What the Bible Teaches



Chapter 430

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Who Can Pray So God Will Hear?
To Whom Should We Pray?

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Topic 10:   Who Can Pray so that God Will Hear?

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POINT 10:   The one who cherishes iniquity in his heart cannot pray so that God will hear.

      Psalms 66:18-19 [18] If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; [19] but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.

   The word translated "cherished" means primarily to "see" or to "look." Then it comes to mean to "look at with favor," to "respect", "approve." God will not hear the man who in his heart looks upon sin with any favor or allowance, God looks at sin with abhorrence. He is of "purer eyes than to behold evil."

      Habakkuk 1:13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?

   The Hebrew verb here is the same as that translated "cherish" above. We must have the same attitude toward sin that He has to be heard of Him. If we cherish sin, He will not regard us when we pray. Herein lies the very simple explanation why many of us pray and are not heard.

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POINT 20:   He who turns away from his ear from hearing the law, his prayer is an abomination. He cannot pray so that God will hear.

      Proverbs 28:9 If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable.

   If we turn our ears away from what God says to us in His law, He will turn His ears away from what we say to Him in our prayers. We have an illustration in the following:

      Zechariah 7:11-13 [11] "But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. [12] They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry. [13] "`When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,' says the LORD Almighty."

   Many are saying "The promises of God are not true. God does not hear my prayers." Has God ever promised to hear your prayers? God very plainly describes the class whose prayers He hears. Do you belong to that class? Are you listening to His words? If not, He has distinctly said He will not listen to your prayers, and in not listening to you, He is simply keeping His word.

      Proverbs 1:24-25, 28 [24] But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, [25] since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, [26] I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you -- [27] when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. [28] "Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me.

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POINT 30:   Whoever stops his heart at the cry of the poor cannot pray so that God will hear.

      Proverbs 21:13 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.

   If we will not listen to the poor when they cry to us in their need, God will not listen to us when we cry to Him in our need. The world's maxim is "The Lord helps those who help themselves." The truth is, The Lord helps those who help others.

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POINT 40:   The great sinner, who is sorry for and humbled by his sin, and who desires pardon, can pray so that God will hear.

      Luke 18:13-14 [13] "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' [14] "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

   The question is often asked, "Shall we get unconverted people to pray?" What do you mean by unconverted people? If a man is sorry for his sin, and wishes to forsake it and find mercy, and is willing to humble himself before God and ask for pardon, he is taking the very steps by which a man turns around, or is "converted." To tell a man he must not pray under such circumstances, is to tell him that he must not be converted until he is converted; that he must not turn until he is turned around. To get him to pray is just the thing to do, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)

   But how, someone may ask, can he pray until he has faith? The answer is very simple. This prayer itself is the first act of faith. The first and most natural and most proper thing for one who honestly wishes to turn from sin and to believe in Christ and to be saved to do, is to pray. The Lord Jesus looked on with delight when he could say to Ananias of the stubborn rebel, Saul of Tarsus, "Behold, he prays."

      Acts 9:11 The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.

   We should be sure, however, that the sinner really is sorry for sin and really wishes to forsake it before we tell him to pray for pardon. You can get him on his knees even before this, and so get him to realize that he is in God's presence, so that his rebellious heart may be humbled, but do not have him pray until he really does wish to turn from sin.

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POINT 50:   Those who believe in the name of the Son of God can pray so that God will hear.

      1 John 5:13-15 [13] I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. [14] This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. [15] And if we know that he hears us -- whatever we ask -- we know that we have what we asked of him.

   The promises of the New Testament cannot be applied indiscriminately to all men. A great mistake is often made by taking promises made to the believer and applying them as if they referred to all classes of men; or by taking promises made to those who have surrendered absolutely to the will of God, and applying them as if they referred to all professed believers. When we find promises with "we" and "you" in them, we should study the context and find out who the "we's" and "you" are, and whether we belong to that class.

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POINT 60:   The righteous and the upright can pray so that God will hear.

      Psalms 34:15, 17 [15] The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; [16] the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. [17] The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.

      Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

      Proverbs 15:8 The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.

   Note - The words translated righteous and upright have practically the same meaning. They both mean primarily "right" or "straight." (The latter may also mean "level" or "even.")

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POINT 70:   The godly (or merciful) can pray so that God will hear.

      Psalms 32:6 Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him.

   The word translated "godly" in this passage is so translated three times in the Authorized Version, four times in the Revised Version. But its primary significance is "kind" or "merciful." It could be so translated in at least almost every passage where used. It is frequently translated "saints."

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POINT 80:   Those who fear God can pray so that God will hear.

      Psalms 145:19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.

   To fear God means to have that reverent regard for God that is due him and that manifests itself in glad obedience to His will.

      Hebrews 12:28-29 [28] Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, [29] for our "God is a consuming fire."

      1 Peter 2:17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

      Revelation 14:7 He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."

