|PURPOSE-DRIVEN PRAYER VS. PROBLEM-CENTERED PRAYING
Eddie & Alice Smith
I AM REVEALED
Jan 22 2012
I am convinced that the most outstanding enemy in prayer is the lack of knowledge of what we are in Christ, and what
He is in us, and what He did for us, and of our standing and legal rights before the throne.
E. W. Kenyon
Many years ago, a man with a hammer and chisel was working on the site of a new building. "Just what are you making
out of that stone?" a visitor asked him.
"I don't know," the workman replied. "I haven't seen the plans; I am just chiseling."
There are millions of people who are "just chiseling" their way through life. They haven't seen the plans, but they feel
compelled to keep busy, so they are chiseling. The same could be said for many intercessors (praying Christians).
They keep chiseling away, praying and hoping that something somewhere will change.
More important than prayer, as the title of George Otis' book indicates, is Informed Intercession. Informed intercession
is praying in concert with the plans and purposes of God. Have you seen the plans? Or have you just been "chiseling"?
In Psalm 103:7 we read, "He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel." The Israelites learned
God's deeds - what God did. But they never learned God's ways. The deeds of God reveal what God does, but the
ways of God reveal how and why He does it.
This explains the difference between the way the children of Israel prayed and the way Moses prayed. To Moses, his
relationship with God was to be cherished and nurtured. To the Israelites, God was little more than a "problem solver."
They seemed never to see beyond their problem. They knew about God, but Moses knew God! Moses "chiseled" as
one who had seen the plans! Seeing the plans - knowing God's purposes - will make a huge difference in our
effectiveness as people of prayer.
GOD'S DEEDS - WHAT GOD DOES
Understand what God does is the basis for the simplest prayer many of us learned to pray as small children. We heard
our parents or other adults pray at meals, at church, or at bedtime. We too began to ask God for things. The first
bedtime prayer some of us learned was, "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die
before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." Your first mealtime prayer may have been, "God is great; God is good.
Let us thank Him for our food."
Some of us learned to pray in school, especially before our final exams. We really learned to pray when things went
wrong, because most of our praying was problem-centered. It had to do with finding solutions to our felt needs - and
little more. We call this type of prayer "just chiseling." It is the most elementary form of prayer. Unfortunately, many of
us never grow beyond this point. We must learn not only the what of prayer, but also the whys of prayer if we are going
to become effective intercessory attorneys. We must study the plans.
GOD'S WAYS - HOW GOD DOES WHAT HE DOES
First, it is important that we know how God solves our problems. Here is a brief list of how God solved problems in
Interesting solutions to people's problems, aren't they? Common to all of them is that they are creative, unique
solutions. It is not surprising, then, that the first five words in Genesis present God as Creator. Genesis 1:1 says, "In
the beginning God created..." The Hebrew word for created is 'bara'. It means "to create something out of nothing."
Judge Jehovah isn't into duplication. He is a creator. Creativity is central to how God sees and solves our problems.
When there are tasks to be done and problems to be solved, creators, like writers, designers, and artists - the dreamers
and visionaries - conceptualize the unseen solutions. They usually work instinctively, don't particularly like structure,
and are often frustrated by directions. Creators become pregnant with an idea until the concept becomes a reality.
During this process, they impart a bit of themselves in the product. Well, our God is the consummate Creator.
People who only know what God does (His deeds) will tend to pray to God's productive side, rather than appeal to
God's creative side. They pray with "problem solving" in mind, often overlooking God's larger purpose. Rather than
make their plea and submit the solution to Creator God and His plans, they want to instruct Him in their praying. Such
requests frustrate a creator!
For us to be effective advocates, those who win decisions in heaven's court of law, we must learn not only what God
does, but also how He does it. And how does God do what He does? Most of God's intervention in history has been as
So, when we pray, we should resist the urge to explain things to our omniscient God who knows all things. Let's also
fight the urge to give Him directions on exactly how we want Him to solve our problem. Learn to see the big picture!
WHY GOD DOES WHAT HE DOES - HIS PURPOSES
How does God work? He works creatively. Why does He work? He works according to His purposes. God's decisions
are always creative and always based on His purposes.
Alice's dad would close every prayer with the words, "In Jesus' name and for His sake, I pray, amen." We don't hear
"and for His sake" much anymore. What does this actually mean? It means that I am submitting my request to God's
purposes. For God has said, "For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this" (Isaiah 48:11).
