Without mediation, a prayer is nothing more than erred presumption. Do the prayers of the unregenerate ever reach the throne room? Is there a difference between prayers of God’s people and those who are actual enemies of God? Of course there is. One is encompassed in the Holiness of Christ and the other, the devil. It cannot mix; it cannot be seen any other way. Your father is either God or the devil. There is no other category. We contradict scripture when we believe the prayers of our unregenerate children reach the ears of God outside of mediation; to think otherwise is to consider two types of prayers; one with mediation and one without. This raises an interesting question: How then are we to properly disciple in light of this fact?
Well, you might ask, ‘Scott, are we not commanded to teach our children to pray?” Not exactly. In light of the doctrine, we cannot find any positive command that specifically tells us that we should ‘teach’ our children to pray. It is assumed. However, in the inference, it would not contradict the other truths of scripture in regard to mediation of those prayers. So, when we understand the idea that we should teach them to pray, we teach them by example. We do not intentionally confuse them on one hand and tell them they are separated from their God and on the other, that they can freely petition Him and call Him Father. Eventually, when your child is able to logically approach scripture and think through these things, they will find flaws in this approach that you have taught them-it will come back to bite you based on inconsistency.
William Gurnall writes in his book, ‘Christian in Complete Armor’:
Look what David Silversides writes in regards to doctrinal standards for prayer:
“We Must Pray
To not pray is to deny our dependence upon God and to behave like an atheist. “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God” (Psalm 53 v1). One of the marks of such atheism in practice is “they have not called upon God” (Psalm 53 v4). To not pray is a great sin.
Prayer is an act of Worship and therefore to be directed only to God and not to men. The Lord Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6 v13 in Matthew 4 v10. “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” And we must pray to God as he really is, not our own imaginary idea of what we would like God to be like. We know what God is really like from the Bible.
“I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14 v6). There is “one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2 v5).
Where must our praying start? It must start with seeking forgiveness of sins from God and we must seek it God’s way. We must recognise that our need is real. Our sins are serious and deserve the wrath of God forever. This must be faced, or there is no possibility of forgiveness and a place in Heaven. Then we must ask for the forgiveness we really need and we must ask God to forgive only because of what Jesus Christ has done in bearing the guilt of sin on the cross. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1 v15). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16 v31).
Only if you have sought God’s forgiveness in this way can you truly pray for anything else besides.
David addresses God, “O thou that hearest prayer” (Psalm 65 v2). God always hears those who come to him through the Lord Jesus Christ, though he reserves the right to decide how he will answer, since he knows best as the all-wise God.
Where he has explicitly promised something, we know he will fulfil his promises. Where this is not the case, we pray knowing he can give what we ask, but also saying, like the Lord Jesus in Gethsemene, “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14 v36).
So, for example, with recovery from illness. God has not promised always to heal every illness even if we ask him. Not all the Christians of the Apostolic age were martyrs, but none of them are alive today. Many simply became ill and died. Even when there were apostles, there were Christians who remained ill. The apostle Paul refers to Timothy’s recurring stomach problems in 1 Timothy 5 v23, and also says, “Trophimus have I left in Miletum sick” (2 Timothy 4 v20).
The Church then and now is not illness free. Nevertheless, we pray that the sick will recover, knowing God can give recovery, but we submit to his sovereign good pleasure. He is still God after all, not us. He decides.
God will do all he has said he will, but men must not try to put words into his mouth. He will do all he has promised and he can do what he has not, when we pray believing these things, this is praying in faith. And the children of God know he will work all things for their good.
Do you really pray? Have you come to God through Christ and said “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18 v13). All real prayer starts here.”
This passed Lords Day, my pastor spoke about Edwards’ great sermon entitled, ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’. Have you read this? If not, I encourage you to read it; especially in light of this paper. As you read it, think about the subject that I am attempting to draw out here. Edwards goes on and on in regards to how the unbeliever is at full enmity with God and that it is of the essence that the unbeliever repent now and kiss the Son, lest He be angry! Edwards makes it crystal clear that these unregenerates cannot pray to our Holy God. That would be a total contradiction; in fact, to think otherwise is again a break in the 2nd commandment. You have created a god into your own imaginations and need to repent of that false idea.
A prominent theologian writes:
“So the faulty theology that underlines this is a serious error at the point of the very nature of God. That’s, that’s serious. It strikes a blow at worshiping God, which is the first commandment–worship God and Him alone, no other God; worship the true God in the true way. These people who think they have a corner on worship, don’t worship at all. They dishonor God. Prayer is an act of worship. To offer any kind of prayer based on a perverted view of God is equal to worshiping an idol, a false god. To say it bluntly, it is blasphemy to think of God as your slave–that’s blasphemy.”
He goes on to say:
“So, does God answer the prayers of unbelievers? A strict yes or no answer is difficult without qualifying the answer in various ways. However, it is noteworthy that the above mentioned principles represent some of the key characteristics of an unbeliever. Thus we can safely say that, in general, God does not answer the prayers of an unbeliever.” I would only add, nor hear their prayers.
Here is a question directed to Pastor John by one of his congregants; He contradicts himself here. Many of us do this often when we consider our children and prayer:
“Q: I just wanted to ask what suggestions you would have for teaching children to pray.
J: “I think a really great thing to use to teach a child to pray would be just the Lord’s prayer…which really should have been called the Disciples’ prayer. But it’s a beautiful thing to talk about the things to pray about. Our Father, God is our Father. Who art in heaven, that’s where He is. Give us this day our daily bread, we pray to God for the food that we eat, the things that we need every day. And then there’s forgiveness in it. And then the Kingdom of God to come. I think to use the Lord’s prayer is kind of a beautiful way to start to teach a child just what are the basic ingredients in prayer.
Well I’ll tell you how I work with my children and that is that…and their ages are 2 and she’s out, she’s running around the room at the time…how old are my kids? Seven, nine and eleven. And we pray every night and we share requests. We pray specifically. In other words, my daughter used to always pray, “God bless the whole wide world.” You know, and I used to tell her you can’t pray that cause God can’t answer that. What’s He going to do, you know, zap the whole wide world? And you’d never even know it. So you have to pray specifically. So we say, “What do we want to pray about tonight?” “Well, a little girl in my class, you know, broke her leg, or we want to pray for the missionaries, or let’s pray for Dad because he has to speak or he has to study,” or whatever. We share little requests and we just pray about those things. I think you start where they are and you let them pray about the things in their world, in their life, as well as teaching them what prayer is. Which I think the Lord’s prayer can do.”
Do you see the contradiction? if not, you will as you read through this paper.
R. C. Sproul writes in regard to God’s omniscience:
“Does God Hear the Prayers of the Unregenerate?
Of course. And, of course not. The difference depends on what we mean by “hear.” God hears the prayers of all people, before they even leave their lips. Here we are careful to affirm the omniscience of God, that God quite literally knows all things. Remember as well that we are promised that when we are judged we will give an account of every idle word. God’s interest in the world is not limited to the rise and fall of nations. Instead He is sovereign over, and knows all things. In fact, God ordains all things, having planned everything that would come to pass before the foundation of the world. God hears the prayers of the unregenerate, whether they believe these prayers to be addressed to the living God, or addressed to false gods the world around.
On the other hand, God does not hear the prayers of the unregenerate, if we mean by hear, “heed.” That is, God is not listening to these prayers as an attentive father listens to the concerns of his child. Remember that the unregenerate, and such were once all of us, are not disinterested persons, but are by nature the enemies of God. I tried to make this same point in my contribution to my friend Gregg Strawbridge’s book The Case for Covenant Communion. My chapter was titled “In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” There I pointed out the inconsistency many people suffer from in that they both affirm that their own children are unregenerate, and that they are free to pray to “their Father” in heaven. When we pray these words, “In Jesus’ name, amen” we are reminding God that we are well aware that were we not covered in the atoning blood of Christ, we would not be free to even enter into His presence with our prayers. To say of one’s child, “This one is not covered by the blood of Jesus” and “I will encourage this one to pray” is to invite one’s own child to face the unmediated just wrath of God the Father.
