Prayer To Be Wise In The Things Of God
Prayer Changes Things. Right? Or Does It?
Let’s talk about prayer.
I mean, prayer changes things, right? After all, that’s what prayer is. We present our requests to God and he responds. God answers prayer. We’ve known this since Sunday school.
But it also raises some sticky questions. , does God change his mind? If God responds to prayer, does that mean he alters his sovereign plan in response to our requests? Or is God the ultimate chess player – a Kasparov on steroids – answering prayers by outsmarting the devil, the universe, fate, karma, or whatever else he has to outsmart?
To prevent us from drifting into heresy or having our brains explode from exhaustion, let’s look at the Scriptures.
Prayer Does NOT Change Things
In one sense, prayer doesn’t change things. God really is sovereign, and he rules the past, the present, and the future. One common heresy (“open theism”) is that God doesn’t know the future and only responds to it a chess player.
Scripture is pretty clear that this isn’t the case. God knows the future (the word “future” doesn’t really apply to God since he is omnipresent, but you get the point).
Isaiah 46:9-10 says:
I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’Throughout the Old Testament, God routinely told the people of Israel EXACTLY what would happen. In Jeremiah 25:11-12 God spoke to Israel through Jeremiah, telling them that they would be exiled to Babylon:
This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.
This was foreordained by God. It wasn’t a mystery to him. He wasn’t hoping that Nebuchadnezzar would invade Israel. It wasn’t on God’s life-goals list.
It was a sure thing, set in stone, absolutely going to happen.
Our prayers don’t alter God’s sovereign plan. It’s not we pray and God says, “Woah, hey now! Didn’t expect that one. Okay, gotta change things quickly. Time to shift things around. Let’s see, I’ll put this here and this here and…”
God isn’t the ultimate project manager, trying to juggle the lives of 7 billion people as they make their choices apart from his sovereign plan. He has planned and ordained history, and he knows precisely what will happen.
My prayers don’t change the wise, good, sovereign plan of the King.
Phew. Thank God.
Prayer Changes Things
But in another sense, prayer really does make things happen. Scripture is clear that God wants us to pray and that he really and truly does respond to our prayers.
Scripture makes it clear that prayer changes things. In James 5:13-15, it says:
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
The logic here is pretty simple. If you’re sick, call the elders to pray for you and God will hear and answer that prayer. On the flip side, if you don’t pray the prayer will not be answered.
When Solomon dedicated the temple, he prayed:Now, O my God, let your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayer of this place (2 Chronicles 6:40)
Our Father wants us to pray. He loves when we come to humbly with our requests. He’s a good God who loves to bless his children, and he really and truly does respond to our prayers of faith.
Charles Spurgeon said:
My heart has no deeper conviction than this, that prayer is the most efficient spiritual agency in the universe, next to the Holy Ghost.
God isn’t a sadistic freak who loves to manipulate our emotions. He’s a good God who invites his children to pray.
Prayer changes things. Phew.
Embracing The Mystery
Let’s acknowledge that we don’t know how these things work together.
God’s complete sovereignty and my free will and responsibility don’t really make sense to me. I can’t logically reconcile them. When I do try to reconcile them, I usually end up reducing things to heresy.
My Western, Enlightenment-influenced brain doesn’t mystery. It makes me feel uncomfortable. Sometimes I think that if I can’t explain something it must not be true.
Frankly, that’s pretty stupid.
God is God. He is infinitely above me, and his ways are most certainly NOT my ways. How could I possibly think that I could comprehend the workings of the One who sustains all things by the power of his word. I can barely change the locks on my front door, let alone understand how God works.
Yeah. That’s lunacy.
I know two things, and both give me immense comfort.
NUMBER ONE: My good God rules, controls, and ordains all things for my good and his glory.
NUMBER TWO: God invites me to pray to him and promises to respond to my prayers.
That’s enough for me.
