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Lesson 10: The Holy Spirit, the Word and Prayer *

Introduction: Sometimes we have trouble matching the promises of the Bible with our own experience. For example, in several places the Bible tells us that if we ask God we will be given what we seek. See, e.g. Matthew 7:8. In Matthew 18:19 we are promised that if two agree "about anything" then "it will be done for you by My Father in Heaven." Have these promises always worked out for you? If not, why not? Very recently, I read that if I might benefit from my prayer, that would be a "questionable motive" that would invalidate my request. No doubt the writer of that statement thought that explains why some of our prayers are not answered. How can a selfish motive disqualify my prayers when Jesus tells me that I should pray "Give us today our daily bread?" Matthew 6:11. Clearly, we need further study on this topic! Let's dig into our study of the Holy Spirit and prayer!

  1. Holy Spirit and Prayer Intercession

    1. Read Romans 8:26-27. What does this teach us about our skill in knowing what to pray? (It says we don't know what we ought to pray for.)

      1. A reasonable Christian will likely conclude that if God doesn't seem to answer his or her prayer, the fault must be with us in some way. Does this text seem to confirm that problem?

      2. How does the Holy Spirit help us with making the "right" prayers? (He intercedes for us.)

      3. What comes to mind when we are talking about human intercessors? (Obviously, I think about lawyers. A lawyer knows, based on training and experience, how to put a client's request in the proper terms. We are told that the Holy Spirit has a way of communicating that is more effective than words.)

        1. Why would you call the intercession of the Holy Spirit "groans?" Why would that be more effective than words?

        2. Why would we need the Holy Spirit to make our prayers better? Doesn't God understand? Isn't the Holy Spirit God's Spirit?

      4. Who is the "He" in Romans 8:27 who searches our hearts? (Read Jeremiah 17:10. I think it refers to God the Father.)

    2. Look again at the last part of Romans 8:27. How does the fact that God knows the mind of the Holy Spirit help with our prayers? (God knows our hearts and He knows how the Holy Spirit thinks. This combination helps us to know what and how to pray. Why? The Holy Spirit triggers those impulses of ours that create the "right" prayers, and then transmits them in a way consistent with God's will. This shows that the problem is not with God's understanding, but with the nature of our prayers.)

      1. If we think that God is not answering our prayers, could the problem be that we are not asking the Holy Spirit for help?

    3. Read Ephesians 3:16-17. What both strengthens our "inner being" and allows Jesus to dwell in our hearts? (The Holy Spirit.)

    4. Read Ephesians 3:17-19. What does Jesus, living in us through the Holy Spirit, help us to understand about God's love? (It helps us to understand the nature of God's love.)

    5. Read Matthew 7:9-11. What does this tell us about God's approach to answering our prayers? (Do you give your children everything they request? Of course not. You know that giving some things would be harmful. You know that the timing of your gift is important.)

    6. Read Matthew 7:12. Is Jesus making random statements of truth? Or, is this connected to the topic of asking God for things? (Jesus' statement seems connected in two ways. First, God's decision on what prayers to answer positively reflects His love - just like treating others as we would like to be treated reflects love. Second, our prayers need to take into account their impact on others.)

    7. Let's revisit the issue of God answering our prayers. We learned that God responds to our requests like a loving parent would respond. We also learned that the Holy Spirit living in us helps us to understand the contours of God's love. Considering those two important points, how does the Holy Spirit help us with answered prayers? (By understanding God's love, we understand what we should pray for that is consistent with His love for us.)

  2. The Holy Spirit and Asking

    1. Read Matthew 7:7-8. Are there any qualifications on these promises? (Yes, in the sense that we need to ask, seek and knock. It means we need to take the initiative.)

    2. Read Matthew 18:19-20. Why is it important to have two agree? (If you have to tell someone else what you have it mind, it might moderate your prayer. If you need to have the second person agree, that is a limit on unreasonable prayers.)

      1. Why does Jesus add that the Holy Spirit will be present where two or three come together in Jesus' name? (The direction of the Holy Spirit with regard to our prayers, as we just discussed, is exceptionally important.)

    3. Read 1 John 5:14-15. Is this statement "according to His will" a condition to answered prayer?

      1. Notice that in 1 John 5:15 it seems to say something different, that God hears "whatever we ask." Is there a conflict in these two verses? First we are told Jesus only hears when we ask according to His will, but then we are told that He hears no matter what we ask? (The consistent way to read this is that Jesus "hears" requests that are consistent with His will. Of those requests that are consistent with His will, He grants them whatever the request may be.)

      2. Let's be very practical here. I recall fervently and repeatedly asking that my parents would live to be 85 years of age. That did not happen. My father died at 70 and my mother died at 80. How could requesting life for my parents be anything but consistent with God's will? (I don't have the space to give the details. But, now that I'm looking back on these events, I believe that God's timing was perfect, given the fact that we live in a sinful, imperfect world. Had I known the end from the beginning (as I do at least in part now), I would have agreed with God's timing. He gave the most loving answer considering the interests of all three of us.)

  3. The Holy Spirit and Faith

    1. Read Mark 11:22-24. Can you think of anything more useless than throwing a mountain into the sea? After all of this discussion about how the Holy Spirit will help us to know what is best to request from God, why does Jesus use an example like this?

      1. What do mountains represent in real life? (They are obstacles. They are difficult to get around. They are challenges.)

      2. What does the "challenge" nature of a mountain tell us about what Jesus is really saying in this verse? (No matter how big the problem in your life, it is subject to removal through your prayers.)

      3. When Jesus says "does not doubt in his heart but believes" to what is Jesus referring? (This gets back to the connection with the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit within us that makes these things possible.)

    2. Read Mark 11:25. Is this another condition on getting our prayers answered? (Jesus makes it a condition of forgiveness. Jesus says the same thing in Matthew 6:12. However, Jesus does not explicitly say that it is a condition of answered prayer.)

      1. If it is not a condition of answered prayer, why does Jesus mention it here? (Recall our earlier discussion about how the Holy Spirit focuses the best impulses of our mind when we pray with His help. Jesus is doing the same here, He is focusing our best impulses.)

    3. Do you feel that you have answers to why some prayers are not answered, when at the same time God gives us expansive promises about prayer? (The texts we have studied suggest that love is at the bottom of all answers to prayers. God gives us positive answers when we ask and it is in our best interest. God also promises His Holy Spirit to give us that discernment, and to inspire our impulses, to ask for the very best things.)

    4. Friend, you need the Holy Spirit! Among other things, you need the Holy Spirit to guide and bless your prayer life. Will you continually ask the Holy Spirit to guide your mind and your prayers?

  4. Next week: Grieving and Resisting the Holy Spirit.
* Copr. 2017, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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