“It is good for me to draw near to God,” Psalm 73:28. This is Scripture’s testimony. It is good for the child of God to pray. It is beneficial. It is of utmost importance that he daily call upon God’s name. His life must be a life of prayer. There are many other passages in Holy Writ that bring us the same testimony. We are admonished to continue instant in prayer, Romans 12:12; and to pray without ceasing, I Thessalonians 5:17. We are instructed to pray “always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,” Ephesians 6:18. “The Lord once spoke a parable to teach us that we should pray continually, never fainting, Luke 18:1-8. He even gave us a model prayer, frequently called “The Lord’s Prayer,” in which He enumerated by example the principles that should underlie all our prayer.
Historically the people of God are a praying people. Almost all the Psalms assume the form of prayers. Many other prayers of eminent saints are preserved for us in Scripture. To mention but a few, there are the prayers of Abraham and Moses, of David and Solomon, of Elijah and Daniel, of the New Testament Church and Paul. Even our Lord Jesus Christ spent much time in prayer.
What is there about prayer that makes it so necessary for the child of God to live a life of prayer? It is through prayer that God strengthens and revives His people.
The church is pitted in spiritual battle against the world. This struggle has been going on ever since the fall and will continue until the very end of time. The church stands on the side of the Living God and with the cause of God in the world. The world in its wickedness tries to destroy the church and defeat God’s cause. There are many devices it uses to accomplish this purpose. It comes to the child of God in temptations to lure him away from the service of God into the service of sin. It raises up false teachers to deceive God’s people. If this fails, they come in open persecution, so that the saints must flee for their very lives. Hence, the children of God must fight to maintain their spiritual existence. They must resist temptation, cast out false teachers, and remain faithful in the face of persecution. This by no means an easy task for the world, and the power of sin is a mighty for. Great spiritual strength and courage is needed to persevere under these onslaughts, and ultimately to gain the victory.
But in this conflict the child of God has no strength of his own. This is in harmony with our experience, too. How often in weakness do we not forsake the way of righteousness to follow after the things of this world? The wicked lies of false prophets and the philosophies of men with which we are constantly confronted, often sound more appealing than the truth of God’s Word. When we are mocked or ridiculed for Christ’s sake our first inclination is to be ashamed of the Gospel and to beat a hasty retreat. Certainly if perseverance depended upon our strength alone, we would go to an inglorious defeat at the hands of the world. On the basis of his own strength, the Christian fights a losing battle.
The only way the Christian can overcome this formidable foe is with the strength of Another. It is Christ Who is the fountain of all his spiritual strength. But it is only through prayer that he receives this strength. Through prayer his faith is strengthened. Through prayer the Christian receives courage to move onward for the cause of God. Through prayer the Christian receives strength to resist temptations, to repudiate false teachers and their hideous lies, and to persevere in the face of hardships and sufferings. Prayer, therefore, is a spiritual weapon in the fight of faith. It is the very breath of our spiritual lives. Without it we cannot live. The praying church will go on to victory. Without prayer she is a weak and pitiful army destined to defeat.
This is Scripture’s promise, too. “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be open unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened,” Matthew 7:7, 8. If we but ask God for strength, He will give it. If we but seek His throne of grace, He freely gives all of which we stand in need.
This does not mean that God will hear and answer the prayers which are raised out of sinful desires and selfishness. So often we pray for prosperity, for abundance of earthly good, for earthly happiness and pleasure. How often are not our prayers motivated by the desires of a sinful flesh? These prayers the Lord does not answer. In fact, strictly speaking, they are not prayers at all.
True prayer implies that we ask for the right things. Essentially, all our prayers must be that God be glorified and that the cause of His Kingdom be furthered. We must pray that He will make all things subservient to this purpose. Hence, we must ask only for those things that will glorify God’s name and that work for the furthering of His Kingdom. We must ask that His will be done. For example, we are to pray that God “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” for sin dishonors God’s name and is in conflict with the righteousness of His Kingdom. If we are sick, so that we cannot continue in the work that God has given us, we pray that God will restore us the health that we might fulfill the task to which He has called us. But we must be quick to add that if this be not according to His will, then give us the grace to endure these afflictions in a way that glorifies His name. These are the prayers that He answers.
We are in the midst of a fierce battle. The enemy which we fight is a mighty power. In and of ourselves we are powerless to resist him. But through constant prayer the God of mercy will give us the grace, the courage, and the strength to resist and defeat this formidable foe. Continue, therefore, instant in prayer. Pray without ceasing, knowing that “the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
Originally Published in:
Vol. 31 No. 5 August/September 1971