Serenity Prayer – Applying 3 Truths from the Bible
One of the most popular prayers today is known as the Serenity Prayer. Written by Reinhold Neibuhr (1892-1971), the prayer was widely used in sermons and Sunday school groups and studies. In the early 40s, the group Alcoholics Anonymous began to use a shortened version of the Serenity Prayer in their twelve step program.
Serenity Prayer – Full Version (composed in 1940s)
God grant me the serenity To accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world As it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right If I surrender to His Will; So that I may be reasonably happy in this life And supremely happy with Him Forever and ever in the next.
God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
3 Biblical Truths We Can Apply to the Serenity Prayer
1. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”
When life feels control, it’s easy to try to work harder at controlling everything and everyone around us! Some of us do the opposite and just throw our hands up and give up on the situation or person. Whichever extreme you go to, peace and serenity continues to move further from your life.
Accepting and submitting to God’s control and plan for your life is the only way to find peace in situations you cannot control or change. We may not always know God’s plan but we can let go of trying to orchestrate and manipulate events and people and let God work through us. God promises a supernatural peace when we bring our worries and concerns to Him in prayer.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:7
“Be still and know that I am God!” – Psalms 46:10
2. “the courage to change the things I can,”
If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you have received the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is able to supply you with the courage to follow and act upon God’s plan for your life. Instead of fearfully ignoring hard decisions or running from what seems too difficult, we can call upon the power of God for courage to move forward into the full life He has planned for us.
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6
3. “and, the wisdom to know the difference.”
Wisdom is a gift that God promises to give to those who ask for it! You can grow in wisdom each day and make better decisions as you spend time reading the Bible and communicating with God through prayer. God will tell you, through his Word or answers in prayer, when to accept things and when to take courage to change them.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5
“and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:15-17
Adapted from: Single Moms & the Serenity Prayer by Donna Stanger
Share how the Serenity Prayer has encouraged you and how our large community can pray for courage for you in the comments below!
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The Lord Will Give You A Mouth And Wisdom For Every Situation In Your Life | Joseph Prince Ministries
God wants all believers to possess the Spirit of wisdom. It is one thing to have the Holy Spirit inside you, but it is another thing to have the Holy Spirit flow as the Spirit of wisdom within you.
Then God’s wisdom prevails, there is no problem that cannot be solved. There is no daunting task that cannot be accomplished. God’s wisdom surmounts them all. The Bible even says, tongue in cheek, that the foolishness of God is wiser than the greatest wisdom of man! (1 Corinthians 1:25)
A person can be very well-educated and full of knowledge, but still lack wisdom. When I was doing my National Service, I noticed this particular medical officer who was always smoking. It was strange to see a doctor smoking. He had a lot of knowledge, a lot of education, but no wisdom.
Therefore, get wisdom. Make it a priority. When you exalt wisdom, which the Bible describes as a woman, and embrace her, she will promote you and bring you honor. (Proverbs 4:7–8)
There Is A Better Way
At your workplace, you don’t have to promote yourself by following the system of the world. You don’t have to slog and work overtime all the time. You don’t have to apple-polish your boss or compromise your ethics and values to rise up the ladder of success. There is a better way. There is a God-way of doing things and it is called the wisdom of God.
There are people who spend all their health to get wealth. Then, they spend all their wealth to get back their health! That is not very smart.
The Bible does say that “the hand of the diligent makes rich”.
(Proverbs 10:4) But diligence in the book of Proverbs is not about slogging and working so hard to the point that you don’t have time for your family, and you don’t have time to be with the Lord in the house of God. That is not diligence but hard work.
Diligence has got to do with the wisdom of God. God has the wisdom for every situation you face. And His wisdom will carry you through and give you good success without all the sweat.
Our Young People Need Wisdom
Parents, it is good to teach your kids that the first thing to ask God for every day is wisdom. The Bible says that the boy Jesus increased in wisdom, then in stature and in favor with God and man. Notice that this happened after Jesus went home with His parents and was submissive to them. (Luke 2:51–52)
And it is good for our young people to realize this because some of them have a know-it-all attitude and think that they don’t have to submit to their parents. If there was anyone who knew it all, it was Jesus. Yet, He subjected Himself to His earthly parents. That is class. That is quality. That is cool.
