Monday, July 28, 2014

More On Prayer IV

Related Posts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, and Parts One, Two, and Three

Announcement.  For those who read here and might be in the area, I will be preaching at Lehigh Valley Baptist Church in Emmaus, PA next Sunday, August 3.  I will be out East for the David Warner-Julianna Wilhite wedding on Friday, August 1, then at Calvary Baptist Church in Carrboro, NC, Sunday, September 21 to Friday, September 26 for a conference, and finally at Mid-Coast Baptist Church in Brunswick, Maine, Thursday, October 23 to Sunday, October 26.  I mention this so you will come if you are in the area.   For the latter two, people from other churches and pastors might attend, since they are during the week too, not just the Lord's Day.  If you have any questions, I would think that the folks at these churches could answer them.


We know biblical faith must be preceded by knowledge, but what is the knowledge?  Is it the knowledge that God can answer the prayer or that He will answer the prayer?  The model prayer of Jesus in Luke 11 and Matthew 6 contain requests that God both can and will answer -- none that He merely can answer.

"Will" has various meanings.  For instance, God is not willing that any perish (2 Pet 3:9), but that obviously doesn't mean that no one will perish.  More will perish than will not (Mt 7:13-14).  "Will" has the sense of "wish" in 2 Peter 3:9.   Because we pray for someone to be saved doesn't mean that God "will" save that person.  God is not willing that any should perish.  He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ez 18:32).  And yet they do perish and do die.  We don't know who God will save and who He won't.

So what is it that we know God wills?  We know He wills what He says He wills.  He wills what He says He will do.  For instance, He will conform every believer to His image (Rom 8:29).  We know that.  So when we pray for someone's love to abound more and more (Philip 1:9), which Paul prayed, that fits with Romans 8:29 and what we know God will do.  "Will" is what God will do, which is sovereign will.

Jesus said about prayer in Mark 11:24, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."  I've looked at it in the Greek.  It's a good translation, so nothing there for anyone to rest his hopes that Jesus meant something different than how it reads.  When you are praying, to have what you are asking for, you have to believe that you will receive it.  It seems to me that one person provided an argument against Jesus teaching there, and, that is, the conclusion must be tempered by what Jesus said in vv. 22-23:

22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.

The argument, as I would assume it, since it had not been enunciated, is that since God doesn't move mountains, that is something we can't be sure He'll do; therefore, we can pray for those things we're not sure about, and that must be taken into consideration next to v. 24.  The idea introduced here, it seems, is that we pray for things we're not sure we're going to receive, like we're not sure that mountains will be moved.

The context of Mark 11:24 doesn't change the meaning that I proposed above, the obvious meaning.  "Have faith in God," Jesus says in answer to Peter's comment about the fig tree withering.  Parallel to this Mark passage in Matthew 21, we know that the power on the fig tree from Jesus was a power of judgment, representative of Jesus' judgment on the nation Israel.  Jesus has that kind of power in His judgment.  No one should doubt His power.  He can do this.

The moving of mountains that Jesus talks about is a figure of speech, hyperbole really.  It was in common language of that day, like it continues today -- "mover of mountains."  Whatever it is that you confront as a problem, God has the power to deal with it.  But that's not all there is in this instruction. It is followed by verse 24.

Prayer is not a way to bend God around our will, but it is for us to bend around His.  We've got to believe that we will receive it.  The kingdom coming is a pretty sizable request along the lines of mountains moving, especially in light of what we know will lead into the kingdom, actual mountains moving.   God will do what He says He will do.  The fig tree withered because Jesus has that kind of power.  Israel would be judged because Jesus has that kind of power.  You can count on what He says He will do.  That's the basis of our faith.

The Church of Christ approaches the doctrine of salvation from the perspective of proof texts about baptism (cf. Acts 2:38).  A proper understanding comes from seeing everything the Bible says about prayer, especially the classic, propositional passages and primary examples, and then fitting the proof texts into those.  This is rightly dividing the Word of Truth.  We should assume that the praying of the New Testament will conform to all the teaching in the New Testament on prayer.  The baptismal regenerationists go the opposite direction, conforming the rest of the New Testament to their baptism passages.  We shouldn't reflect their hermeneutic.

