What Does the Bible Say About How We Can Improve Our Prayers?

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Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored 180+ books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

Have we been struggling in our prayer life? Has it become a challenge even to pray? What can we do? What does the Father expect of us in our prayers? What is the Father truly concerned about?

Americans are so pressured by work if they are a parent, by their schooling if they are a student, not to mention the many friends and family that are suffering from one adversity after another. We have already learned that we are to “PRAY without ceasing.” (1 Thess. 5:17) “Rejoicing in hope, enduring under tribulation, persevering in prayer.” (Rom. 12:12) “In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6) We have covered these Scriptures well. If anything, this book and others like it have shown us that prayer is the most precious form of communication known to man or woman. Regardless of the time of day, regardless of the weather, the Almighty God is available to hear our prayers.–1 John 5:14.

Even so, for some of us, we might find prayer to be more of a challenge than anything else. Therefore, what can we do to overcome this challenge? Below we will identify the problem. We will also create a goal for our prayer life. Finally, we will open up the way so we can attain our goal. What goal do we have when it comes to prayer?

  • Praying more often …
  • Prayers that are different and wide-ranging …
  • Prayers that are more moving and heartfelt …
  • Something else __________________________ …

The Bible contains many passages that offer guidance on how to pray and improve our prayers. Here are a few examples:

  • Matthew 6:9-13: In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches his followers to pray to God, saying “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This passage emphasizes the importance of praying in a way that honors God and aligns with his will.

  • James 5:16: This verse advises believers to “pray for one another, that you may be healed.” It suggests that prayer can be a powerful tool for seeking healing and support from others.

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17: This verse encourages believers to “pray without ceasing.” This suggests that prayer should be an ongoing part of our lives, rather than something we do only in specific circumstances.

  • Psalm 145:18: This verse states that “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” This suggests that God is responsive to the prayers of those who seek him with sincerity and authenticity.

In general, the Bible suggests that prayer should be an integral part of our relationship with God and that it can be a powerful source of support, guidance, and strength in our lives.

Revealing the Problem

If the prayer life that we seek seems hidden, we can reveal by turning to the Scriptures. Prayer to God is an open invitation to communicate anytime and anyplace. However, many fail to use this freedom to communicate as often and as freely as they should. If we know that is true of us, do not be disheartened because we have now identified one of the obstacles that we need to overcome.

OBSTACLE: Forgetting, overlooking, disregarding, ignoring avoiding, and neglecting Prayer

Ephesians 5:15-16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 buying out[1] the time, because the days are evil.

Scriptural Insight

Those who are wise will have a right attitude to time. An expression, ‘you are buying time’, similar to the one used here (making the most of every opportunity), appears in Daniel 2:8 in relation to the Chaldeans who were unable to tell Nebuchadnezzar his dream, and so attempted to gain time before their death. If the meaning is the same in Ephesians, the force would be that believers are living in the last days, and so they should try to gain time in order to walk in a manner that pleases the Lord. The verb ‘redeem’ is drawn from the commercial language of the marketplace, and its prefix denotes an intensive activity, a buying which exhausts the possibilities available. It seems better, then, to understand the expression as metaphorical, signifying to ‘make the most of the time’.88 Believers will act wisely by snapping up every opportunity that comes.

