Prayer in the Dispensation of Grace
By: Scott Morton
There are many different things that people think the Bible says about prayer. This is accurate, because there is a lot of information in the Bible on this subject. This can often cause confusion for an individual if they do not rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) and try to make all of the Bible for them. They will end up trying to apply some truth that is not for them and will be disappointed and will have their faith shaken by the fact that not all of the things they are trying to follow have come true. I have spoken with individuals who have either turned from God or have come very close to doing this because their understanding of prayer has affected them and caused problems. In this study, we are going to look at some things the Bible says about prayer, what is for us today and what is not for us today.
The first place to start is the first place a word is used in the Bible. This helps to get an understanding of the word as intended by God:
And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.  Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.
The first time this word is used is in the book of Genesis. This word is used by God in a discussion with Abimelech about Abraham, the friend of God (2 Chronicles 20:7, James 2:23). God states Abraham should have his wife restored to him. Once this would be done, Abraham would pray for Abimelech, since Abraham was a prophet. The word means to intercede or make supplication for. Abraham would pray to God for Abimelech and there would be an intercession made. The intercession is seen in the same chapter:
So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children.  For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.
Abraham prayed to God and the blessings came unto Abimelech and his family. There was a healing of Abimelech of some illness that is not described in the passage. There is also a healing of the women to allow them to be able to bear children again, as this had been an issue that had come up because of what Abraham had done.
Passages that do not apply during this dispensation
There are many passages that discuss prayer that do not apply to the dispensation of grace as prayer promises to members of the Body of Christ. A few of these will be discussed in order to show what does not apply to us today. Hopefully this will help to clear up some of the confusion caused by these passages.
The prayer of Jabez: This is a prayer that was made popular a few years ago due to the publication of a book about the passage in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. The book refers to this as a "forgotten passage" and promises blessings to an individual if they are to follow what is being prayed for. It is unfortunate that this book sold millions of copies and has lead people to think this is the way to pray. Unfortunately, this cannot be further from the truth. There are things in this prayer that do not apply to a member of the Body of Christ. One part of this prayer is to enlarge the coast, a reference to land and possessions. This would be a great prayer to offer up for someone that was under Israel's program, where the earthly kingdom is part of the promises. As members of the Body of Christ, we are promised all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). Spiritual blessings have nothing to do with a coast being enlarged. There is also a mention of being kept from evil. This would mean that an individual was being kept from things that would be going wrong and would mean they were taken away from sufferings. Paul tells us that as members of the Body of Christ we have been given to suffering (Philippians 1:29) and that this is part of the basis for our rewards (2 Timothy 2:11-13). These are just some of the reasons why this prayer does not apply to members of the Body of Christ today.
2 Chronicles 7:14: This is a popular verse in the United States as we approach the July 4th holiday. Individuals are told that the nation needs to seek God, turn from their evil ways (which happen to be whatever problem the teacher wants to name at the time) and pray to him, which will cause the blessings of God to be given to the United States. This is a very big presumption being made by those teaching the passage in this manner. They are assuming they are God's people. When this passage there was only one group of people that could meet the requirements of this passage. This is the nation of Israel, who were chosen by God and are called his firstborn (Exodus 4:22). Is there any passage in Scripture stating a nation has replaced Israel as the chosen of God? If this passage is to apply to someone else, there would have to be. The biggest promise of this passage is for their sin to be forgiven and the land to be healed. The Body of Christ, the entity being used by God during this dispensation, does not have any land. If there is no land, there is nothing to be healed and this promise cannot be used by us today.
Ask and ye shall receive: This passage is a heartbreaker to a lot of people. How often have you prayed for something and not received it? Look at this passage and think about one of those times:
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.  Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?  Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
This passage states a person will ask God for something and it will be given to them. Are there any �strings� in this passage? The answer is no. If there are no strings, why don�t I receive the things I have prayed for? This passage does not apply to us today. This comes from an event often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus Christ was delivering a message to the people and was talking about things related to principles of the kingdom that will be established (future for Israel). He mentions some characteristics and is also talking about how they are going to get to this kingdom. In order for them to make it, they will have to endure to the end, once the Day of the Lord has started. The pieces of the Day of the Lord discussed in the book of Revelation show this is going to be a difficult time for all involved. It will be a time when the believing remnant will be struggling and will need the help of God to survive. This is where a promise like ask and ye shall receive comes in. The person going through the Day of the Lord is going to be asking for things such as food to eat or water to drink. It was never intended for the individual in this dispensation to ask God for something like a brand new Lexus and then wonder why they never received it.