It is cool not to retaliate even though you have the power to. Meekness is strength under control. Power that is running all over the place is not power at all. We all admire a person who demonstrates real power—someone who can retaliate but refuses to. Reminds you of Jesus, doesn’t it?
Ask For Wisdom
When Solomon was a young man, God appeared to him in a dream at Gibeon and said, “Ask! What shall I give you?” (1 Kings 3:5) Now, I want to show you how humble Solomon was. He told God:
1 Kings 3:7–9
“…I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.
And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted.
Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”Solomon said that he was a little child who did not even know how to go out or come in, let alone rule God’s people. He was humble enough to see his need for God’s wisdom and to ask Him for it.
Solomon, we need to be humble too. We need to see our need for God’s wisdom and to ask Him for it. The Bible says:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
“If any of you lacks wisdom…” I always see myself in this place. That is why my prayer is always, “God, give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ to serve you better.”
Beloved, we need wisdom to overcome the challenges we face in life. But wisdom does not come unless you see your need for it.
Doing Business With Believers
Now, one area that I want to highlight is: Doing business with believers. Be very careful when you do business in church among believers. Please, don’t have this foolish thinking that because the person is a Christian, you can trust him, and that there is no need to put things down in black and white.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have seen good relationships sour because of this. “I’ll do this for free as a service to the church.” “It’s okay, I trust him. He’s a Christian too.” Then, later on, there is a falling-out. There is bitterness. There is anger. Why? Because things were not done professionally. Agreements were not put down in black and white.
There were two couples in our church who were good friends. Both couples got married at about the same time. One couple’s home was not yet ready, so the other couple invited them to stay in their home.
The next thing you know, the mistress of the house began to complain about the wet garments of the other couple not being hung up properly and water dripping onto the floor.
Needless to say, their relationship was affected.
Now, I am not saying that you can’t do business with Christians. If you do, make sure you put things down clearly in black and white. Don’t just proceed verbal agreements.
Be Wise As Serpents
Still, Christians can be quite gullible. That is why con artists love churches. So I want to say the same thing to all of you that our Lord said:
“…I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. I don’t have to preach on the last part. All of you are harmless as doves, except maybe for a few who to gossip and backbite!
There are always people in church who are very trusting, but not discerning. A guy comes along and says to a girl, “Thus says the Lord: ‘My child, there is such beauty in you.’ Yes, no one sees it. But the Lord sees it, and I see it too.” The guy is trying to seduce the girl. And the girl says, “You’re such a man of God!” That’s not wise!Some ladies have even gone out for coffee with married men. And when I asked them why they did it, they actually said, “But Pastor Prince, he’s already married.” So I tell them, “All the more you shouldn’t do it!”
By the way, the care group leaders in our church have been told not to send any girls back in their cars. They cannot call up the girls and say, “I missed you last week at care group. Where were you?” If I know of any of my leaders behaving this way, I will deal with that leader!
Be wise as serpents. Don’t let anyone think that you are a fool just because you are a believer.
Wisdom In Courtship
Ladies, learn to say “no” when you are courting, and the guy will respect you, he will run after you. Say “yes” all the time and, one day, he will run away from you. After he has gotten whatever he wants, he will leave you.
Think before you say “yes” all the time. Learn to be wise as serpents.
And if you are always paying for the guy, or if he is always borrowing money from you, your antennae should go up. A guy who does not want to work and who is always sweet-talking you into lending him money is not a good candidate for a life partner. Tell him to get a job!
Wisdom Is A Spirit
After Jesus tells us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, two verses down, He says:
You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
Here, Jesus says that when you are brought before VIPs, governors and kings for His sake, do not worry about how or what you should speak because God will give you the words to speak, “for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you”. Notice that He says that it is the “Spirit of your Father” who speaks in you. In other words, wisdom is a Spirit.