The reason for taking full advantage of every occasion is that the days are evil. Although this temporal expression has been understood simply as a general description of the presence of evil in the world which has now become ‘widespread and arrogantly powerful’, Paul’s language, given his eschatological perspective, suggests an additional nuance. In continuity with Old Testament and Jewish apocalyptic thought, the apostle distinguishes two ages, ‘the present age’ and ‘the coming age’, which is the time of salvation. The former was called ‘this present evil age’ (Gal. 1:4; cf. Rom. 8:18). In apocalyptic literature evil was understood to characterize the last days generally; this age was dominated by rulers or demonic powers which were doomed to pass away (1 Cor. 2:6, 7). The notion that ‘the days are evil’ appears to be similar to the idea of ‘this present evil age’ in Galatians 1:4 (cf. ‘the evil day’, Eph. 6:13). These ‘evil’ days are under the control of the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), who is opposed to God and his purposes. He exercises effective and compelling authority over men and women outside of Christ, keeping them in terrible bondage (2:1–3). But the Ephesian Christians have already participated in the world to come, the powers of the new age have broken in upon them, and they have become ‘light in the Lord’ (5:8). Although they live in the midst of these evil days as they await their final redemption, they are neither to avoid them nor to fear them. Rather, they are to live wisely, taking advantage of every opportunity in this fallen world to conduct themselves in a manner that is pleasing to God. How this is done is amplified in the following verses.[2]

RECOMMENDATION: Make a schedule in the beginning and pick several times a day that you might pray. Things are more likely to be adhered to if they are written down, so make a written schedule. We do not want the business of Satan’s world to contribute to our forgetting, overlooking, or neglecting the more important things, like prayer. In time, what began, as a schedule, will become more natural. We need to heed the apostle Paul’s words to “buy out the time.”


OBSTACLE: Distractions, interruptions, and entertainment

Matthew 12:34 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

34 Offspring of vipers, how can you speak good things when you are wicked? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Scriptural Insight

Jesus brings out the importance of the source when he proceeds to affirm that what one says proceeds from the abundance of the heart. The heart is used here as an inclusive term to denote “the seat of physical, spiritual and mental life … as center and source of the whole inner life, w. its thinking, feeling, and volition” (BAGD, 1 and 1b). It is what the heart is full of (abundance) that determines what anyone says. People do not speak out of character.[3]
THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST by Stalker-1 The TRIAL and Death of Jesus_02 THE LIFE OF Paul by Stalker-1

RECOMMENDATION: If we find that when we pray our minds tend to wander and we begin thinking about other things, it is best to stick to shorter prayers for the time being. We need to stay with these short prayers until our focus improves. Another recommendation is that we pray about things that are weighing on our heart, it will keep us more focused.


OBSTACLE: Repetitive, routine, predictable and unchanging

Psalm 77:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

12 I will meditate on all your work,
and ponder on your deeds.

77:11–12. Reflecting back on years gone by, the psalmist purposes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. The remembrance of God’s past actions taken on behalf of his people bolstered his faith. I will meditate on all your works, that is, these past deeds and miracles of God. Asaph redirected his mind away from his present troubles to God’s past mighty deeds and found renewed strength in the midst of his troubles.[4]

RECOMMENDATION: Jesus said, “When you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matt. 6:7) Therefore, we do not want to find ourselves saying the same things repeatedly. We can overcome this again by writing things down, like one thing that we might feel that we are blessed to have. Change it each day for a couple weeks. In addition, pray about daily events because each day, different things are affecting us.


OBSTACLE: Uncertainty, reservations, doubt

1 Corinthians 10:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

Scriptural Insight

10:13. The warning to be careful not to fall raised another issue that Paul addressed. What if Christians are so tempted that they cannot resist turning from Christ? Perhaps he had in mind the attraction some Corinthians had toward the idolatrous fertility rituals practiced in Corinth. What if they were not able to resist?

First, all temptations that Christians experience, including that of idolatry, are common to man. Others had resisted the temptation toward idolatry, and the Corinthians could do so as well.

