PRAYER REQUEST: Should It Be Time-bound?
When Jesus Christ’s disciples were faced with the dilemma of how to go about praying effectively, they simply approached the Master to teach them. And Jesus said to them, “When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil ” -Luke 11:1-4. With this, Jesus sought to set an example, as well as establish a template for Christians, when embarking on prayers that are guaranteed to ascend to the Steps of the Throne of the Heavenly Father. It is also instructive to note that one of the thieves on the Cross with Jesus said a simple prayer, “… Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee. Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”- Luke 23:39, 42, 43. It can be deduced from the above that Jesus intended for prayers to be simple, unfettered, natural and unregimented. But this is not what obtains in some churches today, where worshippers are required to submit prayer-points at certain date and time. Failure to do so is catastrophic, as such prayers are deemed too late and, therefore, not worthy of serious consideration. But should prayers be time-bound? Why are Christians not being encouraged to cultivate the habit of praying by themselves? Should prayer points be written and then hand over to someone, who will pray over them or even take them to the mountain? Is it Biblical? CHRIS IREKAMBA sought the views of some clerics on the issue.
‘Writing Prayer Point Is Optional, You May Or You May Not’
(Very Rev. Msgr. Osu, Director, Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos)
WHAT does the scripture or our Lord Jesus Christ say about prayer? He said we should pray in season and out of season. So, prayer is not time-bound, as it is done every time. You can pray every time, not to me or any other person but to God. You are expected to pray always and you should not be tired in doing it. You are to persevere in your prayer and when you do this, you should have it in mind that prayers are answered at the instance of God, and not of one ‘prophet’ or one ‘man of God’.
So, any priest or pastor has no right to say he will not accept a prayer request. Is it because God will not answer such prayer? If I tell a worshipper to bring a prayer request at a particular time, that is the human aspect. It doesn’t mean that if such prayer did not come by Sunday or any other day, God will not accept it. God is the One Who answers prayers. What is prayer? It is the raising up of our minds to God the Father, having a dialogue with Him. Prayer is so essential, as it is the Master key. Jesus started with prayer and ended with prayer. So, a Christian should pray always. And if a man of God says that a prayer came late, then he needs to be questioned. Is he the one answering prayers? The man is only a vehicle between the people and the Lord; so he should not pretend to be the one answering people’s prayers. He is not God at all and I don’t know that kind of special prayer that people must be asked to bring prayer request and then they would say it’s late. Is it ever late for God to attend to them?
Writing prayer point is optional. You may or may not do so, but that is not the essence of prayer. The essence of prayer is talking to God, begging Him for remission of sins, His blessings or protection. It’s between the individual and his/her God. So, whether you write it down or not, it doesn’t affect the essence of prayer, which is one’s heart.
You can write your prayer and give it to somebody to intercede on your behalf. There is nothing wrong in it, but that is not the essence of prayer. Not everything we do is written in the Bible. There are so many things done outside the Bible. In the Catholic Church, we do not believe in the Bible alone. We also believe in the office and tradition of the church. Before the Bible came, people were praying and honouring God. So, the church goes beyond the issue of the Bible. There are pastors and priests who are meant to facilitate prayers between God and man. But these clergy should not in any way pretend that they are God themselves by saying that a prayer came late.
‘Time Limit Is To Attach Some Level Of Seriousness
(Archbishop Joseph Imariabe Ojo, General Overseer / Presiding Bishop of Calvary Kingdom Church, CKC, Lagos-Badagry Expressway)
IN the first place, church leaders have taught their members to always depend on them when it comes to prayers. We are supposed to teach them how to pray. “Men ought always to pray and not to faint” (Lk 18:1). When a Christian is brought up to always see his pastor as the superman, whose only prayers God can answer, then he/she would have made a god out of that pastor. They should be taught to be prayerful by themselves, and to pray without ceasing. A prayerless Christian is said to be a powerless one.
Secondly, there is nothing wrong if members of the congregation are told to write their requests and submit to the pastor for prayers. It is one of the main responsibilities of the pastor to pray for his members. The time limit is to attach some level of seriousness to it. I believe it becomes imperative, when you consider the number of people to be attended to. “Be careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your REQUEST be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6.). I believe that writing of prayer request is a way of making a desire known to God.
‘Prayer Cannot Be Time-bound, But …’
(Rt. Rev. (Dr.) James Olusola Odedeji, Bishop, Diocese of Lagos West, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion)
PRAYER cannot be time-bound. Our God is Omnipresent and Omniscient. But if they have given specific instructions that people should submit prayers on a specific day or time, they may want to use it for vigil. But if this is not the case, it should be mentioned that God always answers prayers whenever they are brought to Him.
It is not abnormal to write prayer points because Hezekiah did it even in the scriptures. People can write their prayer points, which we call petitions. We do this to show that we are handicapped, helpless and don’t know what else to do. So, we are now pouring out our minds to God in writing. It is allowed and is scriptural. You can even write a letter to God through the men of God and you don’t have to put your name, as He knows who has written the letter. If it is confidential, then it is between you and God and will still be entertained in Heaven. We do it in the Anglican Church; it’s in tandem with the scriptures.