God told Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship”. (Exodus 31:2–3)
Paul prayed for the Ephesian church that God may give them “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him”. (Ephesians 1:17) And Joshua was “full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him”. (Deuteronomy 34:9)
Once you learn that wisdom is a spirit, ask God for wisdom every day and then learn to flow in the Spirit. Learn to walk in the Spirit.
One thing about spirits is that they are contagious. If you hang around people who are depressed, you can walk away depressed. Just if you are in an environment where a lot of people are smoking, even though you do not smoke, you walk away smelling of smoke.
In the same way, wisdom can come by association—”He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” (Proverbs 13:20)
A Mouth And Wisdom For The Hour
Jesus says that “the Spirit of your Father” will give you the words to speak when you are brought before governors and kings for His sake. (Matthew 10:18–20) So you don’t have to worry about what to say.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says the same thing:
Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.
He tells us that we do not need to think beforehand how to answer our adversaries because He will give us “a mouth and wisdom” which all our adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist! This reminds me of Stephen in the book of Acts. The Pharisees “were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke”. (Acts 6:10) This is what I pray for every time I preach. I pray that God will give me a mouth and wisdom that no adversary can contradict or resist.
I remember many years ago when our church was pretty small, I was just an elder in the church. There was a girl who got saved. Her boyfriend then was a gangster. After she got saved, she did not want to do certain things that they used to do together. She was radically transformed.So her boyfriend got really angry and said that he was going to confront us in church. During one of the church services, I bumped into him. I was going down the stairs and he was coming up. It seemed he was on his way to whack somebody.
Of all the places, I had to meet him at the stairs. There was no one there to help me should he attack me!
I still remember, when I saw him, I said, “Oh, hello.”
“Don’t ‘hello’ me! I’m here to whack somebody!” he replied. “You church people tell my girlfriend to…” I could see his fist. He was very angry. He was a bit drunk too.
Not knowing what to do and afraid that he would punch me, I said silently, “Lord, help!”
And I am telling you, God is faithful. Right at that moment, a river flowing out, I looked at him and said, “Did anyone ever tell you that you look the Hindi film star…?”
You see, he is an Indian and he reminded me of this famous Hindi film star. When I was growing up, I watched a lot of Hindi movies because my mother loves Hindi movies. She kind of wished that I had become a Hindi star, but it is not that different being a preacher—you get to be on stage too. I’m joking, of course!
Honestly, he really did look the Hindi star. So I was not lying to him when I said that.
He looked at me and said, “You really think so? A lot of my friends tell me that too.” He began to relax and let go of his fist.
I said, “Yes, you do. Which of his movies have you watched?”
“I have watched all his movies because my friends always tell me that I look him,” he said.Then, he told me that he was not really there to cause trouble, but to see what went on in our church because his girlfriend had been behaving very differently. As I said earlier, she had been radically transformed. Some time later, he even received Christ and came to church quite often.
My friend, it really helps when God gives you “a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist”. (Luke 21:15)
Jesus, Your Wisdom
One time, the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Should we pay taxes to Caesar?” Their intention was to trap Jesus, and here is my paraphrase of what happened.
If Jesus said, “No, you should not,” they would accuse Him before Pontius Pilate of breaking the Roman law. If He said, “Yes, you should pay taxes to Caesar,” they would say to him, “See, You are with them.”
But Jesus, knowing what they were up to, said to them, “Give Me a coin. Whose picture is on it?”
They all replied, “Caesar’s.”
“Well, give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and give to God the things that are God’s,” Jesus said.
The Pharisees marvelled at His answer and kept silent. They could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people! (Luke 20:21–26)
Beloved, God will give you a mouth and wisdom for every situation you encounter. Whether it is what to say or what to do, He will give you the wisdom to handle the situation.
So ask God for the Spirit of wisdom to operate in you. Remember, one who is greater than Solomon—Jesus—is in you. He is the wisdom of God. He is at the Father’s right hand and He is ready to become your wisdom in every crisis of your life, in every situation you face.
© Copyright Joseph Prince, 2006. All rights reserved.
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