon we have in the spiritual conflict in which we are all involved, and making use of it daily is a good and an important thing to do. But please don't "bite off more than you can chew". If you are able to spend ten minutes a day and do it well (enjoy it, mean it, be consistent with it), that is better than an hour wherein you get frazzled or tired of doing it. As I say, we all get better at this over time as long as we are growing up spiritually more and more day by day.

Wishing you and yours a blessed and happy 4th as well!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26:

Hi Dr,

How do you arrange your prayer life and time? I find I have so much to pray for as well as others that the sheer size of my prayer requests are overwhelming. How do you manage yours, which I know is monumental? It might provide me pointers to ease the stress and make it more enjoyable.

Do you segregate your prayers by subject, days, etc? How often do you pray for the same prayers?

Any insight is much appreciated.

Thank you In Christ our Lord

Response #26:

This is a personal thing which each believer has to figure out over time for him/herself. I'm not trying to be secretive; it's just that what works for me, how "I do it", is probably best for me alone – and vice versa regarding the method you come up with for you. What I will say is that in my opinion consistency is superior to massive good intentions. It is probably better to pray a little for a few, and to say a few extra prayers for those who are not "regulars" on your list, doing so pretty much every day in a consistent way (however, wherever and whenever you do it) than it is to have some concept of a massive prayer list with detailed prayers for each person on it which is so onerous that it is impossible to actually get to doing it right except once in a great while.

My advice is to start a bit smaller than you think is easily doable on a day by day basis, and gradually add what you feel to be essential as you develop the time, experience, method and capacity for more. As I say, there is no set system; we know the prayer our Lord recommended when asked about this – a perfect prayer which orients us to the sovereignty and holiness of God and to the sureness of His past forgiveness, present provision and future deliverance – but a short and eminently doable prayer. Adding things to this is an individual exercise, especially inasmuch as some Christians are specifically gifted for prayer ministry and commissioned for it as one of their main areas of production. The apostles suggested appointing deacons, after all, so that they might give themselves "continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:5); few of us have the luxury of being able to devote nearly all of our time to these two wonderful things.

One last thing on this score. I also always recommend believers to be careful about saying "I'll pray for you" or "I'm praying for you" . . . unless they are actually doing so and/or absolutely committed to doing so. Here are a few related links:

Prayer Questions

Prayer and our walk with Jesus

*Prayer: the Persistence, Purpose and Power of

The Lord's Prayer

Essentials of the Lord's Prayer (in CT 7)

The Will of God and Prayer

Praying for Wisdom

Eyes open in prayer?

Holding up Holy Hands

Imprecatory Prayer and Blessing by Association

Cumulative Prayer

Corporate Prayer: "When Two Agree"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27:

Thank you Robert for the advice. I will continue what I am doing until the Spirit moves me otherwise. I believe most of my issue is emotion based. I think I have to feel a certain way after prayer but that is not the case. When trying to grow spiritually you get to a crossroad where you just want to hear his voice to tell you what to do like we do in this world but he operates on faith, even the communication part.

God bless you In Christ our Lord

Response #27:

Well said, my friend!

I appreciate your spiritual progress and receive encouragement from it.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #28:

Hi Bob,

Thank you very much for your great study/work that you are doing to feed the flock. It is precious to have access to your studies, which have helped me to get the proper focus on the truth of scripture. I am writing to you today because I have been suffering greatly from a skin disorder and need prayer that God will deliver me from or through this trouble.

Thanks, and God bless you. Your friend in Christ,

P.S Let me know if you need any prayer requests also

Response #28:

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks so much for you kind words.

I have said a prayer for you and will keep praying. Also, I've added your (first) name to our Ichthys prayer list.

I always appreciate prayer on behalf of myself, my family and this ministry! So thanks in advance for anything you'd be willing send up on my behalf.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #29:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I'm doing very well, and I hope you are too. My younger brother has gotten a better job. My older brother is going to graduate from college in just a few days now. And I got home safe from my trip and as soon as I got back, I was offered a job as a shift manager at a restaurant – not bad for a first full-time job. My mom has had all the surgeries that she's needed and is now fully recovered and doing very well. God is good, and that's an understatement. I don't feel like I'm worthy of trying to explain how great He is, one, because I can't really comprehend how "great" He is (because there are just so many reasons, and because He is the standard of "greatness"). And two, because there are no words that can precisely describe how truly "good" He is (e.g. "magnificent" isn't good enough; "omnipotent" is better, but still not all-encompassing or specific enough, etc.); it would take an entire book to explain why and how He is "good." I guess that's why we have the Bible.

