Bible Study: Christ Praying As Us
Do you ever feel that you dont pray enough, that you get distracted by so many daily activities that you find at the end of the day that you havent spent any time with God? After all, Scripture commands us to pray without stopping (1 Thess. 4:17) and not to worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let our requests be made known to God (Phil. 4:6). I always used to feel guilty about this.
First of all it began to dawn on me that there is no such thing as spending time alone with God. Scripture says: In Him we live and move and have our being. We are constantly surrounded by the divine presence, and His being interpenetrates us to the very core of our being, for we are in eternal spirit-union with Him (1 Cor. 6:17). We can¬not escape from Gods presence, for Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast (Psa. 139:7- 10). We just live in this illusion (or delusion) that we are separate from Him and so we speak of entering His presence and calling upon Him to intervene in our circumstances. But that is all old covenant language, when for the most part God dwelt in the Temple separated from the people because of their sin. And Satan would have us believe that matters are no different in the new covenant. On top of that, Satan tells us how impossible our circumstances are, how bad they make us feel, and fairly soon we sit shaking with fear and doubt. But God is already active in the circumstances, within us and indeed in all creation before the thought ever dawns on us that we would like those circumstances to be different than they are. We just have to wake up to the fact and start seeing life on a new level.
So how do we pray without stopping? Obviously we have other things to do in life than just praying. I suppose there are a few people who can devote themselves to constant praying, especially if someone else can provide for all their material and financial needs in some way and provided that they have no children (probably even more important). No, unceasing prayer is not so much a rest period in which we stop our regular flow of lifes activities and enter the presence of God, as many Christians say. Instead it is a constant living in the presence of God because we are in spirit-union with His Son Jesus Christ, who is living through us and in constant communication and communion with His Father. Prayer is a state of being, it is not a special activity we engage in once or twice a day in quiet times.
At the most basic level, prayer is asking, an urgent request to meet a need, specifically directed to a deity. So prayer is rooted in need. After all we are vessels: we are created to be in need, an emptiness that exists to be filled with God. Need is our natural state. We need something that we cannot obtain for ourselves, some change in our circumstances that is beyond our human ability to perform. It might be some material item that we need, or a physical circumstance we want changed, or it may be spiritual, a desire for some¬ones heart to change and turn towards God and be saved. On an emotional level, need is often not a pleasurable experience. We want to feel satisfied, sated, and filled. Need makes us feel driven and perhaps even worried and anxious if we have reason to believe that our needs will not be fulfilled. But without need we would have no reason to seek the One who is the Infinite Supply to our need. It is need that begets desire.
So prayer begins with urgency and desire. Without desire, we would have no motivation to seek anything of God. Desire is and emerges from spirit; it is not just a soulish feeling. In the inner core of our spirit this desire for completion, for fullness, for life impels and compels all human beings to activity. I am not speaking of specific desires here, but rather of Desire itself, that longing for satisfaction and fulfillment that is prior to any object that we might perceive as satisfying that Desire. Specific desires come from the spirit that operates us. When Satan is operating us, whether as unbelievers or as believers, this Desire in our spirit is misused and takes the form of the passions of the flesh, as Paul says: All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses (Eph. 2:3). The problem is not with desire itself or with the human spirit, but with the spirit which fixes our desire on things, especially our own bodily appetites, which cannot satisfy the desire and longing of our spirit. Our spirits were created to be filled and indwelt by God, the only One who is the infinite All to our need. But Satan attempts to satisfy us with mere created things that affect our senses and our feelings. But feeling filled or satisfied is not the same as being filled.
