Introduction: Sometimes we have trouble matching the promises of the
Bible with our own experience. For example, in several places the
Bible tells us that if we ask God we will be given what we seek. See,
e.g. Matthew 7:8. In Matthew 18:19 we are promised that if two agree
“about anything” then “it will be done for you by My Father in
Heaven.” Have these promises always worked out for you? If not, why
not? Very recently, I read that if I might benefit from my prayer,
that would be a “questionable motive” that would invalidate my
request. No doubt the writer of that statement thought that explains
why some of our prayers are not answered. How can a selfish motive
disqualify my prayers when Jesus tells me that I should pray “Give us
today our daily bread?” Matthew 6:11. Clearly, we need further study
on this topic! Let’s dig into our study of the Holy Spirit and

  1. Holy Spirit and Prayer Intercession

    1. Read Romans 8:26-27. What does this teach us about our
      skill in knowing what to pray? (It says we don’t know what
      we ought to pray for.)

      1. A reasonable Christian will likely conclude that if
        God doesn’t seem to answer his or her prayer, the
        fault must be with us in some way. Does this text
        seem to confirm that problem?

      2. How does the Holy Spirit help us with making the
        “right” prayers? (He intercedes for us.)

      3. What comes to mind when we are talking about human
        intercessors? (Obviously, I think about lawyers. A
        lawyer knows, based on training and experience, how
        to put a client’s request in the proper terms. We are
        told that the Holy Spirit has a way of communicating
        that is more effective than words.)

        1. Why would you call the intercession of the Holy
          Spirit “groans?” Why would that be more
          effective than words?

        2. Why would we need the Holy Spirit to make our
          prayers better? Doesn’t God understand? Isn’t
          the Holy Spirit God’s Spirit?

      4. Who is the “He” in Romans 8:27 who searches our
        hearts? (Read Jeremiah 17:10. I think it refers to
        God the Father.)

    2. Look again at the last part of Romans 8:27. How does the
      fact that God knows the mind of the Holy Spirit help with
      our prayers? (God knows our hearts and He knows how the
      Holy Spirit thinks. This combination helps us to know what
      and how to pray. Why? The Holy Spirit triggers those
      impulses of ours that create the “right” prayers, and then
      transmits them in a way consistent with God’s will. This
      shows that the problem is not with God’s understanding,
      but with the nature of our prayers.)

      1. If we think that God is not answering our prayers,
        could the problem be that we are not asking the Holy
        Spirit for help?

    3. Read Ephesians 3:16-17. What both strengthens our “inner
      being” and allows Jesus to dwell in our hearts? (The Holy

    4. Read Ephesians 3:17-19. What does Jesus, living in us
      through the Holy Spirit, help us to understand about God’s
      love? (It helps us to understand the nature of God’s

    5. Read Matthew 7:9-11. What does this tell us about God’s
      approach to answering our prayers? (Do you give your
      children everything they request? Of course not. You know
      that giving some things would be harmful. You know that
      the timing of your gift is important.)

    6. Read Matthew 7:12. Is Jesus making random statements of
      truth? Or, is this connected to the topic of asking God
      for things? (Jesus’ statement seems connected in two ways.
      First, God’s decision on what prayers to answer positively
      reflects His love – just like treating others as we would
      like to be treated reflects love. Second, our prayers need
      to take into account their impact on others.)

    7. Let’s revisit the issue of God answering our prayers. We
      learned that God responds to our requests like a loving
      parent would respond. We also learned that the Holy Spirit
      living in us helps us to understand the contours of God’s
      love. Considering those two important points, how does the
      Holy Spirit help us with answered prayers? (By
      understanding God’s love, we understand what we should
      pray for that is consistent with His love for us.)

  2. The Holy Spirit and Asking

    1. Read Matthew 7:7-8. Are there any qualifications on these
      promises? (Yes, in the sense that we need to ask, seek and
      knock. It means we need to take the initiative.)

    2. Read Matthew 18:19-20. Why is it important to have two
      agree? (If you have to tell someone else what you have it
      mind, it might moderate your prayer. If you need to have
      the second person agree, that is a limit on unreasonable

      1. Why does Jesus add that the Holy Spirit will be
        present where two or three come together in Jesus’
        name? (The direction of the Holy Spirit with regard
        to our prayers, as we just discussed, is
        exceptionally important.)

    3. Read 1 John 5:14-15. Is this statement “according to His
      will” a condition to answered prayer?

      1. Notice that in 1 John 5:15 it seems to say something
        different, that God hears “whatever we ask.” Is
        there a conflict in these two verses? First we are
        told Jesus only hears when we ask according to His
        will, but then we are told that He hears no matter
        what we ask? (The consistent way to read this is that
        Jesus “hears” requests that are consistent with His
        will. Of those requests that are consistent with His
        will, He grants them whatever the request may be.)

      2. Let’s be very practical here. I recall fervently and
        repeatedly asking that my parents would live to be 85
        years of age. That did not happen. My father died at
        70 and my mother died at 80. How could requesting
        life for my parents be anything but consistent with
        God’s will? (I don’t have the space to give the
        details. But, now that I’m looking back on these
        events, I believe that God’s timing was perfect,
        given the fact that we live in a sinful, imperfect
        world. Had I known the end from the beginning (as I
        do at least in part now), I would have agreed with
        God’s timing. He gave the most loving answer
        considering the interests of all three of us.)

  3. The Holy Spirit and Faith

    1. Read Mark 11:22-24. Can you think of anything more useless
      than throwing a mountain into the sea? After all of this
      discussion about how the Holy Spirit will help us to know
      what is best to request from God, why does Jesus use an
      example like this?

      1. What do mountains represent in real life? (They are
        obstacles. They are difficult to get around. They are

      2. What does the “challenge” nature of a mountain tell
        us about what Jesus is really saying in this verse?
        (No matter how big the problem in your life, it is
        subject to removal through your prayers.)

      3. When Jesus says “does not doubt in his heart but
        believes” to what is Jesus referring? (This gets back
        to the connection with the Holy Spirit. It is the
        Holy Spirit within us that makes these things

    2. Read Mark 11:25. Is this another condition on getting our
      prayers answered? (Jesus makes it a condition of
      forgiveness. Jesus says the same thing in Matthew 6:12.
      However, Jesus does not explicitly say that it is a
      condition of answered prayer.)

      1. If it is not a condition of answered prayer, why does
        Jesus mention it here? (Recall our earlier discussion
        about how the Holy Spirit focuses the best impulses
        of our mind when we pray with His help. Jesus is
        doing the same here, He is focusing our best

    3. Do you feel that you have answers to why some prayers are
      not answered, when at the same time God gives us expansive
      promises about prayer? (The texts we have studied suggest
      that love is at the bottom of all answers to prayers. God
      gives us positive answers when we ask and it is in our
      best interest. God also promises His Holy Spirit to give
      us that discernment, and to inspire our impulses, to ask
      for the very best things.)

    4. Friend, you need the Holy Spirit! Among other things, you
      need the Holy Spirit to guide and bless your prayer life.
      Will you continually ask the Holy Spirit to guide your
      mind and your prayers?

  4. Next week: Grieving and Resisting the Holy Spirit.