[Exclusive] Building a House of Prayer, Topical Prayer

Building a House of Prayer

Eighteen Prayer Models for Approaching God’s Throne

Author | Dr. Joshua Young-Gi Hong

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“What we are requesting earnestly is the principle of God’s kingdom whether we want it or not.”—Charles Spurgeon

A Topical Prayer is an aggressive prayer with a specific prayer topic we are asking God to answer. This prayer can be an incentive to live a more diligent life of prayer. It is because we will not have a definite motive for a prayer if we do not have a prayer topic.

The Holy Place of Prayer

Many Christians have prayer topics, but also many of them are ignorant of the significance and methodology of a Topical Prayer. A Topical Prayer means that we start on a journey of prayer with a definite destination. Thus, Yong-Gi Cho compares the Topical Prayer to “strolling to a certain destination.” It is important to have a destination, and the process of getting there is important.

There are two kinds of Topical Prayer—one without a clear time frame for the prayer and the other with such a time frame set beforehand.

We call the latter a prayer of determination. A determined prayer refers to a prayer with a specific topic, and it can be carried out for weeks, months, or even a year as the time requires and allows it. If your prayer is not answered at a given time, you can choose one from two alternatives. First, if you have a firm conviction that God has heard your prayer and will answer your prayer eventually, then give thanks and glory to God in faith. Then, we wait for God’s answering at His time. The other is to lengthen your prayer time again. If you believe that you need to hold onto God more by a prayer for Him to hear it, then you must extend the duration of your prayer.

We have to be aware of the following points, whether we are praying with a topic or have set a certain time to pray to be answered by God.

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Have a Definite Prayer Topic

We should not have an ambiguous prayer topic when giving a Topical Prayer. The topic must be specific. For example, those prayers like “Lord, please be with the people of this nation” or “Please allow spiritual blessings to our church” cannot be considered Topical Prayers. An example of a Topical Prayer is: “Oh, Lord, please allow twenty devotional leaders for new members in our church in one year.” A Topical Prayer can be measured and evaluated. With a specific prayer topic, you will clearly see when God has your prayer when has been answered.

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Have a Firm Conviction that Your Prayer Will Be Answered

Whenever we pray, we must have a firm conviction that our prayer will be answered. The reason that our prayer is not answered is not the issue of God’s power or truthfulness. It is an issue of our attitude and conviction in our prayer. God is ready to answer His children’s prayer all the time. If you realize this fact and request God with patience, you will surely experience God’s grace and power.

Jesus taught His disciples about having the conviction that their prayer will be answered in Matthew 7:7-11: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 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 good gifts to those who ask him!”

What Jesus is emphasizing is the conviction, the firm belief, that their prayers will be answered. Many Christians miss out on abundant blessings from God because they do not pray (James 4:2). Whenever we pray, we must believe firmly that God will give us what we ask from Him, and He does not reprimand us for praying to Him (James 1:5).

Jesus’ teachings on prayer are threefold and step by step. Our prayer must be earnest and must be supported by acts of practice and patience.

  • Ask: Asking means that we realize our shortcomings and cry out for His help in faith. Asking has the premise of believing in God and achieving humility.
  • Seek: Seeking means to act on what we are asking God. An earnest prayer is accompanied by our efforts in addition to our asking heart.
  • Knock: Lastly, knocking adds patience to our effort of acting on our asking heart.

God never gives a stone and a snake when we ask for bread and a fish. Stones and snakes signify something valueless and harmful. In other words, Jesus makes the point that there is no parent who will give harmful things when their children ask for something. That is to say that Jesus makes a point of assurance that God will answer the prayer of believers to provide what they need and pray for. How would your parents feel when they promised to give you something on many occasions, and yet, you keep asking in a tone of suspicion? Thus, when we offer this Topical Prayer, let us pray with a firm conviction for God’s answer.

God’s answer to your prayer is revealed in three ways. The first is His prompt answer. The second is the case of a delayed answer, which He gives at an appropriate later time. The third is to answer with a “No.”

First, let us consider prompt answers to prayer. I have experienced so many answers from God. In fact, the reason for my being the way I am now can be regarded as the result of answered prayers. If we are sure that God has more concern for our life than we, then we can offer a Topical Prayer with hope. There was a case of prompt answering to my Topical Prayer by God in my life.

In college, I fell destitute once because I had expended all my allowance. I praised God silently in the bus and told God the need for more than the amount of my allowance—“God, please allow me the money I need.” Then, later, my mother gave me some money, telling me, “A deacon wanted to give you some spending money.” My mother said the deacon was praying and began an intercessory prayer for me. Then, it just occurred to him that I might need some money. Later, I checked the time when the deacon came to that idea, and it was the same time that I prayed for some spending money in the bus. I was surprised again by God’s care and perfect timing.

