Praying with Conviction
In talking about praying with conviction, it is best to start with a definition of terms:
Let’s discuss definitions of the word “pray”… here are several from the American Heritage Dictionary:
1) To utter or address a petition to God or another deity.
2) To make a fervent request; plead.
3) To say a prayer or prayers to.
4) To implore; beseech.
5) To make a devout or earnest request for.
6) To move or bring by prayer or entreaty.
Now let’s look at definitions of the italicized words in the definitions we have:
-to direct a spoken message to the attention of; to mark with a destination.
-a solemn supplication or request to a superior authority.
-having or showing great emotion.
-to ask for; express a desire for.
-to ask a person to do something.
-to appeal earnestly; beg.
-to argue or offer persuasive reasons for or against something.
-to put forward a plea of a specific nature.
-to appeal to in supplication.
-to plead or beg for urgently.
-to address an earnest or urgent request to; implore.
-to request earnestly; beg for.
–deeply religious; pious.
-displaying reverence or piety.
-marked by or showing deep sincerity or seriousness.
-an earnest request or petition; plea.
-to ask for humbly or earnestly.
-to make a humble entreaty to; beseech.
-to make a humble and earnest petition; beg.
-to kneel down.
What descriptive words do we have from the above definitions?
address, appeal, argue, ask, attention, authority, beg, beseech, deeply, desire destination, devout, direct, earnest/earnestly, emotion, entreaty, fervent, grave, humble, implore, important, kneel, message, persuasive, petition, piety, pious, plea, plead, religious, request, reverence, seriousness, sincere, solemn, specific, superior, supplication, urgent, weighty.
Which words occur most often in the definitions?
earnest/earnestly: 8 times.
request: 6 times.
beg: 4 times.
plea/plead: 4 times.
appeal: 2 times.
beseech: 2 times.
What is an appropriate definition of God?
According to the American Heritage Dictionary:
-A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions.
-The Being to Whom is ascribed complete perfection and worth.
Note that I use “complete” to denote that definition of perfection and worth that we as limited human beings cannot possibly understand… that definition is a standard that is beyond human comprehension. There is the concept of conviction that we need to tie in with the definition of pray… what is conviction? Here is a definition from the American Heritage Dictionary:
1) A fixed or strong belief.
Now let’s look at the definitions of the italicized words in the definitions we have:
-firmly in position; stationary.
-not subject to change or variation; constant.
-having force of character, will, morality or intelligence.
-persuasive, effective and cogent.
-having force of conviction or feeling.
-intense in degree or quality.
-having an intense effect on the senses.
-confidence in a person or thing.
-acceptance of a truth.
So, in light of the above… what is the essential nature of prayer?
“A confident, earnest request.”
“A confident, earnest request addressed with pious, solemn reverence to God.”
Extending this once more…
“A confident, earnest request addressed with pious, solemn reverence to God, offered in belief, having a presence of character, will, morality and intelligence.”
What does this definition mean?
1) We are serious about prayer.
-(“confident, earnest request”, “pious, solemn reverence”)
2) Prayer has a destination in which we have an unwavering belief.
3) Prayer is a special form of communication that reflects and proves that we have been created in the image of God.
-(“presence of character, will, morality and intelligence”)
-these traits, and many more, are ascribed to God.
Even as we pray with conviction for our intentions to a God Whom we understand is always ready to hear us, we are also always aware that it is not we as petitioners who control what occurs, but God alone. Phrased in another way, perhaps over-simplified, sometimes His answer is “no”, which we sometimes have difficulty in accepting because we cannot know the reasons why He has determined that a certain outcome must occur. Therefore, there is the more subtle concept of surrender to God in prayer… as mentioned in 1 Peter 5:7… “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”, and as mentioned in Psalm 139:23-24 by David… “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
There is no better example of praying with conviction than the prayer given during the Sermon on the Mount, the greatest economy of words ever uttered, by Jesus Christ, the Son of God:
This, then, is how you should pray: ” ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ (Matthew 6:9-13)
Praying with conviction is also demonstrated in another of the great prayers from Holy Scripture: Daniel’s confession on behalf of his people:
“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame – the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.
“Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (Daniel 9:4-19)