I was wondering what Jesus meant when He made this amazing promise:
Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:19-20 (NIV )
Is He giving us a blank check for prayer? Is this some formula which, if followed, guarantees that our prayers will always be answered? When I asked Him recently, and listened to His reply, He reminded me that it was a promise with some very significant conditions.
First, the two or three gathered together had to be there in His name. That meant they not only knew Him as Savior, but also desired to follow Him as Lord. He is not someone who came just to save us from our sinful, selfish desires and actions. He also came so we could experience intimate fellowship with Him, listen to Him, and desire to obey His will. When we come to Him in prayer, are we willing to lay aside our agendas and listen to His? That is challenging! Honestly, don’t most of our prayers concern our own desires rather than His?
Second, as we gather “in His name”, two or three is no magic number. It is having several others with us to confirm what we hear when He speaks. All alone, I often fail to listen to the Lord before praying, because of my “rush” to get on with the day’s tasks. But when others are present, I am more likely to slow down and take time to listen with others in seeking His will. We begin with this simple request:
“Lord, You know about this situation. How do You want us to pray? What is Your will?”
After 3-5 minutes of silence, we share briefly what each of us may have “heard” from the Lord. One may receive a word or phrase. Another a promise from the Bible (“The Word of God”). Still another may have a picture, image, or feeling. When there is general agreement about what we “hear” as a group, there is a greater possibility that it is the Lord speaking, not just our own thoughts, agendas, or other voices. Even the enemy can bring thoughts into our minds to draw us away from the Lord.
Therefore, discernment is needed. Four tests can help discern if it is indeed the Lord speaking: 1. Does what we hear seem to glorify the Lord? 2. Does it appear true to the character of God as revealed in the Bible? 3. Is there confirmation from others who are spiritually discerning? 4. Does what is promised actually happen?
This is a learning process. When we ask the Lord to reveal His will and heart, sometimes I “get” nothing. But the fact that others are present gives me assurance that even if I draw a blank, others will receive guidance! And then when we pray as He guides, we have greater assurance that our Heavenly Father hears us and answers. Many times I discovered that my agenda was too small. He wanted to do something even greater!
Here is an example. My translator and I were on a preaching/teaching mission at a large church in another country. One evening, a pastoral staff member and his wife invited us to their home for dinner. Their two lovely children met us at the door and then skipped off to play while we adults ate dinner.
Following the meal, I asked through my translator if there was anything we could pray for them before we left. The husband asked us to please pray for their son who had an apparently incurable illness, according to the doctor. They had seen some signs of healing as a result of prayer. But since I had no idea how to pray for this critical situation, I asked if we could spend a few minutes in silence, asking the Lord how He wanted us to pray. When we shared what we heard, the father immediately replied, “The Lord said we were not to pray for my son first but rather for me.” During the silence, the Lord reminded him of a curse placed on him before and after his birth. He almost died twice as a result. He still felt a sense of spiritual oppression, even after he had committed his life to Christ as a teenager.
We all felt that this was clearly the Lord revealing how to pray. So we “cashed the check” with Jesus’ authority, breaking this curse, and sending it with its demonic stronghold to Jesus to deal with. Then we prayed for the Lord’s blessing and protection over him and his family, including continued healing for their son.
Several days later, we all met at another gathering. I could immediately see how peaceful and free the father looked. His wife said she had a new husband. And their son was doing so much better. How important that we had taken time to listen to the Lord. Otherwise we have missed the miracle of healing He desired to do in our midst!
When we gather together to pray, are we willing to remember that Jesus is present? We do not need to make “a long distance phone call?” He is in the room with us. We simply need to share our hearts with Him and ask how we should pray. To know His will, which Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2 is a good, acceptable and perfect will, is key in seeing Him answer our requests.
I now realize that Jesus was not promising to write blank checks to cover anything we ask. He does, however, have vast resources of authority and power to share with us. He called us into His “forever family” so that we could participate with Him in restoring the Kingdom of His Heavenly Father here on earth. The important guidelines are that this authority and power must be used according to His and His Father’s will and desires.
Are you interested? And if so, are you willing to take time to listen to the Lord before asking? What are your thoughts?