“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD. Isaiah 1:18b (NASB)
Appealing to God to answer prayer can be likened to the ways in which children learn to convince their parents to act on their behalf. There are certain approaches that are more effective than others. In fact, the basis from which appeals are made can make a huge difference in how a request is answered.
When my firstborn son was three he loved going to the park near our home where there was a playground. Like many parents, I was sometimes too preoccupied to give him the attention he desired and occasionally found myself procrastinating in doing the things I had promised him. One day my little guy came up to me holding in his left hand a small bible we had given him. With his right hand he was pointing to it emphatically and looking me directly in the eyes he pleaded “Go park!”
Since my conversion to Christianity the year of his birth I have always unashamedly made the Bible my handbook for life. My son knew that from seeing me studying it daily, searching its pages for guidance, using it for family devotions, and teaching from it as a pastor. Needless to say his words and actions immediately melted my heart and without hesitation I put aside what I was doing in order to take him to the playground. Kid’s know how to touch their parents (and grandparents) hearts don’t they?
How much more can we as children of our Heavenly Father know how to touch His heart? The truth is there are proven ways to convince God to answer our prayers! I use the word “convince” here advisedly, understanding that prayer is not so much a process of convincing God as it is discovering His will and His ways in order to use that as the basis for our request.
A study of the great prayers of the Bible reveals that each of them drew upon foundational truths about God and His expectations of those who approach Him. The intercessors such as Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah, Paul and Jesus all presented their requests to God with what may be termed reasoned arguments. A closer examination reveals that their “reasoning” was based upon one or more of seven foundational Biblical principles.
These principles form the basis from which all effective intercession must be made. If you or I intend to get answers to our prayers by “convincing” God to grant us our requests, we must present our case within the purview of these principles.
Here then is the biblical basis for effective intercession. God answers prayer based upon an appeal to . . .
1. God’s Character – who He is and His ways. Abraham appeals to God as the righteous judge in bargaining back and forth with God over the plight of Sodom. (Genesis 18:25-26) Nehemiah pleads with God for Israelites based on His covenant keeping and loving nature. (Nehemiah 1:5) Appealing to the very nature and character of God is one of the most powerful prayers we can offer because He will not and cannot deny Himself.
2. God’s Past Mercy and Dealings – His acts. God’s merciful intervention in the past reveals His kind intention and purpose for the future. Moses sought the favor of God on behalf of Israel by reminding God of how He brought them out of Egypt “with great power and a mighty hand.” Moses did so in appealing to Him to use that same power to complete what He had started, in this case, by bringing them into the promised land. (Exodus 32:11) Nehemiah presents a similar case before God with regard to the restoration of Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 1:10) Each intercessor here is simply asking God to continue to act consistently in the future, based on His past merciful dealings.
3. God’s Reputation and Honor – concern for the Glory of God. The glory of God is a frequent and preeminent theme in most Biblical prayers. Moses appeals to God to uphold His reputation and glory as does Daniel and David (Exodus 32:12, Daniel 9:15-19, Psalms 57:5, 11), Paul says it best: “For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36 NIV)
4. God’s Promises – that He would fulfill what He has promised. Since God is not a man that He should lie and all the promises of God find their “Yes” in Christ, there is no stronger appeal to God than prayers based upon His many Scriptural promises. (Numbers 23:19, 2 Corinthians 1:20) Whenever we pray “God you said . . . .” there is a confidence and authority in the Spirit that releases the power of God to accomplish what we ask. Faith literally comes into and energizes our prayers when we confess God’s Word. (Romans 10:17)
5. Our Identification with Those for Whom we are Praying. God’s identification with His creation in sending His son Jesus to die for our redemption is the gold standard of intercessory identification. The heart of God is moved to action by all those who identify so fully with those for whom they pray that they themselves are willing to enter into their suffering. Both Moses and Paul in their intercession for Israel confessed their own willingness to suffer personal rejection by God if it meant in turn the salvation of the Jews. (Exodus 32:32, Romans 9:3) The old adage about walking a mile in another’s shoes is empowering advice when it comes to interceding effectively for others.
6. Our Prayer Offered in Humility – There are many references in the Bible to God’s ready response with those who approach Him with humility. In fact He tells us that He dwells “with those whose spirits are contrite and humble.” (Isaiah 57:15 NLT) And that is why He promises to give grace to the humble and save those who are contrite in spirit. (Psalm 34:18, James 4:6) Is it any wonder therefore that when Abraham persists in reasoning with God on behalf of Sodom we see him acknowledging that “Since I have begun, let me speak further to my Lord, even though I am but dust and ashes.” (Genesis 18:27)
7. Our Persistent Faith – The writer to the Hebrews tells us that it is through faith and patience that we inherit God’s promises and without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 6:12, 11:6) Jesus in His teaching on prayer frequently emphasized persistent faith with such parables as those illustrating the shameless audacity of the friend at midnight or the incessant persistence of the widow with the unjust judge. (Luke 5:1-13 & 18:1-6) Abraham’s approach to God in prayer is a great example of this principle. He demonstrated a remarkable persistence in negotiating downward from the presence of 50 to 10 righteous people as reason for God to spare His judgment upon Sodom. (Genesis 18:24-33)
When God says “Come now, and let us reason together,” it is like He is inviting us into the courtroom of heaven to present before Him a reasoned and convincing case as to why He should grant our request. The context of this verse is an invitation given by God to the prophet Isaiah to “reason” with Him in prayer in order to thwart the impending judgments coming upon Judah and Jerusalem.
As in any court room, there are proper ways in which to approach the bench and make requests. First it must be duly noted that only those who come in Jesus name, professing Jesus as their advocate will be welcomed. These seven principles are tried and true ways in which the judge of all the earth has chosen to respond and act on behalf of those who come to Him. Basing our prayers on one or more of them provides us confidence in being heard and an assurance that an answer is forth coming. (1 John 5:15)
Has your experience in intercession been consistent with these principles? Please share you observations.