A simple definition of prayer is communion or communication with God. In prayer we relate to God, hearing from and talking to Him. Prayer consists in about four elements with the acronym, ACTS: Adoration (Praise), Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication (Petition).
Our focus today is on Supplication/Petition and God’s response.
Petition is the dimension of prayer that is most constantly highlighted in the Bible as prayer (e.g., Gen. 18:16-33; Exod. 32:31–33:17; Ezra 9:5-15; Neh. 1:5-11; 4:4-5, 9; 6:9, 14; Dan. 9:4-19; Matt. 7:7-11; John 16:23-24; 17; Eph. 6:18-20; James 5:16-18; 1 John 5:14-16). It is amply taught as prayer in the New Testament, particularly by Jesus and Paul [e.g. persistence in prayer (Luk. 18:1-8), simplicity and humility (Luk. 18:10-14), and tenacity (Luk. 11:5-8), Prayer as a part of the Christian’s armour against satanic attack; the dependence of effective ministry of the Word of God on the prayers of God’s people (Eph. 6:18-19), the need to be free from anxiety and pray for all sorts of things with thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6)] .
Petition or supplication is not informing God of what He does not know, but demonstrating trust and dependence on him. The Scriptural teaching on God’s sovereign foreordination of all things (the concept of “What will be, will be”) and the efficacy of prayer are not contradictory. God foreordains both the means and the end. Our prayer is foreordained as the means whereby He brings His sovereign will to pass. Prayer may not really induce God to manipulate events or act on our behalf. But in prayer, we find confidence in an intimate relationship with a God who hears, cares, and is able to act for us. God knows what is best for us in a way that we do not. Therefore, he may answer our prayers in ways different from the particular ways we have put up in our prayer. This means that though God always answers the prayers of his faithful people, His answers will not always be “Yes”. It can as well be “Wait” if He perceives that it is not the right time for what you are asking; or an outright “No” if He knows that what you ask for is not good for you or that He has something else better for you.
In the 1st/OT Lesson (Amos 7), we find, among other things, God answering Amos’ prayer that He would spare Israel after His revelation of His intended punishments for the people’s rebellion and impenitence with locust and fire. This gives us hope that our prayers for our nation can bring about deliverance.
The 2nd/NT Lesson (Luk. 1:1-25) is an account of the foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist. His father, Zechariah (a faithful priest of God) had been praying for a child but could not have any in spite of the fact that both he and his wife Elizabeth (also of a priestly descent) were “upright in the sight of God, observing all the commandments and regulations blamelessly” (vs. 6). Although this godly couple had obviously been praying, they did not have any child into their old age. But they continued to patiently wait on the Lord, and did not allow their situation to keep them away from the love and service to God. It was while the man was busy ministering, that God sent his angel with the good news that his prayer had been heard and his wife would bear him a son to be named John, who was to be a source of joy to both the man and many. This is a typical case of God’s answer of “Wait” to prayer. It is obvious that God did not want to give him just any child but a special one who would occupy the position of the one and only forerunner of the Lord Jesus Christ and so had to be born close to the birth of Jesus who was to be born at a scheduled period when the time was fulfilled (Gal. 4:4).
Ven. Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba,
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,
Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.