In short, God does hear the prayers of the unregenerate, but He is not all pleased to hear them. He sees them as we ought to see them, presumptuous affronts to His holiness. We should not be encouraged when those who will not confess the name of Christ are praying, thinking that this means they must be at least part way there. Instead we ought to fear for their safety. God is not impressed with such “spirituality” and is profoundly offended by it. Even the regenerate would be wise to remember that “In Jesus’ name, amen” isn’t just a polite sign off to our prayers, but is instead the very foundation of our prayers, the very door by which they might be “heard.” We would likewise be wise to remember that while God does not “hear” the prayers of the unregenerate, He does indeed hear, and delights to hear the prayers of the regenerate for the unregenerate. Pray for the lost, for their prayers will only lead them deeper into His wrath.”
Don’t make the mistake of not understanding this theological reality. To think God hears in His omniscience and disregard the truth of His inclination because of the mediation of Christ is to make a grave error.
Take for instance how J.C. Ryle understands prayer and training; Ryle seems to imply all can pray. In his book, ‘The Duties of Parents’, Ryle writes:
“6. Train them to a habit of Prayer.
Prayer is the very life-breath of true religion. It is one of the first evidences that a man is born again. “Behold,” said the Lord of Saul, in the day he sent Ananias to him, “Behold, he prays” (Acts 9:11). He had begun to pray, and that was proof enough.
Prayer was the distinguishing mark of the Lord’s people in the day that there began to be a separation between them and the world. “Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26).
Prayer is the distinguishing trait of all real Christians now. They pray—for they tell God their needs, their feelings, their desires, their fears; and mean what they say. The nominal Christian may repeat prayers, and good prayers too, but he goes no further.
Prayer is the turning-point in a man’s soul. Our ministry is unprofitable, and our labor is vain, until you are brought to your knees. Until then, we have no hope about you.
Prayer is one great secret of spiritual prosperity. When there is much private communion with God, your soul will grow like the grass after rain. When there is little prayer, all will be at a standstill, you will barely keep your soul alive. Show me a growing Christian, a going forward Christian, a strong Christian, a flourishing Christian, and sure am I, he is one that speaks often with his Lord. He asks much, and he has much. He tells Jesus everything, and so he always knows how to act. Prayer is the mightiest resource God has placed in our hands. It is the best weapon to use in every difficulty, and the surest remedy in every trouble. It is the key that unlocks the treasury of promises, and the hand that draws forth grace and help in time of need. It is the silver trumpet God commands us to sound in all our necessity, and it is the cry He has promised always to attend to, even as a loving mother to the voice of her child.
Prayer is the simplest means that man can use in coming to God. It is within reach of all—the sick, the aged, the infirm, the paralytic, the blind, the poor, the unlearned—all can pray. It avails you nothing to plead lack of memory, and lack of learning, and lack of books, and lack of scholarship in this matter. So long as you have a tongue to tell your soul’s state, you may and ought to pray. Those words, “You have not, because you ask not” (James 4:2), will be a fearful condemnation to many in the day of judgment.
Parents, if you love your children, do all that lies in your power to train them up to a habit of prayer. Show them how to begin. Tell them what to say. Encourage them to persevere. Remind them if they become careless and slack about it. Let it not be your fault, at any rate, if they never call on the name of the Lord.
This, remember, is the first step in religion which a child is able to take. Long before he can read, you can teach him to kneel by his mother’s side, and repeat the simple words of prayer and praise which she puts in his mouth. And as the first steps in any undertaking are always the most important, so is the manner in which your children’s prayers are prayed, a point which deserves your closest attention. Few seem to know how much depends on this. You must beware lest they get into a way of saying them in a hasty, careless, and irreverent manner. You must beware of giving up the oversight of this matter to servants and nurses, or of trusting too much to your children doing it when left to themselves. I cannot praise that mother who never looks after this most important part of her child’s daily life herself. Surely if there be any habit which your own hand and eye should help in forming, it is the habit of prayer. Believe me, if you never hear your children pray yourself, you are much to blame. You are little wiser than the bird described in Job, “which leaves her eggs in the earth, and warms them in the dust, and forgets that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them. She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers—her labor is in vain without fear” (Job 39:14-16).
Prayer is, of all habits, the one which we recollect the longest. Many a grey-headed man could tell you how his mother used to make him pray in the days of his childhood. Other things have passed away from his mind perhaps. The church where he was taken to worship, the minister whom he heard preach, the companions who used to play with him—all these, it may be, have passed from his memory, and left no mark behind. But you will often find it is far different with his first prayers. He will often be able to tell you where he knelt, and what he was taught to say, and even how his mother looked all the while. It will come up as fresh before his mind’s eye as if it was but yesterday.
Reader, if you love your children, I charge you, do not let the seed-time of a prayerful habit pass away unimproved. If you train your children to anything, train them, at least, to a habit of prayer.”
Ryle misses the point. Are our children at enmity or not? If spiritual communication happens at the spiritual level and the only way one can be considered ‘spiritual’ is to be “in Christ”. Those outside of Christ are then, by default not spiritual. Has not God, hidden His face’ from those outside of Christ? Do not make the typical mistake in confusing the doctrine of omniscience with these facts; Sure we can safely say that in the compound sense God hears everything. He knows when a bird drops to the ground. In the divided sense, He rejects those prayers as defined in His holy word. Omniscience and God decreeing a thing are not one and the same and surely God has made this clear, doctrinally as I will show.
Is. 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
W. G. T. Shedd has a different slant on prayers of the unregenerate:
“ It is objected that the prayer of the unregenerate is sinful. This proves too much, because it would preclude any action whatever by the unregenerate man. The hearing of the word by the unregenerate is sinful. But the unregenerate is not forbidden to hear, upon this ground. The thinking of the wicked, like his plowing, is sin. All the acts of the unregenerate are sinful, because none of them spring from supreme love to God, yet some of them are better ” preparatives ” for, or ” antecedents” to, God’s work of regeneration, than others. Attendance upon public worship is better adapted to advance a man in the knowledge of his spiritual needs, than attendance upon the theatre. Prayer is better adapted than prayerlessness, to bring a blessing to the soul. “
Recently, I saw a post on Facebook from a person who is not a believer; his parent was dying. He was asking for prayers. He made mention that he was praying for his father. This is problematic. This gentleman was raised in a Christian home; later in life he abandoned all for a sensual lifestyle. He in fact was a God hater by his life of sex, drugs and debauchery. How is it that he has come to a place where he still believes, in light of his actions, to believe he is able to pray? What kind of God would our God be if communication with Him was just random? Anyone could just dial Him up, even devil worshippers! This young man had not been taught correctly. He actually has broken the 2nd commandment and has made a God of his own imagination and not the God of the scriptures. You may respond, “Scott, God can use this event to draw this person to Christ with this tragedy”. This is true. However, this does not change the fact that prayer is a means of grace and grace is for the believer. Imagine for a moment, it was his parents fault. They taught him the doctrine and how it is generally understood, i.e. ‘teach your child to pray’. What you have essentially done is let your child think that he has the approval to pray, even though there is no mediation. Is this correct? Should we be doing this? The day comes when he is completely at odds with God. He reflects a hatred towards God by the life he leads; what do you tell him now? Pray? Thats what you did earlier in his life. Why change now? In fact, the hardening he has experienced could be in part from this illicit doctrine you taught him. He sees no difference in this god, from before when he was a child and now as a young adult. He prayed then, why not now. There is no difference. What about the devil worshipper? Can he pray as well? Where do we draw the line?