Is there anything specific I can pray about for you?

In Him,

Response #29:

That's fantastic! This is pretty much my entire prayer list for you and your family! God is good, alright!

If you're looking to fill out your prayer list, I've just been diagnosed with high blood pressure (or, really, I've had it for a long time and am just getting around to doing something about it); the meds are working but I've got a sometimes incapacitating cough as a side-effect; I'll have to get that straightened out by next fall before I start teaching again. Also, our friend Bartek has an internal condition that the NHS in the UK can't diagnose so he's flying home to try for some help with that – I'd certainly appreciate your prayers on that one too.

Thanks for the update! I really appreciate it (and thanks for the prayers as well); p.s., I'll still be praying for you.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #30:

Hi Bob,

Why does the Bible exhort believers to pray to God the Father? Why is God the Father the main focus of prayer and worship instead of God the Son or God the Holy Spirit?

Sincerely,

Response #30:

It's a question of authority. The Trinity are coequal, but within creation they have specific roles wherein the Father is the authority, the Son carries out His plan, and the Spirit empowers it (1Cor.15:24-28). As mentioned previously, there has never been a time when there was a shadow of a disagreement between the three Persons, so that the "oneness" of God is an important truth, and it is so important to realize that we don't really understand the depths of it since we have nothing with which to compare it (i.e., no two human beings in history have even approached anything like "oneness"; with the Trinity the difference is thus qualitative as well as quantitative).

You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
John 14:14 NIV

This verse gives us the right to petition the Son directly. But very importantly we have the right to ask the Father directly. We do not have to go through priests or any other sort of intermediary (Eph.2:18; 3:12; Heb.4:16; cf. Zech.4:7; Rom.5:1-2). That is blessed beyond understanding, for He is our Father:

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."
Romans 8:15 NIV

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."
Galatians 4:6 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #31:

"Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always **wrestling** in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills."
(Colossians 4:12)

Interesting verb choice. Could you elaborate?

Response #31:

Other versions have "striving", "laboring", "contending". "Wrestling" is not a bad translation of agonizomenos since an agon can be an athletic competition (though it can also refer to any sort of struggle or contest legal, military, whatever), and since this verb is sometimes used of literal (or metaphorical) "wrestling". There are other ancient Greek words for wrestling, but they don't occur in the New Testament, and we know that Paul is fond of athletic metaphors, so I would accept this translation with the caveat that we wouldn't want to put too much weight on the (possible) metaphor. The main point is that E is wrestling/contending "on behalf" of the Colossians, and the Person he is wrestling with is the Lord – in the same manner that Jacob held fast to the Lord in wrestling for a blessing before crossing the river to meet Esau. The application is that persistent prayer is a virtue (Lk.8:1-8). If we are praying for something/someone, and if the need is not immediately met, as long as we are not in doubt about the rightness and righteousness of the prayer, we should (generally) persist until deliverance is granted. Lack of immediate fulfillment is not necessarily due to a lack of faith on the part of the believer or a lack of willingness to respond on the part of the Lord: sometimes it is a case of testing our perseverance and our willingness to continue to "struggle/wrestle" until an answer is given (cf. 1Ki.18:42-44).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – the One whom we love and the One whom we are determined to hold onto until the end.

Bob L.

Question #32:

Hi Robert....I am so sorry to hear that you had to go through all of this with your leg and now with your lungs and skin. You truly know what it is like to deal with doctors who are afraid to prescribe and although I understand their fears, it is very frustrating when we know our body and what it needs. Thank the Good Lord that He provided us with all kinds of natural herbs from the earth that can help us. Sometimes it is much better to take supplements rather than pharmaceutical meds and healthier too! I wasn't aware that you were a teacher I am sure you enjoy your teaching and your students must adore you. You take care of yourself my friend and know that I will be praying for you as well. I'm learning a lot about prayer from Ichthys and it has changed the way I pray. I feel much closer to our Lord and I am ordering a prayer book so I can keep track of who and what I am praying for each day so I don't leave anyone or anything out. How do you feel about praying to Blessed Mother Mary to intercede in prayer? Is it wrong to pray for intercession when we can go straight to God and know He is listening? Hope you are having a great and relaxing summer!