Second, God is faithful, and he will not desert his people (see Deut. 7:9; 1 Thess. 5:24; Heb. 10:23; Rev. 1:5). God can be trusted not to allow temptations beyond what Christians can bear. God will always provide a way out of temptation so believers can stand up and not fall into apostasy. He himself tempts no one (Jas. 1:13), but he is in control of Satan, who tempts believers to sin (Matt. 4:1; 6:13). Because of his great love for his children, God does not allow temptations to be so great that they overcome us. Instead, Christians sin because they do not search for a way out.[5]

RECOMMENDATION: Christians today have overplayed the Bible verses that say if you ask for this faithfully and do not doubt you will get this. “Ask, and it will be given to you seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matt. 7:7) “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matt. 21:22) “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24) “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14) This creates the problem of some praying that a problem go away, such as being bullied in school, or some illness, or ongoing unemployment, and the problem does not go away. In fact, it gets worse, so they conclude, “Why pray anymore?” God is not going to answer my prayer!”


If we are to remain rational in our thinking, we need to grasp the fact that God does not always step in when we believe he should, nor is he obligated to do so. He has greater issues that need resolving, which have eternal effects for the whole of humankind. There are far more times when God does not step in, meaning that our relief may come in the hope of our heeding Bible principles, or the resurrection if our problem is life threatening. Therefore, for his servants that apply his Word in a balanced manner, fully, God is acting in their best interest by way of his inspired, inerrant Word.

There is little doubt that God hears our prayers. (Ps. 65:2) Thereafter, after we pray about the problem, let us try to reflect on the bigger picture. (See APPENDIX A&B) We do not want to sit around waiting for God to miraculously step in and solve our problem. Why not investigate the Word of God and look for Bible principles that will help us deal with the problem, or at least comfort us, giving us the strength to endure the problem. One answer to our prayers is that we are given endurance and strength to bear it. Paul said, “I can do all things through[6] him who strengthens me.”–Philippians 4:13.

Classroom_Depressed Student.jpeg

OBSTACLE: Embarrassment, humiliation, shame

Ecclesiastes 3:1 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

There is an appointed time for everything, a time for every activity under the heavens:

Scriptural Insight

3:1. There is always enough time to do God’s will (Ellul, 233–34). There may not be enough time to accomplish our own selfish agendas, but there is plenty of time to do what God has ordained for us. Time presents no frustration to him. He will accomplish all that concerns us. What a liberating truth![7]

RECOMMENDATION: Certainly, if one prays in a discreet way, they will be noticed. In addition, in many cases, it is actually very beneficial. First, it is an easy way for people to know we are religious. Second, it can open up opportunities for us to talk about our faith. It should be noted that there are no Bible verses that say one has to pray aloud or ecstatically. Third, we can pray in our mind in such a way that if we do not want to be noticed, we will not be noticed. Nehemiah, the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes offered a prayer to God that was evidently silent, and nothing in the account suggests that the king knew that he was praying. (Neh. 2:1-5) Therefore, if we need to say a prayer to God without drawing attention to ourselves, like in the middle of a class at school, this is possible.


OBSTACLE: Feeling as though we are not worthy of approaching God in prayer

1 Peter 5:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Scriptural Insight

Cast means “to throw something upon someone or something else.” This word suggests a deliberate decision of trust. We are to trust God with our anxiety, the things we worry about. The term (merimnan) means “to be drawn in different directions, to be divided or distracted.” Whatever we are anxious about tends to distract us from trusting God. It tends to pull us in different directions so that we do not depend on him. When we limp in this direction, we do not resist Satan, but play into his hand. He wants us to put more trust in ourselves and others as opposed to God.

Peter’s first-century readers, like their twentieth-century cousins, failed to remember this truth even in the midst of anguish and pain: God cares for you. The form in which the verb appears (present active indicative with the dative) indicates that God’s care and concern for believers is constant, ongoing, and unending. God is not indifferent to the suffering of his followers, but desires our active, humble trust in him, especially during difficult days.[8]

RECOMMENDATION: Maybe we have fallen short so many times on some sin and maybe it is a very serious sin. Maybe we have tried to break free of this sin’s power over us and have failed miserably. Maybe we are so fed up with failure, so ashamed; we feel God has to be as well. Study the following texts and see that this irrational thinking could not be further from the truth. (Luke 12:6-7; John 6:43-44; Hebrews 4:16; 6:10; 2 Peter 3:9) These verses will not only help us to appreciate that God wants to hear from us but that we do not have to be some kind of spiritual giant for that to be the case.