Examples of prayer or statements about prayer, we should assume fit all the other teaching on prayer. One of the examples explored through a challenge in the comment section was Romans 1:10:  "Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you."  Some argued here that Paul was uncertain of a prosperous journey, as seen in the conditional aspect of the sentence.  The argument is that since he was uncertain, that means we are permitted to ask things of which we are not sure we will receive in contradiction to Mark 11:24.

Warning:  Very technical paragraph.  I pushed back a little by saying that the condition here, the "if clause," the protasis in a conditional sentence, was a first class condition, since it is the Greek ei (eipos) with the indicative.  Does doubt or certainty reside in the condition?  Those arguing for praying for the uncertain say that this clause is uncertain.  Many various conclusions are made by the most scholarly from the conditions, the protasis, of conditional sentences.  This is one of four samples of eipos in the protasis of a conditional sentence. The one here is followed by a future indicative, the only example of that, and the other three are followed by an aorist subjunctive (Rom 11:14; Philip 3:11) or a present optative (Acts 27:12).   It is difficult to compare Romans 1:10 with those three because they are a different mood.  In his Greek Grammar (p. 1024), A. T. Robertson calls Romans 1:10 a first class condition and Acts 27:12 a fourth class.   There is an ellipsis of the apodosis in Romans 1:10 that some, but not all, assume uncertainty.   Several Greek grammars have said that when the apodosis is merely implied in the context by ellipsis, it can be translated "supposing that," so "supposing that if..."

The Greek form is a first class condition, which would assume the condition to be true for the sake of argument.  Paul is making request to come to the church in Rome with the assumption that he is coming to them.  And we know that Paul does in fact make it.  Did he know that?  I think we should assume it, because he asked it.  How certain is a conditional sentence? This is where people can make hay where they want to make it.  However, one shouldn't overthrow the teaching about prayer that we know by something that is less informative, like this conditional sentence.  Don't make too much about the condition.  This is my point.

Do we have to prove that Paul was 100% certain to "prove" that we pray for what is certain?  I'm not going to base my belief and teaching on prayer on the certainty of the conditional sentence of one verse or even the potential speculations (reaches) of other verses.  Instead we should take the one verse, an example, and conform it to what we read as the teaching on prayer.  This is what I've been contending.  But instead, it seems, that men wish to find a verse of uncertainty to bank on uncertainty in the prayer.  By "will" then, it is only a wish -- they pray in the wish of God.  God wishes people to be saved, so one can then pray for an individual to be saved, even though he is uncertain God will save him.  The argument for this comes from Romans 1:10, even if that contradicts Mark 11:24.  This is faith in what God can do and not in what He will do.  I still propose, however, that we pray for what we know we will receive, what we know God will do.


Later addition, due to some curiosity.  Did Paul know he for sure would make it to Rome as a basis of Romans 1:9-10?  I had read a commentary that said about this request in Romans 1:10, "probably indicates a Divine purpose revealed," and produced Acts 19:21, which says, "After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome."  Concerning "I must see Rome," Joseph A. Alexander (1867) writes in The Acts of the Apostles Explained (p. 202), "Not to gratify a private wish and lawful curiosity, but as a part of the divine plan which he was engaged in executing." Henry Alford writes on p. 783 of his NT commentary:  "Perhaps he speaks under some divine intimation that ultimately he should be brought to Rome."  Charles Ellicott in his New Testament commentary on Acts, concerning this, wrote (p. 318):  "The Greek word, however, implies a reference to something more than human volition.  The spirit which formed the purpose was in communion with the Divine Spirit."  David Thomas in his commentary, The Acts of the Apostles (1889), writes on "I must also see Roman" (p. 333):  "Why must?  It was part of the divine plan he was engaged in executing."  John Gill in his commentary on Acts 19:21 writes:  "[I]t was the will of God that he should go there; and this he spake by a prophetic spirit, and as being under the impulse of the Spirit of God." These men in part take this from the part of the verse that says, "Paul purposed in the spirit."  He was an apostle.

