When I intercede, I almost always use the prayers of the Bible. The prayers that Jesus, Paul, and Peter prayed are recorded for our benefit. Ihopkc refers to them as the “apostolic prayers” because they are the prayers that Jesus prayed as our chief apostle (Heb. 3:1) and that the Spirit gave to the apostles. Including doxologies, there are about thirty apostolic prayers (see a list of these on mikebickle.org). It doesn’t mean only Apostles can pray them etc.
When I pray, when I intercede in a prayer meeting, I almost always, if not always, use the prayers of the Bible. That is not the same thing as using a Bible verse. Some people use a Bible verse. That is not exactly what I mean. They will say, “The Sermon on the Mount, blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” They close their eyes, and they give an exhortation in the prayer room on purity. “Well, Lord, You said the pure in heart. They are not becoming pure. You know they are going to get in a mess.” They preach for a while. They are praying from a Bible verse, but they are actually preaching with their eyes closed.
Over the years, Mike Bickle has said, “The best way to kill a prayer meeting is to have preaching prayers in the prayer meeting, where people are giving exhortations to people with their eyes closed.” he said, “It is better in a prayer room to talk to God about people, and then in ministry we talk to people about God.” Of course we can mix those two together, but what you do not want to do is have an exhortation to righteousness in the form of a prayer. That is one of the clearest ways to make a prayer room really boring. One by one people get up and give an exhortations with their eyes closed. I encourage them to pray the prayers of the Bible using the vocabulary of the Bible, not just base their prayer on a verse. That steers them away from preaching prayers. They are actually talking to God. People in the room are far more likely to talk to God as well if the intercessor is talking to God, as opposed to just listening to the exhortation. It is far more edifying. When I talk about the prayers of the apostolic prayers, I am talking about the prayers that the Holy Spirit gave the apostles. The chief apostle is Jesus. He is called the chief apostle. Even His prayer I consider as an apostolic prayer.
A Gift from God
The apostolic prayers are a valuable gift to the church being the prayers that burned in God’s heart and give us the language of His heart. He never changes, so be assured they still burn in His heart.
These prayers are a valuable gift. There are about thirty of them. Mike Bickle has a two-page document on his website called, “Key Apostolic Prayers and Prophetic Promises.” It is a summary of the apostolic prayers. Then there is an expanded nine-page version called, “Apostolic Prayers (9-page expanded version) linked above.” It has applications of how to pray, language to pray. I give you a lot of beginner’s guides if this is new to you. Like, “how do you pray it this way? How do you pray that verse? What is that verse about?”
The apostolic prayers are a valuable gift. These are the prayers that burned in God’s heart. These were burning in His heart, and He gave them to the Holy Spirit to give to the church. Because God never changes, they are still burning in His heart. I assure you that when He inspired Paul to pray for the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, that request is still burning in His heart right now. We can know 100 percent God will answer that prayer. It is exactly what He wants to be prayed in the church. It is the language of His heart. Over time it becomes the language of our hearts.
These prayers are guaranteed! They are like checks already signed in heaven and waiting only for a co-signer on the earth to be cashed. They are as relevant today as they were in the early church.
These prayers are guaranteed to be answered. It is like a check that needs a cosigner. Prayers are like a check that needs a cosigner. We need a cosigner in heaven and one on the earth. Beloved, every one of the prayers in the New Testament have been signed in heaven and is waiting for you to sign it on the earth, using that analogy. Those prayers are as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago because God never changes. This is what is in His heart. This is the will of God for the church. This is what the Holy Spirit is emphasizing–what is in those prayers.
Again, they steer us away from a context where preaching prayers dominate. That is one thing I am really blessed about. I rarely hear preaching prayers in the prayer room. That is because people are praying biblical prayers. It is hard to preach those. It is a lot easier to pray them to God than it is to preach them to people. That is just a real blessing. The room can be in unity and identify far more when the prayers are God-ward because they are biblical prayers instead of man-ward as preaching exhortations.
APOSTOLIC PRAYERS ARE GOD-CENTERED
All the prayers in the New Testament are God-centered prayers; each one is addressed to God. Not one apostolic prayer is addressed to the devil. God-centered prayer, including spiritual warfare prayer, is the model set forth in the New Testament. It is the model the early church used in resisting and dislodging demonic forces and cultural strongholds (Eph. 6:12; 2 Cor. 10:3-5).
The prayers of the apostles, number one, are God-centered. Every one of the prayers of the New Testament is actually to God. Meaning, they are not to the devil. For a lot of folks, their primary focus of prayer is directed toward the devil. I believe there is a place to take authority over the devil in a person’s life, but the primary focus of all the prayers in the New Testament is directed to God. That is not an accident. That is something we need to pay attention to.