Your friend in Christ,

Response #32:

Thank you for your prayers! The skin infection seems to be going away – praise the Lord! I'm hoping and praying that the Lord will likewise deliver you in short order, regardless of whether or not you get what you feel is needed (I didn't – but the Lord is working it out anyway). We know He will deliver you; we want that "sooner rather than later"; but He works everything out in His perfect timing.

The Bible says that Jesus is our Intercessor (1Jn.2:1), having won direct access for us to the Father Himself at the cross (see the link). Mary was a great believer, but she is and was a human being like the rest of us. Same goes for the "saints" – in fact we are all "saints" (meaning, "sanctified ones"), made so by the blood of Christ (e.g., Rom.1:7; 1Cor.1:2; 2Cor.1:1; Eph.1:1; Phil.1:1).

The Roman Catholic religion has produced a seemingly incalculable number of false doctrines, man-made rituals, and non-biblical practices. I do understand that for someone escaping from that milieu it can be hard sometimes to separate the traditional practices one has grown up with from the truth – and it can be a long process. I have a good friend who is also a Bible teacher who escaped from that tradition. I would be happy to put you in touch with him via email, if you wish. He has a much better understanding of the details and the emotional strings attached than I could ever have from the outside looking in.

I'm keeping you in my prayers day by day, my friend.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #33:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Just wanted to say how I am amazed at "Soteriology, the Study of Salvation". It is a very, very, profound study, such as I have never experienced in my 37 years of learning. It is actually, a very simple explanation, but at the same time extremely well written, that even I can understand. I was talking to my wife yesterday, and I said to her "Of all the ministers that I have heard teach, not a single one of them, come even close to what God has given you. I consider myself a very privileged Child of God to have come in contact with you and study under the ministry of the expertise God has bestowed upon you. I cannot begin to write the words to express my thankfulness to Him for the opportunity that He has given me to study with you. I would just wish that many more Christians would come in contact with your Website; I have told some of those that I know, but have not gotten any feedback. Their loss. So Sad, and it does make me very sad.

I am still studying this particular teaching and have been for three weeks; am about halfway through it.

This is one of the statements you make it your study:

Truth always provokes a reaction. It will always attract or repel those who come into contact with it.

I have found this to be an absolute fact, many times in the life that God has given me.

I would ask prayer from you for our youngest granddaughter; her name is Anna Elizabeth (addiction). We have already lost a son, and a grandson in death due to drugs. I know thou that God is still on the throne. These things are just an attack from the enemy trying to get us to turn away from God and follow him. But I have some news for him. I am too close to eternity now. I know that scripture that says: "Beware, lest a man think he walks upright, lest he fall". God brings us through all things. In all things, circumstances, trials and tribulations, I give thanks to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Hope your day is filled with God's presence and joy.

Blessings to you,

Your friend,

Response #33:

Thanks for your very kind words, my friend. I'll try to be worthy of them. To God be all the glory (Ps.115:1).

I've put a prayer request on the website for you granddaughter and will keep her in my prayers.

Question #34:

Hi Dr,

I was wondering how the person name Tommy is getting along that is on the prayer list. Did he find a place to live?

I will continue to pray for him.

I hope all is well with you and yours. In Christ our Lord

Hope you and your family are doing well.

Response #34:

I did hear back from Tommy some time ago (when he responded to a notice of a posting). Seems he is living in a van at the moment. He seemed to be quite content with his situation. It would be a hardship for me, I know, so I keep him in my prayers even so.

Good of you to ask to be keeping up with those on the list! I don't always hear back from folks who are put on there, but in this case I have.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #35:

"Give us this day our daily bread" versus "Give us day by day our daily bread."

The first is looking at the act of giving as a single point in the future. The second is looking at it as a continuing process of daily sustenance.