More to Come.


Anonymous said...

Hi Kent,

The Greek form is a first class condition, which would assume the condition to be true for the sake of argument. Paul is making request to come to the church in Rome with the assumption that he is coming to them.

Again, this is most likely not a correct statement, as has been pointed out below.

First, it's not likely that Romans 1:10 even is a first class conditional. The πως interposed between εἴ and ἤδη ποτὲ εὐοδωθήσομαι introduces an element of uncertainty. Two modern Greek scholars who have provided comprehensive lists of all the first class conditionals in the Greek NT, James Boyer and Ruben Vidiera-Soengas, both omit Romans 1:10 from their lists, and Ernest Burton, back in the very late 19th century in his Greek grammar, specifically gives Romans 1:10 as an example of a conditional sentence in which expresses the possibility of the object of hope or desire.

However, even if we concede that Rom. 1:10 is an example of a first class conditional, then you run into the problem that first class conditionals themselves do not always, or even in most cases, imply concrete, absolute knowledge or "reality." Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Goodwin made some strong arguments to show that they don't always do so, and more recently Boyer and Ledgerwood have both pointedly made the case that we simply cannot say that a first class condition implies "reality" or "certainty" in the mind or for sake of argument by the one make the statement. Ledgerwood goes so far as to say,

"Exegetes should be honest in their hermeneutics and should refrain from stating or implying in an exegesis of a passage that the Greek conditional ei p,q [p=protasis, q=apodosis] itself implies that p is true. Nor should an exegete state that ei p,q does not imply doubt like English "if p,q" can and that it would be better translated with "since p,q..."

The notion that a first class conditional always means "reality," which makes its way into most modern grammars, originated with A.T. Robertson, who was expanding on some arguments by Gildersleeve (though Gildersleeve himself didn't go as far as Robertson did). Robertson was wrong. Robertson went too far in his assertion.

Ledgerwood also pointed out something else interesting: he looked at the statements of four ancient Greek grammarians ranging from 200 BC to 600 AD, and observed that all four of them considered the "ei + infinitive" construction to carry with it an element of doubt and uncertainty.

Some may say, "Well who cares? Those guys were pagans." It matters, however, because all four of them were dealing with Koine Greek, and all four of them were not only native speakers, but were scholars who had examined their own language analytically. Frankly, I would tend to take their word for it over A.T. Robertson's.

Anonymous said...

(cont.) Concerning the cites from the commentaries that you provided about Paul's necessity of going to Rome, keep in mind that that all took place on the third missionary trip as he was returning to Jerusalem (ca. 58 AD). However, Paul's epistle to Rome was most likely written in 55-56 AD, since that would have been when Priscilla and Aquila would have arrived in Corinth and informed him of the recent expulsion of the Jews by Claudius Caesar, which occurred in 55 AD. We know that the church in Rome was likely under persecution and attacks - Seutonius notes that Claudius expelled the Jews because of disturbances about "one named Chrestus" - which probably signifies the sort of rioting by the Jews as a result of the preaching of the Gospel by a Christian missionary prior to this. Paul probably wrote this epistle because of his concern for the young church there that may just have had most or all of its pastoral staff expelled from the city, if these pastors were Jewish Christians converted under Paul's ministry earlier.

All this is speculation, of course, but so is all the rest. Regardless, the impulsion your commentators wrote about occurred a couple of years later, and shows no evidence in Scripture during his second missionary journey (during which he wrote to the Romans), nor was it in evidence as he returned to Antioch in Acts 18 or when he left again to visit the churches on the third journey.

The point to all this is that it is becoming more and more apparent to me that there are really two choices: either Romans 1:10 is in contradiction to Mark 11:24, or your interpretation of Mark 11:24 is not correct. Obviously, the first choice is completely unacceptable.

However, one shouldn't overthrow the teaching about prayer that we know by something that is less informative, like this conditional sentence. Don't make too much about the condition. This is my point.

