- From the Editor -
by Dr. Dennis Corle
“Let all things be done decently and in order.” (I Corinthians 14:40)
When God said, “all things,” that includes our prayer lives. God is a God of order, and wants us to have some structure to whatever we do. That’s pretty evident when you look at creation. God is in charge and in control. He is systematic. God wants us to develop a lifestyle that is orderly and we have some control over it. The word decently in the text means ‘gracefully or becomingly, in a seeming manner, to do it in a manner that’s fit and proper, to have some grace about it, for it to be gracefully done.’ The words in order talk about’ arrangement,’ there being a structure to it, an arrangement to it, ‘to draw up an order, due order in contrast to confusion.’ God wants me to have some structure and order to what I do, including my prayer life. God wants me to have an orderly prayer life.
Psalm 5:3 says, “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” It’s talking about praying in the morning, at a set time, and early. The word direct here means two things. It has the idea of us ordering our prayers in the direction of Heaven, but also having an order. I’ll direct them, or establish them. I’ll order them. I’ll put them in a structure when I pray and speak to God Almighty.
The model prayer is evidence that the Lord wants us to have a structure to our prayers. The disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” I’ve said many times, “Who was the greatest Preacher that ever lived?” Jesus. Isn’t it kind of amazing then that His disciples, when they came, didn’t say, “Lord, teach us to preach.” I mean the greatest preacher that ever lived, His followers were more impressed with His prayer life than they were with His preaching. They were more concerned about learning to pray like He prayed than they were learning to preach like He preached. Maybe we ought to learn something from that. You and I need to grasp the idea that God wants us to be praying people. We excel at other things, but we must excel at prayer in order to be an effective Christian and get the job done for God.
I often say about soulwinning that if you are not organized, your soulwinning time will not be nearly as productive. That’s why I talked to you about keeping records, the perennial census. You gather prospects, keep a record of visits. Some folks don’t keep records of anything, and hurt their ability, not only to win people to Christ and follow up on somebody they couldn’t win today, but also in actually getting folks to church, down the aisle and baptized after you win them, and carrying out the whole Great Commission.
God wants me to have orderly prayers, an order or a structure to our prayers. The model prayer is evidence when He said, “...When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven,...” I do want to stop and say this about the model prayer. It is not an exact prayer that I’m to memorize and repeat word for word. The Lord Jesus is trying to give me a structure, not a word for word prayer that I memorize, but He wants me to pray for certain things that He listed, probably in that order. I don’t think getting something out of order is going to keep God from answering, but God does want me to have a structure to my prayers, which brings me to the importance of a prayer list. That’s what I’m talking to you about right now. A prayer list will enable me to have some structure and organization to my prayer time if I have a prayer list and follow it.
A friend of mine said, “Corle, I don’t need a prayer list to remember what I need.”
I said, “I know that, but if you are going to practice intercession, you need a prayer list.” You are going to be burdened about your own problems. You wake up with them on your mind every day. You won’t forget your needs, but if you are going to pray for me you need to remind yourself about my needs. You won’t help carry my burden unless you do it on purpose. I won’t carry your burden unless I do it on purpose. So if I don’t keep a prayer list, then I will not have the structure that is important to my prayers. I’m not talking about formality now. God is not for formality and ritual. I’m just talking about structure and organization and reminding yourself so that whatever time you spend in prayer can be the most effective.
We see and hear about needs and problems in the lives of everyone around us. How often have we said, “I will pray for you”? How often do we follow through and actually pray for people who we promised that we would pray for? That is why we need to keep a prayer list.
These words of Jesus teach us several things that we need to pray for. “...When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name...” That’s a statement that indicates worship. The church is not supposed to be the house of worship. I’m supposed to do that everywhere and all the time. Worship is part of my personal prayer time. If I’m going to pray like I ought to, the first think that I need to do is acknowledge God and who He is and spend some time worshipping God for who He is. You don’t worship God for what He does; you worship Him for who He is. I’m worshipping the Person of God.
Hebrews 1:6 says, “...let all the angels of God worship him.” They have not been redeemed like I have, so why are they worshipping? If you worship for what He does, then you worship because He has done something for you, because you are saved, because of redemption, but that’s not why I’m supposed to worship. The angels worship Him, though they have never been redeemed. They have not enjoyed the salvation that I enjoy, and yet the Bible tells us that they worship Him. I’m supposed to worship Him because of who He is. That’s part of my time of prayer.