      2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

      2 Samuel 23:3-4 [3] The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: `When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, [4] he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth.'

      Proverbs 8:13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

      Proverbs 16:6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.

      Isaiah 11:2-3 [2] The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him -- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD -- [3] and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;

      Psalms 2:11 Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.

      Psalms 25:14 The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.

      Psalms 33:18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,

      Psalms 34:7, 9 [7] The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. [9] Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.

      Revelation 19:5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!"

      Psalms 115:11 You who fear him, trust in the LORD -- he is their help and shield.

      Psalms 118:4 Let those who fear the LORD say: "His love endures forever."

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POINT 90:   Those who keep God's commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight can pray so that God will hear.

      1 John 3:21-22 [21] Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God [22] and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.

   Here we find one of the greatest secrets of prevailing prayer. If we listen to God's commandments God will listen to our prayers. If we do as He bids us in His word, He will do as we ask him in our prayers. If we do what pleases Him, He will do what pleases us. This is the converse of Point 2 above. The one who turns away his ear from hearing God's law cannot pray so that God will hear; the one who turns his ear to listen attentively to God's Word can pray so that God will hear. This explains why some men's prayers are heard and some men's are not. To keep His commandments means more than merely yield obedience to them; it means to guard them as a precious possession, to treasure them. It is the opposite of the spirit of those "critics" who are trying to pare down the Word of God to the smallest possible dimensions. The more they can give away of God's Word the more they seem delighted. They cannot pray so God will hear. If they have so little regard for God's Word, God will have very little regard for theirs.

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POINT 100:   Those who abide in Christ, and Christ's words abide in them, can pray so that God will hear. They can ask whatever they wish and it will be done for them.

      John 15:7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

   This is the other great secret of prevailing prayer. It is closely related to the preceding. What is it to abide in Christ? It is to continue in living union with Him. To bear the same relation to Him that the living healthy branch, the continuously fruit-bearing branch, does to the vine. This branch has no independent life of its own. Its sap and vigor all come from the vine. Its leaves, buds, blossoms, fruit are all the product of the life of the vine in it. So we abide in Christ in so far as we have no independent life of our own. In so far as we do not seek to have any thoughts, plans, feelings, purposes, works, fruit of our own, but let Christ think his thoughts, feel His feelings, purpose His purposes, work His works, bear His fruit, in us. When we do this, and in so far as we do this, we may ask whatsoever we wish and it shall be done.

   It may be asked: "But what if we ask something contrary to God's will?" We cannot in so far as we remain in Christ; our prayers themselves will be the outcome of the Christ-life in us. The Father hears Him always and will hear Him when He prays through us. Note that He says also, "And my words remain in you." It is through His words, and only through His words, that Christ imparts His life to us and lives His life in us. The words of Christ are the vehicle of the life of Christ. It is vain, then, to talk or think of remaining in Christ if we neglect His words. We must let His words sink deep into our souls and form us, mold our thoughts, our feelings, our purposes, our plans, our actions. The way the promise reads is: "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you."

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POINT 110:   The one who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who sets his love upon God and knows His name, can pray so that God will hear.

      Psalms 91:14 1, 14-15 [1] He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. [14] "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. [15] He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.

   What is it to dwell in the shelter of the Most High? The word translated "shelter" means primarily "a covering", then "hiding-place", "protection." It is translated "protection" once, and "hiding place" a number of times. To dwell in the shelter of the Most High, means, then, to put oneself and keep oneself under the protection of the Most High, to be covered and hid from all harm by Him. It means to leave all our welfare absolutely to Him, and to look to Him and to trust Him to take care of it.

   To know His name, means to know Him as he has revealed Himself to us. That is only possible through the study of the Word.

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POINT 120:   He who delights himself in the Lord can pray so that the Lord will hear.

      Psalms 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

   If our delight is in Him, our great prayer will be for Himself, and He is always willing to give Himself. With Himself He will grant every other desire of our hearts. If our delight is in Him, it will be His delight to give us what we ask. Do you delight in the Lord? Remember that "delight" is a very strong word.

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POINT 130:   He who commits his way to the Lord and trusts in Him can pray so that God will hear.

      Psalms 37:5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:

   The word here translated "commit" means literally "roll." To commit our way to the Lord is to roll it upon Him, leave its direction and protection entirely to Him. Have you done this? Put the entire guidance and outcome of your life in His hands, and your way will always be so near His that He can hear your faintest whisper when you call to Him.

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POINT 140:   The humble can pray so that God will hear.

      Psalms 9:12 For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cry of the afflicted.

      Psalms 10:17 [17] You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,

   The Revised Version translates the words differently in these two passages. In Psalms 9:12 it is translated "poor." In Psalms 10:17 the word is translated "afflicted." The two words so translated are closely related, almost identical, and are from the same root. According to one reading they are exactly the same. The thought of the words is "the afflicted" who bear their afflictions with meekness and humility. This latter thought is especially true of the word used in Psalms 10:17. See also:

      Zephaniah 2:3 Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD's anger.

