Christianity holds to the view that prayer is of the leading of the Holy Spirit. Octavius Winslow put it in these words:
It must be acknowledged by the spiritual mind that all true prayer is of the leading of the Spirit; that He is the author of all real approach of the soul to God. All true prayer is put into words by the Spirit. He is the Author of prayer in the soul.
The scriptures speak of God the Holy Spirit residing within all who believe in the Son of God. The Spirit guides, instructs and empowers believers. (John 14:16-17) As well, the "Spirit of truth" confirms everything about Jesus. (John 15:26) The unregenerate (unsaved) person is not Spirit filled. God does not hear anyone's prayer unless it is put into words by the Holy Spirit. So if we want our prayers to be heard and answered we must pray to the right God.
"This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).
Before I move on it's necessary to briefly explain what other world religions believe about God.
WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?
Judaism has one God (monotheistic) that is eternal and all-knowing. Jews believe the world was created by God and that all things within the world were designed to have meaning and purpose as part of a divine order.
The Hindu religion has somewhere around 330 million gods (polytheistic). It also has one god, Brahma, that is supreme. Hindus believe Brahma is both impersonal and unknowable and inhabits every portion of reality and existence throughout the universe. Brahma is believed to exist in three separate forms: Brahma — Creator, Vishnu — Preserver, and Shiva — Destroyer. Trying to explain what Hindus believe is like trying to explain gravity. Suffice it to say that there are a wide variety of core beliefs and sects in the Hindu religion.
The religion of Islam believes in one God (monotheistic), Allah. Muslims hold that Allah is the only true God and that Muhammad was Allah's prophet. "Muslim" means "one who submits to Allah."
Buddhism has an elaborate theology of deities and exalted beings. I must elaborate a bit here. "Buddhism can be hard to pin down as to its view of God. Some streams of Buddhism could legitimately be called atheistic, while others could be called pantheistic, and still others theistic, such as Pure Land Buddhism. Classical Buddhism, however, tends to be silent on the reality of an ultimate being and is therefore considered atheistic."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) teaches that God "has not always been the Supreme Being of the universe, but attained that status through righteous living and persistent effort. They believe God the Father has a "body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's." As well, Mormons believe the true faith was restored through its founder Joseph Smith and that the entire structure of Christian orthodoxy is corrupt and false.
The great confrontation of this century is between the New Age movement (NAM) and historic, orthodox Christianity. NAM is a hodge-podge of such Christian cults as New Thought, Unity School of Christianity, Religious Science, religions of the Far East (specifically Hinduism and Buddhism) as well as spiritism, theosophy, scientism, mysticism and many other pagan beliefs.
NAM holds to monism, we are one and pantheism, all-is-God. New Agers believe in "humanity's fall into ignorance and the gradual ascent into enlightenment." They receive enlightenment through mystical spiritual experiences and spiritual searching.
You can create your own reality say New Agers. "As your thoughts are so is your life." Because thoughts have a power of their own, whatever thoughts you send out into the "universe" will come back to you. Their faith is in the power of positive thinking. "A positive mind anticipates happiness, joy, health and a successful outcome of every situation and action. Whatever the mind expects, it finds."
One New Ager describes God in this fashion: "Our daily reality is not only a matter of connection with God or Universal Consciousness. We are in fact, actually composed of the same essence as that which is called God....we are as 'cells in the infinite body of God.' There are no ultimate boundaries in the cosmos. The universe is actually composed of the very same underlying substance in all places, peoples, and times. We are all 'made of God,' or in other words, Consciousness."
Many New Agers consider themselves Christians.
Here's why they are not. A true Christian believes in a personal God. We believe there is one God (monotheism), the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Traditional orthodox Christianity, which is the objective standard by which to define what is and is not Christianity, holds to a belief in the Trinity.
The doctrine of the Trinity is the most basic Christian belief of all. Trinitarians hold that God eternally exists in three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There never was a time when God was not, nor was there a time when the Son and Spirit were not. In other words, the three Persons of the Godhead have eternally existed. However, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, the Father is not the Spirit and so forth. In essence, they are one in nature (nature describes what it is to be God) with three separate, distinct personalities. When Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit, He used the personal pronoun, referring to the Spirit as a person, not a "force," as the cults believe. "The Holy Spirit is a person who can be grieved (Eph 4:30), bear witness (1 John 5:7), and teach (John 14:26) among many other things." (For more on the doctrine of the Trinity check the links below.)
Individuals do not have to understand the Trinity to be saved. However, a belief in the Trinity is essential. It is not a peripheral issue Christians can vigorously debate but not divide over. How you baptize; the sign gifts; eschatology (future things); instruments or no instruments in churches are non-essentials. "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things love."
The Trinity is a central doctrine of Christianity, as are the authority of Scripture; Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man; Christ was born of a virgin; He led a sinless life; He died to atone for our sins; He was bodily resurrected from the dead and will come again in power and glory to judge the world and deliver His people.
THE BODY OF CHRIST
Protestants (evangelicals) hold to the view that the Bible — the inspired Word of God — is the sole authority (sola Scriptura) for establishing and confirming our Christian beliefs — not the Pope of Rome or any other person, alive of dead. The Bible says that salvation cannot be obtained through our "good works." Salvation comes by faith alone (sola fide).