Example: You are a church leader. You are asked by the city you live in to represent the local Christian community and pray at their annual dedication ceremony. Those seated amongst you are Muslim, Jews, atheists, etc. Should you attend and pray? If so, how should you pray? Much could be said about situations like these. Ecumenicalism is tolerance. Should we tolerate error and sinful things so that we all can ‘coexist’. Sure, we all need to get along and yes we believers are called to love even our enemies; however, not at the cost of truth. Would I pray at one of these events? Yes. It would give me the opportunity to proclaim Christ, truth and the gospel message. Would the civil leaders let me pray knowing that I go into this endeavor with my stated goal in mind; probably not; the gospel is excluding and I will exclude people as I make this proclamation. In my prayer, It will be painfully obvious that the prayer I pray is for believers alone. That Christ is the only mediation and without it, prayers are nothing more than words. Word’s aimed at the God of the scriptures must be accompanied by the signet stamp of our King and God and without that signet mark, fruitless. Needless to mention, the prayer will be offered up to God the Father through God the son.
I recall in days past that I held to a understanding that since baptized children were in covenant, that made a difference. That cannot be. We cannot assume, based on even the covenant that prayers are considered, outside of Christ’s mediation; Christ does not mediate in degrees. External covenant members are without Christ. Hence, the covenant does not facilitate communication without mediation either.
Since prayer is a means of grace, it must be considered an act of worship:
“But the Scripture teaches not the invocation of saints, or to ask help of saints, since it sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation, High Priest, and Intercessor. He is to be PRAYED to, and has promised that He will hear our PRAYER; and this WORSHIP He approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions He be called upon, 1 John 2,1: ‘If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, etc.'” (Augsburg Confession Article XXI.3 Concordia Triglotta page 57
Question 201 of the LCMS 1943 Catechism asks:
“What is prayer? Prayer is an act of worship . . .”
The Second Helvetic Confession states:
“PRAYER. Let all the prayers of the faithful be poured forth to God alone, through the mediation of Christ only, out of faith and love. The priesthood of Christ the Lord and true religion forbid the invocation of saints in heaven or to use them as intercessors. Prayer is to be made for magistracy, for kings, and all that are placed in authority, for ministers of the Church, and for all needs of churches. In calamities, especially of the Church, unceasing prayer is to be made both privately and publicly.”
Gerstner called the prayers of the unregenerate, ‘sinful good works’. Keep in mind that any good work without Christ is fruitless.
Is. 41:29 Indeed they are all worthless; Their works are nothing; Their molded images are wind and confusion.
Is. 59:6 Their webs will not become garments, Nor will they cover themselves with their works; Their works are works of iniquity, And the act of violence is in their hands.
John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.
Look at how Arminius compounds the error of Arminianism:
“The works of the unregenerate can be pleasing to God, and are (according to Borrius) the occasion, and (according to Arminius) the impulsive cause, by which God will be moved to communicate to them his saving grace.”
Response: Titus 3:4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
God is omniscient, yes; however:
Prov 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.
John 9:31 Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him
Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart,
The Lord will not hear.
19 But certainly God has heard me;
He has attended to the voice of my prayer.
20 Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer,
Nor His mercy from me!
The Sum of Saving Knowledge reads:
“I. THE outward means and ordinances, for making men partakers of the covenant of grace, are so wisely dispensed, as that the elect shall be infallibly converted and saved by them; and the reprobate, among whom they are, not to be justly stumbled: The means are especially these four. 1. The word of God. 2. The sacraments. 3. Kirk-government. 4. Prayer. In the word of God preached by sent messengers, the Lord makes offer of grace to all sinners, upon condition of faith in Jesus Christ; and whosoever do confess their sin, accept of Christ offered, and submit themselves to his ordinances, he will have both them and their children received into the honour and privileges of the covenant of grace. By the sacraments, God will have the covenant sealed for confirming the bargain on the foresaid condition. By kirk-government, he will have them hedged in, and helped forward unto the keeping of the covenant. And by prayer, he will have his own glorious grace, promised in the covenant, to be daily drawn forth, acknowledged, and employed. All which means are followed either really, or in profession only, according to the quality of the covenanters, as they are true or counterfeit believers.”
What are the means of grace? The Preaching of the word. This is for the officers of the church only. Preaching is a characteristic of the officers Christ ordains. There is no such thing as layperson preaching-do not be mislead! The next means of grace would be the sacraments. The sacraments are to be distributed only by the officers of the church-they are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The sacraments are for covenant people. According to the Westminster Confession,water baptism is for those who:
IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized.
The Lords Supper is for believers only; the scriptures rightly warn of taking the supper in an unworthy fashion; making it common is erred and sinful. Since Prayer is a means of grace as well, to remain consistent doctrinally, it is as well, only for believers. How could we think otherwise?
Look at what the Heidelberg catechism says:
Why is prayer necessary for christians?
Because it is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us: (Psalms 50:14,15) and also, because God will give his grace and Holy Spirit to those only, who with sincere desires continually ask them of him, and are thankful for them. (Matthew 7:7,8; Luke 11:9,10,13; 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
What are the requisites of that prayer, which is acceptable to God, and which he will hear?
First, that we from the heart pray (John 4:24; Psalms 145:18) to the one true God only, who has manifested himself in his word, (Revelation 19:10; John 4:22-24) for all things, he has commanded us to ask of him; (Romans 8:26; 1 John 5:14; James 1:5) secondly, that we rightly and thoroughly know our need and misery, (2 Chronicles 20:12) that so we may deeply humble ourselves in the presence of his divine majesty; (Psalms 2:11; Psalms 34:19; Isaiah 66:2) thirdly, that we be fully persuaded that he, notwithstanding that we are unworthy of it, will, for the sake of Christ our Lord, certainly hear our prayer, (Romans 10:14; James 1:6) as he has promised us in his word. (John 14:13,14; John 16:23;Daniel 9:17,18; Matthew 7:8; Psalms 27:8)
Thomas Boston writes:
“Firstly, A prayer wrought out by virtue of a gift of knowledge and utterance. This is bestowed on many reprobates, and that gift may be useful to others, and to the church. But as it is merely of that sort, it is not accepted, nor does Christ put it in before the Father for acceptance.”
What has God commanded us to ask of him?
All things necessary for soul and body; (James 1:17; Matthew 6:33) which Christ our Lord has comprised in that prayer he himself has taught us.
What are the words of that prayer? (Matt.6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4)
Our Father which art in heaven,1Hallowed be thy name.2Thy kingdom come.3Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.4 Give us this day our daily bread.5 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.6 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.Amen.
Why has Christ commanded us to address God thus: “Our Father”?
That immediately, in the very beginning of our prayer, he might excite in us a childlike reverence for, and confidence in God, which are the foundation of our prayer: namely, that God is become our Father in Christ, and will much less deny us what we ask of him in true faith, than our parents will refuse us earthly things. (Matthew 7:9-11; Luke 11:11-13)
Well, no one knows the state of their child-regenerate or unregenerate; hence, we encourage them to understand what prayer is and how it should be applied biblically;
If the unregenerate prays, they are empty cries. If reprobate, sinful, building up their cups of condemnation for the day of the Lord.
John Owen writes:
“It is, then, I say, of that mutual communication1515 in giving and receiving, after a most holy and spiritual manner, which is between God and the saints while they walk together in a covenant of peace, ratified in the blood of Jesus, whereof we are to treat. And this we shall do, if God permit; in the meantime praying the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath, of the riches of his grace, recovered us from a state of enmity into a condition of communion and fellowship with himself, that both he that writes, and they that read the words of his mercy, may have such a taste of his sweetness and excellencies therein, as to be stirred up to a farther longing after the fulness of his salvation, and the eternal fruition of him in glory.”
