Prayer resonates throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments.
In the Gospels we read of men who commanded great armies, of people in high office in government, of mothers and fathers seeking the best for their children, of farmers and fishermen, tradesmen and craftsmen — people of all types and backgrounds who sought out the Lord Jesus Christ because some need or other could not be fulfilled elsewhere. And as we see Jesus always finding time to listen, to advise, to help, we see how he reveals to us the character of his Father:
“Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Hebrews 11:7 RSV
The Bible makes it clear that God wants to help us. We should never feel that it is only good people that He will hear. In fact if we think we are rather good and managing quite well on our own, the chances are we shall be less inclined to rely upon God. The Bible leaves us in no doubt that believers ought to pray:
“Men ought always to pray and not to faint.”Luke 18:1
“Pray without ceasing.”1 Thessalonians 5:17
“In everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known unto God”Philippians 4:6 RSV
It is vital to realize that prayer cannot be separated from a knowledge and understanding of the Word of God. For prayer is communication with God. The communication is two-way. It is not enough that we should speak to God. He expects us to listen to Him. In fact, we shall often be better occupied meditating on His Word than trying to talk to Him at great length. The Bible itself warns:
“Let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”Ecclesiastes 5:21
The Lord Jesus himself emphasized this point:
“When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”Matthew 6:71
The many examples of prayer in the Bible make it clear that God responds only when man prays in accordance with His will. After all, God knows best what is in man’s interests and can control events accordingly.
Daniel prayed as a man who had humbled himself before God, who listened to God and became thoroughly familiar with what God had revealed in His Word and who prayed in harmony with what he knew to be the will of God. He was the sort of person referred to when God earlier declared, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:2).
The Lord’s Prayer was uttered in response to his disciples’ request for instruction in prayer. Clearly the prayer given by the Lord is not something to repeat vainly, like a magical incantation. Its true meaning can only be appreciated by those who know the teaching of Christ, have committed themselves to his discipleship and have become children of God, hallowing thereby His name and striving to live in anticipation of His coming kingdom when all the world will be governed according to His will.
“Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:9-10
For many people prayer consists of asking God for favors. For some the proof of whether God is actually there or not consists of testing out whether God will grant a particular request Jesus said “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:71)
Our prayers must not be selfish, though we may lay all our problems before the Lord. Even in our best and apparently selfless requests, we must accept that God knows best: “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). Whatever we ask must be conditioned by the Lord’s phrase, “nevertheless not my will, but thine be done”. This does not apply, of course, when we are asking God for things which He has clearly declared to be His will. It is unnecessary, for example, when we pray for the coming of the Lord, to add “if it be thy will”, since we know it is God’s will.
It is good that in our prayers we should bring before God the needs of others. Not only will this in itself help us to see our own problems in perspective, but it will remind us of our responsibility to do something for those about whom we pray. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers he recalled how regularly he prayed on their behalf, but he also recalled the practical steps he took to minister to their needs when he sent to them Timothy, “to establish you and to comfort you concerning your faith” (1 Thessalonians 1:2; 3:1-3; see 3:9-13).
So Jesus exhorted his disciples: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). If we pray for help to avoid sin, we shall certainly receive that help if we allow ourselves to be influenced and guided by God’s Word, if we associate with our brothers and sisters in the Lord, if we avoid those situations which we know will weaken our resolve.
An invitation is extended to each one of us that we, “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” may come to share the hope of the Gospel, as a result of which “the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
God’s ears are open 24/7 and he is waiting to hear from YOU!!
Photo by Olivia Snow (unsplash.com).
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