Over the years, I’ve had people ask me questions about the topics of prayer and fasting. I have compiled a few of those questions and answered them below. In last week’s blog I answered many questions related to fasting, so this week’s post mostly answers questions about prayer. I hope that you will find the answers informative and that they will encourage you in your prayer walk.
Q: Can a person “pray without ceasing” according to 1 Thessalonians 5:17? How long should we pray every day?
A: Prayer is an intimate conversation with the Father. First Thessalonians is a reminder to always be in an attitude of prayer. Whatever we’re doing and wherever we are, there should be no time when we are void of the assurance of the presence of God with us and in us. Paul was indicating in that verse that God gave us the gift of praying in tongues so that we could be in communion with Him all day. By praying in the Spirit, we can redeem what might otherwise be wasted time. I have found that praying in the Spirit is wonderful when I am driving, cooking dinner, studying, etc. Whatever I’m doing, praying only heightens the end results. If you think about it, God has given us many, many opportunities to pray throughout each day. By taking advantage of these opportunities, you can flow in a continuous refreshing of the Holy Spirit.
As far as setting aside daily prayer time, all Christians should pray every day. God’s Word says that if we seek Him early, we will find Him (see Proverbs 8:17 KJV). I like to take that Scripture literally. In the morning your mind is like a blank slate—and that’s the best time for God to write on it! You don’t have to pray for 10 hours every day but give God some special time each day to prepare you for walking in His will. I want God’s wisdom for my day, and I know that you do too!
Q: Why did David say in the psalms that he prayed against his enemies, but Jesus commands us to pray for our enemies and love them?
A: When David prayed for death and destruction toward his enemies in the psalms, I don’t believe he was praying against flesh and blood. David was coming against the principalities and powers—the demonic forces—behind the person who was causing him trouble. Ephesians 6:12 says, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Therefore, it was scriptural for David to pray that the work of his enemies be destroyed. It was good spiritual warfare to pull down the strongholds that had come against his life.
However, we are to bless our enemies as Jesus commanded (see Luke 6:28) in order that they might come into the knowledge of God and receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Sometimes I have thought that God allows us to have enemies just so we could bless them, pray for them, and do good to them. Once, a man in my city said some very ugly things about me to his congregation. He even called me a false prophetess. Personally, I wanted to tell him off. But the Lord asked me, “How do I treat my enemies?”
“You love them,” I replied.
The Lord then told me, “Treat him the way I would.”
From that time on, whenever I heard that pastor’s name, I said, “Lord, bless him.” Then one day God gave me special instructions to bless him through promoting his church. I obeyed the Lord and saw the fruit of my obedience. Not long afterward some people from the man’s congregation called me saying their pastor’s attitude had completely changed. He now spoke highly of me, and he had even invited his congregation to read through the Bible using my devotional plan!
I asked the Lord, “What happened?”
He responded, “When your ways please me, I make even your enemies to be at peace with you.”
I don’t think you need to speak God’s blessing directly to a person who offends you. Sometimes that “enemy” might live in another state or country, and then you cannot speak to them in person. But bless them in your prayers and pray that God would do good to them. Then, if possible, bless them with your actions. Send a letter or some flowers just to say, “I care about you.” If you will bless your enemies, pray for them, and do good to them, God will transform those relationships!
Q: Why do we have to pray to the Father in Jesus’s name? Can’t we call upon Jesus directly? Aren’t they one-in-the-same?
A: The reason we need to address the Father in Jesus’s name is because Jesus gave us this instruction (see John 16:23). He did this because the position of the Father in the Godhead is one of authority.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct individuals who are one in unity. Jesus is not unequal to the Father, but He submits to the Father’s authority. A similar illustration would be that a wife is not unequal to her husband, but she is in submission to his headship. As the architect of the universe, Father God is the one who has the responsibility to fulfill the prayers we ask according to His Word. Jesus is our mediator because of His sacrifice. Therefore, we come in Jesus’s name.