On the other hand if the Spirit of Christ is the one operating within us, then our desire is transported to another level. It is not the mere desire for material things or the satisfaction of our physical senses, not for the merely emotional state of being happy. Rather because of the surpassing love of Christ, we know that we are filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19), and so selfish desires ought to be a thing of the past. We are already filled, so why are we still trying to pursue the satisfaction of our senses and an emotional happiness which does not and cannot last? For most believers, the problem is that they do not perceive or believe God to be their total fulfillment, the All which fills their need, the treasure which fills them as vessels (2 Cor. 4:7). We just have to step out in faith and claim the rich¬es of Gods promise for ourselves and for others. If we are being operated by Christ, we are already filled with all the fullness of God and Desire takes the shape of Desire for others to enjoy this same fullness in God, and the Desire that they be redeemed from captivity to Satan who steals this fullness away from them.
So prayer is the constant longing and desire of the Spirit expressed through and as us, the desire of God for the kingdom to be manifested, for all of His creation to assume their rightful place as His vessels through which He can manifest His goodness and love. All lesser desires are manifestations of this one fundamental desire. The whole of creation groans with the pointlessness and vanity imposed upon it by God as a consequence of sin, and desires to be freed: creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to death and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the sons of God (Rom. 8:19-21). Individually we may enjoy the freedom of the sons of God, but the whole of creation is not yet redeemed, but groans in the pains of labor, as do we: We know that the whole of creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:22-23). It is the redemption of the whole creation that we long for.
For Christians, the deepest pain is caused not by suffering others impose upon us, but by our very longing for others who do not yet experience the freedom of the sons of God. If we dont experience this pain, then through our unbelief we have allowed Satan to lull us into complacency and self-satisfaction. As Paul says about Israel to the Roman Christians: I am speaking the truth in Christ. I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh (Rom. 9:1-3). Paul is willing to lay down not just his life, but to give up eternal salvation for his people, just as Moses prayed when Israel committed the sin of the golden calf: But now, if you will only forgive their sinbut if not, blot me out of the book that you have written (Exod. 32:32). Paul later says about his people: Brothers and sisters, my hearts desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved (Rom. 1
0:1). Paul was in constant intercession for his own people, the Jews, for their salvation. I dont mean that Paul was constantly going away to spend time in some prayer closet and voicing words to God about Israel. Instead God heard the groans of the Spirit expressed in and through Paul continually, whether verbalized or not. Pauls longing for the salvation of His people was the prayer, whether it ever took the outward form of words: as he states earlier in Romans: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26-27).
So we are filled with divine longing, a desire to see creation and the lives of people transformed by the mystery of the gospel which is Christ in us, Christ living His life through us, in us and as us. Possessing this mystery produces in us this longing of Gods, unless of course Gods passion is blocked by our own unbelief and sin. Perhaps one of the gravest dangers is that we become so satisfied and comfortable with our life here on earth that the passion of God for His creation is dulled and suppressed in us, when all around us millions are either perishing or are believers held captive and operated by Satan. Knowing this fact, it is a wonder that any believers at all could be complacent and satisfied with their lives in this world! Our lives should be ones of constant desire and longing, not for ourselves, but for others, and therefore of constant dissatisfaction with the way the lives of others all around us are under Satans dominion.
But what of unanswered prayer? The first question to ask ourselves is whether or not we are in sin. Not that God is punishing us by not answering our prayers, but if we are in sin, then the source of our desires is not the Spirit of Jesus Christ, but Satan. James warns us: You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God…. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:3). When we sin, we are not just committing adultery with the world, but with the spirit which dwells in the world (1 John 4:4). We allow ourselves to be used by Satan and his desires we do (John 8:44). So if we express his desires in prayer, God will not answer them. I am not just talking about obviously sinful desires that clearly contradict divine law. Instead any desire that is not the desire of Christ in and through us is Satans, since we never operate ourselves or produce our own desires. As vessels, we express the desires of one spirit or the other. So if we are walking around believing that we are living our own independent lives, then Satan is expressing his desires through us, even when we pray. What matters is not so much what we are praying for, but who is doing the praying through us: Christ could pray for a fancy BMW if that served His purpose, and Satan could pray through us for a run-down barely-working car. That is not the point. It does not matter what we are praying for, if we are seeking some inappropriate fulfillment or satisfaction in the object that ought to be found only in God, then Satan is doing the asking, because we are not believing that God alone is our fullness and that we are filled with all the fullness of God by being spiritually joined to Christ.