Psalm 29:2 says, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” When you talk about a name in the Bible, a name indicates character. It indicates certain qualities about the individual. It was more than just a handle that you hung on somebody so you could get their attention. In Bible times, names were very important and carefully chosen, sometimes because of character qualities that they wanted to develop. Sometimes just because God had told them to do something, but the Bible says, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”
Psalm 95:6 says, “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.” I’m supposed to kneel before God because He is the Creator, because He is my Maker, because of who He is in name and character. To start my prayer time properly, Jesus said that I need to start out with ‘Hallowed by thy name.’ I need to worship Him because He is the only true and living God. I need to worship Him for His holiness, His justice, and His righteousness. When we talk about holiness, we’re talking about God being undefiled and God being who He is. He’s unique, none other like Him. When the Bible talks about justice, justice means I treat people the way they ought to be treated. God always treats people the way they ought to be treated, the way their conduct dictates, God treats them accordingly. Righteousness, that means God always does the right thing. I need to worship Him because of His mercy. Mercy is that God withholds what I actually deserve in judgment and gives me grace instead. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death;...” What I’ve earned, what I deserve is the wages that I have worked for. According to the Bible, my works haven’t been real good. I need to worship God for His grace, the good He gives me that I don’t deserve.
All these are attributes of God. They have to do with His very nature and character. They dictate His works. I’m not talking about worshipping God because He did this good thing for me. That has to do with praise. I am to worship God and appreciate God for who He is. I am to bow down before God because of who He is and what He is. His nature, His character, because of His grace, His goodness, His love, His power. I ought to bow down before God and worship because He is worthy to receive glory and honor and dominion and power and majesty forever and ever.
God is worthy of my worship. He is not worthy because of what He does for me. God is worthy because of who He is. It would be wonderful if people grasped that, if we ever just came to God and bowed down in humility and with great desire to honor Him because of who He is. That is pretty vital to our prayer lives. If I don’t figure out Who I’m talking to, and give Him the honor, the reverence, the glory that is due Him just because He’s God, then I won’t get very far in my prayers. The first thing that ought to be on my list, as far as structure, is a little time of worship. That’s what Jesus said. “...When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name...” That word ‘Hallowed’ acknowledges that He is holy and exalted and we bow before Him, a word that indicates worship.
Not only do we worship God for who He is, but we praise Him for what He does. Psalm 150 is a whole psalm given to praise. God wants us to learn to praise Him, but praise has to do with me being thankful because of what God does, has done, and is doing for me. I need to be careful to not only worship Him for who He is, but also praise Him for what He does. We need to stop and think about and remember what He’s done and answers to prayer. I need to be thankful for the blessings of God that I presently enjoy. Many of the things that we take for granted, we ought to praise God for every day. If I don’t keep a prayer list to remind me to praise God, and remind me of all His answers to prayer, the only thing I’m going to do is ask for something else. I’ll never praise and be thankful toward God for what He has already done. That’s the function and purpose of a prayer list.
Do you want to feel close to the Lord and sense His presence in your daily life? Psalm 22:3 says, “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” What a tremendous statement that is -- God inhabits praise. I have a sermon called “Building God a Habitation.” I can’t build Him a building He will live in. He inhabits praise. So the best thing I can do if I want to get God close is build Him a habitation.
Suppose I was living in a distant state and wanted my mother to live close to me. The best thing I could do is build her a habitation, a dwelling place, that is close to me. When I praise the Lord, I am providing an opportunity to have a close relationship with Him, because God inhabits the praises of Israel. Many Old Testament illustrations show that people who were in battle or in danger, instead of cursing their enemies, they praised their God, and then God worked in their behalf. God doesn’t want me to curse my enemies. He wants me to praise His name in spite of my enemies. He said when I praise His name, that’s going to draw Him near to me and He’s going to fight my battle for me.
In the 150th Psalm, He said, “Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.” God is for praise, and there is power in me praising God. There is something that will bring God close to me when I praise Him from a sincere heart. I’m not just talking about going through a mechanical motion. I’m talking about you having order or structure to your prayer time that helps you get your heart in a proper condition toward God. It’s not just the mechanics of this thing that makes it right. I’m not talking about me hypocritically going through a little ritual of worship and praise. I’m talking about me reminding myself who God is and getting my heart in a condition to sincerely worship God for who He is. I’m talking about praising God sincerely. There is no such thing as insincere praise. Some folks make a lot of noise that God doesn’t recognize as praise. It’s not sincere and genuine.