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph 2:4-9). (See also John 11:25, John 14:6, John 6:40, Rom 10:13, Gal 3:26)
Let Us Reason Ministries has an article posted on its website "Salvation, A hidden teaching of the Roman Catholic church" that details Roman Catholic's completely different approach to salvation:
"They combine elements from the Old Testament (ie. priesthood, dress, rituals etc.), as the means of grace is dispensed by the priest and through the church.
"Canon 4 'If anyone shall say that the sacraments are not necessary for salvation, but are superfluous, and that, although all are not necessary for every individual, without them or without the desire of them, through faith alone men obtain from God the grace of justification; let him be anathema.'"
"According to Catholic teaching, 'Baptism is a sacrament which cleanses us from original sin, makes us children of God and heirs of heaven.' 'Baptism is necessary to salvation, because without it we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.'
"Catholics also believe that water by baptism takes away their original sins. Baptism becomes the means of cleansing."
As for the Eastern Orthodox view of justification by faith:
"[T]he doctrine of justification by faith is virtually absent from the history and theology of the Orthodox Church. Rather, Orthodoxy emphasizes theosis (literally, "divinization"), the gradual process by which Christians become more and more like Christ. What many in the Orthodox tradition fail to understand is that "divinization" is the progressive result of salvation, not a requirement for salvation itself. ... The call of the Reformers for 'Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone, and Christ alone' is missing in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and that is too precious a treasure to do without."
Protestants, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox affirm the Trinity.
To begin with the Body of Christ should have a thorough knowledge of the essential doctrines of the faith. Additionally, believers should at least know what the Person they have committed their lives to and to His discipleship had to say about life's most pressing issues. I will go out on a limb and say that most professing Christians do not have a clue what Jesus taught about most things. Hello! The very words of Christ are preserved in the pages of Scripture — and He has a lot to say!
No one is born into Christianity. Authentic Christians have made a confession of faith. Romans 10:9-11 says:
"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."
Moreover, followers of Jesus are commanded to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). And by the way, we are not given a choice in the matter. The last thing Jesus told his disciples to do was, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 15:15). How can a person preach the gospel if he/she hasn't the foggiest notion what the true gospel is? Gospel means "good news" and the good news is:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). The bad news is: "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).
NOW TO THE BURNING QUESTION...
Are you praying to the only true God? For those who are not regenerate (born again) Christians, the answer is a resounding No! As I said above, God does not hear anyone's prayer unless it is put into words by the Holy Spirit.
At this point readers are wondering: Does God even hear, act on, or grant the prayers of unbelievers? Dr. John MacArthur was asked this very question. In response he replied, "A strict yes or no answer is difficult without qualifying the answer in various ways." He then offered 15 reasons for unanswered prayer:
- Who have personal and selfish motives. (James 4:3).
- Who regard iniquity in their hearts. (Psalm 66:18).
- Who remain in sin. (John 9:31).
- Who offer unworthy service to God. (Malachi 1:7-9).
- Who forsake God. (Jeremiah 14:10-12).
- Who reject God's call. (Proverbs 1:24-25, 28).
- Who will not heed God's law. (Zechariah 7:11-13).
- Who turn a deaf ear to the cry of the poor. (Proverbs 21:13).
- Who are violent. (Isaiah 1:15; see also 59:2-3).
- Who worship idols. (Jeremiah 11:11-14; see also Ezekiel 8:15-18).
- Who have no faith. (James 1:6-7).
- Who are living in hypocrisy. (Luke 12:1).
- Who are proud of heart. (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).
- Who are self-righteous. (Luke 18:11-14).
- Who mistreat God's people. (Psalm 18:40-41).
Writer and preacher John Bunyon gave us this insight into prayer:
"Prayer is a pouring out of the heart to God, through Christ, in the strength of the Spirit, for such things as God has promised. Prayer must be within the compass of God's Word; it is blasphemy or at best babbling, when the petition is beside the Book. David therefore in his prayers kept his eye on the Word of God: 'My soul cleaves to the dust; quicken me according to Your Word.'
"'Remember Your Word to Your servant, on which you have caused me to hope.' Indeed the Holy Spirit does not immediately quicken and stir up the heart of the Christian without, but by, in and through the Word. The Spirit, by the Word, directs the manner as well as the matter of praying."
Someone one said that we argue our case with God, not to convince Him, but to convince ourselves. God is not a cosmic sugar daddy as the prosperity preachers would have us believe. Biblical prayer is to bring Christians into conformity with God's will. When we don't know how to pray according to God's will, "the Spirit of God intercedes for us according to the will of God" (Rom 8:27).
"What is it to pray according to God's will?" asked John Cotton. "When we pray for things which are agreeable to God's will, i.e. His revealed will; we should ask for nothing but what He commands us . . . for those things we have warrant to pray."
Further Study on the Doctrine of the Trinity:
What is the Trinity — Let Us Reason Ministries
The Trinity by Dr. Mark Bird
Justification Through Faith Alone — by Zacharias Ursinus
Communion with God — by John Owen
© Marsha West 2012 – Revised 2023© Marsha West
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