Interesting lexicological facts:
Liddell & Scott “A Greek-English Lexicon” published by Oxford defines the Greek word for prayer (proseuchomai) as “3. offer prayers, worship,” page 1511
Kittel’s “Theological Word Dictionary of the Greek New Testament” states that the Greek word for “worship” (proskuneo) in the New Testament includes prayer. “This new reality into which the Son alone sets us is to control prayer. There is no longer to be any exclusive place of worship, but prayer is still to take place at specific places and with specific gestures.” (Vol. VI Page 764). Kittel also recognizes prayer as worship in Rabbinic Judaism on page 763.
Pattern for prayer:
I begin here by making the distinction between pattern and formula; We cannot say there is some sort of formula as that would imply incantation. There is a pattern, however. So much can be said of this idea. The biblical pattern is not magical, but it is mysterious. When we say mysterious, we are not saying it is above our imaginations but that it is ‘wonderful’. Look at the Greek. This word is used one time in the New Testament:
GK H7098 | S H6381 פָּלָא pālāʾ 71x
v.den. [root of: 504?, 5140, 7098, 7099, 7100, 7101, 7102, 7112; cf. 7111]. N to be wonderful, be marvelous, be amazing; to be hard, be amazing; P to fulfill; H to show a wonder, to cause to astound; Ht to show oneself marvelous. → difficult; miracle; wonderful; wonders.
God has given His saints the wonderful gift of prayer. It is the only way we communicate with our God. Calvin writes:
“To prayer, then, are we indebted for penetrating to those riches which are treasured up for us with our heavenly Father. For there is a kind of intercourse between God and men, by which, having entered the upper sanctuary, they appear before Him and appeal to his promises, that when necessity requires they may learn by experiences that what they believed merely on the authority of his word was not in vain. Accordingly, we see that nothing is set before us as an object of expectation from the Lord which we are not enjoined to ask of Him in prayer, so true it is that prayer digs up those treasures which the Gospel of our Lord discovers to the eye of faith.”
Calvin makes mention to a patter we must adopt when praying:
“Let the first rule of right prayer then be, to have our heart and mind framed as becomes those who are entering into converse with God. This we shall accomplish in regard to the mind, if, laying aside carnal thoughts and cares which might interfere with the direct and pure contemplation of God, it not only be wholly intent on prayer, but also, as far as possible, be borne and raised above itself. I do not here insist on a mind so disengaged as to feel none of the gnawings of anxiety; on the contrary, it is by much anxiety that the fervor of prayer is inflamed. Thus we see that the holy servants of God betray great anguish, not to say solicitude, when they cause the voice of complaint to ascend to the Lord from the deep abyss and the jaws of death. What I say is, that all foreign and extraneous cares must be dispelled by which the mind might be driven to and fro in vague suspense, be drawn down from heaven, and kept groveling on the earth. When I say it must be raised above itself, I mean that it must not bring into the presence of God any of those things which our blind and stupid reason is wont to devise, nor keep itself confined within the little measure of its own vanity, but rise to a purity worthy of God.”
Every time I pray, I begin my prayer with, ‘Our God and Father’. When we look at the model prayer, it starts with, ‘Our Father’. Can everyone call God, Father? Would it be right doctrinally to lead anyone to believe that can pray the Lord’s prayer apart from belief? Sure we can use the model prayer as a guideline; but we should emphasize the facts that it is a prayer for believers.
‘In Jesus’ name we pray’. All prayers should conclude with this statement. You may ask, ‘Scott, would it be sinful not to say this?’ Not necessarily, however, we are exhorted to ask in Jesus’ name when we pray, hence, it is done.
Geneva Catechism, Question 251: Do you understand that we are to pray to God only in the name of Christ?
A: I so understand. For it is both so enjoined in distinct terms, and the promise is added, that He will by His intercession obtain what we ask. 
1. 1Tim. 2:5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
1 John 2:1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
Another thing which might be considered is confession of sin; Since scripture tells us to confess, shouldn’t we? Could our prayer be hampered due to sin? Well, we know that the prayers of a righteous man availeth much, right? What does scripture say in regards to our wives and our prayers?
1Pet. 3:7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. This Greek word means to cut off, prevent, remove. It is used once in the New Testament. We should confess.
Calvin goes on specifically in regard to Jesus as mediator:
“But since no man is worthy to come forward in his own name, and appear in the presence of God, our heavenly Father, to relieve us at once from fear and shame, with which all must feel oppressed, has given us his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to be our Advocate and Mediator, that under his guidance we may approach securely, confiding that with him for our Intercessor nothing which we ask in his name will be denied to us, as there is nothing which the Father can deny to him, (1 Tim. 2: 5; 1 John 2: 1; see sec. 36, 37.) To this it is necessary to refer all that we have previously taught concerning faith; because, as the promise gives us Christ as our Mediator, so, unless our hope of obtaining what we ask is
founded on him, it deprives us of the privilege of prayer. For it is impossible to think of the dread majesty of God without being filled with alarm; and hence the sense of our own unworthiness must keep us far away, until Christ interpose, and convert a throne of dreadful glory into a throne of grace, as the Apostle teaches that thus we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,” (Heb. 4: 16.) And as a rule has been laid down as to prayer, as a promise has been given that those who pray will be heard, so we are specially enjoined to pray in the name of Christ, the promise being that we shall obtain what we ask in his name. “
Who has the boldness to come before the throne of God? Only believers.
The Holy spirit is who teaches us the what and how. When we lack word’s, the spirit groans for us. The Spirit gives us the words to pray. He guides the saint.
Using Jesus’ name in prayer is indicated. It is the dialing in of the phone number to Christ’s realm at the Father’s right hand. Example; do the Jews worship the same God as us? Of course not, they do not have Christ. Their prayers are in vain outside of the Son. We know that to not have the Son is to not have the Father. To neglect this formula is to neglect theology proper. Prayers that originate in heresy are aimless. Our statement at the end of our prayer is the radar we use. It delivers the message to the proper recipient.
5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.
John 14:14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
1 Cor 1:2 To the church of God which is at Corinth , to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:
Acts 7:59 They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”
The above passages supplant the idea of why we use this particular terminology when we pray. One of my Facebook friends wrote:
“1) We are commanded to pray to Jesus: Jn 14:14; James 1:1-7; 1 Cor 1:2; Eph 5:19; Acts 8:22
2) We have apostolic examples of praying to Jesus: Rev 22:20, 2 Cor 12:7-9, Acts 7:54-60; Acts 8:24
3) We have necessary inferences of pray to Jesus: 1 Jn 5:11-15, Acts 1:24; Heb 7:25
Owen goes on to say:
“Evidently, then, the saints are the most mistaken men in the world. If they say,8181 “Come and have fellowship with us;” are not men ready to say, “Why, what are you? a sorry company of8282 seditious, factious persons. Be it known unto you, that we despise your fellowship. When we intend to leave fellowship with all honest men, and men of worth, then will we come to you.” But, alas! how are men mistaken! Truly their fellowship is with the Father: let men think of it as they please, they have close, spiritual, heavenly refreshing, in the mutual communication of love with the Father himself. How they are generally misconceived, the apostle declares, 2 Cor. vi. 8–10, “As deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” And as it is thus in general, so in no one thing more than this, that they are looked on as poor, low, despicable persons, when indeed they are the only great and noble personages in the world. Consider the company they keep: it is with the Father; — who so glorious? The merchandise they trade in, it is love; — what so precious? Doubtless they are the excellent on the earth, Ps. xvi. 3.
