Pray the Word means more than simply declaring verses in prayer. It requires the active and powerful participation of God through intimate relationship.
Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3)
We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘pray the Word’ and I believe we all attempt to do so. It’s an absolute truth that Word-based prayers are effective and powerful. We understand – to some degree, at least – that this means we are praying in line with God’s will. While this is correct, it’s a very limited understanding of the powerful dynamic between prayer and the Word of God. The reality is that teaching is largely incomplete. We grasp the basics but not the whole. This can actually lead us into error. A good example is the ‘name it and claim it’ ‘gospel’ which teaches that we need only declare something using God’s Word and we will have it. Simply put, this is manipulation and God will never allow His Word to be misused and abused in this way. It’s also the reason why so many prayers bring no results.
What it really means to pray the Word.
To grasp the full magnitude of this, we must first understand what the Word is. The ‘short cut’ to understanding is that Jesus Himself is the Word. The Word of God is not words and sentences strung together on paper. It’s a Living Word, the Son of God. Remember that the Word was made flesh and lived among us. When we read the Word, we’re ‘reading Jesus’ because the two are inseparable. Not only that, they have been one since the very beginning. It was with the Word that God created this universe. Jesus was there, with God and as God. In other words, the Word of God is imbued with the nature and power of God which was made manifest on earth in Christ. He was the living example of an eternal Word that never changes or loses its supernatural power.
When we pray the Word, we’re not praying things learned by rote. That’s part of it, because we need to get the Word in us in order to pray it. But it’s so much more than that. We’re praying Christ Himself and we’re praying the supernatural resurrection power of almighty God. Because the Word has been ‘captured’ in a book we can hold and touch, we lose sight of its spiritual reality. We use the Word according to our natural understanding and quite often according to our natural desires. To pray the Word is to pray God’s nature, power, and will. In His Word, God gives us Himself through His Son – just as He did on the cross – to empower our prayers. But we must never forget that His Word, like Him, is holy. It should never be used to try to manipulate Him into giving us what we want.
To pray the Word requires the participation of God.
Today’s verse reveals some life-changing truths if we will only grasp them. It’s broken into three separate parts which work together to provide a powerful understanding of what it is to pray the Word. The first is that we call on God. On the surface, this means we pray to God and it’s simple truth. But when we call on God, we’re doing two things. The first is that it’s an act of worship. We basically ‘declare’ our belief that God alone is our God, and no one or nothing else can take His place. To call on God is an act of praise, even though we don’t use literal words. It’s an action that enthrones Him as God of all gods, Lord of all lords, and absolutely sovereign. To call on God means to turn away from anything else that might appear to offer ‘salvation’ or solutions.
What this does – and which we often overlook – is that it brings with it the presence of God. He inhabits or is enthroned upon the praises of His people. This simple act of praise and worship invites and ensures God’s participation in the prayer process. Because of the nature of the Word, we cannot pray the Word without the presence and participation of God. It is He who imbues it with power. Outside of God – when we simply mouth the words without Him – it’s simply words. It’s misusing God Himself to secure our own desires. Without God being present and participating, we’re effectively treating the Word as something close to ‘spells’ or incantations. Anything spoken outside of God in order to achieve desired results is very close to witchcraft. Manipulation is witchcraft, even if we use the Word of God to do it. Satan, remember, did exactly that.
God desires that we pray the Word.
The second part of today’s verse makes this very clear. If we call on Him with the right attitude of praise and worship, He will answer. I often hear believers say that the ‘Holy Spirit helps us pray’ and this is entirely correct. But we often miss the point. The Spirit is not separate from God but part of God and works to accomplish His will. When the Spirit moves in us, it is essentially God moving in us because He works through His Spirit. This very clearly indicates that He desires that we pray the Word and is ready and willing to participate. For God, prayer isn’t a ‘me and Him’ situation. It’s an ‘us’ situation – a relationship. When we pray, it’s not a ‘wish list’ or demands. We enter into a dynamic relationship where God participates in our prayers and empowers His Word according to His will.
We cannot lose sight of the fact that to pray the Word means to pray His will, not ours. God’s participation in our prayers isn’t to simply grant us the desires of our heart. Rather, it’s to bring our desires in line with His desires. It’s to align our will with His, and to help us to pray according to His purposes and plans. Our desires are irrelevant. God wants to participate – to have a prayer relationship with us. But He will never empower His Word as a ‘magic wand’ to accomplish our own agenda. If we truly want to pray the Word in power and efficacy, it’s with a surrendered will. It’s to the broken heart and contrite spirit that God responds. When our prayers remain ‘all about me,’ we will never pray the Word as God intended, because we leave no room for Him to participate.
To pray the Word requires discernment and revelation.
The final part of the verse brings everything together. We cannot pray the Word according to our limited human understanding or fleshly purposes. God’s Word is the Living Word. It contains the power to achieve even the impossible. But we will never be able to pray correctly if we rely on our own interpretative or cognitive abilities. In today’s verse, God tells us that He will reveal the ‘great and mighty things’ we do not know. Our speaking or praying the Word is insufficient. It is God alone who empowers it, who releases the dynamic, supernatural nature of it into any situation. All too often, our prayers are ineffective because we don’t have the spiritual discernment that can only come from God. He participates in our prayers by revealing the Word to us as is appropriate. In our limited understanding, we can pray the inappropriate Word for our situation.
Spiritual understanding of God’s Word is an immeasurable gift of grace. It enables us to look beyond the surface things, those visible and easy to recognise. But life in the natural world is a reflection of life in the spiritual realm. The world doesn’t operate in a vacuum. It exists within a spiritual context which we often never see. When we ‘pray the Word’ in our natural ability, we pray separate from the spiritual dimension. Things are first impacted in the supernatural, which then ‘becomes flesh,’ i.e. manifest in the physical world. Understanding from God comes only through intimacy and relationship. In moments of life and death, He may ‘zap’ us with a critical revelation in a slit second to empower our prayer. In general though, we learn to pray the Word through an intimate, ongoing relationship. As we get to know God, He reveals and empowers His Word.
We must have the Word to pray the Word.
This is the practical side, and our God is eternally practical in His dealings with us. First, we must have the Word in us. There is no substitute for knowing the Word in our hearts – and literally learning ‘by heart’ is the best. We must read the Word and we must learn the Word, and we must do so daily. The Word must be our daily bread. God cannot quicken or empower something which is not in us. This is the discipline and ‘hard work’ part of being able to pray the Word. But there is another side to this that many believers overlook or aren’t even aware of. When we pray, we must do so with the Word at hand. Of course, this isn’t always possible, so having the Word in us is critical.
For God to reveal things to us, we must listen. Part of listening is hearing God’s voice through the Spirit. But often, the Spirit will speak through the Word. Prayer depends as much on Logos – the written Word – as it does on Rhema – the spoken Word – of God. To receive revelation, we must hear His Word. If we desire to hear His Word, we must know His voice. To know His voice requires intimacy and relationship. This is the dynamic of God’s participation in our prayers. Without His power and presence, we cannot pray the Word as He desires.
Lord, forgive us if we’ve misused Your Word in any way. Thank You for Your grace and Your willingness to participate in our prayers. Draw us into deeper intimacy with You, and teach us all we need to receive Your revelation and pray according to Your will and purpose.