‘Asking People To Bring Prayer Request At A Particular Time Is A Form Of Installing Order’
(Brother Godwin Ifeacho, Chairman, Executive Board, God’s Kingdom Society (GKS)
ACCORDING to the America Tract Bible Society Dictionary.
PRAYER is the offering of the emotions and desires of the soul to God, in the name and through the mediation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is the pouring out of the soul unto God, the making of a solemn request to Him by way of worship. Because of man’s insufficiency, he needs to pray always, both formally and informally. David the prophet stated: “Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily” (Psalm 86:3), while Jesus Christ said “men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1) Apostle Paul further stressed the importance of making prayer a part of our daily routine, when he exhorted Christians to “pray without ceasing”. (1Thessalonians 5:17). Though God Almighty is in heaven, He sees all that happens on earth and by His mighty power, takes account of all the prayers being said by His children on earth, whether expressed in words or not. (Psalm 11:4; 113:6) God does not slumber or sleep. David says, “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their cry.” (Psalm 34:15) Apostle rendered the text thus, “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers …” (1Peter 3:12)
Prayers can, therefore, not be time-bound, as God is always ready to hear our prayers. Though Apostle James advises those afflicted to appeal to the elders of the Church to pray for them, the role is merely intercessory, and not that without the pastor or elder, one’s prayer will not be heard by God.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus Christ noticed that abuses had crept into the mode of saying prayers and so, he had to advise His followers accordingly. He made it clear that prayers should be quiet, sober and private. They should be brief and to the point. St. Matthew reports Jesus Christ as saying “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” – Matthew 6:5-8
For mature Christians who are Holy Spirit-filled, prayer points is not necessary, for the Holy Spirit will teach us to pray and pray through us with our spiritual prayer language. Asking people to bring prayer request at a particular time is a form of installing order, control and discipline in the church.
Prayer request is scriptural because the Bible says we should pray for one another. Apostle Paul asked to be prayed for many times and he was sending prayer requests to the Christians so that God will deliver him from prison and be able to fulfil his mandate. In today’s church, prayer requests should be part and parcel of our services and there should be order as to when we can submit them, so that our services will not be in chaos.
‘Our Own Faith Needs To Be Assisted By The Faith Of Other Believers’
(Pastor Ezekiel Joel, Full Salvation Believers’ Assembly Int’l, Nnewi, Anambra State)
ONE of the greatest privileges, which the New Testament offers believers, is prayer. Interestingly, the Bible teaches the priesthood of the New Testament believers. By implications, it means every born again child of God has direct access to His presence, without having to go through an intermediary. By virtue of Christ’s perfect sacrifice and the authority of His name; every believer now has unfettered access and boldness to approach the Throne of Grace (John 1:12; 14:13; Luke 11:9; Matt.21: 22; Eph.3: 11, 12; 1 John 5:14,15). Therefore, as long as a believer meets God’s stated conditions for answered prayers in the Bible, there is assurance of answers to his/her prayers (Psalm 66:18; l John 3:22). This, however, does not mean we cannot enjoy the privilege of having church leaders or “prayer warriors” intercede on our behalf as God’s children, especially when we think our own faith needs to be assisted by the faith of other believers, who are more spiritual than us.
Actually, there is nothing unscriptural in asking church members to submit prayer requests. It is equally in order to set a time limit for the collation of the prayer requests so submitted to enable those who will handle them go through before the congregational prayers. For orderliness and good administration, it is in order to set submission time limit. But such submission time limit, I am sure has nothing to do with when and how in God’s sovereignty the prayers can or will be answered. Care should be taken to avoid condemning a church practice, which may not be consistent with the practice of another church, as the Bible has admonished us (Rom. 14:1-5; 1Cor.4: 5; 7:7). If prayer requests are to be handled in batches or by different special prayer groups in a large or mega church, for example, it is not out of place to set the time limit for submission. There is nothing equally wrong taking personal or congregational prayer requests to the mountains, which has been dedicated for such purposes. Our Lord and Saviour prayed on the mountain on an occasion (Mark 6:46; 9:1-4). The location or posture does not determine whether or not God will hear and answer us. That depends on our spiritual temperature or personal spiritual standing with God and our faith in the Name of Jesus, when we pray. I know friends that have enjoyed great breakthroughs in fervent, believing prayers on the mountain, though l haven’t gone to any mountain myself to pray. And God has been faithful to me, too. However, care must be taken to avoid putting man-made hurdles or setting impossible standards requiring things that border on syncretism with the pretext of praying for others or ourselves (Isaiah 1:11,12, 16-20; 58:1-14;Matt.6: 5-8). Let it be known that God is still in the business of answering the prayers of all who will pray according to His word and will, even today.