You say, “Well, I have this structure, this prayer list. I do this every day.” Wonderful, but the prayer list is for is the same purpose as the sermon. Sermon notes are not just something to wow and impress people. I have this pet peeve about alliterated outlines because preachers sometimes get more excited about the outline than the principles and truths. I’m not saying it is sin to have an alliterated outline, but you can’t find two people in a thousand that you preach to who remember your little alliterated outline with all the ‘P’s, ‘C’s, and ‘D’s together. What they need is truth that will change their life, not just formality and not just something cute.
I’m not talking about a cute little prayer list. I’m talking about you putting a format together that is legitimate, real, and powerful, that will guide you and when you look at your prayer list all of a sudden it reminds me Who I’m talking to. When I’m preaching a sermon or teaching a Bible study, that outline is to remind me and recreate the atmosphere of when I learned it the first time, and to bring me back to that place and help me to communicate what I got from the Lord at that time. That’s what a prayer list is for. It does the same thing in my prayer life as a sermon outline does in my pulpit ministry. It is to recreate an atmosphere. It’s to bring me back and remind me to get my heart in a condition for worship and praise, to remind me how good God has been. I can build God a habitation of praise that will draw God near to me.
I ought to praise Him because I’m breathing, because I’m up and around and healthy. I ought to praise Him because my family is alive. I ought to praise Him because I have a ministry and the privilege to serve the King of Kings. There are thousands of things that we can praise God for, but He really never gets any recognition for most of them. Yet if anything goes wrong, God gets the blame. “Why would God do this to me? I don’t see why God would let this happen to me?” But during all the times when things are going good, God doesn’t get any gratitude or praise. He doesn’t get the honor and respect that is due Him.
We can have a structure, an order, for our prayer time to be ‘decent and in order.’ In Psalm 5:3 when He talks about directing our prayers, that word is quite frequently translated ‘order’ also. God certainly wants me to direct my prayers to the God of Heaven, but He wants my prayer time to be ordered or structured as well. Again, I’m not talking about formality or mechanical repetition. It is to recreate an atmosphere. This prayer list is to affect my heart and remind me of things that I would forget if I’m praying just ‘off the cuff.’ It’s certainly not wrong to pray off the cuff. I ought to pray any time and all day long, pray without ceasing. But I also need to set aside some time to spend with God and engage in a ministry of intercession and supplication.
Isn’t it something that we have a soulwinning plan? We also have sermon outlines. But we don’t have a prayer list? Brother, if prayer is as powerful and as needful and necessary to the Christian life as the Bible says it is, then it ought to be important enough to have some organization to it, not formality, but organization. The first thing Jesus said in that model prayer that was to teach us to pray was, “Hallowed be thy name.” We worship the Lord for Who He is and praise Him for what He doe.
I would list things that might normally be taken for granted. On my prayer list I have things like, “I’m thankful to God for the parents I had. I’m thankful to God for the wife He has given me and the children I have. I’m thankful to God for the health that I have, the ministry He has placed in my hand.” I thank God for all kinds of things whenever I’m praising and thanking Him, because I need to be reminded of just how good God has been to me. I can get a heart full of joy and excitement about the person of God if I figure out Who He is and what He has done for me. Now I’m really in the mood to pray and make requests, and to believe God for the answer.
“And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.” (Luke 11:2) Then He talks about us confessing our sins. “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) The next thing we need to do is get things clear between us and God. I’m not saying it would be wrong for you to confess first, but the more aware I am of God, the easier it is to figure out what is wrong with me. If I spend my time dwelling on the Person of God, all of a sudden it is going to remind me just how sorry I am and magnify the wickedness of my sin. It’s going to help me to see how awful my sin really is.
First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” A man came to D.L. Moody and Mr. Moody said to him, “Sir, you just need to confess your sins.”
He said, “I don’t know what they are.”
Mr. Moody said, “Well, just start confessing some. I’m sure you’ll run into yours.” An amazing thing, the fella got down there and started confessing sin and he stumbled onto his own real quick.