As we experience God’s grace more and more, our faith becomes deeper and we get a conviction for our faith. We must believe that God answers all our prayers rather than believe that our prayers are answered by the topic we have chosen.

Second, let us consider the case of a delayed answer to our prayer. The answer to our prayer may come at once, but sometimes it takes longer. George Muller prayed with the topic of the salvation of his five close friends. After five years after Muller prayed for them, one friend received the Lord and was saved. Ten years later, two more were saved and changed their living style. Muller prayed for the other two remaining friends. At the twenty-fifth year, the fourth friend received salvation. Muller prayed for the last friend twelve years more. In the end, Muller passed away. But he prayed for the salvation of his friend until his last breath. Several months after Muller’s death, his last friend received the Lord and was saved. Our efforts in the Lord will never be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

For our spiritual growth, God sometimes holds back our prayers from being answered. The very act of praying gets us closer to God as it is written in Deuteronomy 4:7: “The way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him.” It is more important to get closer to God than to have our prayers answered. Prayer gives us the life with God. Although the time together with God may only last a few minutes, it is very valuable. Topical Prayer becomes an instrument in continuing our prayer life. Only through a continuation of praying life can we enjoy the amazing privilege of being God’s friends.

Third, let us consider the case of God answering “No.”

The Apostle Paul prayed to ask God to get rid of the thorn in his flesh. The tormenting pain in his flesh led the Apostle Paul to pray earnestly to God three times. God’s answer to his prayer was not to get rid of the thorn in his flesh but to give him the grace of the Holy Spirit. Through the thorn on his flesh, God wanted the Apostle Paul not to reflect on himself but to rely completely on God. The Apostle Paul, by God’s grace, had stronger faith and became boastful of his weakness. Furthermore, he was able to give greater testimony about the strong God who uses weaknesses to complete His work.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, Paul said, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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.”

God answers the prayers of those who ask. When we pray for the will of God, our life and character changes and God’s glory and power are revealed. Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer and told us to ask, seek, and knock at the door. This was to teach us to pray according to the will of God.

Jesus said in the Matthew7:11, “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 good gifts to those who ask him!” Here, evil refers to the original sinful nature of mankind. However, despite this sinful nature, it is a general nature of parents to give unconditional love to their children. If we, the sinners, can show such love, what more can we say about God, our Father in heaven? Here, good gifts can be interpreted in several ways. Some people interpret it as material things, and others believe it means a spiritual thing.

In Luke 11:13, in a slightly different verse, it refers to the Holy Spirit, “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!”

This discrepancy will make sense once we realize that the majority of the readers of the Gospel of Matthew were Jews and those of the Gospel of Luke were Gentiles. Jews knew the best was the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, when the day of Messiah would come, God promised to give the Holy Spirit as the gift to His people (Joel 2:28-29). Thus, Jews knew the good gift referred to the Holy Spirit. However, it was not the case for the Gentiles. So, the Gospel of Luke recorded it as “the Holy Spirit.”

Here, we learn an important spiritual lesson. The true answer to our prayer is not to receive any worldly things but to receive the Holy Spirit. Our life will change when we receive the Holy Spirit. Thus, although it may not happen exactly the way we prayed for, you will always be able to experience God’s grace in his answer. What is important is that God should be the focus and the center of our Topical Prayer.

There are times when God will grant our wishes even if we insist on our will rather than God’s will. However, this answer can cause a wasting disease upon us and lead our spirit to wither. No matter how ignorant and unfocused a prayer is, if we pray continually, we can bring about the desired result and get what we asked for. So, the writer of a Psalm said, “So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them” (Psalm 106:15). They brought about the destruction of their own soul. The burden of having their prayer answered the way they wanted and not the way God wanted became a curse for them.

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Create the Synergy Effect of a Topical Prayer

Synergy describes the energy created when the community works together to bring a greater result than the sum of each individual’s contribution. Topical Prayer is the same. If you share a prayer topic with others, the prayer will gain greater strength (not necessarily by intercessory prayer).

We can have many personal prayer topics just as the church may have. These prayer topics gain greater strength when the community prays together with shared and common needs. If the church communities or other faith communities share prayer topics every week or every month regularly, they can pray more diligently and glorify God by having such prayers answered. God works invisibly, so Isaiah calls Him “a God who hides himself” (Isaiah 45:15). We have to ask God earnestly for the invisible hands of God to answer and work for our prayer topic. When two or three pray together, we can experience the mightier power of God answering our prayer. Topical prayer can be a communal act and will never be superficial if it is given by the community as a whole.

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Facing God at Peniel

Peniel was the place named by Jacob because he saw God face to face there (Genesis 32:30). A prayer at Peniel signifies a persistent prayer. Jacob had spent twenty years at his uncle Laban’s house hiding from his brother Esau, and now he was on his way home. At the ford of the River Jabbok he met an angel of God and wrestled with him all night long. The angel saw that he could not overpower Jacob, so he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as Jacob wrestled with the angel of God. Nevertheless, Jacob persistently hung onto him, saying that he would not let the angel go if he did not give his blessing. Eventually, God, who appeared as an angel, gave into Jacob and changed his name to Israel.

