by Lyn Packer
How am I praying, from the Old Covenant or from the New?
The Bible is clear that we should pray. No one would have a problem with that and Christians everywhere do so. But many still pray from an Old Covenant perspective and understanding and wonder why the things they pray sometimes don't bear fruit. So we need to ask ourselves, "Is my prayer life based on an Old Covenant understanding or a New Covenant one? Is my prayer life based on wrong beliefs or right ones? Do I pray as an unbelieving Christian or as a faith-filled believer?"
Here are some examples of Old Covenant understanding and some wrong beliefs in praying for others…
- That we need to stand in the gap (Ezek 22:30). Jesus is the mediator - he stood in the gap
- That we need to pray and intercede so that God will forgive our sins and heal our land (2 Chron 7:14) In Jesus they are forgiven – both our sins and the nations sins.
- That we need to "Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage and the ends of the earth your possession." (Psa 2:8). They are already our inheritance. Jesus has already done all that is needed - he has purchased their freedom. Now he rules over the earth, and because we are in him, we do too. Now we get to go and tell them that awesome good news, not just stay at home and pray.
- That we need to pray long and hard in order for loved ones to be saved. We think it will take a lot of our effort in prayer in order for Jesus to be able to do anything in regard to this. And when they aren't being saved we think "I haven't prayed enough."
- That we need to heap up words (Matt 6:7) or need to pray in a certain way.
On a personal level…
- That we need to plead every day, or persistently, for our needs to be met (Luke 11:5-8). We think that it is the amount of prayer that will move God's hand.
- That we need to ask God's forgiveness for our sin, over and over again, every time we do something wrong (Heb 9:26). Jesus has forgiven your every sin. All your sins were future sins when he did that. Definitely we need to recognize when we sin, confess that, apologise to him and thank him for his forgiveness but we don't need to beg forgiveness. You are already forgiven. In 1 John 1:9 which says "If we confess our sins he can be depended on to forgive us and cleanse us… John was addressing false teaching 3.
- That we need to ask/petition for healing or deliverance (Mark 7:25-30). It is yours to claim. You don't need to ask for it - it is his will that you are healed and delivered.
- That we need to fast and pray in order to find God's will or to move his hand (2 Chron 20:3,4) We think that our prayer will force God to do something (as if he doesn't already want to).
- That we can't be sure that God will hear us and answer – that maybe our sin has blocked God from hearing us (Isa 59:2). Our sins are forgiven - all of them (past, present and future). They no longer make a blockage to God hearing us, but our sins can still affect our relationship with the Lord. When we sin we tend to draw away from God and don't want to spend time with him. So keep short accounts and stay in the place of relationship. The Bible makes it clear that "if we ask anything according to his will he hears us and if we know that he hears us we know we have what we have asked of him."(1 John 5:14,15) So then we need to know what his will is. It is for us to have the provision of every need relating to life and godliness - healing (physical & emotional), salvation, deliverance and so much more.
God said in the Old Testament, "I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach… but I found none" (Ezek 22:30).
Does this still apply today? No, at least not in the way we that have traditionally seen it. That is an Old Covenant event. God was looking for someone to stand in the gap between him and the people so that they wouldn't be judged. And he did find someone - Jesus did that.
In Christ, God has reconciled the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusted to us the message of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:19). Christ became the mediator between God and mankind. He stood in the gap and he ever lives to make intercession! But we are not totally redundant. We get to co-operate with him through our prayers, decrees and daily life in releasing the power and manifestation of the finished work of Christ into earth.
When we pray from a New Covenant perspective, we understand the following…
In praying for others…
- That God has provided an eternal intercessor and that in our prayer we are cooperating with him (Heb 7:24-28)
- That he has already provided salvation for every person. We don't need to plead with him to save our family members - to do so is to assume that he hasn't already provided salvation for them. They just need to receive what he has already done for them (Acts 26:17,18). We need to show them a true representation of him and share with them that God is good and that the good news really is good news, not an introduction into another form of bondage.
- That he has judged and forgiven every sin, past, present and future, so we do not need to be continually asking for forgiveness for our nation's sin, ancestor's sin etc. (Eph 1:4-7; Heb 9:26)
- That healing of the land was included in Christ's payment. He became our curse and broke every curse over us, so we now pray for the manifestation of the healing of our land (2 Chron 7:14).
- That we can approach God boldly and confidently (Heb 4:16) knowing that we have the right to do so through Christ, and that we have been invited to do so.
- That the words we send forth will accomplish what we send them to do when we send them with intent (Matt 21:21). That our words can be effective or ineffective (Matt 12:36 careless words; careless = words that are ineffective, unemployed, barren, idle, useless or lazy)
On a personal level…
- That God has said "Yes, granted' to every need we will ever have relating to life and godliness (Matt 6:25-33, 2 Pet 1:3)
- That God has provided and said "Yes, granted" to our healing. For us to be healed is his will! (1 Pet 2:24) and his time is now. In fact the Bible goes further and says we are healed.
- That the Lord has judged and forgiven every sin of ours - past, present and future so we do not need to be continually asking for forgiveness for our sin, our ancestors' sin etc. (Eph 1:4-7; Heb 9:26)
- That we can know that he has heard us and that we have what we have asked of him (1 John 5:14,15)
- That we can approach him boldly and confidently (Heb 4:16)
- That our words, sent with intent, will accomplish what we send them to do. (Matt 21:21, Matt 12:36)
When we truly understand what Christ has done it totally changes how we pray. There is no persistent begging here. There is only thankful hearts and words that correspond with that. We understand and believe what he has done and we pray accordingly.
Every promise of God has been made 'yes' and 'amen' (so be it!) in Christ (2 Cor 1:20).
What about 1 Thess 5:17, Paul's instruction to "pray continually"? Does it mean that we must pray 24 hours a day? It can't mean that, otherwise we would never eat, go to the bathroom, look after our kids etc. It means to be aware of our oneness and fellowship with the Lord, to be open to what is on his heart and to open our heart to him. It means to be in that place of listening for his prompting, to come into agreement with him and release heaven into earth by our prayers, our speech, our lives. It becomes not just something we do, a task, but a part of us.
Regarding praying continually, there is a huge 24 hour prayer movement happening around the world. In many ways it is good - it is teaching this generation the value of prayer. But I have some concerns with it, too. It is often very structured and has the potential to become quite legalistic, causing people to think that the form is what is crucial to its success. We need to be careful in the midst of it that we don't just package religion differently, in a new container.
Even those in the Old Covenant recognized that prayer is not just something we do, it is more like a state of being. David says in Psa 109:4 "In return for my love they act as my accusers; But I am (in) prayer." The original does not include the word IN – it literally says, "I – prayer," that is, I am all prayer; "I am prayer." He became prayer just as they became malice.
Prayer is not about human effort, it's about dependence. Even fervent prayer – "The fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." (James 5:16). Fervent prayer does not mean passionate, loud and aggressive, with much effort and straining. It simply means prayer that it is powerful in its effect.
Fervent = energo (Gk) – active, efficient. This is where we get our word energy. It is a powerful prayer that works! It performs the job. A more accurate rendering of the verse is, "The mightily active and efficient prayer of a righteous man has great power as it is working." (James 5:16).
New Covenant Prayer is prayer that recognizes what Christ has done in us and for us, and decrees and releases the full manifestation of that into the earthly realm with powerful, effective, working prayer.