Bible Study

When Prayer Works

Michael Beck

Both the god of this world, and man who follows his course, move in the “wisdom” and strength of their own minds.

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Ephesians 2:2,3)

One of God’s chief controversies with man is that his actions proceed entirely from his own mind.

And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. (Jeremiah 32:25)

Man is empowered to do evil through his entertaining of evil thoughts.

Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. (Micah 2:1)

The strength of a carnal man to do wrong comes from his “minding” of thoughts which are not born of God.

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. (Rom. 8:5-7)

Acceptable worship involves brokenness in our thinking.

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom…
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Psalm 51:6,17)

Paul went from being strong in his own mind as he thought he should do many things contrary to the name of Jesus to serving Him with all “humility of mind.”

I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. (Acts 26:9)

And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,
Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews (Acts 20:18,19)

Even God’s people can be strong in their own minds and “off” in their judgments.

And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him. (1 Samuel 16:6)

We are called to value, select, and daily wear “humbleness of mind.”

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering (Colossians 3:12)

Pride keeps man walking after his own thoughts and excludes God from the picture.

The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. (Psalm 10:4)

Without humbleness of mind men inevitably move in the power of their own presumptuous thinking.

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. (James 4:13-16)

When what originates in our minds and in accordance with our will succeeds, we exalt ourselves.

Grant not, O LORD, the desires of the wicked: further not his wicked device; lest they exalt themselves. Selah. (Psalm 140:8)

When God cannot get through to a man He will speak to him in a dream.
He does this especially when He wants to keep him from some proud plan of his own.

For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.
In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;
Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction,
That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man. (Job 33:14-17)

Our thoughts and words apart from God are indeed creative energies which produce evil fruit, shame, and vanity. Only that which has its beginnings in God can truly prosper toward good fruit.

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:7-11)

The Word of God in and of itself is powerful and is activated by faith.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

powerful > Greek – energes

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

“effectually worketh” > Greek verb – energeo > – to be operative, be at work, put forth power

KJV – work 12, show forth (one’s) self 2, wrought 1, be effectual 1, effectually work 1, effectual fervent 1, work effectually in 1, be might in 1, to do 1

Wherever God is working effectually there is a “successful operation” (i.e., the accomplishment of God’s pleasure).

(For he that wrought effectually (energeo) in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) (Galatians 2:8)

Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working (energeo) of his power. (Ephesians 3:7)

Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working (energeia), which worketh (energeo) in me mightily. (Colossians 1:29)

The successful operation (energeia) of God’s power is always connected to the counsel of His own will, pleasure and purposes.

In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh (energeo) all things after the counsel of his own will (Ephesians 1:11)

While God has the potential (power) to do all things, His working (energy) is only put forth in what specifically pertains to His will and pleasure.

And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. (Mark 14:36)

When God works in His saints He does so, from start to finish, to accomplish His own “good pleasure.”

For it is God which worketh (energeo) in you both to will and to do (energeo) of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)

Our prayers are unsuccessful at times, not necessarily because we lack faith, but because of the infirmity of our understanding of God’s will.

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. (Romans 8:26)

The prayer that always results in success (i.e., “avails”) is in accordance with God’s will and results in His glory.

…The effectual fervent (energeo) prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16)

We can petition God for many things, but absolute confidence that what we have asked for is as good as accomplished should only be ours when we know that what we have prayed for is according to God’s will.

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. (1 John 5:14,15)

Jesus told us we could ask for “whatsoever” in His name and He would do it, providing it would glorify God.

And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. (John 14:13,14)

Though Paul was a righteous man, and fervently asked “whatsoever” of God, after three attempts his prayer proved unsuccessful because God saw greater glory in denying his request.

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

God does far beyond all we ask and think according to His power that works (energeo) in us, according to His own will, and for His own glory.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh (energeo) in us,
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20,21)

Michael Beck is a pastor in the Dallas, TX area and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.