PRAYER SHIFT IN THE NEW TESTAMENT (Part 2)
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26 NKJV)
Although God is the same throughout the ages, the Bible teaches that His ways of dealing with humanity are not the same throughout the ages (Mal. 3:6, John. 1:17). There are different dispensations or divinely ordered ways of God dealing with humankind throughout the ages.
Failure to understand this truth is causing many believers today to miss out on God’s best for their lives, for they erroneously think that God is dealing with them as He dealt with the people under the dispensation of the law.
The New Testament believers are under the dispensation of grace. Our relationship with God or right standing before God is not based on our performance, self-righteousness, or good works, but purely on faith in the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, and His finished redemptive work.
Apostle Paul clearly states this truth.
Romans 5:1-2 – NKJV
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Since God’s ways of dealing with us under the dispensation of grace are not the same as the ways He dealt with the people under the dispensation of law, our mindsets, focuses, or emphases in prayers are not expected to be the same as those of the people who lived under the law, which the Bible described as “having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things…” (Heb. 10:1 NKJV).
Unfortunately, many believers today are still praying according to the Old Covenant, with the same mindset, understanding, focus, or expectation as the people under the dispensation of the law, the Old Covenant. That is one of the primary reasons why their prayers are not availing much.
In the first part of this piece, we began to examine the remarkable differences between the Old Testament prayers and the New Testament prayers as a result of the benefits or blessings of the finished work of Christ. Let us recap what we have discovered so far.
First, Approaching God is no longer a privilege of few men; the way to God’s presence is now opened to all men:
Under the dispensation of law, there was a stringent restriction on approaching God’s presence. Only the high priest could come so close to God’s mercy seat in the holiest place once a year after a series of ritual washings and sacrifices. He must come with great fear and trembling, and he was not even permitted to utter a word while standing before God in the holiest place (Exo 30:10, Heb. 9:7).
On the contrary, under the dispensation of grace, all restrictions to God’s presence have been removed. Approaching God is no longer the privilege of few people or restricted to a limited time a year; we all now have direct, equal, and unlimited access to God in Christ.
The Scripture testifies that we all now have “boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh.” (Heb. 10:19-20 NKJV).
The born-again believers now “have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.” (Eph. 3:12 NKJV).
Second, Prayer is no longer a mere physical, religious exercise or offering to God:
Under the dispensation of the law, prayers entailed elaborate, burdensome, or rigorous physical sacrifices. The people had to observe certain prayer hours, and they had to pray at a specific holy place or face a particular direction while praying.
But under the dispensation of grace, prayer is primarily a spiritual offering to God. It is a spiritual communion or fellowship with God. Therefore, the New Testament believers can pray to God anywhere, anytime, facing anywhere (John 4:21-24, 1 Tim. 2:8).
Let us now consider a few more striking differences between the Old Testament prayer and the New Testament prayer.
Third, the answers to our prayers are no longer based on our self-righteousness:
There are two kinds of righteousness in the Bible that we can have. There is self-righteousness, and there is God’s righteousness (Rom. 10:3). Both are incompatible; you cannot mix the two or hold to the two in your relationship with God.
Our self-righteousness is based on our performance or compliance with the requirements of the law. This is imperfect righteousness because human nature is flawed, and we are incapable of keeping all the laws of God perfectly and consistently without stumbling at one point. The Bible describes our self-righteousness as “filthy rags” in God’s sight (Isa. 64:6).
On the other hand, God’s righteousness is God’s gift to us through faith in the person of Jesus Christ and His finished work. That is why this kind of righteousness is described in the Bible as “the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 9:30).
Under the dispensation of the law, God answered the people’s prayers based on their performance or compliance with the requirements of the law He gave them through Moses.
But under the dispensation of grace, God answers our prayers based on our faith “in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1:30 NKJV).
As a New Testament saint, God does not answer your prayers based on your performance, good works, or self-righteousness, but purely based on your faith, trust, or confidence in the person and finished work of Jesus Christ. This is a pivotal truth!
When you expect or anticipate answers to your prayers based on your good works and not based on the finished work of Jesus Christ, you are simply asking God to deal with you based on your compliance with the requirements of the law, and you will be disappointed. Why?
Because you cannot keep all of God’s laws perfectly at all times without stumbling at one point!
When you stumble in one point of the law, you are guilty of all, and your prayers will not be answered (Jam. 2:10, Prov. 28:9).
But when you expect God to answer your prayers purely based on your faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work, you will certainly not be disappointed.
Jesus Christ was the first and only person who ever lived in this fallen world and kept all the laws of God without stumbling at one point at any time. Therefore, he is the only person who has the right to receive answers to His prayers according to the law. No other man has such a right under the law!
Fourth, every believer can now pray always in the Holy Spirit:
Under the dispensation of law, only a few people were privileged to have the Holy Spirit rest upon them for a while to accomplish a divine task or assignment. That means only a few people enjoyed the help, strength, guidance, or inspiration of the Holy Spirit in their prayer life.
But under the dispensation of grace, every believer can receive and enjoy the help, strength, guidance, inspiration, and unction of the Holy Spirit in their prayer life, not for a limited time, but at all times and in all situations (John 14:16-17).
The Scripture attests to this truth.
Romans 8:26 – NKJV
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Jude 1:20 – NKJV
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.
Fifth, the believers can now exercise unlimited spiritual authority in prayer over the devil:
Under the dispensation of the law, the people of God were not given unlimited spiritual authority to deal with Satan and his wicked angels in prayer. Therefore, they had to constantly cry out to God and depend on Him to help them fight against their enemies.
The people under the dispensation of the law had limited spiritual understanding about spiritual warfare because they were primarily fighting against flesh and blood (physical enemies).
But under the dispensation of grace, there is a shift in warfare; the focus is no longer on human adversaries but spiritual adversaries.
Ephesians 6:12 – NKJV
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
The Old Testament prayers are primarily focused on victory over flesh and blood, human adversaries. Sadly, many ignorant believers are still praying against flesh and blood (fellow humans) like the people under the old dispensation.
The New Testament prayers are not supposed to be desperate cries to God out of fear of the adversaries like the people’s prayers under the dispensation of the law. Why?
Because the New Testament believers in Christ have victory and spiritual authority over the devil and all his demons and works!
Luke 10:19 – NKJV
19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
James 4:7 – NKJV
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Therefore, God expects you always to exercise your spiritual authority in spiritual warfare to enforce, appropriate and demonstrate the victory that Christ has won for you through His death and resurrection (Col. 2:15, Heb. 2:14-15).
Beloved, as a believer under the dispensation of grace, answers to your prayers are not at the mercy of the devil. The devil is no hindrance to you receiving answers to your prayers unless you allow him by failing to exercise your God-given authority to resist or bind him.
Jesus Christ has already defeated and spoiled the devil and all the spiritual hosts of wickedness. His victory is your victory (1 Cor. 15:57). Heaven is permanently opened to you, and you can always receive answers to your prayers of faith.
Therefore, arise today and begin to pray with the mindsets of a New Testament saint, and you will be amazed at the beautiful results of your prayers of faith.
Prayer: My Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for giving me total victory and unlimited authority over the devil and his works. Dear Holy Spirit, teach me daily how to appropriate the victory that Christ has won for me and how to exercise the authority He has given me in my daily prayer, in Jesus’ name. Amen.