8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:8–10, NKJV).
Does this passage teach sinners are saved by praying and asking Jesus to be their Savior? If so, it does it without mentioning prayer at all. Yet, this is exactly how some use it as they tell people to pray and ask Jesus to save them. The Bellingham Baptist Church (Bellingham, WA) has a teaching pamphlet that says, “Pray and ask Jesus Christ to be your Savior,” which then quotes Romans 10:9. But, to “confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus” is a profession of faith, not a prayer to God. For example, in Acts 8:36-37 when a lost soul asked what was keeping him from being baptized (to be saved, Mark 16:16). He was told by the preacher Philip, “If you believe with all your heart, you may,” to which he answered, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” When this believer confessed his faith, he was ready to be baptized and saved by Christ according to Christ’s word (Acts 8:38; Mark 16:15-16). Belief and confession that Jesus is the Son of God are unto (in the direction of) salvation. The believer who confesses faith will repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38). The word of faith the apostles preached says to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, confess Him as Lord, repent before God, and be baptized to be saved (Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 2:38). Reread today’s passage; Prayer is conspicuously absent. We must be careful not to add to God’s word.
2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak (Colossians 4:2–4, NKJV).
Prayer is a powerful spiritual blessing we have in Christ. Paul trusted the power of patience, persistent prayers offered by his fellow Christians in Colossae. His exhortations encourage us to pray in the same manner. (1) Continue earnestly in prayer (v. 2). Devoted diligence to prayer is a trait of faithful disciples. Jesus taught a parable that we “always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1-8). We show faith in God to hear and answer us by continuing to pray (Luke 18:7-8; Heb. 4:14-16). (2) Vigilant prayer is vital (v. 2). Prayer is practical, expressing daily supplications, praises, and petitions (Phil. 4:6). Be alert in your prayers, attuned to immediate circumstances, and trusting God to respond (1 John 5:14-15). (3) Pray with thanksgiving (v. 2). God gives us every good gift that sustains our lives now and into eternity (James 1:17-18). His children remember to honor Him with thankful prayers. (4) Pray for others (v. 3). Paul yearned for their prayers. We “pray for one another,” not just ourselves (James 5:16). (5) Pray for opportunities to teach the gospel to the lost (v. 3-4). Paul asked them to pray that God would open a door to speak His word that saves those imprisoned by sin. Paul also asked them to pray that he would effectively speak God’s word that saves souls. May we continually be devoted to thankful prayer, petitioning God to open doors for His word and help us speak it properly.
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7–8, NKJV).
Jesus does more than suggest we pray to the Father for His blessings. The verbs ask, seek, and knock are in the imperative mood, expressing commands. Each action increases in intensity and fervor. Lenski commented, “We ask for what we need; we seek what we earnestly desire; we knock when our desire becomes importunity” (Matthew, 292-293). Furthermore, Christ promises the Father will respond favorably to His children’s pleadings (“will be given,” “will find,” and “it will be opened to you”). Arguing from the lesser to the greater, Jesus went on to assure us that if earthly fathers provide “good gifts” to their children when asked, our heavenly Father will “gives good things” to His children when we entreat Him (Matt. 7:9-11). As children depend on their parents for life’s necessities, Christians rely on our Father in heaven to give us what we truly need. Our trust is not misplaced. Our Father hears and responds to our fervent pleadings. So ask, seek, and knock. Live by faith, and “all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:32-33).
7 “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7–8, NKJV).
While continuing to address the correct motive of prayer (v. 7; Matt. 6:5-6), Jesus turns our attention to the method of prayer. How we pray (method) will align itself with why we pray (motive). The pagans repetitively ritualize prayer to their gods. Such prayers are nothing more than empty phrases of useless babblings. Like the false prophets who called on the name of Baal, vainly repeated prayers in the name of the Lord are void of meaning and efficacy (1 Kings 18:26). Ritualized prayers may have a form of godliness, but they deny it power (2 Tim. 3:5). Ironically, millions vainly repeat in ritualized worship the model prayer Jesus is about to teach (Matt. 6:9-13), the very thing Jesus warned against doing. Our Father knows our needs, anxieties, pains, struggles, joys, and so much more. He knows our requests before we bring them to Him in prayer. As a result, our Father receives and responses favorably when we come to His throne of grace with words of reverent humility, not rehearsed blather (v. 8; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 3:12). Don’t pray like the heathens. Pray like a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:5–6, NKJV).
Why do you pray? The Lord knows the reasons and motives of our prayers; He is the One who “knows the hearts of all” (Acts 1:24). Jesus knew many people pray so others will view them as religious and pious. They choose conspicuous places to petition heaven’s throne. Their desire (to be seen by men), once achieved, is their only reward. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven understand prayer to be intimate communication with their heavenly Father. It is a time to pour out thanks, adoration, petitions, and pleas to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). There we find the divine assurance of mercy, solace, and peace. Our Father is in private places. He sees, hears, and openly rewards our humble prayers (Phil. 4:6-7). Prayer is not a ritual; it is a retreat to commune with our Father. Keep pure motives when you pray. God sees the purpose of our prayers, so seek His approval when praying to Him. Remember, it is God who answers our prayers, not people. So pray to be seen by your heavenly Father.
“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name’” (Matthew 6:9, NASB95).