I can't agree with this statement. Words mean things. Every word of God is pure. Every word means something. We can't just ignore the parts that aren't supporting our thesis, calling them "uncertain." God's Word is perspicuous. The ambiguity about Romans 1:10 is not really all that ambiguous. It just doesn't mean what you're saying it means. Nevertheless, God's word means something there. It means that Paul was praying with the strong hope and desire that, if it is the will of God, he would be allowed to visit the church in Rome.

Scripture affords other examples of people praying with a strong hope and desire, without absolutely knowing that something is God's will (perhaps seeking to FIND God's will?) Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:11 prayed for a son, seemingly not knowing for sure that it was God's will to give her one,

"And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head."

Likewise, when Peter was taken for execution, "...prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him." (Acts 12:5) They had just seen James be killed by the sword. How did they know that it was not God's will for Peter to die a martyr's death at that time, too, to be crucified at that time (cf. John 21:18)? They don't seem to have evinced a certain surity that God would release Peter, consider that when it DID happen, they first didn't believe the servant girl who TOLD them it happened, then they assumed it must be his angel, and then when they finally did grasp that it was really him, they were astonished by it.

Anonymous said...

Examples of prayer or statements about prayer, we should assume fit all the other teaching on prayer.

This is exactly the point. This is why I and others have brought up all the other places in Scripture that we have, only to be told, essentially, "Well, you can't bring them up, since Mark 11:24 means what I say it means, and nothing else has any bearing on it." Mark 11:24 says "...believe that ye receive them...," not "know" that ye receive them. It's talking about faith that God will answer the prayer, not a certain knowledge that He will - we walk by faith, not by sight.

I can't speak for anyone else, but the two main areas that I have disagreed with your interpretation - praying for the lost and praying for those who are sick, or perhaps we might better say, who are in affliction - have been brought up because they are exactly the type of thing that bears on what Mark 11:24 and the model prayer are talking about.

The model prayer instructs us to pray "thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." II Peter 3:9 and other passages, as well as the entire tenor of the purpose of Christ's earthly ministry (Luke 19:10) tell us that God's will is not for any to perish. The salvation of the lost is God's will, therefore praying for the salvation of the lost (AS we also go out seeking boldness and being faithful to the command to preach the Gospel) IS PRAYING IN GOD'S WILL. It is seeking for His will to be done on earth. This bears directly on Mark 11:24. In light of that verse, we are to pray for the lost *believing* that God will honour His Word and His own will and will work in their hearts to draw them unto Himself (c.f. John 6:44). Yet, does this mean they absolutely will be saved? No. They still can either resist or accept His will, they can be resisting the Holy Ghost to their own eternal damnation (c.f. Acts 7:51).

And what of in Matthew 5:44, where we are told to pray for them which despitefully use us and persecute us? What are we praying for them for? The whole context is one of imitating God so as to point people to the Father. It's about praying for them to turn to the Lord and be saved.

I see no warrant whatsoever in any of the passages you've brought forward to say that we should not pray for God's will to be done in the salvation of the lost to whom we are witnessing. The model prayer as much tells us to pray for such.

Regarding the sick and afflicted, James 5:13-16 and II Cor. 12:7-10 have been brought up. Whether the latter is dealing with a sickness/physical affliction, or the attacks of persecutors who were harming Paul, is really beside the point to the actual discussion of praying only for that which we know to be a certainty in God's will. Paul prayed three times, and God told Him to stop, essentially telling him it was not His will to relieve Paul from this affliction. Paul was praying for something that should be OBVIOUS He did not know was God's will. That should be an obvious takeaway from that passage. Again, God's Word is perspicuous. It says right there - he prayed thrice for the affliction to be removed. God told Him no. God gave Him grace to abide IN the affliction, instead. I honestly don't see how it gets any simpler than that. I think you're trying to over-engineer all of this, Kent.

Anonymous said...