Farther; this will discover a main difference between the saints and empty professors:— As to the performance of duties, and so the enjoyment of outward privileges, fruitless professors often walk hand in hand with them; but now come to their secret retirements, and 39what a difference is there! There the saints hold communion with God: hypocrites, for the most part, with the world and their own lusts; — with them they converse and communicate; they hearken what they will say to them, and make provision for them, when the saints are sweetly wrapt up in the bosom of their Father’s love. It is oftentimes even almost impossible that believers should, in outward appearance, go beyond them who have very rotten hearts: but this meat they have, which others know not of; this refreshment in the banqueting house, wherein others have no share; — in the multitude of their thoughts, the comforts of God their Father refresh their souls.
Now, then (to draw towards a close of this discourse), if these things be so, “what manner of men ought we to be, in all manner of holy conversation?” Even “our God is a consuming fire.” What communion is there between light and darkness? Shall sin and lust dwell in those thoughts which receive in and carry out love from and unto the Father? Holiness becometh his presence for ever. An unclean spirit cannot draw nigh unto him; — an unholy heart can make no abode with him. A lewd person will not desire to hold fellowship with a sober man; and will a man of vain and foolish imaginations hold communion and dwell with the most holy God? There is not any consideration of this love but is a powerful motive unto holiness, and leads thereunto. Ephraim says, “What have I to do any more with idols?” when in God he finds salvation. Communion with the Father is wholly inconsistent with loose walking. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth,” 1 John i. 6. “He that saith, I know him” (I have communion with him), “and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him,” chap. ii. 4. The most specious and glorious pretence made to an acquaintance with the Father, without holiness and obedience to his commandments, serves only to prove the pretenders to be liars. The love of the world and of the Father dwell not together.”
Heb 4:16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Do all men have access to the throne of grace? How about our unregenerate children we teach to pray? How are they different? You may respond with the idea that they are in covenant. Yes, externally, as was Ishmael. Don we assume that these children are regenerate? Did Abraham assume? It would seem inconsistent to think that men can teach their children to pray outside of a presumption. I hear railings against presumptive regeneration from time to time. I used to hold to this doctrine. We discussed this in greater detail in the early days of Puritanboard. Much grief came from it. In light of the doctrine on prayer, to imply that children, ones that we do not know are saved, pray, is presumptuous at best and probably sinful in the worst case. You may respond to me and say, ‘Scott, but no one knows who are actually saved-we always presume’. Yes we do. However, that presumption is based on ‘fruits’. For instance, to consider prayer for our children, based on a presumption without any fruit is to also advocate for paedocommunion. You get that? Why wait for the fruit, just give them the supper based on the promise and your personal presumption. Do we not confirm our children before they partake? Of course. Is this a lack of faith, after all, did not God promise through father Abraham? There is a balance of truth we should understand.
The distinction between the prayer of faith and typical prayer, should be considered. Yes, they are holy-but holy in what way?
1Cor. 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.
This covenant obligation and benefit is a bit mysterious. Surely there is a relevant distinction;
R. Andrew Myers writes:
“Reprobate has reference to the eternal decree of God; unregenerate or unconverted has reference to the life of the soul (or rather, spiritual deadness) prior to quickening or regeneration. This distinction is worth noting.
It is the duty of unbelievers to pray to God. They sin in their prayers by doing so while lacking faith, but the sin is greater to not pray.
David Clarkson : “If it be a necessary duty for unbelievers to desire these things, it is their necessary duty to pray for them”
Richard Baxter “Prayer is a duty which God enjoined even wicked men (I could prove it by an hundred Scripture texts.)” The Right Method for a Settled Peace of Conscience and Spiritual Comfort);
Jonathan Edwards “God not only directs godly persons to pray, but others also…God is pleased sometimes to answer the prayers of unbelievers. Indeed he hears not their prayers for their goodness or acceptableness, or because of any true respect to him manifested in them, for there is none; yet he is pleased sometimes, of his sovereign mercy, to pity wicked men, and hear their cries and many others have addressed this in their works., et al.” The Most High a Prayer-Hearing God); and others have addressed this.
Jacobus Koelman has a chapter on teaching children to pray in The Duties of Parents which is very useful. They should be taught that acceptable prayer is made in faith to God in the name of Christ with thanksgiving, praise and petitions according to the revealed will of God. They are to be taught not only by precept and example but to put in practice their obedience to this duty which is enjoined upon all as soon as they are able to do so.”
Jerrold Lewis writes:
“Sub-point #3. Train Them in the Duty of Prayer
Some will shirk from this because they cannot believe that one unconverted might offer prayer to God. And while it is true, that God does not hear the prayer of the unconverted in a favorable way (unless it is the prayer of faith), it so lowers our children before the Creator that they might very well be taught of God in their prayers. Pray often in their midst. One Puritan said that “A home without prayer is like a home without a roof, open and exposed to all the storms of heaven”.
Parents, if you love your children, do all that lies in your power to train them in the discipline of prayer. Show them how to start. Tell them what to say. Encourage them to persevere, to beg for a new heart. This, remember, is the first step in religion which a child is able to take. Long before she can read, you can teach her to kneel by her mother’s side, and repeat the simple words of prayer and praise which she puts in hers mouth.”
Well it can be said and considered that God is omniscient, yet He hears the prayers of the elect in a loving fashion. He cannot hear the prayers of the unregenerate and reprobate in the same way as that would be a bit schizophrenic. In light of this, obedience in the command to ‘raise our children in the way to go’, and teaching them to pray must be undergirded by the idea that even though we teach them to pray and that it is their responsibility to comply, those prayers are bouncing off the ceiling without Christ mediating those prayers.
The Belgic Confession states:
Article 26: The Intercession of Christ
- We believe that we have no access to God except through the one and only Mediator and Intercessor: Jesus Christ the Righteous.^62He therefore was made man, uniting together the divine and human natures, so that we human beings might have access to the divine Majesty. Otherwise we would have no access.
I have heard the argument that God heard the prayers of Hagar for Ishmael:
16 Then she went and sat down across from him at a distance of about a bowshot; for she said to herself, “Let me not see the death of the boy.” So she sat opposite him, and lifted her voice and wept.
Gen. 21:17 And God heard the voice of the lad. Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her, “What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. 18 Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation.”
Gen. 21:19 Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. 20 So God was with the lad; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. 21 He dwelt in the Wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
Notice that the above passage mentions that God ‘opened her eyes’. Whether this statement applies to the same ‘opening’ that occurred in Lydia’s case should be considered:
Acts 16:14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.
As well, the distinction between God ‘hearing’ in relation to His eternal decrees, whether for the reprobate or the elect, is not the same as God hearing the prayers that cannot only be appreciated by God, through faith in Christ.
Consider Balaam and Ahab in 1 Kings 21:27-29. These probably should be considered along the lines of working things out along God’s eternal decrees and not actual prayers.
Psalm 106:13-15, “They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.”
In light of this, we should consider how we encourage even the unbeliever to utilize this blessed gift; we toss it to and fro as if it were common. We clap when we see athletes desecrating the sabbath day by pointing heavenward when they score touchdowns as if God receives this strange fire. We are inconsistent and in the eyes of the world, fools.
God uses even the prayers of the reprobates:
There is one good thing about people who pray that have no mediation; God uses it to fulfill His decree. The sins of men are filling up cups of condemnation.
Matt. 23:31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.
Jesus speaks of the cup of wrath he faces:
Matt. 26:39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
Matt. 26:42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”
Is. 51:17 Awake, awake! Stand up, O Jerusalem, You who have drunk at the hand of the LORD. The cup of His fury; You have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, And drained it out.
Is. 51:22 Thus says your Lord, The LORD and your God, Who pleads the cause of His people: “See, I have taken out of your hand The cup of trembling, The dregs of the cup of My fury; You shall no longer drink it.
As well, think taking the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner; this cup of blessing becomes a cup of wrath and condemnation, ‘some even sleep’.