[Luke] 12:6–7. Let us illustrate the point from the opposite perspective. Think not of the most powerful force on earth. Think of the weakest thing on earth. Can anything be weaker or less significant than a few birds worth maybe two cents? Literally, they are worth two small coins, each of which is worth one sixteenth of a denarius. A denarius was the ordinary wage for a full day’s work by a day laborer.

But look at God! He knows every one of the sparrows and cares for the daily fate of each one. Compare this to yourself. God knows how many hairs are on your head. Yes, he cares for you in this world and in the world to come. You are valued! Fear and reverence the one who values you, not the one who opposes you.[9]

[John] 6:43–44. The grumbling was not only insulting, but dangerous: it presupposed that divine revelation could be sorted out by talking the matter over, and thus diverted attention from the grace of God. ‘So long as a man remains, and is content to remain, confident of his own ability, without divine help, to assess experience and the meaning of experience, he cannot “come to” the Lord, he cannot “believe”; only the Father can move him to this step, with its incalculable and final results’ (Lightfoot, pp. 160–161).

The thought of v. 44 is the negative counterpart to v. 37a. The latter tells us that all whom the Father gives to the Son will come to him; here we are told that no-one can come to him unless the Father draws him (cf. Mk. 10:23ff.). And again, it will be Jesus himself who raises such a person up at the last day. The combination of v. 37a and v. 44 prove that this ‘drawing’ activity of the Father cannot be reduced to what theologians sometimes call ‘prevenient grace’ dispensed to every individual, for this ‘drawing’ is selective, or else the negative note in v. 44 is meaningless. Many attempt to dilute the force of the claim by referring to 12:32, where the same verb for ‘to draw’ (helkyō) occurs: Jesus there claims he will draw ‘all men’ to himself. The context shows rather clearly, however, that 12:32 refers to ‘all men without distinction’ (i.e. not just Jews) rather than to ‘all men without exception’. Yet despite the strong predestinarian strain, it must be insisted with no less vigour that John emphasizes the responsibility of people to come to Jesus, and can excoriate them for refusing to do so (e.g. 5:40).[10]

[Hebrews] 4:16. Given the fact that we have a sinless Savior, what can we do? What should be our response?

First, we must approach. Worshipers used this verb (Heb. 7:25) in describing their movement into God’s presence. We are to come to God with all the reverence and awe which his worship demands.

Second, we come to the throne of grace. This is a reverent reference to God’s presence. It is the place where God gives out his free favor. The term describes an attitude more than a place. The seeking sinner will find this throne of grace (Luke 18:9–14).

Third, we come in an attitude of confidence. Although we must approach God with reverence, we can enter his presence with freedom and without fear. The term describes a boldness based on an awareness that God has all the grace we need. It is the attitude of customers coming to a store seeking an important item which they know is plentifully stocked.

Fourth, we come for the purpose of obtaining mercy and grace. God’s mercy prescribes pardon for our many failures. God’s grace provides strength for the demands of God’s service.[11]

[Hebrews] 6:10. What had the readers of Hebrews done to make the writer confident that they were believers? The readers’ works and God’s justice convinced him that his friends had given a demonstration of divine grace.

First, he mentioned the work of the readers. They had labored in Jesus’ name. Their works included concern for others, righteous living, and other Christian virtues. Hebrews 10:32–36 points out additional details of righteous living.

Second, he pointed out the love of the readers. They had ministered to other Christians in the past. They continued to follow this ministry. We see a past and a present participation in their ministry.

Third, he cited the justice of God. In the face of such overwhelming moral evidence, it seemed inconceivable to the writer that God would overlook the works and the love which were evident products of divine grace.