The Lord's Prayer: This last one has caused many problems for individuals. The passage this comes from is found in the book of Matthew:
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.  But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.  Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.  After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.  For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:  But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
This passage is repeated by many individuals on a daily basis, or sometimes several times per day. It is used at the end of many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and is used by many churches around the world. When this is done, it is word for word, as this is looked at as being the exact way to pray. The words of Jesus Christ in verse 7 show this is a vain repetition and was never intended to be done. This was intended to be a pattern for an individual heading into the earthly kingdom (Notice the statement in verse 10 of the will being done on earth as it is in heaven).
Prayer in this dispensation
Now that we have looked at what prayer isn't, we need to look at what prayer is. The Apostle Paul has a lot of information about prayer in his epistles. Since he is our pattern (1 Timothy 1:16) and our apostle (Romans 11:13), it is important for us to let him show us what prayer is.
Prayer is an important part of Paul's epistles. The word is mentioned in all of his epistles but two (Galatians and Titus). He gives some information to help the believer understand what prayer should be. Believers are to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), meaning that prayer is an important part of the daily life on the believer.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
This passage shows how many things prayer covers. Paul states everything should be brought before God in prayer. There are no limits to this, no matter what someone may tell you. Paul does give some specific examples of prayer in his epistles and these help to show how Paul prayed.
1. Paul prayed for all men
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;  For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;  Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
Paul offered up prayers for all men. He does say that in particular this should be for the leaders so that we can live in peace. This is one of the few things Paul says about human government. However, there are some things that do need to be prayed for related to all men, which is one of the reasons verse 4 is here. There should be some prayers related to being able to bring salvation to the world. Paul prayed for the door of utterance to be opened (Ephesians 6:18-20) in order to have the opportunity to share the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) with this lost world.
2. Paul prayed for the saints
In particular, Paul prayed for the saints. These are the people who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Paul greatly cared for those who were members of the Body of Christ. There are many instances in his epistles where Paul is seen to make complimentary statements of members of the Body of Christ. This is even seen at times when he has not met them personally, but has only heard of things being said about them (see the book of Romans for an example of this).
Paul gives a couple of long prayers related to the saints in his epistles. One of these is found in the boom of Colossians:
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;  That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;  Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;  Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
Paul discussed how he is praying for them to increase in the knowledge of God. This can only come from them reading the Word of God and coming to a greater understanding of what the Word says. There is a prayer for them to be filled with the knowledge of His will, again coming from the Word of God rightly divided. They are also to be able to walk worthy. In order to walk worthy, the believer has to allow the grace of God to teach them how to live their life properly (Titus 2:11-13).
3. Prayer in relationship to comfort
Comfort is something needed by any believer, as we are given to suffer (Philippians 1:29) and suffering is something we should have in order to be able to reign with Christ (2 Timothy 2:11-13). The comfort we need can only come from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). This is why we see the following prayer:
For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:  But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:  Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us;  Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.
Paul is praying for a form of deliverance. This deliverance is in light of 2 Corinthians 11:7-10, where Paul was told the grace of God was sufficient for him. God helps the person to be able to deal with the situation, which is where the deliverance and comfort come from.
4. Prayer over food
Under the law, there were some restrictions of what an individual could eat. A look at the book of Leviticus shows there were certain foods labeled unclean, meaning an individual would not be allowed to eat these foods. How many people today eat pork products on a regular basis? This was not allowed under the law.
Paul addresses this in 1 Timothy 4:4-5. He indicates all food is able to be eaten by a believer. He does put a qualification on this, as he states there must be prayer and thanksgiving accompanying this. There are no restrictions being placed on us today related to what we eat, provided it is accompanied by prayer and thanksgiving.
The big question that does get raised is related to why these prayers don�t always get answered. If Paul says we are to pray for all things, why don�t we get all things we pray for. A big reason is the following passage:
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Paul states we don't really know what we should be praying for. We think some things might be good for us and then we offer up a prayer related to this. These things may not be good for us and God will not give us anything that is not good.
Therefore, the Spirit makes intercession for us. The Spirit takes what we have prayed for and makes the intercession. This intercession is according to what is good for us and allows God�s will to be worked out. Believers then receive things that may not have been prayed for, but are things that are necessary for us.
Hopefully this brief study has helped to clear up some of the confusion there seems to be related to prayer. Prayer should never be confusing, but should be an active part of our life.