When the Bible commands me to confess my sin, that is the word homologeo. That word simply means that I say the same thing about my sin that God says about it. It doesn’t just mean I list it, but real confession, it has to do with the condition of my heart as well as the action of me listing sins. Catholics go and list what they did wrong, and then go back out and do it again. They are not getting anything straightened out.
When I was growing up, I knew some Catholics that went to confession every week. They’d confess everything they did wrong that week. As soon as they left, they’d start doing the exact same things again. They had no real remorse about it, much less repentance. There is a difference between remorse and repentance, but they didn’t have any remorse or repentance in their heart about the things they had done. They were just going in there to ‘confess’ to the priest. Of course, if you confess to a priest, you aren’t getting anywhere anyway.
God wants me to have the same attitude toward my sin that He has toward it. He wants me to see it like He sees it. I say the same thing about my sin that God says about it. In Psalm 51, David is a pretty good example of a godly man who wrecked his life, and the whole Psalm is given to his confession. David was broken hearted over his sin, I believe his sin with Bathsheba is what is in view primarily. He said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” (Psalms 51:10, 12) He goes on, talking about “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalms 51:7) David had a yearning in his heart for God to cleanse him and he saw his sin as wicked and terrible and evil and damaging, just like God saw it. David was grieved and broken hearted and abhorred his sin.
This might help you comprehend what I was talking about a little while ago. Remember when Job got a glimpse of God? Job never did get bitter against God, but he said, “Oh, God, I want to come before the throne of God. I want to talk to God about this. I deserve better than this. I’m trying to do right.” But the Bible said, when he finally got a glimpse of God in the latter part of the book of Job, that he abhorred himself in dust and ashes and said, “God is just.” He was seeing how wicked and vile he was.
If I worship God first and get a glimpse of who He is, and I praise Him and realize how good He is, then it will be a lot easier for me to deal with myself and my sin and recognize just how short I fall. I don’t keep a written list of sins. Two reasons, they change from time to time. All of us have a besetting sin. There are certain things about our character that are a problem for us -- I don’t care who you are. You have certain things that are just about a ‘gimme.’ You are going to have to deal with that all the time because it’s a weakness, a flaw in your character. That doesn’t make it okay. It does not make it right, but there are some things you are going to need to deal with that are really part of your character or lack of it. Our sins change from time to time. I would not keep a written list of sins. Number one, because they change. Number two, because other people might get ahold of the list.
I remember hearing Brother Hyles talk about Dr. Rice. He knocked on the motel room door. Dr. Rice invited him in. As he came in the door, Dr. Rice took a little piece of paper and threw it into the toilet and flushed it down. Dr. Hyles asked him, “What were you doing?”
He said, “I just got done confessing my sins. When I got done, I tore the paper up and flushed it down the commode.” I’m not supposed to confess them to you. It doesn’t matter if you know. There are some things about us that are evident to people, but what is not evident, I don’t need to tell anyone else. That’s foolishness. I need to deal with sin between me and God and get right with God. In the model prayer, Jesus’ lesson on how to pray, worship is the first thing I do. Praise is the second thing I do. Confession is the third thing I do.
The next thing I do is yield to the Holy Spirit of God and ask for His help. In Jude 20 the Bible talks about praying in the Holy Ghost. Anything I do in the Holy Ghost I do under His supervision, as well as in His power. What most folks want is the Holy Spirit’s help, but not His interference. “Holy Spirit, help me, but don’t interfere. Holy Spirit, help me, but don’t control me. Give me Your power, but I don’t want your leadership.” Anything I do ‘in the Holy Spirit’ I do under His supervision as well as in His power. What the Holy Ghost of God supervises, He empowers. What He does not supervise, He does not empower. If He does not empower my prayers, they have no power of their own.
Romans 8:26 says, “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.” I want you to catch that first statement. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities:...” The word infirmity literally means lack of power, or inability to produce results. I want you to know that me saying something many times is not going to produce results. It’s not the repetition of my prayer that produces results. It’s not the beauty or eloquence of my prayer that produces results. It’s the Holy Spirit’s supervision and empowering that makes my prayers effectual and powerful. The Bible says that the Spirit helpeth our infirmities. I have infirmity in prayer, the inability to produce results. If I can’t produce results, then Somebody Else has to be the one that produces them. It’s the Holy Ghost of God that makes my prayers powerful, effectual, productive, that makes the difference. So if I pray without the yielding to the Holy Spirit, I’m praying in the flesh.
