Author: Ron Graham

Prayer and Providence

How God Answers Prayer
—Intercession, Providence, Good Pleasure.

God's part in prayer is unseen and unfelt by us. Nevertheless, God does respond wonderfully. This lesson examines how God responds to the prayers of his people in three marvelous ways: intercession, providence, and good pleasure.

1 Intercession

To intercede means to plead for someone and there are two who intercede for us with the Heavenly Father.

The intercession of the Holy Spirit

The Spirit intercedes because we are weak and imperfect in the way that we pray (Romans 8:26-27).

Romans 8:26-27

¶“26In the same way the [Holy] Spirit also helps in our weakness. For we don't know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27Furthermore, he who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is. [Thus God knows our hearts] because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to God’s will” (Romans 8:26-27).

The Spirit intercedes so that all things work together for our daily and eternal good (Romans 8:28).

Romans 8:28

¶“28And we know that God makes all things work together for good to those who love God —to those who are called in line with his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

The intercession of Jesus Christ

Jesus intercedes for us when we are weak and imperfect in the way that we live (Romans 8:34, 1John 1:8-9, 2:1).

Romans 8:34

¶“34Who is the one who condemns? Isn't Christ Jesus the one who died? Yes, and even better, the one who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34).

1John 1:8-9

¶“8If we claim that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9But if we confess our sins [to God], He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all that is wrong.” (1John 1:8-9).

1John 2:1

¶“1My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father —Jesus Christ the righteous” (1John 2:1).

Jesus intercedes so that our hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience (Hebrews 10:21-22, Hebrews 9:24, Hebrews 7:25).

Hebrews 10:21-22

¶“21Since we have a high priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. Let us have our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:21-22).

Hebrews 9:24

¶“24For Christ didn't enter a holy place made by [human] hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself. He now appears in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24).

Hebrews 7:25

¶“25Consequently, Jesus is able to save to the utmost those who draw near to God through him —since he lives forever to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

2 Providence

The purpose of providence

Providence means "all things work together for good" not only for our daily well-being but also for the eternal salvation of our souls (Romans 8:28, 2Corinthians 4:16-18).

Romans 8:28

¶“28And we know that God makes all things work together for good to those who love God —to those who are called in line with his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

2Corinthians 4:16-18

¶“16So we don't lose heart. Even though our outer person is decaying, yet our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17We see our [earthly] tribulation as a burden for the moment, light to carry. That's because it works for us a [heavenly] glory lasting for eternity, a counterweight far exceeding our tribulations. 18We don't look upon the things which are seen. Rather, we look at the things which are not seen! For the things which are seen last only for a moment, but the things which are not seen last for eternity” (2Corinthians 4:16-18).

God, in his providence, has also committed himself to providing our basic physical needs (Matthew 6:31,33).

Matthew 6:31-33

¶“31So don't worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' 32For all these things the wide world seeks, whereas your Father knows you need these things. 33Instead, you first seek his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).

Philippians 4:6

¶“6Don't get anxious about anything. But in everything pray, plead, and give thanks. Make your requests known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

The nature of providence

It may be thought that all the help we need from God has been provided already in the past through the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. But in that case, what would be the point of making requests to God? What more could we request if everything has already been provided? (Philippians 4:6).

The help of God is, by definition, supernatural help. We need supernatural help because we are in a supernatural conflict (Ephesians 6:10-18 esp v12).

Ephesians 6:12

¶“12We don't wrestle against flesh and blood. We wrestle against the foremost heavyweights among cosmic powers of darkness. We wrestle against spiritual forces of evil in the celestial realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Note:— To say providence is supernatural doesn't necessarily mean it is “miraculous” in the sense we commonly use that term. Ordinary providence, as exemplified in the story of Esther, is God’s usual response to prayer. But since it is God at work, it is properly considered supernatural

3 Good Pleasure

The true "sacrifice of praise", offered in prayer, is something with which God is well pleased (Hebrews 13:15-16).

Hebrews 13:15-16

¶“15So by Jesus, let us continually offer to God the sacrifice of praise. That is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name. 16But don't forget also to do good and to share; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:15-16).

What better thing can we do than please God, and cause God to smile upon us? We all realise of course that God is pleased with us only when we do our best. He is not pleased with mere token worship.

When a little child brings home those first efforts at painting, the blobs on crumpled butcher’s paper may not be a perfect work of art. But the parent is pleased, and hangs the work on the fridge, because the child tried hard with a genuine wish to please.


We may be sure that God will respond to our earnest prayers with intercession, providence, and good pleasure.

"Now to him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to him be glory... (Ephesians 3:20).

Questions for Discussion and Review

1. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us because we don't do something as we ought. What is it that we don't do as we ought?

2. In what capacity does Jesus make intercession for us?

3. What problems or imperfections do we have, that our intercessors (the Spirit and Christ) solve?

4. What is the “good” toward which prayer helps “all things work together”?

5. What is the nature of the providence that we seek in prayer? What kind of help do we expect?

6. What command by God to us clearly implies that God will act in the here and now?

7. What is going on in spiritual realms that endangers us and requires us to keep on “praying always”?

8. What do we expect God to do by way of answer after we have prayed to him?

9. What can we give to God that will cause him to be pleased?

10. Who conveys our prayers to God, and how well does he do it?

Another Lesson About Prayer...

ico Seven Attitudes in Prayer

—A study of the right attitudes of mind that make our prayers effective. Touch the button title to go to that lesson.