We should be careful not to see this verse as offering support for any doctrine of salvation by works. God had no obligation to the readers, nor did they have any claim on him. Their works were the normal fruit which we should expect from believers. We would expect that God would look with favor upon the evidence of transformed lives which they put out.

In 1979, Vladimir Bojev, a tough, hard-drinking Russian unbeliever, barged into a Baptist service in Russia and blustered, “I’m going to destroy you all. You are just religious fanatics.” To his surprise a beautiful young lady suggested that the believers gather around him and pray for him. Bojev said, “The next thing I knew, I was the center of a prayer circle. I had never before known such love.” The Baptists invited him back, and Vladimir returned to meet with the Baptists daily for two months. He received Christ, married the young lady, and became pastor of a Baptist church in Lipetsk, four hundred kilometers southwest of Moscow. Vladimir said, “Their love won me to Christ and I was converted.” Transformed lives convince others that our Christianity is genuine. Transformed lives attract others to Jesus.[12]

APPLYING GODS WORD-1 For As I Think In My Heart_2nd Edition Put Off the Old Person

[2 Peter 3:]9 The fact that God’s time is not our time means that we cannot judge whether or not God is delaying. Yet our author is not content to leave that issue as a mystery, but goes on to argue that “the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise.” The promise theme hooks back to the promise of his coming mentioned in 3:4, but also the “great and precious promises” of 1:4. The idea that “the Lord” is not slow is probably an allusion to Hab 2:3: “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” In some Greek translations of the OT exactly the same word is used for “delay” that 2 Peter uses. Furthermore, one could understand the Greek as saying, “He will not be slow” or “He will not delay.” While a similar thought is expressed in Isa 13:22, Sir 35:19 (LXX; 35:22 in the NRSV) is closer to our thought here, “Indeed, the Lord will not delay, and like a warrior [or “upon them”] will not be patient until he crushes the loins of the unmerciful.…” The central issue is not whether the author of 2 Peter depends directly on Hab 2:3 or is instead dependent on Sir 35:19 (LXX),35 but that he is in fact dependent on a theme that is found in both the Scriptures that he knew and in later Jewish and Christian writings dependent on those Scriptures.

But why might the “scoffers” have used the “delay” argument? In the texts cited the issue is the sureness of God’s judgment. It will indeed come, and it will come, at least from God’s perspective, promptly. But in the world of 2 Peter the Epicureans were arguing that the delay of the judgment was in fact an argument against the idea of God’s providence. Thus Plutarch in his work De sera numinis vindicta (Moralia 548–68) begins his critique of the Epicureans with, “The delay and procrastination of the Deity in punishing the wicked appears to me the most telling argument by far.” Thus this argument of delay was being used against the idea of divine providence. It is no wonder that Matt 24:48 characterizes the wicked servant as saying, “My master is staying away a long time,” using the same word for “staying away a long time” that the LXX uses for “delay” in Hab 2:3, the point being that he never expects to be called to account for his actions because the delay indicates that the coming will never happen. Whether Matthew was interacting with Epicurean thought or not (Syria and Palestine were certainly not immune to it, so whether we think of Matthew as the redactor or Jesus as the originator of the saying, such ideas could lie in the background) is not a matter for discussion here, but it is likely that such ideas are behind the thought of the “scoffers” in 2 Peter. Here they are characterized as “some” in the phrase “as some understand slowness.” Our author asserts that delay is emphatically not what is happening.

