From "Prayer that Hits the Target"
Chambers Dictionary defines petition as “a formal request to an authority.” Living in a democracy built on consensus leadership, we are called to voice our views to various levels of government. Often that voice is presented in the form of a petition. A petition is not a protest but a formal request. We sign a petition requesting that a law be instituted or changed.
There are, it seems to me, four main aspects to a petition:
The story of Queen Esther illustrates this perfectly. She was asked to petition King Ahasuerus so he would not annihilate the Jews. She was cautious in her approach because the king, not a godly man, kept a law that anyone entering his court without being summoned would be put to death. When he saw her standing in the court, she obtained favor, and, in time, he welcomed her petition. Esther met all the conditions. She petitioned for justice and mercy; her need was genuine; she was granted legal rights; and she waited submissively for the king’s response. (See Esther 5:1-8).
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Recently a godly young man approached me with a petition. Perhaps he was also in fear and trembling! He asked if he could give my twenty-year-old daughter a ring. “What does it mean to you?” I responded.
“It means we are committing ourselves to be emotionally faithful to each other,” he said. “We will not be looking elsewhere for a life partner, and this is a step closer towards engagement.”
I appreciated his approach and his answers. Although he is a friend he presented his request in a formal, serious manner. My question to him was not to make life difficult but to see if his thinking was responsible. Of course I said, “yes.”
God encourages us to petition Him. “With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, be on the alert with all petition for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18 NASB). David wrote, “May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.” (Psalm 20:5 NASB). Even the Lord’s Prayer is basically a prayer of petition. It begins rather formally: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10).
Petition need not be formal with fancy, high sounding words. God is not impressed by airs, but by humility. It should, however, be formal in its seriousness and submissiveness. God is sovereign and to fear Him is the beginning of wisdom. The modern ‘buddy-buddy’ approach to God is flippant and disrespectful. It lacks a heart of submission and honor. There is an open door to the throne room, but once we enter, we see the angels and elders falling on their faces, worshipping, and adoring their Sovereign. (See Revelation 4:1, 9-11). Like the heavenly host, it is important to bring our whole being into the process of prayer. Kneeling, joining hands, lifting our eyes to heaven, lying prostrate, and raising our hands are just a few of the ways we can involve our bodies when we bring petitions to God.
After acknowledging the Father’s holiness and asking for His kingdom to come, the Lord’s Prayer then leaps into petitions: Give us daily bread; forgive our sins; keep us from temptation; deliver us from evil. These are the basic petitions of life.
Understanding our legal rights will help us pray intelligently and effectively. We have confidence and full assurance of faith to petition God in time of need because of Jesus’ blood. Some of us do not have blessings because we do not petition, and when we do, we do not ask in faith. (See James 4:2-3; 1:6-8). The writer of Hebrews tells us that the blood of Jesus gives us right of access into the Father’s presence, where we may confidently make our petitions. “Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.“ (Hebrews 10:19- 22). “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).
Testimonies of answered prayer are magnificent, and those who experience them live lives of adventure and fullness. Yet this is not every Christian’s experience. We may know our legal rights yet still find that our petitions fall to the ground, as though the Lord were not listening. Many Christians live in misery and defeat, far below God’s promises. Perhaps this is because we do not realize the limitations of petition prayers. We can, for example, pray inappropriately, by not praying God’s will or by missing His timing. Another common error is to expect God to respond to simple petitions when a more responsible approach is required. Consider the following scripture. It reaffirms our right to petition but then tells us what God may not respond to.
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him (i.e. petitions). If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray (petition) about that.” (1 John 5:14-16). (Paraphrase added in italics).
In other words, some petitions are inappropriate! When we have committed “a sin leading to death,” we are not to petition the Lord for justice, mercy, or grace, for a sin leading to death has a curse attached to it.
Curses come on us when we commit gross violations against God or other humans. Incest; shedding innocent blood; assassination; even not paying tithes; these are just a few of the sins that fall into this curse-causing list. (For examples, see Deuteronomy 27:15-26; Malachi 3:8-10; 2 Peter 2:14). Even the sins of our forefathers can result in a curse being passed on to us. (Exodus 20:5).
Yet facing curses and breaking their power is possible because, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.“ (Galatians 3:13).
Petitions alone cannot deal with sins that lead to death. If God, because of His goodness and grace, ignored the curses and answered the petitions, He would be denying His justice, holiness, and commitment to avenge the innocent. Where curses linger, they must be dealt with before the full blessings of God can flow in our lives.
How many petitions are blocked by curses? If we petition the Lord for long life, for example, but have unresolved dishonor toward our parents, can we honestly expect His blessings? I think not. If we ask God to bless us financially, but do not tithe, can we expect the Lord to answer our prayer? I think not. We may petition the Lord for healing or peace over our home, but we must walk in accordance with His word if we are to expect results. We must deal with these issues in order to have confidence with God; then our petitions can line up with His word and be answered.
So how do we break a curse? First, we must repent of our sins. Secondly, confess and renounce the sins of our ancestors. Then we ask for forgiveness, and make restitution where possible. We must forgive all our offenders and trust the power of Jesus and His provision through the cross. Then we can break the curse by speaking over it the name of Jesus. Demonic spirits have legal footholds wherever curses hang over people’s lives. After a curse is broken, we should take authority over such demons and cut off any influence they may have had. It is advisable to receive pastoral help for this ministry. (For more information on this issue, read my book, Blessing or Curses for the Next Generation.)
When a person meets God’s conditions for answered prayer, life is exciting. George Müller set out to demonstrate that God would answer the petitions of His people. He founded an orphanage in Bristol, England but consistently refused to advertise his financial needs. Hundreds of children were under his care and, at times, there was no money for food or expenses. During his life, George recorded in a notebook thousands of petitions that he brought to God. When God answered his prayer, he wrote the answer opposite the request in the notebook. In time, both sides of every page were completed. His petitions had been miraculously answered. Sometimes the children would go to bed hungry, but before the night ended, unexpected visitors would arrive with provisions. The needs were always met. George proved to the world the faithfulness of God and the undeniable reality that God answers the petitions of His people. George was formal in his approach to God; he petitioned for justice, mercy, and grace to the One Who has ultimate authority; his need was genuine; he knew his legal right because of Jesus’ blood; and he waited submissively and patiently for God’s unfailing provision.
The Lord desires us to petition Him. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6). Let us ask God to teach us how to petition Him effectively so we also may prove the wonders of His love.
Connecting heaven's power with earth's challenges is the reason for "Prayer that Hits the Target." The church is called to prayer. We must learn to stand in the gap, where the purpose of God is released. This book will show you God's conditions for answered prayer, and teach you how to fulfill them. Get ready to be stirred and commissioned, as you take your place on the wall. It is time to shoot the arrow, hit the target, and release the power and blessings of God.