“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.”
“One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.”
Acts 10:1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. 3 About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” Acts 10:4 And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.
In regards to Cornelius:
Does not the passage state that Cornelius “feared God with all his house”. What do you think the extent of this fear was?
“He saith that he was a godly man, and one that feared God; secondly, that like a good householder he had a care to instruct his families; he praiseth him afterward for the offices of love, because he was beneficial [beneficent] toward all the people; and, lastly, that he prayed [to] God continually. The sum is this, that Cornelius was a man of singular virtues, wherein the integrity of the godly consisteth, so that his life was framed, in all points, according to the rule which God prescribeth unto us. And because the law is contained in two tables, Luke commendeth, in the former place, Cornelius’ godliness; secondly, he descendeth unto the second part, that he exercised the offices of love toward men. This is very profitable to be marked, because we have a way to live well described in his person.
Wherefore, in ordering the life well, let faith and religion be the foundation, which being taken away, all other virtues are nothing else but smokes. Luke reckoneth up the fear of God and prayer as fruits and testimonies of godliness and of the worship of God, and that for good causes. For religion cannot be separated from the fear of God and the reverence of him, neither can any man be counted godly, save he who acknowledging God to be his Father and Lord, doth addict himself wholly to him. And let us know that voluntary fear is commended in this place when those men submit themselves to God willingly and from their heart, who duly consider themselves what is due to him.
Moreover, because a great part of the world doth, with reigned trifles, corrupt and deprave the worship of God, Luke added, for good causes, that Cornelius prayed continually; whereby he doth signify, that he proved not his godliness only with external ceremonies, but that he worshipped God spiritually, when as he exercised himself in prayer. We must also note the continuance of his prayer; whence we gather, that he did not pray only coldly, after the common custom, but that he was earnestly bent to prayer, as the continual benefits of God do exhort us and prick us forward thereunto, and the force of faith ought there to show itself. Wherefore let every one of us exhort himself to persevere in prayer by the example of Cornelius.
With all his house. We must not lightly pass over this commendation that Cornelius had a church in his house. And, surely, a true worshipper of God will not suffer so much as in him lieth God to be banished from his house. For how unmeet a thing is it for him to maintain his own right stoutly, that his wife, children, servants, and maids may obey him, and not to regard that God is disobeyed. It shall sometimes fall out so that a godly man cannot have even his wife to be of his mind; yet he, which ruleth others, must endeavor by all means to have God obeyed; and there is nothing more meet than that we should consecrate all ours to God as ourselves. Therefore, if a godly man have children which are unlike him, or a wife of evil conditions, or lewd and wicked servants, let him not wink, nor yet suffer his house to be polluted through his slothfulness. The diligence of Cornelius is not so much commended as the blessing of God, whereby it came to pass that he had his house obedient unto him in godliness. And we must not omit the circumstance, that he instructed his family in the fear of God, setting light by the fear of danger, which did hang over his head therefore. For the Jewish religion was in great contempt; 646 and no citizen of Rome might freely 647 receive any strange religion, as they called it. Wherefore, although the sincere profession of the gospel be evil spoken of in the world, yet is it too corrupt frightfulness 648 if that unjust hatred hinder any man from offering his family to God for a sacrifice, by godly instructions”.
Obviously, Cornelius remained faithful with the covenant and rightfully placed the sign upon his family……..
Consider the great commission; we are to make disciples, no? How can one do that if we do not teach these disciples how to pray? Well, one needs to consider that discipleship is not akin to regeneration and conversion. Judas was a disciple and I am sure, prayed. Those prayers were surely in vain. Discipling does not mean we throw all in and disregard what God’s word says.
Westminster Larger Catechism states:
Q. 154. What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.
Why are we to pray in the name of Christ?
The sinfulness of man, and his distance from God by reason thereof, being so great, as that we can have no access into his presence without a mediator; (John 14:6, Isa. 59:2, Eph. 3:12) and there being none in heaven or earth appointed to, or fit for, that glorious work but Christ alone, (John 6;27, Heb. 7:25-27, 1 Tim. 2:5) we are to pray in no other name but his only. (Col. 3:17, Heb. 13:15)
2 For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,”
Says the LORD.
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word.
3 “He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man;
He who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog’s neck;
He who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine’s blood;
He who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol.
Just as they have chosen their own ways,
And their soul delights in their abominations,
4 So will I choose their delusions,
And bring their fears on them;
Because, when I called, no one answered,
When I spoke they did not hear;
But they did evil before My eyes,
And chose that in which I do not delight.”
Think about it this way; if you accept the idea that an unregenerate adult whom you meet on the street can pray, why not your child? Example: A person I meet in one of the hospitals I frequent tells me that her family member is dying. She admits that she nor her family member are Christians. Do I tell her to pray to God for healing or do I tell her I will pray to God for comfort for her and her family member-that they should come to Christ, repent of their sin and believe the gospel? Should I give what is holy to the dogs? Prayer is not common, but holy. Contrast this with our children. You may say to me, ‘Scott, c’mon man, you know that we are to teach our children in the way of the Lord!’. Yes we are! We are to be biblically sound in that as well. Do not teach them on one hand, they are able to pray and on the other that they are at odds with God and true enemies outside of Christ’s mediation. It cannot be both ways.
Consider this, in light of what we have already defined: Does God ever desire the prayers of the reprobate? To be without Christ is to be at enmity with God, right? ‘Your sins have separated you from your God! Our sins are as scarlet and must be washed clean prior to any presumption of God hearing and bending an ear to the creature.
John 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Giving what is Holy to dogs:
Ex. 22:31 “And you shall be holy men to Me: you shall not eat meat torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs. Eating meat that had been previously ravaged by beasts was considered, unholy.
Matt. 7:6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
Phil. 3:2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!
Obviously, the contrast to holiness and ‘the dogs’ are clear. They are at odds with each other. Being a dog is akin to the antithesis to holiness. How is it that we give what it holy to dogs, routinely?
This poses another question in regard to the covenant; we know that the covenant is made up of external and internal distinctions. As well, we know that the church is made up of external and internal distinctions; How is it that 1 Cor’s tells us that our children are Holy in marriage? How is it that the scriptures exhort the children to ‘obey their parents in the Lord? If they are in the external portion of the covenant, are they ‘in the Lord’? Well, they are bound by covenant. The sign has been placed on them and they are to perfect that sign by coming to Christ. Much like the vessels of gold used in the temple, the children of believers are set apart for the purposes of God. Remember, God uses all things…..
Ishmael was in covenant as was his mother:
Gen 21:16 And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.
Gen 21:17 And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
Gen 21:18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.
Gen 21:19 And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.
Gen 21:20 And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.
Surely Hagar was not a believer:
Gal 4:30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.
We know that Ishmael was not the son of promise:
Gen. 17:19 Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.” 22 Then He finished talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
Why did God hear the prayers of Hagar and Ishmael??? Why did God bless Ishmael? The distinction between covenant keepers must be considered as well as God’s decrees. In God’s decrees, sometimes the Lord will use non typical means to accomplish the greater purposes; however, these things must be deciphered along other biblical fact and doctrine. In the case of Ishmael and his mother, to remain consistent, we cannot think that Ishmael or Hagar was of the elect, hence we cannot apply the same spiritual blessing that the elect receive in regard to prayer, else that would do an injustice to the doctrine of prayer. Could it be said that they were not praying, but simply communicating? God is omniscient, right? He hears all things, right? In this case, it was a kind of communication that God allowed for to accomplish His greater purposes. This cannot be seen as prayer
Our standard for prayer is given by Christ in the Lord’s Prayer. The Apostles ask Christ to ‘teach us to pray’.
Luke 11:1 Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”
Luke 11:2 So He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins,
For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.”
Can the unbeliever call God, Father?