Remember what He said in James 4:2? “...Ye have not, because ye ask not.” Then He said in verse three, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” Don’t get the idea that the verse means you ask Him for something sinful. You could have, but that is not the primary thought in mind. He said, “You ask amiss.” Why are you praying? So that you can consume the answer upon your lusts. He said, “Your whole motivation for praying, the whole force of your prayer is to fulfill your carnal desires.” It’s not to glorify Christ. The Holy Spirit is not instigating the prayer. Your flesh is in view. That’s what He’s talking about. He said, “Your whole motive for praying is so you can consume it upon your lusts.” That’s the driving force. It’s not the leadership of the Holy Spirit that you are under. It’s the influence of your fleshly desire that causes you to pray this prayer. If I’m going to pray with power, I’ve got to pray under the supervision of the Holy Spirit of God. He is not a seducing spirit. The only way I will pray under His supervision is if I, on purpose, yield myself to Him.
In the list of things that Jesus told us to pray for, the next thing is to pray for our personal needs. If we look at the parallel passage in Luke 11, the Bible says, “And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread.” (Luke 11:2-3) What am I doing? I’m praying for my daily needs, my personal needs. That tells me immediately that it is not wrong to pray for personal needs. He said, “Ye have not, because ye ask not.” He said you have needs in your life that could be met by God, and the reason the need exists is because you don’t ask God to meet your need. It is not sinful or wrong for me to pray for personal things. Some folks get the idea that if you pray for yourself, you are carnal, wicked, and selfish. That’s not what God said. Matthew 7:7-8 says, “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.” God encourages me to ask and what I need will be given. Philippians 4:19 says, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” He is going to do it through the Lord Jesus in answer to prayer.
I think most people think about need as strictly and totally about material needs. God will meet my material needs. He promised in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Concerning food and clothing and other things that people worry about, He says, “Don’t worry about that. Just be concerned about doing My will and I will make sure that those needs are met.” Those are material things.
But I think we fail to realize that our greatest needs are spiritual needs. I need clothing and food, but there are some things I need more. There are some even greater needs. I need the power of God. I’m going to pray for the power of God. That’s a personal need. I personally need the power of God. I need wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to see things through the eyes of God, the ability to see things from God’s vantage point. I’m going to pray for wisdom. I’m going to pray for power. I need physical provision. I’m going to ask God to meet my physical needs. I’m going to ask God to meet my financial needs. I’m going to ask God to feed me and house me and clothe me and finance me. I do need God’s leadership for His will. Three out of the four things I just named have to do with spiritual needs. Leadership is a spiritual thing. Wisdom is a spiritual thing. Power is a spiritual thing. I need those things worse than I need material things. But God is not at all disappointed in me if I ask Him to meet my physical and material needs. He told me to do it in the model prayer. I’m supposed to pray for daily bread.
The other side is this. Just because I have enough right now doesn’t mean I shouldn’t pray for my daily needs, since the Lord Jesus told me I’m supposed to ask for daily bread. It is kind of like when somebody says, I need more money, so what if I tithe on what I need? I only make a hundred dollars a week, but I need two hundred. So I how about if I tithe $20 and trust God to match my income to my tithe? I know folks who have done that and God honored it. You say, “I can’t get by on a hundred bucks a week, so I’m going to tithe $20 and trust God to match it.”
“What are you trying to say?” I’m trying to say go ahead and pray and trust God for what provision is already there so that it is there again tomorrow and the next day. The stream could dry up on me. If I take it for granted, or forget where it came from, it could dry up. He tells me specifically to ask God for daily bread, for daily provision, to trust God for it. Not to depend on man, but to ask God for it. God will use man. When He fed Elijah, He used ravens. If He can use a raven, I’m sure He can use a man and it wouldn’t be unscriptural. God can use people to meet my needs, but He does not want me to become dependent on people. He wants me to pray to Him daily for my personal needs.
Then we get down to the real main work of prayer. All these are things I’m supposed to do in prayer, but I want you to know the main work in prayer is the work of intercession. I ought to have a place on my prayer list where I intercede. When I practice intercession, I’m going to pray for all different kind of needs. It wouldn’t be bad for me to organize them. I’m going to pray for lost people. I’m going to pray for leaders. I’m going to pray for preachers. I’m going to pray for missionaries. I’m going to pray for all different categories of people. In I Samuel 12:23 Samuel said, “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you:...” He said that it would be sin against God if I failed to intercede for you, if I failed to pray for you. That would be a sin against God Almighty.