If our prayers are mostly to the devil, talking to him, that is a problem. I think there is a time to do that, but particularly in the New Testament Jesus spoke to a spirit only when a spirit was related to a person. Meaning when a spirit was dwelling in a person or a spirit had an individual captive, He rebuked that spirit, and that individual was set free. We do not find any examples in the New Testament where Jesus or the apostles talked to the demons in the sky, disembodied demonic powers, meaning principalities and powers. You never find any of the apostles addressing a demon spirit that is not directly related to an individual. I am not saying that you cannot do that. I have done that a time or two here or there, but it is not the model of the New Testament. I think it is something that can be done and should be done in unique situations. I do not want to go into that right now.
I am saying the focus of Jesus and the apostles are prayers to God, not prayers to the devil telling him to do this or to do that. The main exception is when there is a demon spirit in an individual or entrapping and tormenting an individual. That demon was directly addressed when it was related to an individual, which is different than a demon principality. There are demonic principalities over cities and nations. We address the prayer to God as a rule. God shines the light of His countenance. He extends His hand, breaks in with power, and releases the wind of the Spirit. We talk to Him, and demonic powers are disrupted, dislodged, and disturbed by the wind and breakthrough in the light of God’s countenance in answer to our prayers.
All the prayers of Jesus that are recorded in the Bible were directed to the Father (Jn. 14:16; 17:5, 11, 15, 25). Jesus taught His disciples to direct their prayers to the Father (Mt. 18:19; Lk. 11:2, 13). The apostles’ prayers also teach us to address the Father when we pray. In the “warfare epistle” Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he addressed all his prayers to the Father (Eph. 1:16–17; 3:14, 16, 20).
All the prayers of Jesus were directed to the Father. He taught the disciples to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven”–to pray their prayers to the Father. All the apostles directed their prayers to the Father, every single one of them. I think that is worthy to note. Even in the great warfare epistle, which is the epistle to the Ephesians, all those prayers are to the Father. Again, there are times—I think it is rare—there are times to address a power, a power and principality. It is not the routine everyday way that I believe the New Testament presents how prayer meetings should go forward.
APOSTOLIC PRAYERS ARE POSITIVE
The apostolic prayers are positive prayers asking God for the impartation of positive things instead of the removal of negative things. For example, Paul prayed for love to abound instead of asking for the removal of hatred (Phil. 1:9). He prayed for the impartation of unity instead of praying against division (Rom. 15:5). He asked for peace to increase instead of fear to be removed (Rom. 15:13). He did not pray against sin but asked for an increase of holiness, purity, and love (1 Thes. 3:12-13). Even Paul’s requests to be delivered from evil men are positive in focusing on the deliverance of God’s people rather than on exposing or bringing down the evil men persecuting them (2 Thes. 3:2).
The apostolic prayers—I am thinking of about thirty of them including the doxologies—are positive. This is not a small point. When you study or just observe these thirty prayers, this is how they are designed. They are for the impartation of something good, not the removal of something bad. It is really important. I want to say it again. The prayers of the New Testament are for the impartation of that which is good, not the removal of that which is bad, as a rule. For example, Paul prays for love to abound. He does not ever pray for the removal of hatred. You never see a biblical prayer, “Lord, I ask You to remove hatred out of the church.” You don’t ever find that. I think it is okay to pray that. I do not think the Lord looks at that and says, “That is non-biblical, forget it.” No, God is so gracious. He is so gracious. When we come before Him, we come before the throne of grace, not the throne of literary accuracy. It is not that we have to be accurate. He is so gracious and so tender. We want to be instructed by the Word, not as a negative instruction. More like, “Oh okay, Lord, there is a reason You laid it out the way You laid it out.”
Another example, Paul prayed for the impartation of unity. He never prayed against division, ever, in terms of what is recoded in the Bible. I am not against that. As a rule, that is why we pray for the impartation of unity. He prayed for peace to increase. You do not find any biblical prayers for fear to be removed. Because when peace increases, fear goes. When unity is imparted, division goes. When love is abounding, hatred goes. Even the area of sin, you do not find any New Testament prayers against sin. You find them for the impartation of holiness or purity or love. Paul prays, “Release holiness in the church at Thessalonica.” He could have said, “Lord, deal with the sin in the city of Thessalonica.” He did not. He prayed it positively.
I believe that one reason God established “positive prayers” as the norm in the New Testament is to enhance unity and love in the church. Some pray “negative prayers” that focus on sin in the church or its leadership; often such prayers feel judgmental and angry. Others in the prayer meeting do not agree with the view or tone that was expressed in the negative prayer, so the prayer results in creating an unnecessary division among some of the people at that prayer meeting.