Meditate with me today about “our Father who is in heaven.” Unfortunately, many do not think of God at all. Others consider him to be a grandfatherly figure who nods approvingly toward whatever we do. Some do not believe in a personal God at all, but being pantheists believe “that reality is identical with divinity, or that all-things compose an all-encompassing, immanent god (Wikipedia). The words of Jesus are clear, concise, and consistent with the nature of God revealed in the inspired writings of the Bible. Jesus identified God as (1) Our Father. As our Creator, God is the Father of us all (Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 8:6). He also created our spirits and is the “Father of spirits,” in whose image we are made (Heb. 12:9). Christians are children of God by faith and have an intimate fellowship with our Father (Gal. 4:5-7). (2) Personal. Our Father is not “like gold or silver or stone” shaped by artistic expression (Acts 17:29). He knows us and calls us through the gospel to come to Him (Acts 17:27; 2:21, 39). (3) In heaven. God is Spirit and not defined by or confined to material things (John 4:24). Physical constraints do not limit God (Acts 7:48-50; 2 Pet. 3:8). (4) Holy. Hallowed means “to sanctify” or set apart as holy in our minds and lives. We fail to revere His name when defining God by our will, ways, and expectations (Rom. 1:20-23). Jesus held His heavenly Father in the highest regard, and so must we (John 10:29; 14:28). (5) The One to whom we pray. We pray to God our Father, assured that He hears and answers us according to His will, which is always best for us (Matt. 7:11; 26:39-44; 1 John 5:14-15). Think on these things.
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23–24, NKJV)
First-century Christians regularly came together on the first day of the week to worship God (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:26; 16:2; Heb. 10:24-25). True worshipers follow the teaching of Jesus taught about worship. It is “in spirit and truth.” Worship “in spirit” calls on the heart as the source of our worship of God. For example, prayers and songs must be with the spirit and understanding; it is not rote ritualism (1 Cor. 14:15). True worshipers praise God “with understanding” when they sing (Psa. 47:7; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). A heart far from God that goes through the motions of worship is an abomination to Him (Matt. 15:7-9). True worshipers also worship God “in truth.” His word reveals what worship He accepts. Churches of Christ gather every Sunday to pray, sing, eat the Lord’s Supper, thankfully give as we have been prospered, and listen to the teaching of God’s word (Acts 2:42; 20:7; Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:26; 16:2). Souls who worship “in spirit” are careful to give God the “in truth” worship He accepts. New Testament Christians did that. We aim to do the same today. We hope you will, too.
1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. (2 Thessalonians 3:1–2, NKJV)
The effectiveness of prayer was not an afterthought to Christians of the New Testament age (Jas. 5:16). The apostle Paul often asked brethren to pray for him, and he repeatedly prayed for his fellow Christians (1 Thess. 3:10; Eph. 6:18-19; Phil. 1:9; Col. 1:3, 9; 4:3). In today’s passage, Paul asked for specific prayers, something we ought to do, too. First, he asked for prayers that God’s word would triumph in its purposes (saving the lost and strengthening the saved, v. 1). The gospel was achieving these purposes in their lives (1 Thess. 1:2-9; 2 Thess. 1:3-4). We are confident they joined Paul in praying the gospel would win the race and be honored as other souls believed and obeyed Jesus (Rom. 1:16-17). Second, Paul asked them to pray for mutual deliverance from faithless, unreasonable, and wicked people (v. 2). Like the currents of a flowing river, forces of evil try to sweep us away and drown us in error and sin’s corruption. The Lord is active and faithful to rescue us and guard us against the evil one and his cohorts as we do what His apostles command (2 Thess. 3:3-4). May we offer such prayers daily.
1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (1 Timothy 2:1–2, NKJV)
Paul began a series of exhortations to Timothy with an appeal to pray “for all men.” Jesus had taught to “pray for those who spitefully use you” as an expression of loving your enemies (Lk. 6:27-28). That is not easy to do, but it is the very essence of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Since love focuses on others rather than itself, therein lies the answer to how we can faithfully do this. We need to pray for those who have rule and authority over us. The reasons are apparent (yet Paul reminds Timothy and us of them). Their decisions impact many lives, including Christians. God desires us to lead peaceful lives, flavored with godliness, and infused with reverence. Therefore, supplicate (entreaty) God for them. Solicit God on their behalf for truth, wisdom, and justice to guide them in the affairs of state. Petition the Ruler of rulers, interceding for them through earnest prayers and thoughtful thanks. Paul reminds us that God desires the salvation of all people (1 Tim. 2:3-4). Therefore, let us diligently pray for leaders (and all others) so that an atmosphere that enhances the cause of the gospel may prevail on the earth.
38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” 39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” 40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:38–41, NKJV)
Our faith is strengthened by the example of Jesus in the hour of His temptation at Gethsemane. Our attention is drawn to the sharp contrast between His watchful prayers of singular devotion to the Father’s will, and the sleep that overcame His apostles. We must remain watchful in the moments of temptation, vigilant in prayer to see and to resist sin’s enticements. Our task is to combine a willing spirit with an obedient body. Resisting temptation involves recognizing the spiritual danger, plus activity fleeing from its allurement (Jas. 1:14; 1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Tim. 2:22). By relying on the Lord’s strength, we can avoid entering the door of temptation that leads to sin and death (Jas. 1:14-15). May our prayer ever be, “Our Father…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:9, 13).