(cont.) As for James 5, again, it plaintly says that those in affliction are to pray. It says if they are sick (asthenei) to call the elders to pray over him and anoint him with oil. All over the NT, "astheneo" is used to describe those who are sick (Lazarus, Trophimus, people brought to Jesus, etc.) The word means what it means, Kent. And the Scripture tells us to pray for them. Per Mark 11:24, we pray in faith, believing that God will heal them if it is His will to do so. This, as well, is in line with the tenor of Scripture. Psalm 103:3-5 includes "healeth all thy diseases" along with the other "benefits" the Lord bestows such as salvation, preservation, the bestowal of lovingkindness and tender mercies, and the provision for earthly needs. All of these are bestowed within His particular will, yes, but they are mentioned here.

And of course, we see the multitudes who came to Jesus for physical healing. Often He granted this. Surely the example of the Lord has at least some bearing on this discussion, even if we don't say that this period is absolutely normative of today's age.

Prayer is not a way to bend God around our will, but it is for us to bend around His.

I absolutely agree with this statement. 100%. All over the scriptures we see God using afflictions of various types to drive His people to seek Him. That is God using His will to drive us to seek His will. A prayer for the sick ought to be a prayer for seeking God's will for that person.

I think part of what may be driving some of your responses is a reaction to the charismatic tendency to misuse prayer as a vending machine. I cannot speak for others, again, but for myself, I am not disagreeing with you on this so as to support any approach to prayer like that. I completely agree with you that we should pray in God's will. I also believe that if we are walking closely and faithfully with Him, He will direct our prayer so that we have an understanding of His mind (Rom. 8:26) and the "desires of our heart" will be in line with what we see of His will from Scripture (Psalm 37:4).

But to say that someone has to have an absolute knowledge of each and every specific instance of God's will in each and every circumstance (which *seems* to be what you're saying) I think goes outside of what the passages you're appealing to actually say. In every type of circumstance, we are to pray (Phil. 4:6), and much of that prayer must necessarily include seeking out God's will so as to know then what to pray for. So yes, I agree with you. I just don;t agree that the examples we've been discussing - prayer for the sick and prayer for the lost - fall into the realm of "wishing on a star" type prayers as you seem to have included them.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Titus, To your first comment.

This conversation is about prayer, not the first class condition. Romans 1:10 shouldn't buttress to a view on prayer in contradiction to the rest of the NT. Have you taken Greek? A lot of what you write has me think you haven't. I'm teaching second year right now. Someone might think that you know what you're talking about, but there is a lot tell-tale from what you write that has my thinking you don't know what you're talking about. Yes, the nature of the internet means you can quote some things that make you sound like you know more than you know, but some of what you've said reveals this not to be true. I say this, not because I think this is what is most important to this discussion, but it is interesting that you are willing to go at it like this without having gone through the time and labor and discipline of learning the language.

You say that what I've written is "most likely" not a true statement, giving you some type of deniability, which makes me not want to deal with what you've written, because you could then just say, "I said 'most likely'." Ugh.

I don't think someone who hasn't taken Greek should be taking A. T. Robertson to task, and even in light of quoting other guys and what they say. Have you read A. T. Robertson's mammoth grammar? Before you read that, your really should take at least first and second year Greek, because it's not going to mean much to you. And you shouldn't make such conclusions without reading him. Sure, you could read what someone else said about him, but then you're then just believing them about him, and what makes what they say to be true?

Just because Boyer doesn't have Romans 1:10 in his list, doesn't mean that it isn't first class conditional. Is that really how one decides these things, by their lack of absence? Robertson in his Word Pictures says it is first class, and that isn't a determination of what the first class means. It's ei with the indicative in the protasis. That's first class conditional.

Your quotes actually have me think you don't get what you are talking about. You don't even deal with assumed to be true for the sake of argument. Assumed to be true for sake of argument doesn't necessitate that the condition itself is true, but it is true for sake of argument. Paul is making a request to come assuming the truth of his coming.