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POINT 150:   The needy and the destitute can pray so that God will hear.

      Psalms 69:33 The LORD hears the needy and does not despise his captive people.

      Psalms 102:17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.

   The word translated "destitute" is a very strong word, meaning primarily "naked." Those to whom man does not listen are just the ones to whom God does listen:

      Luke 1:53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

   The poor cannot get a hearing down here, but they can before God. The more a man has, the more attentively the world listens to him; the more a man needs, the more attentively God listens to him.

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POINT 160:   The suffering ones among God's people can pray so that God will hear.

      James 5:13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.

   Men often hesitate to pray to God because their afflictions are so many. These afflictions are a warrant for praying, and a guarantee that God will hear you.

      Compare Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

   Many are saying, "My troubles and sorrows are so many, what shall I do?" Pray. If any among you are suffering, let him pray.

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POINT 170:   The oppressed can pray so that God will hear.

      Isaiah 19:20 It will be a sign and witness to the LORD Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the LORD because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them.

      James 5:4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.

   The oppressed cry for justice down here, but only get greater oppression; but God will hear if they cry to Him, and will deliver and avenge them. Israel cried to Pharaoh and were only sent to more bitter bondage, to make bricks without straw. Israel cried to Jehovah, and He brought them forth with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. So will He do again when the oppressed cry to Him and not human governments.

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POINT 180:   Widows and fatherless children can pray so that God will hear.

      Exodus 22:22-23 [22] "Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. [23] If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.

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POINT 190:   The child of God who lacks wisdom can pray so that God will hear.

      James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

   If we lack human wisdom we can have God's wisdom. If we are full of our own wisdom we can not have His.

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POINT 200:   The man who is sincerely seeking the truth, and obeying the truth as fast as he finds it, even though he does not yet know the truth as it is in Jesus, and so is not as yet saved, can pray so that God will hear.

      Acts 10:24, 30-32 [24] The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. [30] Cornelius answered: "Four days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me [31] and said, `Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. [32] Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.'

      Compare Acts 11:14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.

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Topic 20:   To Whom One Should Pray.

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POINT 10:   We should pray to God.

      Acts 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

   Much so-called prayer is not to God. There is very little thought of God in it. We think of the audience; we think, it may be, of our need; but there is not a clear, deep sense that we have come into the presence of the all holy, almighty, all-loving One, and are laying hold upon Him for His help. This is one of the most frequent causes of failure in prayer. We do not really pray to God. The first thing to do when we pray is to actually come into God's presence, to dismiss from our minds, so far as possible, all thought of our surroundings and look to the Spirit to present God to our minds and make Him real to us. It is possible by the Holy Spirit's aid to have God so really present that it almost seems as if we could see and touch Him. Indeed, we do see Him with the spirit's eyes, and touch Him with the hand of faith.

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POINT 20:   We should pray to the Father.

      Matthew 6:9 [9] This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, [10] your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

      Luke 11:13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

      John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

   Various modes of address to him are found in the prayers recorded in the Bible:

      John 17:1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you."

      John 17:25 Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.

      Matthew 6:9 This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

      Acts 4:24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them."

      Ephesians 1:17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

      Ephesians 3:14 [14] For this reason I kneel before the Father, [15] from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

      1 Thessalonians 3:11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you.

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POINT 30:   We should pray to the Lord Jesus Christ.

      Acts 7:59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."

      2 Corinthians 12:8-9 [8] Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. [9] But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

      Acts 9:9-10, 13-14, 17, 20- 21 [9] For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. [10] In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered. [13] "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. [14] And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name." [17] Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord -- Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here -- has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." [20] At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. [21] All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?"

      2 Timothy 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

      Compare 2 Timothy 4:8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day -- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

      1 Corinthians 1:2 [2] To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ -- their Lord and ours:

      Romans 10:12-13 [12] For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile -- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, [13] for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

      Compare Romans 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

   One of the most distinctive characteristics of Christians is that they pray to Jesus Christ. They were spoken of in apostolic days as those who called on the name of Jesus:

      Acts 9:21 14, 21 [14] And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name. [21] All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?"

      1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ -- their Lord and ours:

   QUESTION: Should we pray to the Holy Spirit?

   ANSWER: There is no recorded prayer in the Bible to the Holy Spirit, but the communion of the Holy Spirit is spoken of. This may imply prayer, but it may mean the partaking of the Holy Spirit.

      Compare 1 Corinthians 10:16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?

   We are dependent upon the Holy Spirit for everything, and so we must look to Him, which implies prayer. Yet it is the Father and the Son who give the Holy Spirit.

      John 14:16-17 [16] And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -- [17] the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

      John 15:26 When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.

      Acts 2:33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

   It would seem then that if we wished Him, instead of praying directly to Him, we should pray to the Father or to the Son for Him.

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