Having said what I have and the distinction I have made, one might wonder how we can ‘rear our children in the way they should go’ without misleading them so they think they are praying. It’s one thing to teach them about prayer and another to teach them to pray.
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.
First off, children are a blessing and we parents, especially the federal head, have a responsibility:
Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
Deut 6:7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Eph. 6:4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Psa. 78:1 Give ear, O my people, to my law;
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,
3 Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children,
Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD,
And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.
So we should, as federal heads, teach our children about God; we should teach them the Lord’s prayer. We should teach them the fundamentals of prayer. We should not lead them to believe they can pray; that would be a contradiction of sorts. I will give you an example. My 10 year old daughter became jealous of us at the Lord’s supper. She expressed a desire to partake. We discussed the supper and who it is for, the doctrine attached to it, especially the portion about taking it in an illicit manner; she no longer wants to take it. She understands that it is for the people of God and she is not yet confident in her walk to think she may be safe from ‘sleeping’. You get that? She was jealous of us. In the same way, we should do the same with prayer. It is for the people of God.
Rom 8:26, “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.”
How could one apply this passage to anyone other than the believer?
Look what R. A Torrey writes in his book, ‘How3 to Pray’; specifically under the category, Hindrances to Prayer:
“2. The second hindrance to prayer we find in Is. 59:1,2: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But YOUR INIQUITIES HAVE SEPARATED BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR GOD, and YOUR SINS HAVE HID HIS FACE FROM YOU, THAT HE WILL NOT HEAR.”…
Sin hinders prayer. Many a man prays and prays and prays, and gets absolutely no answer to his prayer. Perhaps he is tempted to think that it is not the will of God to answer, or he may think that the days when God answered prayer, if He ever did, are over. So the Israelites seem to have thought. They thought that the Lord’s hand was shortened, that it could not save, and that His ear had become heavy that it could no longer hear.
“Not so,” said Isaiah, “God’s ear is just as open to hear as ever, His hand just as mighty to save; but there is a hindrance. That hindrance is your own sins. Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you that He will not hear.”
It is so to-day. Many and many a man is crying to God in vain, simply because of sin in his life. It may be some sin in the past that has been unconfessed and unjudged, it may be some sin in the present that is cherished, very likely is not even looked upon as sin, but there the sin is, hidden away somewhere in the heart or in the life, and God “will not hear.”
Of course, one can see that Torrey is considering the believer in this instance and how sin in the believer’s life can hinder the prayer life; contrasting this idea along the lines of those who are without Christ are in a far worse position. The Believer with sin in his life does not perish eternally. The unbeliever without Christ perishes. The prayer of the believer may be momentarily hindered; the prayer of the unregenerate is not hindered in the least. Hindrance says that a thing is in the way, blocking a fruitful transfer of information; think of it like a faulty phone connection. It still connects. The message is garbled, however. The unbeliever has no dial tone; it is empty. It is speaking to oneself only.
“The unbeliever, the erroneous and superstitious, consider not this: wherefore they speak to God as their fancies lead them, not as the word directs them, and therefore obtain nothing. Ask the carnal man to whom he prays? he will say to God. Ask him where this God is? he will say in heaven. But ask him how, or under what notion he is to be considered there? and he will give a few generals, but cannot direct his soul unto him as he is upon a throne of grace, as the apostle here biddeth, saying, ‘Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace.’ Wherefore they come and go, or rather go and come to no advantage at all: they find nothing but their labour or words for their pains. For the right considering of God when I go unto him, and how or where I may find him gracious and merciful, is all in all; and mercy and grace is then obtained when we come to him as sitting upon a throne of grace.”
‘Scott, our children are in covenant-they partake of covenant blessings!’
1Cor. 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.
Thinking covenantally, how are our children holy?
The vessels used in the temple were considered holy; when the temple was ransacked and these gold goblets were melted down and made into idols, were the idols then holy as well? They were not. The goblets and other appliances that God commanded were holy in that they were separated unto God and His purposes. In the same way, covenantally speaking, our children are holy, like that.
R. C. Sproul illuminates what the verse intends:
“Understanding how God regards the children of believers can help us determine whether or not they should receive the covenant sign of baptism. Throughout the history of redemption, the Lord has always called His people to mark those whom He has set apart for Himself. Old covenant Israelite males were circumcised to indicate the separation of the nation of Israel from the world (Gen. 17). Aaron and the priests were anointed with oil to ordain them for their special service (Lev. 8). David was anointed with oil to set him apart as Israel’s king (1 Sam. 16:13).
It follows, then, that the children of believers should also be marked by the covenant community if God views them as separated unto Himself. Today’s passage tells us that, in fact, our Creator does view the children of believers as holy—set apart from this world (1 Cor. 7:14). Note that this does not automatically mean that covenant children are rescued from God’s wrath. In the same verse, Paul says unbelieving spouses are “made holy” by their believing spouses, but he is certainly not claiming that unbelieving spouses thereby get a free ticket into heaven by marrying Christians. This is the great Apostle of justification by faith alone, who is clear that salvation requires personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:15–16).
The essential meaning of the term holy is “set apart,” and God can set apart anything for a specific use, even those things that are incapable of trusting in Him (Ex. 28:2; 29:34; Lev. 6:27; 19:24). So, when Paul speaks of covenant children as holy, he is simply telling us that they are separate from the world and not regarded in the same way as non-covenant children. John Calvin comments on today’s passage that “the children of the pious are set apart from others by a sort of exclusive privilege, so as to be reckoned holy in the Church.” Being set apart, covenant children have privileges such as Christian fellowship and hearing the Word of God. But they also have greater responsibilities than those who do not belong to the covenant community. If they never come to faith and repentance, they will suffer a greater punishment than those who were not born to Christian parents and were never part of the church (Luke 12:35–48). The privilege of heaven belongs only to covenant children who live up to their responsibilities of faith and repentance.”
William Tyndale adds:
“Thus the sanctification of the believing partner reaches out to the unbeliever. Paul sees this in what was clearly accepted with regard to the children of such a marriage. If the believer’s sanctification stopped with himself, his children would be unclean. The word is used of ceremonial uncleanness, ‘that which may not be brought into contact w. the divinity’ (BAGD). This is an unthinkable position. Until he is old enough to take the responsibility upon himself, the child of a believing parent is to be regarded as Christian. The parent’s ‘holiness’ extends to the child. The child is ‘part of a family unit upon which God has his claim’ (Mare).”
“Ver. 13,14. Sanctifying, in holy writ, generally signifieth the separation or setting apart of a person or thing from a common, to and for a holy use, whether it be by some external rites and ceremonies, or by the infusing of some inward spiritual habits. In this place it seemeth to have a different sense from what it usually hath in holy writ; for it can neither signify the sanctification of the person by infused habits of grace; for neither is the unbelieving husband thus sanctified by the believing wife, neither is the unbelieving wife thus sanctified by the believing husband; nor are either of them thus set apart for the service of God by any legal rites: which hath made a great difference in the notions of interpreters, how the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife, or the unbelieving wife, by the believing husband. Some think it signifies no more than prepared for God, as sanctified signifies, Isa 13:3. Others think they are sanctified by a moral denomination. I rather think it signifies, brought into such a state, that the believer, without offence to the law of God, may continue in a married estate with such a yoke-fellow; and the state of marriage is a holy state, notwithstanding the disparity with reference to religion. Else were your children unclean; otherwise, he saith, the children begotten and born of such parents would be unclean, in the same state that the children of pagan parents are without the church, not within the covenant, not under the promise. In one sense all children are unclean, i.e. children of wrath, born in sin, and brought forth in iniquity; but all are not in this sense unclean, some are within the covenant of grace, within the church, capable of baptism. But now are they holy; these are those that are called holy; not as inwardly renewed and sanctified, but relatively, in the same sense that all the Jewish nation are called a holy people: and possibly this may give us a further light to understand the term sanctified, in the former part of the verse. The unbelieving husband is so far sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife so far sanctified by the believing husband, that as they may lawfully continue in their married relation, and live together as man and wife, so the issue coming from them both shall be by God counted in covenant with him, and have a right to baptism, which is one of the seals of that covenant, as well as those children both whose parents are believers.”
