The Prayers of the Righteous

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that ye bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” —John 15:7,8, RSV

PRAYER is one of the prominent subjects of the Bible. The people of God throughout Bible times were people of prayer, and they depended upon prayer as one of the means by which they kept in contact with God, and received the blessing of his guidance and help. And the Bible reveals that God answers the prayers of his people when their prayers are in harmony with his will and plan. This was true in olden times, and it is just as true today.

There are two main types of prayer, one being prayers of praise and thanksgiving. A humble servant of God should, and will, always be thankful to God for the many blessings which are daily bestowed upon him. He will be thankful for the measure of knowledge that has been given to him by the Lord by which he understands, at least in a limited manner, some of the main features of his great plan of salvation. As the servant of the Lord takes these blessings into consideration the spirit of gratitude will well up in his heart, and he will turn to God in the spirit of thanksgiving. He will realize how true are the words, “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.”—Ps. 136:1

And then there are those prayers which are petitions to God for blessings which we desire. A prayer might well express our thanks to the Lord, and also ask for blessings. Indeed, in most cases this is true. In a single approach to the throne of God we both thank him for his blessings and seek a continued outpouring of these. Among the blessings most frequently sought is divine forgiveness for our short-comings.

Prayers Which God Answers

God does not favorably answer all the prayers of his people, but only those which are in harmony with his will and plan. James commented on this, saying, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts [margin, pleasures].” (James 4:3) How simply James states it! If our prayers are of a selfish nature they are out of harmony with the will of God, and we will “receive not.”

This is rather an exacting test, for so often we find ourselves petitioning the Lord for blessings which could be of benefit to no one except ourselves, and along lines which are not related to the will of God and the outworking of his plan. True, we might well pray for health to enable us to accomplish more in the service of God, but perhaps the Lord is testing our faith and patience along this line, so it is best to offer such petitions with the proviso that his will be done.

While it is proper to make every item of life a matter of prayer, the chief burden of all our prayers should be the spiritual prosperity of God’s people, and grace that we may be able to do more—if it be God’s will—to build them up in the most holy faith. Paul wrote to the brethren at Rome, saying, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the Gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”—Rom. 1:8-12

Fully Answered

In this outline of prayer which he offered in connection with his great desire to visit the brethren in Rome Paul indicates that he was motivated by the desire to fellowship with them in the Gospel and to further establish them in the faith. There was nothing selfish in this, and he felt sure that the will of the Lord would be done in the matter.

Included in this petition he also asked that he might “have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.” Notice that in connection with this point in his request he added the proviso concerning the will of God. It was the will of God that Paul go to Rome. This assurance was given to him following his apprehension in Jerusalem and while in the protective custody of the Roman army. That night the Lord appeared to Paul in a vision and assured him that it was his will for him to go to Rome.

But it could hardly be said that he enjoyed a prosperous journey, as stated in the Common Version. The RSV gives the thought of succeeding in getting to Rome. It was a journey attended by many hardships. On his way to Rome, after being taken out of Jerusalem, and kept in various prisons for a considerable time that he appealed his case to Rome and was put on a ship, still under guard, and accompanied by other prisoners. The ship was wrecked, and he was obliged to remain through the winter on the island of Melita from which, in the spring, he was taken aboard another ship which took him to Italy.

With the stopovers, this part of the journey took several months. When they finally were nearing Rome, Paul and those who accompanied him discovered that brethren had come out from the city to meet them, “whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.” (Acts, chapter 27 through 28:15) Yes, God answered Paul’s prayer and overruled in his experiences to get him there, but he did not give him a prosperous journey, as indicated by the Common Version, but an extremely difficult one. It was, of course, doubtless prosperous to Paul spiritually, but according to the flesh, a weary journey, and we can well understand what the historian, Luke, meant when he said that upon seeing the brethren who had come out from Rome to meet him, Paul took courage. His courage at that point might well have been at a low ebb.

For the Corinthian Brethren

Another indication of a proper prayer, one which the Lord would be pleased to answer, is also given to us by Paul in his letter to the brethren at Corinth. He wrote, “I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Jesus Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—I Cor. 1:4-8

In this explanation by Paul of the nature of his prayers on behalf of the brethren at Corinth we note again the element of thanksgiving, and also that he was petitioning the Father that they might be enriched spiritually. He was not praying for their material prosperity, but that they might be enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge. As this was the nature of Paul’s prayer on behalf of the brethren, it should also be ours, not only for our brethren, but for ourselves as followers of the Master.


In Paul’s letter to the Colossian brethren he also mentions his prayers for them, and indicates the nature of his petitions. He says that he had given thanks to God on their behalf, “since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel.”—Col. 1:3-5

Paul had learned through Epaphras concerning the love of the Colossian brethren “in the Spirit,” and writes, “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”—Col. 1:9-12

Here again we find that Paul’s great desire for the brethren was their spiritual prosperity, and it was for this that he prayed. He wanted them to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will; he wanted them to be fruitful in every good work; he wanted them to exhibit patience and longsuffering with joyfulness. Prayers of this sort, on our own behalf, and on behalf of the brethren, are sure to be answered for those whose hearts are perfect toward the Lord.

Increase of Love

Paul also prayed for the brethren at Philippi. Concerning this he wrote: “This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, … unto the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:9-11) Note here again the emphasis on spiritual growth, especially in love, a knowledgeable love which, while merciful and benevolent would be able to discern that which was excellent, and by implication those things which are not excellent; a love which would not cover up evil which could and should be corrected.


It will be noted that Paul, in his prayers, both for the Philippian brethren and for those at Colosse, mentions the importance of their being fruitful—the fruits of righteousness. This seems to be the point stressed in our text, that well-known text in which Jesus said that those who abide in him, and in whom his Word abides, may ask what they will and it shall be done unto them. This statement by Jesus is a part of the Parable of the Vine and the Branches. The thrust of this parable is the necessity of bearing fruit. This is accomplished only by the branch abiding in the vine, the vine being Jesus.