Instead of delay, what is happening is mercy. God is patient or longsuffering. This is part of his self-revelation in Exod 34:6, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.…” The phrase “slow to anger” is represented in the LXX by the same Greek root as our term here. Moses calls upon this characteristic in Num 14:18 when he asks God to forgive Israel: “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.” Jonah complains about it in Jonah 4:3, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” And this theme is repeated elsewhere in the Jewish Scriptures: Neh 9:17; Pss 86:15 (LXX 85:15); 103:8–10 (LXX 102:8–10); 145:8–9 (LXX 144:8–9); Joel 2:13; Nah 1:3; Wisd 15:1 (“But you, our God, are kind and true, patient, and ruling all things in mercy”; NRSV). Naturally the same idea is repeated in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in a number of other pieces of literature from the Second Temple Period. Interestingly enough, 1 Pet 3:20 attributes this characteristic to God with relation to the generation of the flood. This divine characteristic also underlies the virtue of patience or long-suffering that is required in followers of Jesus, for they are to be like their Father: 2 Cor 6:6; Gal 5:22; Eph 4:2; Col 1:11; 3:12; 1 Tim 3:10; 4:2; Heb 6:12. One cannot properly claim to follow a Father who is patient and slow to anger if one is herself impatient and quick to anger, which is one reason why the control of anger is such an important topic in the NT, as is the command not to judge.

While the characteristic of patience demonstrates the honorable magnanimity of the divine ruler (over against those who slander him by claiming that the slowness of the coming judgment is a delay or a failure to fulfill his promises), it is not a purposeless magnanimity. The goal of God’s patience/long-suffering/slowness to anger is human repentance, as Wisd 11:23 states, “But you are merciful to all, for you can do all things, and you overlook people’s sins, so that they may repent” (NRSV). Of course, that is just the point of the Joel and Jonah texts cited above, the former calling on Israel to respond with repentance and the latter complaining that the repentance of the Ninevites is just what he had feared would happen. In this vein Rom 2:4 asks, “Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”

Naturally, this desire for repentance rather than judgment applies not only to the intermediate judgments of history but also to the final judgment. In support of this we have, of course, our own passage in the NT but also Revelation, where it appears that the final judgment is held back in the hope that people will repent. There is a repeated lament that instead of repenting people either kept on sinning or cursed God (Rev 9:20, 21; 16:9, 11). (Of course the same reluctance to judge is applied to the church, which is given an opportunity to repent: Rev 2:5, 16, 21, 22; 3:3, 19.) This view of history was also that of Jewish works. 1 Enoch 60.5–6 quotes Michael as saying, “This day of mercy has lasted until today; and he has been merciful and long-suffering towards those that dwell upon the earth. And when this day [of judgment] arrives … it will become a day of covenant for the elect and inquisition for the sinners.” The delay of the final judgment, then, is for the purpose of mercy. Since delay of judgment is an important theme in apocalyptic literature, it is also an important theme in other apocalyptic works, such as 2 Apocalypse of Baruch (1:3; 12:4; 21:20–21; 24:2; 48:29; 59:6; 85:8).

Yet if repentance is the purpose of God’s slowness of anger (which, of course, has its downside in that some people take it as an indication that he will not execute justice and that they therefore can do evil and get off free), does that repentance have any influence on the timing of the end? There is a passage in b. Sanhedrin 97b–98a that, if authentic, shows a late-first-century rabbinic discussion of this issue of whether repentance actually influences the timing of the end or whether the time is set and repentance does not influence it:

This matter is disputed by Tannaim: R. Eliezer said: If Israel repent, they will be redeemed; if not, they will not be redeemed. R. Joshua said to him, If they do not repent, will they not be redeemed? But the Holy One, blessed be He, will set up a king over them, whose decrees shall be as cruel as Haman’s, whereby Israel shall engage in repentance, and he will thus bring them back to the right path. Another [Baraitha] taught: R. Eliezer said: If Israel repent, they will be redeemed, as it is written, Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. R. Joshua said to him, But is it not written, ye have sold yourselves for naught; and ye shall be redeemed without money? Ye have sold yourselves for naught, for idolatry; and ye shall be redeemed without money—without repentance and good deeds. R. Eliezer retorted to R. Joshua, But is it not written, Return unto me, and I will return unto you? R. Joshua rejoined—But is it not written, For I am master over you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion? R. Eliezer replied, But it is written, in returning and rest shall ye be saved.… (Soncino translation)

Later rabbis seem to side with R. Eliezer, but in 2 Peter we are not in a later period but the period when this topic was still under discussion. In Revelation it looks as if repentance will change God’s plans, although the prophet does not hold out hope of repentance (then, neither did Jonah in the word he preached in Nineveh). In 2 Peter it also looks as if the human response can change at least the timing of the end, as we shall see when we get to 2 Pet 3:12.