Having used these quotes to establish a better understanding, we must conclude that there is a practical holiness and a real one. The reality is ascribed to the person upon regeneration and conversion; remember, the covenant has internal and external expressions and our children, until otherwise noted are considered believers. We presume they are elect. We do not presume they are regenerate. Hence, we treat them as such. In this presumption, prior to a confession and evidence of fruit, would it be right to think they are converted? No. Are they at enmity with God in this state? Yes, of course. Are they different from the pagan child that lives next door? Yes, they are in covenant. The pagan child next door is not in covenant-his parents are God haters. This is a big difference. Is my child closer to God and if so, what way? Yes, my covenant child is closer to God in that they experience the means of grace by proxy of sorts. They come to church. They hear preaching. They sit in prayer meetings. They experience the kindness of God in that they share in the community of faith. God’s people love on them. Does the pagan child experience these things? Can this be considered being ‘closer to God’? In an external fashion, yes. Compare yourself, a converted believer to the child; it is much different, in many ways. Think Ishmael or Esau. Ishmael was in the external portion of the covenant, God confessing to such. God tells Abraham that He will make Ishmael a king and that many generations will come from his loins. God tells Isaac that Jacob He loved and hated Esau. Esau eventually leaves covenant by settling in Edom and becoming the progenitor of the Edomite clan. But you get the point by now, I am sure.
‘I can’t believe you think we shouldn’t let our children pray!’
To teach that prayer can be accessed by everyone is akin to universalism. One must make the distinction between teaching about the doctrine of prayer, how one prays and who is able to pray are proper items; the other thing is that we should definitely tell our children to pursue God through Christ. Petitioning God to save is acceptable and probably the only correct prayer for the unregenerate. Communicating with God, coming boldly before the throne room of God is reserved for the saints.
I took this quote off of a popular Christian website:
“Teaching children to pray is a vital part of introducing them to Jesus and reinforcing their relationship with God. Our Lord gave us prayer so we could communicate with him directly, and getting children comfortable with prayer helps them to understand that God is always close and accessible.”
Do you see the inconsistency in light of the rest of this paper? Does my unregenerate child have a ‘relationship’ with God? Does anyone have a relationship with God outside of Christ’s mediation? Is God ‘close and ‘accessible’ to the pagan in the same way this person is claiming for their own?
John Piper explains:
“Should children be taught to pray even if they haven’t professed faith?
Yes. I think we should teach our children to pray as soon as they can say anything. The first words they should say are, “Dear Jesus, thank you.” I say this is because I can’t discern when a child is being spiritually wrought upon by the Lord. I don’t put much stock in children’s professions of faith. They seem to come and go. What matters is whether or not they have been born again. I don’t know when a child is born again. I don’t assume that a child must become a blatant rebellious unbeliever before he is regenerated. He can start to believe at a young age. And because he can believe at a young age, and because I can’t tell precisely when his faith becomes his own and authentic, I don’t want to wait too long before I start treating him as a believer. Also, practically, it seems right to put the vocabulary of prayer into a child’s mouth from the very beginning. That way, when his faith is born, he has a whole vocabulary, orientation, and habit that the Lord can use. It would be very awkward or even cruel to leave your child out of family worship or prayer. You should take his hand around the dinner table and have him bow his head too. You would never tell your child that he isn’t included in the prayer because he is a pagan. You can’t treat your children that way. You have to build the disciplines of the Christian life into your children from the beginning, all the while praying that they are going to grow up and mean what they say. They may mean it at age 2. You just don’t know.”
I disagree with Piper in that the intent is flawed. Prayer is educational. when my child hears my prayers, she learns doctrine, she sees the love I have for God; she learns the dynamics of prayer. This is different than giving her the idea that God is accessible in a divided sense. God is accessible in a compound way only. As mentioned earlier in this paper, there came a moment in time where my daughter was jealous of our partaking of the supper and her being excluded. After explaining about the supper and examining oneself, that ‘some even sleep’ for partaking unworthily, she declined as of yet to indulge the idea any longer. I don’t believe she yet believes she is regenerate, and so, we continue teaching her. Her prayers are solely prayers of pursuit. If your response to this thus far is akin to Pipers, I would only ask, are you giving your child the supper yet? If a child is a believer and you feel comfortable in allowing them access to one means of grace, i.e. prayer, why not the other, i.e. the Lord’s supper?
‘Our children are commanded to ‘obey your parent’s in the Lord’.
Eph. 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
I’ve had to think through this command. How are our children able to obey their parents ‘in the Lord’ if they are not actually in the Lord?
Matthew Henry writes:
“That obedience which God demands from their children, in their behalf, includes an inward reverence, as well as the outward expressions and acts. Obey in the Lord. Some take this as a limitation, and understand it thus: “as far as is consistent with your duty to God.” We must not disobey our heavenly Father in obedience to earthly parents; for our obligation to God is prior and superior to all others. I take it rather as a reason: “Children, obey your parents; for the Lord has commanded it: obey them therefore for the Lord’s sake, and with an eye to him.” Or it may be a particular specification of the general duty: “Obey your parents, especially in those things which relate to the Lord. Your parents teach you good manners, and therein you must obey them. They teach you what is for your health, and in this you must obey them: but the chief things in which you are to do it are the things pertaining to the Lord.
Religious parents charge their children to keep the ways of the Lord, Gen. xviii. 19. They command them to be found in the way of their duty towards God, and to take heed of those sins most incident to their age; in these things especially they must see that they be obedient. There is a general reason given: For this is right, there is a natural equity in it, God has enjoined it, and it highly becomes Christians. It is the order of nature that parents command and children obey. “
As Henry shows, discipling does not necessarily equate with an internal relationship with Christ; this does not however, remove the moral command to honor thy parents from any man. In this, the children are to ‘obey their parents in the Lord’ or as the Lord commands. As well, you will notice how the apostle states that obeying is ‘right’. The rightness is according to God’s moral commands. Unconverted children do not truly have the ability to do anything right in the Lord per se, none the less, they are commanded to. All men are called to repent. None are able outside of the power of the Holy Spirit, yet the command stays. Inability is secondary.”
So, how should we teach our children then??? As previously mentioned, according to biblical doctrine. Anything else are lies. We should endeavor to allow them the freedom to pursue God; that being that their prayers should be focused solely on regeneration, conversion, repentance-asking for forgiveness for their sins. Encourage them to memorize scripture and quote them often in these prayers of pursuit as these are proof of their devotion to the God, their pursuit and a repentant heart.
Granted, most of these things, outside of the power of the Holy Spirt will be in vain; however, we are commanded to teach our children these things, hence, we do it. You will notice that MacArthur does not mention prayer….
What about an unbeliever that asks you to pray for them? Believers get these requests all the time. Your prayer should be that God would save them. To ask for say, comfort, outside of salvation is a dead request. Comfort only happens in Christ and that should be the prayer, period. I remember one time when I first was saved and didn’t know the extent of the heresy of the JW’s, they visited my home. Upon conclusion of our meeting, they asked if they could pray for me; they would not let me pray with them. This struck me as strange but today, it makes sense.
Witsius on the Penal Sanction and God’s hatred towards the unregenerate:
In conclusion, I believe I have shown adequately that prayer is a means of grace and since the means of grace are for believers only, believers should align our thinking according to God’s word. If you think otherwise, you should realign that thinking.