Jacob’s wrestle signifies the prayer of patience and tears. Although Jacob was on his way home, he must have been afraid of his brother’s revenge for stealing their father Isaac’s blessing. Jacob must have worried that Esau would take his life, his family’s lives, and all his possessions. Jacob must have prayed all night in tears with a prayer topic that Esau might have mercy and pity on him and that he must have God’s blessing.

Like Jacob, we also need to offer our Peniel Prayer to God. We can pray persistently and wrestle with God face to face. There will be times when our Topical Prayer is not answered right away. Nevertheless, if we are sure that the prayer topic coincides with God’s will, we should not be disappointed and should continue to pray with patience. If we are to choose one key word for all prayers including the Topical Prayer, it will undoubtedly be patience.

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Our Prayer Topic for Life: Let Our Hearts Kneel before the Cross

Each of us needs to have prayer topics in life to accomplish our calling and to show obedience and devotion to that calling. Agur, son of Jakeh, prayed all his life with two prayer topics: “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:7-9). Through this prayer, we can see that Agur only wanted to show his sincerity to God and to glorify Him.

We have to have a prayer topic for a life of obedience and devotion like Agur. I have this prayer topic for life: “Please use me as an instrument to make leaders for God’s kingdom.” We have to carry our own cross and become people who accomplish God’s calling. We all are warriors of faith in God; and our weapons are prayer and obedience.

In the Middle Ages there was an elaborate ceremony to bestow knighthood. After the end of the ceremony, the knight was ordered to go into the king’s chapel and spend all night praying until dawn. The knight had to spend all night, immersed in prayer and vision for his future life. An artist named John Pettie drew a picture of this scene and named it “The Vigil.” In the picture, a young knight in his armor kneels before the altar. The sunlight at dawn shines on the dark corridor of the chapel behind him. Yet, the knight does not seem to be aware that night has gone. He looks tired but still looks at the altar solemnly. We can see that his eyes are absorbed in one thing—meditation on God. His helmet and armor are placed on the stairs to the altar, but his sword is laid in front of him. The colorful strings of ornament drew the shape of a cross.

What is the prayer topic on which you pray all night? Are you holding onto the Cross before you when you pray? The Cross tells us what complete obedience to God’s will is. The Cross urges us to follow the example of Christ wherever God leads us.

It is the Cross that binds us to God. We have to embrace the prayer topic of “the Cross” in our heart.

Checkpoint of Prayer

Of what should we be aware of when we offer a Topical Prayer? First of all, we should not be disappointed when our Topical Prayer is not answered right away. We have to learn how to pray with patience. Additionally, we need to check if our prayer topics are in accordance with God’s will. Also, we should not pray on the prayer topics only. As we pray with the prayer topics, we have to accompany them with repentance and thanksgiving, praise and worship. We should not ask God to give us something for our own greed.

Lastly, we have to glorify God when our Topical Prayers are answered. Only God answers our prayer.

Sweet Rain of Grace

The benefit of Topical Prayer is that it does not completely free us from tensions to the point where we disregard prayer. When we have a topic to pray, it makes us awake spiritually. If we don’t have a topic to pray for, we live a life of spiritual laziness and laxity. Why don’t you write some of your prayer topics? And set a prayer plan for those topics. It can change your praying life.

Praying Time

A Topical Prayer can be practiced by setting a specific period of time. It can also be done freely as long as the prayer topics are unanswered, as they have been explained earlier in this chapter. Therefore, a Topical Prayer often takes a longer time. It is effective to set a time for a Topical Prayer. For example, we can pray at ten o’clock every night. God answers more powerfully the prayers that are regularly given to Him.

Closed Prayer Room

  • Topical Prayer is an aggressive prayer with a specific prayer topic to be answered by God.
  • Examples of a Topical Prayer
    >> Lord, please heal my father’s sickness.
    >> Lord, please have our church spread the gospel to over one hundred souls.
  • My Topical Prayer:
  • The Order of a Topical Prayer
    >> Praise (Hymn or Chorus)
    >> Confession of Thanksgiving
    >> Reading a Topical Prayer
    >> Carrying out the Topical Prayer
  • Self-illumination
    >> Does my prayer topic coincide with God’s will?
    >> Am I giving the prayer of worship and praise along with the prayer topic?
    >> Do I have a firm conviction in my heart that my prayer topic will be answered?
    >> Am I praying continuously with patience even if my prayer topic has not been answered yet?

One Last Word on Topical Prayer

The important thing is that we believe God answers all our prayers rather than believing that our prayers are answered by the topic we choose.

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