Note the emphasis on this point: “Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye except ye abide in me.” (vs. 4) “I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (vs. 5) “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch.”—vs. 6

Then follows the text in question, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”—vss. 7,8

The implication seems to be that those who abide in Christ, the Vine, will have the bearing of much fruit as their chief object in life, and that anything they ask along this line will be favorably answered by the “Husbandman.”

These know that their Heavenly Father, the Husbandman, is glorified by the fruitbearing of the branches, for he is the Vinedresser. Their great desire is that they might glorify their Father. Indeed, this is the true motive prompting every sincere prayer of those who dwell in Christ as a branch in the Vine, and whose lives are guided by his words. Prayer is not designed to promote our own honor, but the Lord’s glory.

Heavenly Wisdom

James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.”—James 1:2-7

James’ exhortation to endure patiently the trials which come to us as Christians reminds us of the Parable of the Vine and Branches, in which the branches which bear fruit are purged, or pruned, that they may bring forth more fruit. This purging suggests experiences which are not pleasant to the flesh—tests of patience and endurance; and to endure these necessary experiences it is proper that we go to the throne of grace to obtain strength.

And not only strength, but wisdom to meet our trials in the proper manner and learn truly important lessons from them. If we lack wisdom we are to ask God for it, with the assurance that he will give it to us liberally, and will not be displeased with such requests. But we are to ask in faith, not in a wavering sort of way as if we wondered whether or not God would actually answer our prayers.

The wisdom for which we properly ask in prayer is not the wisdom which the world seeks, but the wisdom which is from above—heavenly wisdom. Concerning it, James wrote, “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” (James 3:17,18) From this it is clear that when we ask God for wisdom we are asking for those blessings which will build us up in the graces of the Spirit. Thus again it is emphasized that true Christian prayers are not for the material blessings of life, which we have laid on the altar of sacrifice, but for the necessary experiences which will contribute to our spiritual growth as new creatures in Christ Jesus.

Continuing in Prayer

Luke 18:1 states that Jesus “spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” This refers to the Parable of the Importunate Widow. Jesus’ explanation as to the lesson of the parable is important to us in our life of prayer. As those who have denied ourselves and taken up our cross to follow Jesus there will be much hardship and experiences which might well tend to discouragement and cause us to become weary in well-doing.

But when we find ourselves in the midst of trials, with the storms of life raging violently around us, instead of fainting, or lamenting our lot, we should pray—not for the safety or prosperity of the flesh, but for strength to bear up under the trials. This may well require persistence in prayer. It is not a case of praying once or twice in a given circumstance, but daily, and even hourly, if need be. If we are thus instant in prayer we are sure to realize the Lord’s everlasting arms around us to hold us up and to bring us off victorious at the end of the way.

Jesus’ Prayer

Near the close of his ministry Jesus offered a prayer on behalf of his disciples, which indicates further those things for which we may properly approach the throne of heavenly grace. In his prayer Jesus said, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou has given me, that they be one, as we are.” “I have given them thy Word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”—John 17:9-11,14,15

Here the Master requests that his disciples may be made one with him and with the Father; which, of course implies that they will be at one with each other. From this it is clear that a prayer for the oneness of the brethren is a proper prayer. We know also that a prayer like this will receive a favorable answer, if not this side, then on the other side of the veil, and that that answer will be experienced by all those who have kept in their hearts the desire to be at one with the Lord’s people even now.

“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world,” Jesus continued, “but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” (vs. 15) The Lord’s people need the tests and trials which come upon them in their daily affairs of life in the world. They are in the world, but not of it, and it is a real test of their zeal for God and for righteousness to keep themselves separate from the evil with which the world is filled. But in this as with all the spiritual needs of the Christian, prayer is a great source of strength and encouragement.

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth,” Jesus prayed. We also have received the same “Word” of truth, and we are to allow its sanctifying power to work in our lives. “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Later in his prayer, Jesus said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”—vss. 20,21

Jesus said in his prayer, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” (vs. 18) Participating in the ministry of the Gospel which Jesus proclaimed is a very definite part of our sanctification. And how encouraging it is to be assured by Jesus that the oneness which is brought about by the sanctifying power of the truth in our lives will eventually convince the world that Jesus truly was sent of God to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world. That will be when all the saints are actually at one with Jesus beyond the veil and sharing with him that kingdom reign which will cause the knowledge of the Lord to fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.

Our Lord’s Prayer

Jesus’ model prayer embodies the things for which it is proper for a Christian to pray. The opening salutation, “Our Father which art in heaven hallowed be thy name,” emphasizes the fact we have already noted; namely, that the principle motive prompting all our prayers is the desire that the Lord’s name might be glorified.

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” This is an unselfish prayer, and shows our interest in the blessing of all mankind, even as our Heavenly Father has promised.

“Give us this day our daily bread.” We might think of this as a request that our Heavenly Father supply all our needs—principally along spiritual lines; but the Lord will take care of our material needs also, according to his own wisdom, not necessarily according to what we think we need.

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” The Lord has promised to forgive us through Christ, so in this as in the other items of the prayer we are merely requesting what our Heavenly Father has promised to give, hence we can be sure of a favorable answer.

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matt. 6:9-13) This in no way implies that God has any intention of leading us into temptation. In fact, James tells us that God tempteth no man, so this portion of the prayer is, in reality, merely the claiming of another of our Heavenly Father’s assurances. “But deliver us from evil.” Not only will God not lead us into temptation, but he will deliver us from evil—evil that would harm us as new creatures now, and complete deliverance in the first resurrection.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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