The second reason for unanswered prayer is that we fail to distinguish soul (or flesh) and Spirit and never get beyond our emotional responses to our circumstances. We remain on the soul level and because of that, we start begging God to intervene as if He needed to be called into the situation and then only unwillingly because we just wont stop begging. Secretly we believe that God really isn’t going to answer or doesn’t want to, like a child that keeps begging his parents for some desired toy, because he doesn’t really believe that his father or mother are going to get it for him. So he keeps on begging in the hope that his father will finally give in just to stop the begging. We did it as children because it sometimes worked and our children do it for the same reason. But God is not like that. God is Sovereign: it is His circumstance we now find ourselves in. We dont bring God into the situation: it is His situation. We are not reminding God: He is waiting for us to wake up to what He is doing. He is waiting for us to begin viewing our lives and circumstances from the perspective of faith, from the fourth dimension, the dimension of Spirit, instead of by our thoughts and feelings.
So the third reason for unanswered prayer is that we fail to join our spirit longing to faith. Again, the root cause of this is Satans lie of independent self. We believe that it is just us who is asking God to intervene in our circumstances. Our longing for a particular manifestation of His kingdom in the world and in the lives of others is not really our own desire after all, but the Desire of God through us. If we allow ourselves to believe that it is just our desire, Satan will take over. After all, it is God who is responsible for the circumstance in the first place, and it is God who intends to do something about it through us. Our experience of need is just God waking us up to the opportunity to participate in his kingdom purposes by exercising faith.
Jesus tells us: whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11:24). Notice that he does NOT say: believe that you will receive it, but believe that you have received it. In other words, we are to view ourselves as having already received what we have desired and expressed in prayer. This sounds really dangerous! But it really isn’t, since if Christ is the Spirit operating from within, then the longing of the Spirit within us is really the Sons own desire expressed through us to the Father. And since the Father delights to give good things to His own Son, we can take the answer to our prayer as a done deal. The only reason we dont take answers to our prayers as done deals is because we believe that it is just us praying and asking, and not the Son desiring, praying and asking as us. Again, the root of unanswered prayer is the false belief in our own independence.
We are not really the ones doing the praying: another is praying as us.
So when does the manifestation come: when do we get to see the fulfillment of our longing? The only real answer is the manifestation will come about in Gods perfect time. We are sim¬ply to believe that we already have what we ask for, even if not outwardly manifested yet. Paul expressed his deep anguish and longing for his peoples salvation in Romans 9-10, and then boldly proclaims in Romans 11:26 that all Israel will be saved. This bold statement of faith has not yet come to pass two thousand years later, except for a small trickle of Jews who have believed. But Paul firmly believed that his people were loved by God on account of the patriarchs (Rom. 11:28-29) and that God would turn them around, since Gods gifts and calling are irrevocable. He did not wait for the manifestation to proclaim his faith but trusted that from Gods perspective, the present remnant of Gods people was proof that Israel as a whole would eventually return to God and be saved. Only the eyes of faith can see this.
So how then do we pray? Well, as Jesus says: Our Father… Jesus hardly needed to say more. After all, Scripture says that Jesus is the one and only Son (John 1:14, 18). Some translations have only begotten, but that is a mistranslation. There is only one Son of God, but now expressed in multiple vessels. The only way for us to pray our Father is for Jesus to be praying as us. And if Jesus, the sinless one, is praying through and as us, can we believe anything else than that we have received whatever we pray for (Mark 11:24)?
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 23 No 1
- Words to Live By-Difficult People
- Questions & Answers!
- To Believe is to Have
- Unproductive Faith
- What is an Intercessor?
- Pigmies are Giants
- Bible Study: Christ Praying As Us
- CD Talk
- Clear Guidance
- The Substance of Faith
- Mighty through God
- Strategy in Faith
- Editor’s Note
- A Faith Illustration
- Prayer and the Fourth Dimension