Response #35:

Yes, very good. That is the general idea in the Greek. However, as I tell my students, while one can sometimes – rarely – find significance in such a difference in meaning between aorist and present aspects, and more so in the imperative than elsewhere (and more so in the negative imperative than elsewhere – although Classical Greek usually uses an aorist subjunctive in such cases), more often than not the choice is simply governed by the type of verb and the writer's preference for this form or that one. In the example of the Lord's prayer, "forgive" is aorist in both Matthew 6:11 and Luke 11:3, but for "give" we have dos in Matthew and in Luke didou – in other words, same verb, same prayer, different aspect in the two writers (aorist and present respectively). That doesn't mean that there isn't something to it, i.e., Matthew calling attention to the overall fact of God actually giving us what we need (everything in the Lord's prayer we ask for are things which of course God has already ordained to give us so that we are really only reminding ourselves of what He has already determined to do for us), and Luke focusing on the daily repetition of the provision; but it is almost always a mistake to make TOO much out of this sort of thing (i.e., verbal aspect).

Best wishes for a solid and happy end to the semester!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #36:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

First of all I'd like to thank you for all your prayers to God regarding me and my family. I've been doing a lot of praying myself for the main essentials in my life such as food, shelter, car, clothes, and a job. Recently my landlord told me that he's selling the property that I am currently living in as I stated before in an earlier email, and because of that, I've prayed fervently that God will allow me to continue to live here. It's been 10 years and I am concerned that even if there's a new landlord, the rent prices will go up. When I tell other people that "I don't know if my prayers will be answered", it is usually taken the wrong way, that I don't have faith when I say that. But that's not the case. It's me not knowing if it's God's will to have me to continue to having me to live here, or to move. I know that it is most definitely God's will that my family be saved and come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and I have no doubt in my mind that it will come to pass. But uncertainties such as "Will God answer my prayer and have me live here, or does He have some other plan?" I live in a city where the rent is one of the highest in the world, and finding another place to live would be too expensive for me, which is why I prayed over this matter. How do I know if the prayers that I pray is the Will of God? as opposed to not knowing if it's God's will because He moves in mysterious ways? A passage in the bible keeps coming to my mind. It's where Jesus spake about the lilies of the field being clothed, and the birds being fed. How much more will God take care of His children? I don't know if it's God assuring me that He will take care of me regarding a place to stay, or maybe it's just my way of thinking, or trying to assure myself that all will be well, even in the times of uncertainties.

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #36:

I think your approach is exactly right. We pray and God always hears and honors our prayers – only not necessarily in the exact specifics we ask for. That is a decidedly good thing too, because if every thing we asked for were answered just in the way we asked for it we would mess up our lives beyond all recognition in very short order (as if you gave your three year old exactly everything they asked for and immediately). God knows what's good for us, and He has our good in mind. He is working all things out together for us for good, and that is true even if we pray for the wrong thing or for things that aren't wrong but not in His first best will for us. Prayer is supposed to build faith: we are reassured that He is with us, hears us, and is taking care of us. For all who belong to the Father through faith in the Son, God wants only our good and is working in our lives to maximize that good – that true good: spiritual growth, progress and production. Naturally we need other things too, food and clothing, e.g. God knew that before He created the world. He knows our needs, He knows our concerns, and He is working things out in a way that will not only provide these but do so in a way that helps us to grow and serve Him. That is true even though we are under daily attack from the forces of the evil one. God does allow us to be tested, and that is an important part of our spiritual growth as well. We learn through testing that He will never forsake us. The Israelites failed tests ten times at the Red Sea and in the desert, but God was always faithful. We have their example – and negative examples are also useful. We need to react not like they did in complete lack of faith when there was a momentary shortage or problem, and remember as they did not that God has delivered us personally many times. He will continue to do so even unto the end, whether we die of natural causes, are martyred for Jesus, or live to see Him return. That is what is important. Tests like the one you are going through are critical helps to aid us in refocusing on what is really important so as to remember that it is not what we see that really counts – and prayer is a key element in helping us to focus on all that (or should be, done correctly – we're talking to the Lord as we would our parents when we were three, and we know as we knew that He/they loves/loved us). So kudos to you, my friend. The will of God is indeed what we ought to be looking to, knowing that He is ever merciful, and faithful, and that is truly working things out for us for the good, even though in hard times it may not feel that way – but we see with the eyes of faith (2Cor.5:7; cf. 2Cor.4:18).

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.


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