In I Timothy 2:1-4 the Bible talks about praying for leaders and those that are in authority and praying for all men. I’ll give you a Bible study later on praying for the lost that ties those two statements together. He said, “Praying for all men ... for God will have all men to be saved.” There is a direct correlation between me praying for somebody and them getting saved. I should always pray for leaders -- spiritual leaders, national leaders.
I ought to pray for lost loved ones. James 5:14-15 tells me I ought to pray for sick people. That may not be the thing that heads the list, since there are greater needs than physical needs, but nevertheless there are needs and I should pray for those physical needs. “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick,...” In verse 16 He said, “...The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” God wants me to pray for the sick, for those that have physical needs.
The next thing on my prayer list, something that most folks never do, is to exercise the weaponry that God gives me. I need to use the weapon of prayer to engage in spiritual warfare. I need to launch an offensive attack on the devil. Second Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” I learn in that text that I have a weapon I can use to pull down strong holds.
Matthew 18:18-19 says, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18-19) So Matthew 18:18-19 is saying that I have a force, a weapon, a power, that will enable me to bind things and to loose things. I can bind the strong man. I can pull down the strong holds.
When the Bible talks about strong holds, this is something that the devil has. He’s got a strong hold. He has people captivated. Let me explain. Alcohol is a strong hold. Pride is a strong hold. False religion is a strong hold of Satan. Witchcraft is a strong hold. We could go down a list as long as both arms of vices and things that the devil uses to literally lock people in. I mean, people get addicted to things. Many are manipulated and they are locked into a system that will doom them to Hell just as sure as they are alive. The Bible says every one of those things the devil uses, and has folks that are already enslaved to him and captivated. They have not yet died and gone to Hell, but they are as sure of Hell in their present condition as if they had already arrived. He’s got them locked up, imprisoned.
But you and I have a weapon we can use to pull down strong holds. We have a weapon we can use to bind the strong man. We have a weapon we can use to loose those in his power. In verse 19 of Matthew 18, He said, “The weapon is asking.” Dr. Rice, many years ago, popularized the statement that “Prayer is asking and receiving.” He was right. I’m supposed to use that weapon.
The tragedy is that the average Christian does not even know that he has a weapon in prayer. It may be the mightiest weapon we have. We are at war. We have an enemy, the devil. In Matthew 12:28-29 Jesus was speaking and they were criticizing Him, saying what He was doing He was doing in the power of the devil. He said, “By whom do your children do these miracles?”
Then He went on in that same passage of Scripture and told them that if you are going to do anything, you first have to bind the strong man. He said, “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.” He’s talking about binding the strong man.
In this text Jesus is talking about casting out devils and His power to do it. Who is the strong man being bound? Satan. He said if you are going to spoil the devil’s house, the first thing you have to do is bind the strong man. Let me explain what I’m talking about. Do you know what we are doing? We are going out soulwinning and trying to loose those that he holds captive without first binding the strong man. We are trying to loose those that he holds captive without first pulling down the strong holds.
I give an illustration in another sermon about how we fought the first war in Iraq. The one thing that stands out to me is this. We did not march into the teeth of Saddam Hussein’s strength, his mine fields, his bunkers. Do you know what we did? We carpet bombed and carpet bombed and carpet bombed and carpet bombed until we softened and disabled his defenses. We drove the strong man into a hole in the ground, their leader. We broke down their communications. We destroyed their strong holds and pulled them down. Then we marched in almost unmolested after carpet bombing and took captives by the thousands with ease.
“What are you trying to say, preacher?” If you and I are ever going to be the kind of soulwinners we ought to be, our prayer life has to be active and we have to learn to use that weapon. We can launch an offensive attack against the devil with the weapon of prayer and bind the strong man so when we go out soulwinning we can spoil his house.
What is the most valued thing in your house? Family members. If I’m going to spoil his house, the devil according to John 8:44 has his family. Jesus said, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do...” (John 8:44) Nothing grieves him more than me getting them out of the family of his destruction, the family of the devil, and into the family of God.