Assumed to be true for sake of argument is not just Robertson. It's also Daniel Wallace and many, many others. Many. If you consider what Wallace writes here -- -- you would see that. Look in the footnotes how that Wallace takes Boyer to task. Wallace knows far more about the literature of this than you do, and he blows Boyer away in those footnotes.

No one says that the first class condition "always means reality." These are the kind of statements that I'm finished answering, the kind of argumentation I'm done with, because it requires correcting again and again, and I don't have time for it. I said that it was the condition of reality with an explanation of assumption of truth. That's very simplistic, like a lot of grammars do in their initial differentiation between the conditions. I also don't think you have a clue of what Robertson is talking about.

So let's say that you take people's word that you can find that you say are differing from Robertson -- you're still quibbling over the one verse, building up an entire doctrine on a few outlier texts on prayer. Paul was communicating his desire to go to Rome. It's not a thesis on prayer. You do poorly to try to argue like you are from it.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I don't get why you want to dig your teeth into this with me, except related to being disciplined out of your former church. I would be horrified to be in your situation. Repent. This is the most back and forth like this we have ever gotten and this only variable is your church discipline. Little comment, always agreement, period of silence, sudden big time argument against. Variable: Disciplined out of one of God's churches. I don't tend to believe one person above an entire church I know well. I tend to believe that church. I have good reason to do that. And I don't bring this up because your writing here has swayed me. It reinforces what I've written. A few statements by you have been head waggers, that you would come back for more. As well, I don't remember your ever saying your real name on this blog until this exchange. Tell-tale to me. And I don't mind "Kent," but I became "Kent" to you only after this event also, as if, to you, I'm diminished in some way.

I guess you're saying that what happened in Acts 19:21 wasn't the right timing to fit with Romans 1:10. The Acts 19 would need to be before Romans 1 was written, and then he would have to go to Rome after writing Romans 1:10. That all works, so I don't get your point.

It's not as simple as Rom 1:10 contradicting Mark 11:24. It is also that you are vying for what is not the praying we see in the NT. And then yes, clincher, it clashes with Mark 11:24, which agrees with 1 John 5:14-15.

If your point is not to make too much about the condition, then we are making the same point, but we're not.

One shouldn't overthrow the teaching about prayer that we know by something that is less informative, like this conditional sentence. This is my point. We are praying for what we know, which is a basis for faith. We can know what God said He would do. You are arguing for something different, based upon the conditional sentence. I answered the Hannah passage and all the other unique, miraculous, barren women passages. Hannah isn't normative for reasons already argued. She would have a biblical basis for praying that prayer, according to the texts I've provided. I noticed with Peter that you had the "taken for execution" outside of the quotes. That bit of info isn't in the passage, so it doesn't work in the argument. A good lawyer would object, "Speculation."


The proper hermeneutic fits all the passages together, not adds them all up to get the doctrine. It's division, not addition. Rightly dividing, not rightly adding. You don't see all the teaching on prayer in the NT. From the many, one, not from the many, many.

I've not said I don't pray for the lost or the sick or that we shouldn't. It's what we pray about them. I'm very specific here, not going to repeat that.

I recognize that you are saying that praying for the will of God is praying for the wish of God. The will of God is something we know, not something we guess. That's why you don't have one prayer in the NT for an individual to be saved.

The rest of it I dealt with already. You're not saying anything new or clinching that adds. I get that you want to do what you want to do, but those passages don't tell you to do it. You're reading into them something that is not there, including your addition of Matthew 5:44, which doesn't say what you assume.

Kent Brandenburg said...



I've dealt with James 5. You don't add anything but conclude something you can't about the meaning of the words. This is where faux Greek knowledge comes in. It means more than one thing, and the determination of its meaning comes from the context, which is why I spent so much time on context.

I believe God heals diseases out of providence.

The Lord healed every one who came to Him. There was a point to His healing -- it was a sign.

You are correct that prayer is misused by the Charismatics, but further misused by non-charismatics.

Direction in prayer is wisdom. We will get that, i.e., the right application of scripture to prayer. And that is what I've been talking about with much more to be said about praying in His will.

Philippians 4:6 says "in" not "for."