Q: What does the writer of James mean when he mentions “praying amiss?”
A: Asking “amiss” is defined by James as a prayer which satisfies our own worldly lusts (see James 4:2-4). This chapter also discusses other reasons for unanswered prayer: lust, murders, covetousness, strife, adulteries, pride, rebellion against God, backsliding, sin, and doublemindedness.
On the other hand, any prayer that is prayed according to the promises of God will never be “amiss” (see 1 John 5:14-15).
Q: How can someone determine God’s voice and know they are led by the Spirit of God and not their own thoughts or desires?
A: In John 10: 2-5, Jesus offers us a wonderful promise:
“He who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep . . . the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out . . . the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
There have been times when I felt certain that God was leading me, yet I discovered that the “leading” was nothing more than a fleshly thought. I cried out, “God, show me how to walk by the Spirit!” And He began to show me a helpful way to know that I am being led by the Spirit. In Galatians 5:16 we are told, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Basically, I have found that walking in the Spirit means that we are not living according to the instincts of our senses. To walk after the flesh means that we are living by what we smell, see, taste, feel, and fear. But to walk by the Spirit means to act on God’s Word, no matter what sense-knowledge tells us. When Christians get off-track, they are usually walking according to their senses rather than by faith in God’s Word.
One time, many years ago, I received several letters saying that I should go on the radio in a certain needy area of the U.S. I asked my staff for counsel on this, and they said, “That situation would not produce enough positive results. Your efforts would be better spent in some other area or project.” But I kept receiving the letters, so I made a personal decision to broadcast my program in that area. I had prayed about the situation, but I hadn’t really prayed for the leading of the Lord. Just as my staff had warned, the radio broadcast in this area never went anywhere. Eventually, I had to admit that I went on that station from a personal leading, rather than a leading from the Holy Spirit. I had listened to the voice of my flesh and the letters being sent to me, without seeking the voice of the Lord. Had I asked God for His leading, He could have directed me to use that money in a wiser way to benefit more people.
I believe that our flesh seeks after “signs”—something we can see or feel. But Jesus said, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign . . . ” (Matthew 16:4). Such people are walking after their sense-knowledge. We aren’t supposed to look for signs. We are supposed to look to God’s Word and allow signs to follow us! Check the leadings you have and ask yourself, “Is this my flesh wanting a sign, or is this God’s Word directing my spirit?” If you follow the Word, you will never be disappointed.
Q: Jesus said that the bride doesn’t fast while the bridegroom is with her (see Mark 2:19). Jesus is fully with us, isn’t He? Why do you encourage people to fast?
A: Mark 2:19 and Matthew 9:15 speak of the bridegroom and fasting. However, in Matthew 9:15 Jesus says, “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.” He also said in John 15 that He would be taken away and it was to our advantage that He go away since He would send the Holy Spirit who would be with us as our helper. Technically speaking, it is not Jesus in the fullness of His being who is with us, rather it is the Holy Spirit who indwells us.
Q: What are the spiritual benefits of fasting? How should a person prepare to go on a fast? How do you know if the Lord is directing you to do so?
A: By studying Joel 2 and Isaiah 58, you can get a good idea of what fasting will do for you. Matthew 17:21 connects prayer and fasting with overcoming disbelief or, in other words, feeding your faith and starving your doubts.
Jesus was spiritually prepared before the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness to fast for 40 days (see Matthew 4:1). If you are going to fast or if you sense in your spirit that God is calling you to a fast, seek Him in prayer for a specific direction. The Spirit’s leading is a still, small voice within your spirit. It is also known as an “inner witness” (see 1 Kings 19:12). I wouldn’t suggest that you be like Jesus and fast for 40 days because it could be very dangerous. Instead, be led of the Spirit in your fasting; and let the Lord lead you in setting up a time frame. Check out last week’s blog for more details.