‘Heresy Begins When Submission Of Prayer Points Is Declared Time-bound’
(Rev. Francis Ejiroghene Waive, General Overseer, Fresh Anointing Missionary Ministries Inc. /Senior Pastor, Church of The Anointing, Warri, Delta State)
PRAYER is talking with God. Its essential elements include telling God what you feel about Him, declaring your faith in Him, asking His intervention in specific areas of your life and seeking His will. Prayer is vital to spiritual life. The Bible teaches that prayer can be made anywhere at any time. It is communication between God’s children and Him. Each of us that have this relationship with God can pray. However, there is the prayer of intercession, whereby we pray for one another or a spiritually mature believer prays for a new convert. There are examples in the scriptures, where people prayed for others.
Prayer is vocalising our innermost to the divine. Thus, writing out our prayer requests may not be a bad idea. A practice in Judaism permits you, where you can’t make the annual trip to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, to write your prayer requests and send same through another person for placement on the temple’s wall. The Christian Bible, however, contains no injunction or example to this effect. Like everything else, spiritual abuses abound. Heresy begins when submission of such prayer points is declared time-bound.
Ordinarily, a believer that knows his/her God personally does not need to shop for prayer warriors or prophet-prayer-contractor. But our people are ignorant, lazy and superstitious. Many of the African Traditional Religious practices have been transferred into the church and those who are biblically illiterate swallow everything hook, line and sinker. Many church leaders in Nigeria, especially those that claim to perform miracles and see visions, have no theological education whatsoever. Some don’t even read the Bible on a daily basis. Thus, the blind is leading the blind into the ditch. People are only concerned about solutions to their problems and the hireling takes advantage of them. This is rather sad.
‘I Do Not See Anything Wrong Fixing A Dateline For Receiving Prayer Requests’
(Pastor Mike Onyeka, Senior Pastor, Victorious People Assembly Int’l Aba, Abia State)
THERE is a difference between a practice adopted by a church to ensure discipline, order or smooth operation of the business of the church, which does not offend the scripture and practice established by scripture as immutable in respect of specific matters. In the case of the former, the principle is whatsoever the church agrees to do (Math 18:18). As for the latter, we do not have a choice. I do not see anything wrong with a congregation fixing a dateline for receiving prayer requests for a particular prayer programme of the church. It is not about God hearing prayer, but about letting everything be done decently and orderly (1 Corinthians 14:40). Besides, there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun (Eccl 3:1). In Mathew 26: 45,46 by the time the disciples were ready to pray, Jesus told them prayer time was over. There is nothing against the scriptures in writing prayer requests so that your pastor can cooperate with you, lay hands on them and intercede for you. There is also nothing wrong with a person or group of persons going to a secluded place to pray for themselves or for other people. There is no magic about a physical mountain as a prayer venue other than affording one maximum seclusion and concentration.
‘We Can Write A Prayer Point For The Purpose Of Praying For Another’
(Bishop Isaac Ayo Olawuyi, Bishop, Diocese of Lagos Mainland, Methodist Church Nigeria)
PRAYER request is an age long practice. In the Old Testament, the people of God in the theocratic setting also took prayer requests of the nation and individuals to the priests. It is the duty of the priest to make intercession on behalf of the people of Israel.
In African traditional setting, the community approaches the priest in charge of the shrines with prayer requests for the purpose of interceding for them.
But there is a general understanding that the door of grace is widely opened and that there is no time-bound or a set time when God can only be approached. Even though the Jews had canonical hours of prayer, but this does not set a limit to the time the prayer can be offered to God. He is ready to listen to our prayers whenever we approach Him.
In the book of Prophet Isaiah chapter 55:6 it says: “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near”. But is there a particular time God cannot be found? Is there a time God deliberately withdraws from caring for His creatures? Bible says in Psalm 121 that our God neither slumbers nor sleeps. How can we imagine that God will sleep at a particular time and wake up at another time? He is always ready to listen to us 24/7. It is an erroneous notion, therefore, to think that prayer requests must be brought to the pastor and if anyone fails to meet up with the time God cannot hear him any more.
Is there any need for us to write a prayer point? I would say, yes, to this. We can write a prayer point for the purpose of praying for another. Bible encourages us as brethren to pray for one another. But as children of God, we have direct access to Him and so we can always call upon Him, while His promise stands to hear us any time we come to Him in faith.
There is no biblical basis for a pastor taking prayer requests to the mountain. However, in the old and new Testaments, there are instances when the prophets and even our Lord Jesus Christ went to the mountain to pray. It was done to seek privacy and not to meet the God on the mountain. There is nothing so significant about going to the mountain for prayer. Prayers can be done in any place provided it is private, hallowed and conducive. The last but agonising prayers Jesus offered before His crucifixion was at garden of Gethsemane, not on the mountain. Jesus says where two or three are gathered in my name, there I will be in their midst. There is no specific place of prayer, as it can be said in the house, office, car, church or any convenient and hallowed place.
Above all, we should be eager to seek for the truth and have the right concept of God. There are many people that have been misled because they are bereft of the true knowledge of God. The society is in jeopardy, as some confused leaders of faith who have been misled are also misleading many others.
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