In reading the Scriptures one becomes conscious that prayer is not a mere coming before God to give expression to a variety of desires after things of benefit to the one who asks. In the consideration of the examples given of the Lords prayers in the Gospels and of Pauls prayers in the epistles, one is struck by the intelligence expressed; a necessity really, if the correct results are to be obtained and God glorified. It must not, however, be thought that God will not hear the sincere cry of the simple; He will. Neither must it be taken for granted that He will give heed to the carefully expressed petition of the intelligent; He may not. A mere working of intelligence is an empty thing if heart and conscience are not in balance with it.
Knowing the Scriptures
Dealing mainly with the aspect which is before us, it will be observed that the Lord clearly taught that a knowledge of His Word was essential if the one who petitioned was to come before God with breadth of thought. John 15.7 is a pattern portion. It will be seen from the Lords teaching how this is carefully interwoven with other essential factors. Communion with Christ is the first necessity; that is, nearness of heart to Him, oneness of purpose with Him, which implies a sharing of His interests in every field as revealed in the Scriptures.
The desire for the Scriptures
Following on this, there will be a constant desire for His Word which, when received, will take up residence in the heart. He who desires can ask what he will and it will be done unto him. There is no thought of anyone in such a place of nearness asking for anything that is not in accordance with His mind. The one who asks and the Giver will be of one mind, and in the petition being granted the Father will be glorified.
The Holy Spirit
Paul expands the teaching concerning prayer in the epistles. For instance, Romans brings out the part of the Spirit of God. He must be taken into account if intelligent and effectual prayer is to be made to God. Many believers are staggered learning from the Scriptures that of themselves they cannot pray correctly. They cannot interpret their needs, but there is One who is able: the Spirit of God. Romans 8 teaches that He interprets the needs of the saints. He knows the will of God and dwells within the saints. He assists them to ask according to the will of God. So then comes out the value of Ephesians 6.18: "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit". He is the energising power in the saints, and they only pray intelligently in accordance with the measure of control the Spirit of God has with them. It stands to reason then that to crush the Spirit out of the life by selfish and carnal desires results in no voice of God and no answer from God.
The example of Acts 4
Praying intelligently is brought out clearly in Acts 4, and that under conditions of extreme pressure, similar to what many saints are subject to daily. By reason of opposition from authorities, the saints were disturbed and they sought relief from the pressure by seeking the presence of the Lord. How instructive to notice that they did not pray for revenge but they took stock of the ways the oppression manifested itself and they intelligently identified it as being after the character of the opposition recorded in Psalm 2: "Why do the nations rage ". They ask for boldness to preach the Word. Here then is authority for quoting Scriptures in prayer, but Scripture which is applicable to the matter being brought before God. It is clearly seen that the early saints knew the Scriptures and were very much alive to the conditions that they described, although Psalm 2 awaits a coming day for its complete fulfilment. What then is the result? Although there is great power and unity of heart and soul, it is most instructive to notice that here Barnabas comes in. Clearly the early saints were in need of added morale, and the testimony at that stage was requiring a boost. Surely Joses (his name by birth) was the answer. A son of consolation was required and the apostles, quick to recognise him as such, named him accordingly. The testimony made progress after intelligent prayer was made, and God answered.