However one decides the effect of repentance on the final judgment, it is clear that, according to 2 Peter, if God had his way no one would come under condemnation in that judgment. “The Lord” (while in the tradition this refers to God, it is not clear whether or not 2 Peter means it to refer to Jesus in that he often uses “Lord” to refer to Jesus) is patient with “you” (i.e., the addressees), and they can be glad of his patience, for he has freed them from entrapment in desire and enabled them to take part in the divine nature (so 1:3–5). He has done this not wanting (or not willing) “anyone” to perish (as the generation of the flood did; 2 Pet 3:6), but “everyone” to attain repentance (as the addressees of the letter had). There is a play here between the “anyone” or “some” (earlier in our verse) and “everyone” or “all.” “Some” (probably the “scoffers”) understand God to be slow in keeping his promise, but God does not want “anyone”/“some” (they are the same pronoun in Greek) to perish. What he wants is “everyone”/“all” to come to repentance. It looks as if 2 Peter is saying that God does not wish even the “scoffers” to perish (although our author does not have any expectation that they will repent) but rather wants even them to repent. God’s will may not be done, but it will not be for lack of trying on his part.

We see here a concept closely related to Jesus’ command to pray for one’s enemies (Matt 5:43–48 par. Luke 6:27–28, 32–36): “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons [sic] of your Father in heaven.” God’s will is that no one will perish in whatever form of judgment. Those who are really his children will have a heart or character like his. (After all, we are partakers in the divine nature.) So the followers of Jesus pray for the good of those who persecute them. He or she wants God to turn insurgent leaders like Saul (a self-described zealot who wanted to purify Israel by getting rid of the followers of Jesus, which followers of Jesus thought that the revolution had already happened and so would not join in against the Romans) into great leaders of his people, that is, Paul. They do not rejoice in the death of any evil person, but rather hope against hope for their repentance. This should set them off from the culture around them. Unfortunately, it is often the culture that co-ops the followers of Jesus into sharing their national and cultural hatreds and rejoicing in the destruction of people whom God wished would have repented. The Day of the Lord may indeed come, but the desire of God and of his people is that it finds no one whom God has to judge (even if there is little hope in Scripture that that will actually be the case).[13]

Ponder this; God himself personally listens to our prayer. He could very well have delegated listening to our prayers to his angels. This evidences just how much he cares for us. Our prayers are like a secret diary that no one can ever get to, so unless we want another to know, our personal prayers are safe with God. If we stop praying to the Father one day because we feel that he no longer wants to hear from us; this would be the same if a best friend stopped talking to us.



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[1] (an idiom, literally ‘to redeem the time’) to do something with intensity and urgency (used absolutely)–‘to work urgently, to redeem the time.’–GELNTBSD

[2] Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 381–382.

[3] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 321.

[4] Anders, Max; Lawson, Steven. Holman Old Testament Commentary – Psalms 76-150 (Kindle Locations 604-608). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[5] Richard L. Pratt Jr, I & II Corinthians, vol. 7, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 165–166.

[6] Lit in

[7] Moore, David; Anders, Max; Akin, Daniel. Holman Old Testament Commentary Volume 14 – Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (pp. 40-41). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[8] David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, vol. 11, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 92–93.

[9] Trent C. Butler, Luke, vol. 3, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 202–203.

[10] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 292–293.

[11] Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, vol. 10, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 74–75.

[12] Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, vol. 10, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 113.

[13] Peter H. Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2006), 277–282.

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