Why is always the more important question to ask, My father taught me, "Eddie, the man who knows how will always
work for the man who know why." The Israelites knew what God did, but they did not know why He did it.
To effectively plead our cases in prayer in heaven's court, God's purposes - not just our problems - should be central to
our praying. Although our problems are forever changing, God's purposes remain the same. He will ultimately act
according to His purposes. We must learn His purposes to reach the highest level of prayer.
God's answer to your problem today will be creative, and it will be couched in His eternal purposes. The purposes of
God are like gold to be mined from the promises of God.
There are two overriding purposes of God:
GOD'S PURPOSE REVEALED
Rest assured that anything God does for you in answer to your prayer will be done in accordance with these two
primary goals. Nowhere is this principle seen more clearly than in Exodus 14.
The children of Israel had begun their exodus after four hundred years of servitude to the Egyptians. Pharaoh and his
troops are hot on their heels when God tells the Israelites to camp near the sea.
the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon." (Exodus 14:1-2)
God responded to their questions by saying:
will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them." (Exodus 14:3-4)
Imagine yourself under those circumstances. How would you have felt if you heard God say that to you? Some of us
would have thought that the devil - not God - was talking to us.
Others would have begun seriously praying one of the following prayers:
It is so easy for us to pray "out of our past" instead of praying according to God's purposes. It is easy to expect God to
repeat Himself by what He does. Often when we feel trapped we will offer Him instructions.
But Moses and God shared an intimacy in prayer that the other Israelites didn't share. Moses, who wrote the Book of
Exodus, reveals to us how he and God operated in prayer. Moses actually saw beyond his problems. He looked
beyond God's deeds and saw God's ways, His purposes. God actually revealed His purpose to Moses in this situation!
Moses was praying from a kingdom perspective, not a problem perspective.
And what was God's purpose?
problem? Sure, God knew their predicament. But never far from His thoughts is His own glory! He was going to answer
them according to His purpose.
He said, "I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army." Remember, Pharaoh had earlier determined that
he was not going to glorify God. In Exodus 5:2 we hear Pharaoh say, "Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let
Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go." Exodus 8:15 says, "But when Pharaoh saw that there
was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said." There had
been a time when Pharaoh had hardened his own heart; now God was hardening Pharaoh's heart. Never forget: God
gets what He wants!
changed their minds about them and said, "What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost
their services!" So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. He took six hundred of the best
chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. The LORD hardened the heart
of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. The Egyptians - all
Pharaoh's horses and chariots, horsemen and troops - pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped
by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.
terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you
brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in
Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than
to die in the desert!"
The Israelites had only considered their immediate and serious problem. Not once had they considered God's
purpose. For us to move from problem-centered praying to purpose driven praying will require faith to look beyond our
problems and see God's purposes. Faith removes mountains (Matthew 17:20). Faith sees beyond the horizon. We
have to do more than chisel. We are going to have to see the plans!
things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.
Hebrews 11:1, 7
Paul wrote, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is
unseen is eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18). When we embrace God's plan with our spiritual eyes of faith, we will be more
committed to God's glory than to our success.
Look at Moses' statement of faith:
you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to
Moses saw something unseen. He gave the children of Israel six commands:
2. Stand firm (verse 13).
3. See the Lord's deliverance today (verse 13).
Then God responded to Moses' obedient leadership by instructing him, "Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over
the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground" (verse 16).
Now that's a novel solution! No one ever did that before! God continued His instruction to Moses:
and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain
glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.
pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.
Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near
the other all night long.
the Egyptians were, and light on the other where God was leading the Israelites. We too will experience this kind of
glory if we will wait on His lead.
Moses became an active participant in God's creative solution for the children of Israel:
east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry
ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea.
During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army
and threw it into confusion.
God "made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving" (verse 25).
Difficulty driving? No kidding! It's hard enough to drive a wheeled chariot in the sand, much less an unwheeled
chariot! A chariot without wheels is a sled!
a dollar short!"
Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen." Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the
sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The
water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen - the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the
Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.