I can, by prayer, pull down the strong holds and bind the strong man. I still have to go soulwinning. Nothing can replace that. I still have to present the Gospel. I still have to use the Sword of the Spirit. I still have to be a foot soldier. I cannot get people to Christ without that personal communication, but I have a nuclear weapon called prayer that I can use first to bring down the strong holds and to bind the strong man to make my efforts and labor a lot simpler and a lot more effective.
We’ve got to get back to this thing of praying. We need to engage in spiritual warfare. Prayer is an offensive weapon against the devil and I need to remind myself to launch an attack on the devil. I’m not talking about talking ugly about him. I’m talking about praying and binding him. I’m talking about pulling down strong holds. I’m talking about praying for specific people that he has imprisoned in the strong hold of alcohol, or the strong hold of lust, or the strong hold of adultery, or the strong hold of homosexuality. I’m talking about praying for our nation and binding the strong man. I’m talking about praying for individuals and binding the strong man. I’m talking about praying and asking God to pull down the strong holds.
It’s going to get harder as it goes, because the next thing I do in my prayer time is pray for my enemies. I have some. You say, “What do you pray?” Not, “Oh, God, kill them.” No, that’s not how you pray for your enemies. That’s how our flesh sometimes feels, but if I’m going to pray like Jesus wants me to, then I need to use Him for an example. How did Jesus pray for His enemies? “...Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do...” (Luke 23:34) How did Stephen do it? “...Lord, lay not this sin to their charge...” (Acts 7:60) I’m not going to ask God to prosper them in their attack on me. I’m not going to ask God to bless them for attacking me.
I am going to pray for two things primarily. Matthew 5:43-45 is where He gives us instruction. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” I am instructed to pray for those that despitefully use me and persecute me. I remind myself to pray for my enemies. I remind myself what to pray. I want to pray, number one, that God would confound their efforts to hurt me and hurt the work He’s given me to do. Most of my enemies are enemies that have to do with my ministry, but it’s not mine. God gave me that ministry. It’s His ministry. He just put me in a position as under-shepherd of a certain thing God wanted done. I’m supposed to do what He wants done with it. I pray, number one, that He would confound the efforts of my enemies to hurt me and the work that God has given me to do.
Number two, I pray that God would change their heart toward me and the work He has given me to do. So I pray for them and ask God to change their heart. Number one, “Oh God, please confound their efforts to hurt me and Your work.” Number two, “Please change their heart concerning me and the work You’ve given me to do.” I’m going to pray those two things. You will be shocked what God is able to do with your enemies if you turn them over to Him instead of trying to deal with them yourself. The worst thing you could do is allow your enemies to get your attention and dictate your conduct. It will kill your prayer life. It will kill your ministry to other people because you will be so enraged and so engulfed in the battle that you do not have enough clear thinking to even minister to anybody. Everything is part of the battle. I need to pray for my enemies.
Finally in closing, in my prayer time I’m going to remind myself and tell Jesus that I love Him, and tell the Father that I love Him, and tell the Holy Spirit I love Him. Then I’m going to ask the Holy Spirit as He says in Romans 8:26, “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.” I’m going to ask the Holy Spirit to take anything to the Father that I might have forgotten, that I should have prayed for. “Lord, if I promised somebody I’d pray for them and I forgot, please would You meet that need? Would You take that request to the Father? If there is something I should have prayed for and I’ve overlooked it, would you please take that to the Father? If there is a need I have and I’m not aware of it, would you please take that to the Father?” I’m going to ask the Holy Spirit to take anything to the Father that I may have forgotten or overlooked.
Number two, I’m going to ask Him to correct anything I prayed amiss. I’m going to say, “Now Holy Spirit, if I’ve asked a foolish thing, if I’ve prayed amiss, would You please go ahead and correct that and interfere with my request to make God’s answer better than my prayer.” Then I’m going to ask the Holy Spirit to please make these prayers effectual and powerful before the throne of God.
My friend, you may walk with God without a prayer list, but you will neglect the duty of faithful intercession without one. You will fail to praise God without one. You will fail to worship without one. You will fail to confess your sin that will hinder your prayers without one. You will not pray for your enemies. You will not engage in spiritual warfare. There are so many things that you will forget to do.
You can have a relationship with God, and you can pray for your own personal needs and have a prayer life, but unless we order our prayers and allow a prayer list to remind us and guide us, we will forget many things that we need to do in order to effectually pray and intercede, not just for a day or week or through a crisis time, but faithful prayer and intercession over many years, for a lifetime.