I believe there is a reason for positive prayers to be the norm, though God will answer the other ones. He is so kind. He is so generous. But if we understand the biblical pattern, then it is easier to cooperate with it. We might say, “I didn’t realize that. It is right there in the Bible.”—I believe that one reason that God established positive prayers as the norm is because it enhances love and unity in the church.
Negative prayers do not always have a negative impact. That would be an exaggerated statement. I have heard negative prayers over the years, plenty of times over the years. The guy gets up and he says, “Lord, the sin in the church, they are just so compromising. The leaders are just so controlling and so full of this and so full of that.” The guy goes on and on.
Folks in the prayer meeting think, “I don’t agree with him exactly. I think their sin is this and not that.” The guy’s tone gets intense, harsh and angry, and the more angry he is, the more he prays. He is railing. He is kind of like shaking them over hell on a rotten stick, kind of hoping, really going for it, you know. What happens is that while the prayer is meant to build up the church, I have found this many times over the years, there is now division and annoyance, and the people in the room even get stirred up against the one praying, “Who is he to say that? How does he know? He is like that too.”
The Lord does not want any of that attitude in the prayer room. He would say, “Let Me just correct it. I am a Father. I know what I am doing. I would have you just pray for the impartation for purity instead of praying against sin; instead of praying against hatred, pray for love.”
Operating in Faith
The positive focus that comes from using the apostolic prayers can also help us to operate in faith. The apostolic prayers provide us with good theology for a victorious church. A man once asked me, “Why do you believe the church will be victorious?” I told him to look at the prayers of Jesus and the apostles for the church. My theology on a victorious church and revival was formed partially by praying the New Testament prayers. These prayers were given by the Spirit, so we know they will be fully answered. The church will walk in great power, purity, and unity before Jesus returns.
Another benefit of positive prayers is that they help you to operate in faith. Those prayers that I call the negative prayers, the venting prayers, the get-it-off-your-chest prayers, the let-them-have-it-like-they-deserve-it prayers, they do not build up your faith. They do not bring unity into the room. They create a negative attitude. Not every time, but they certainly do over time. If there are a whole lot of them, it is not good for the prayer room atmosphere. I have seen a lot of prayer rooms that tried to make it, but this was one of the main reasons they went into discouragement and despair; the whole atmosphere of the prayer room just was not in a biblical posture.
When I explained this to various prayer leaders, they replied, “Wow, that is interesting. I never thought of biblical prayers. That is an interesting idea.” I did not stumble into them out of some great insight. It was purely out of desperation. I did not know what to do. I called for daily prayer meetings before I had ever gone to one. That is not the best way to do it. It is kind of better to do something for a while before you announce it.
If you pray the positive prayers of the apostles, it actually creates faith for the intercessor and for the people who are agreeing with that prayer in the room. The apostolic prayers provide good theology for a victorious church. I have had people ask me over the years, “Why do you believe in a victorious church?”
I said, “Look at the prayers of Jesus and the apostles. They have to be answered. They were given by the Holy Spirit. The church is going to be full of glory. It has to be. That prayer burns in the Father’s heart. The Spirit put it in the Word. It has been prayed for 2000 years. I promise you that prayer is going to be answered. There is not one of those prayers that is going to fall to the ground, not one of those biblical New Testament prayers.” My theology on a victorious church and on revival is partially rooted in the prayers of the New Testament. The prayers themselves create some of the theology of revival and victory.
Before the church returns, the church will walk in power, love, and unity in a greater measure. The church is walking in some power right now. It is not a measure we are content with, but we are grateful for that measure, and we want a greater measure. There will be an increase of power, love and unity because it is in the biblical prayers.
Positive apostolic prayers facilitate unity, impact our emotions, and build our faith. The Father is the “Great Psychologist.” He designed these prayers to help human hearts flow well and work together in unity with a spirit of encouragement and faith.
I’ll sum it up here. The apostolic prayers facilitate unity. They impact our emotions with love. They build our faith. Again, it becomes kind of an accidental hindrance against preaching prayers, where the guy closes his eyes and preaches his favorite exhortation for ten or twelve minutes.
The Father is the “great psychologist.” I mean that in the most positive sense. He understands the human makeup. He says, “I am going to put prayers in that help you guys like each other. I am going to give prayers that, when you pray them, after the meeting you actually have a good spirit towards each other instead of against each other.” God will answer those other ones. As a Father, He leads His family strategically this way. As young leaders and those who are going to be leaders, I encourage you to get familiar with these ideas and these verses and, wherever you go, to establish prayer rooms that are based on the New Testament model of prayer .