The Prayer-Obedience Relationship - page 2


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From the Winter 2008 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

The Prayer-Obedience Relationship

by W. Bingham Hunter, Ph.D.
Vice President and Academic Dean, Phoenix Seminary

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  Obedience to Jesus’ commandments facilitates fellowship with our Savior and God the Father (cf. Revelation 3:20). In the hearts of obedient believers, Jesus and the Father make their “home” through the Holy Spirit: “This is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 John 3:24, NIV). In the believer who is not “grieving” Him through disobedience, the Spirit works to “show” (or “disclose,” NASB) Jesus. Our Lord used several other verbs to refer to this activity: the Spirit will ”teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (14:26); “bear witness about me” (15:26); and “guide you into all the truth” (16:13). That this refers to growth in our understanding of the Father, as well as Jesus, is clear from 16:14-15:

He [the Spirit] will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (NIV)

  In other words: our obedience is a concrete expression of love which pleases God and creates in us an environment where the Spirit works to encourage growth in the quality of our fellowship with, and depth of understanding of, the Lord Jesus and His Father. As we come to know them better, we also grow in comprehending how God thinks about the issues of life. It becomes increasingly more natural to see the world through God’s eyes. As we live according to God’s will, we learn to think about and see existence in terms of God’s will, and this enables us to pray according to His will more frequently.
  We are positively conditioned, as we express love to God by obeying His commands in Scripture, to internalize biblical thinking and behavior principles that please God and are best for us. Over time, the Spirit develops our facility to make God-honoring decisions in situations the Bible does not directly address. Similar conditioning takes place as parents instill moral values in children. According to Proverbs 22:6, parents who love their children will train them in the way they should go—that is, educate and discipline them to think biblically about right and wrong—so that when they are mature, they are able to make decisions that please God. The Prayer-Obedience relationship can be sketched as in the diagram on this page. (A detailed diagram appears at the end of the article.)
  At this point, several comments are necessary: First, this cycle interacts with other aspects of your Christian experience. There are a number of spiritual processes going on in each of us. These often interact (positively and negatively) with those of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Second, the prayer-obedience relationship describes a way of life, not a system one “works” to get things from God. Third, you must think about this process in a personal, not a mechanical context. God is Abba, whom we love, not an appliance we use. Fourth, so-called “prayer warriors” are usually formed over many years. Developing the mind of Christ—thinking (and praying) His thoughts after Him—takes time as well as discipline. Fifth, the process will go on your entire life. You will never reach a threshold after which all your prayers are answered as you wish. The godliest Christian mind will not attain omniscience. Sixth, your progress may differ significantly in comparison with other believers: suffering and persecution seem to accelerate the process. Keeping these realities in mind, you can reasonably expect the Holy Spirit’s work through your obedience to God’s Word to increase your prayer effectiveness as you mature in Christ.

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