That was certainly a "red flag day" at the beach! That was a record-breaking undertow! Just as God had promised in
verse 13, the enemy completely disappeared that day. Those who weren't swept to the bottom of the sea lay dead on
day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the
shore. And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people
feared the LORD put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
result of their focus on their great God, they sing the first new song recorded in God's Word. You can read it in Exodus
Everything that exists, including you and what you own, exists for God's purpose. "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive
glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure [purpose] they are and were created"
(Revelation 4:11, KJV).
Yes, even when solving our problems, the Father always acts according to His eternal purpose. Thousands of years
later, Paul would remind us, "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: 'I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might
display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth'" (Romans 9:17). Still today, Jews tell
the story of Pharaoh's defeat.
Even in spiritual warfare, God has His purposes. "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly
places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed
in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:10-11, KJV). Simply put, God just loves to show off!
How does this relate to our pleading cases in prayer in heaven's court? When we appeal in prayer to our Creator, we
should expect that:
In John 9 we read of a man who was born blind. No doubt he had prayed many times for his healing. But when Jesus'
disciples asked whose sins were responsible for his blindness, or why he was born blind, Jesus answered, "Neither this
man nor his parents sinned...but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life" (John 9:3). God
had a purpose for allowing that man to be blind in his mother's womb. To pray effectively for such a man would have
required taking God's purpose to heart.
As we mentioned briefly in an earlier chapter, in II Corinthians 12 we discover that the apostle Paul had a problem. He
called it a thorn in his flesh (verse 7). Three times Paul asked God to remove this "messenger of Satan." But God's
answer was no. Why did God say no? Why would God heal the blind man and not heal Paul? Strange to our limited
reasoning, but it was for the same reason - for God's glory!
In Paul's case, he knew why God didn't heal him. He knew God's purpose had to do with a revelation God had given
him, a revelation so supreme that it provoked pride in Paul's heart. Jesus had said, "He that speaketh of himself
seeketh his own glory" (John 7:18, KJV). Isaiah had written, "I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to
another" (Isaiah 42:8). God told Moses, "But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD"
(Numbers 14:21, KJV). If the whole earth is full of the glory of God, there is no place left for the glory of Paul, or for
yours or ours for that matter.
So Paul explained, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was
given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me" (II Corinthians 12:7). We will never fully understand
this, but God wouldn't have received as much glory in healing Paul as He did by presenting him to us as a "wounded
warrior," totally dependent upon God, yet with sufficient grace to glorify Christ in the midst of hardship! So Paul said,
"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" (verse 9). A
man who arrives at a place where he can boast in his infirmity is a man committed to the purposes of God.
The Father is concerned about us. He is interested in both healing our bodies and solving our problems, but not at the
expense of His purposes. God is even more interested in demonstrating His power, glorifying His name, and extending
His kingdom in the earth.
DOING WHAT THE FATHER IS DOING
Problem-based praying identifies problems and forms appropriate requests. Purpose-based praying forms requests
appropriate to God's purposes.
Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing,
because whatever the Father does the Son also does" (John 5:19). We should spend more time identifying and
blessing what God is doing.
Consider your prayer life. When you pray for someone or something, do you begin with what you see God doing or with
what you wish He were doing? We suggest that you:
Take city reaching for example. If you see a church in your city that is experiencing revival, what do you do? Is your
primary prayer for God to touch the other churches? Or do you do what you see the Father doing? Do you partner
with God in what He's doing by praying for the church He is touching? What would you pray?
Rather than continually asking God to do what He is not doing, bless what He is doing!
What is your problem today? Has it occurred to you to discover His purposes in your problem and to begin praying
according to His purposes? Don't just "chisel." Take a look at the plans. God wants to do more than simply provide
your solution. He wants to perform a demonstration of His miraculous, creative power, which will result in His name
being glorified and His kingdom extended! Let's ask God to fulfill His purposes in solving our problems, which will result
in His glory!
Our most successful intercession begins when, as the result of an intimate relationship with Him, we know the ways of
God and pray accordingly. As we pray, let's expect that His solution will be creative! Don't instruct the Creator! Expect
something new. Don't lecture God. Remind Him of His Word, ask Him for a breakthrough, and prepare yourself for the
Rejoice, friend! The dilemma you have today is an opportunity for a demonstration of God's miraculous, creative power
to be displayed! (See James 1:2)
SPIRITUAL ADVOCATES, by Eddie & Alice Smith, Copyright 2008, Charisma House.
|LIFE IN JESUS-MINISTRIES