Helps To Your Prayer Life.
1. WHOSE MOVE IS IT?
After spending time in a consecrated effort to learn more about prayer, I was ashamed to discover how little I know of God's secrets about it. Who among us is satisfied that prayer occupies as large a place in his life as it should? Although I have been a Christian now for thirty years, I realize the great need in my life of spending more time with the right heart attitude in the school of prayer. Believe me, it is not mere knowledge that I seek, but rather, the grace and gift of God to use this holy art for His glory.
It is not in my mind to try to impress my readers with an idea that we must look for ways and means of forcing ourselves into the holiest, or that we should prevail upon God to give somewhat of things that we feel that He is reluctant to relinquish. Contrariwise, I am thoroughly convinced that God has done all that He intends to do in order to make the practice and power of prayer effective in our lives.
He has told us to “come.” “ask,” “seek,” “knock,” and pray. God awaits His children’s response to the divine invitation. There will be no further invitation, no stronger appeal than what is written already in the Bible.
The next move is on our part. Possibly you are wondering how to enroll in God’s school of prayer, or just what are the first lessons to be learned. Let us matriculate at once in an honest search of the Scriptures, for herein we shall learn from Him, the God of the Bible, the only God who can hear and answer prayer. As we commence, let us make the simple request as did the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Reader, it is your move!
2. A PART OF US.
The history of prayer is the history of the human race. Man, in general, has never outgrown prayer. Moreover, he fears to abandon (if he could) the idea of prayer. Why?
Recently, I occupied a seat on a plane beside of a member of the United States Air Force. He had just flown down from Greenland, and I listened with interest as he spoke freely of his experiences in that country’s bleak, black winter season. He said that for six months he did not see a ray of sun as he shivered in temperatures as low as 50° below zero.
In endeavoring to shift my mental position a bit toward the spiritual, I was almost tempted to suggest to him that it would be quite unnatural to attempt to grow oranges in Greenland. But I did not do so. Anyone knows that oranges were never intended to grow there. Actually, what I wanted him to tell me was whether or not men prayed in Greenland. By another avenue of approach, I found out that they did.
Prayer is a natural function wherever men are found, whether in Hawaii, or Haiti; in the Americas, Asia, or Africa, in India or the Islands, yes, even in Russia, the heart and hot-bed of aroused Atheism. In some form or another, prayer is a universal practice among all peoples. Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Confucianism, Romanism, Judaism, Protestantism, and Atheism all have some form of prayer.
An ignorant Indian woman in South America, after hearing her first message from a Christian missionary, said to her neighbor: “There! I always told you there must be a God like that.”
There is a God like that who hears and answers those who come to Him in His own divinely-revealed way. Is it not reasonable, therefore, that we learn to commune with Him?
3. IS IT REASONABLE?
Some professing Christians accept nothing until they have discussed and examined by argument every idea or suggestion put to them. By their rationalization, many of these people live and die in spiritual defeat because they fail to discover the reasonableness of prayer.
Prayer for the Christian is very reasonable because the Bible commands that we pray. Our Lord said: “Men ought always to pray . . .” (Luke 18: 1). The Apostle Paul added: “Pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5: 17). God will never place a demand upon His children that is unreasonable.
Prayer is reasonable because of the father-child relationship that is made experimentally and blessedly real through the new birth. As a child looks to his earthly father for provision and protection, so the Christian depends wholly upon the guidance and grace of his heavenly Father. “Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Matt. 6: 32). Is this not compatible with reason?
Prayer is reasonable because it occupied a prominent place in the earthly life and now occupies a like place in the present heavenly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Saviour prayed in the early hours of the morning (Mark 1:35); He spent entire nights in prayer (Luke 6: 12); He prayed for Himself (Matt. 26: 39); He pled for His disciples (Luke 22: 32). Even now, He ever lives to make intercession for us (Heb. 7: 25). Praise His name!
Unreasonableness is irrational and contrary to common sense, logic, and our best interests. Are you giving sufficient time to prayer? Think it through!
4. WHAT PROFIT . . . IF WE PRAY?
This pertinent question is one of many that originated in the mind of Job. “What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? And what profit should we have if we pray unto Him?” (Job 21: 15) Here is a question that has been asked by most of us, secretly at least, and particularly at those times when our prayers seem to have gone unanswered. Does it really pay to pray? Had you or I been there to ask this question of our Lord Jesus Christ when He was on the earth, His answer would have been an affirmative and encouraging one.
Listen to His words: “Ask, and it shall be given you . . .” (Matt. 7: 7). “And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14: 13, 14). “. . . That whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you” (John 15: 16). “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you” (John 16: 23). “. . . Ask and ye shall receive” (John 16: 24).
It is blasphemy to think for a moment that our Lord would have made a useless and untrue promise if there had been nothing to prayer. If such were the case, Christ would be charged with cruel deception when He said to Peter: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22: 32). If there is no profit in prayer, then the life and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ are both meaningless and valueless.
But when the heart is right, it really pays to pray. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5: 16). Observe the last two words: “availeth much.” What profit if we pray? Much!
5. A WORD TO THE UNWISE.
“Wherefore be ye not unwise” (Eph. 5: 17). Too often we have failed in understanding what the will of God has been for our lives in the making of some decision. The adjective “unwise” describes many an act and spoken word on our part. Dexterity and discernment are too frequently conspicuous by their absence among the best Christians. Oh, that we were skilled in exercising sound judgment!
Where have we failed? The answer to this question is astoundingly simple. We lacked wisdom because we just did not pray for it. The Bible says: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” (Jas. 1: 5). Many a tragedy in life might have been averted if only God had been consulted in prayer.
Possessing the quality of making the best use of knowledge is one of life’s richest and rarest gifts, and like “every good gift and every perfect gift,” it is “from above, and cometh down from the Father” (Jas. 1: 17). There is no excuse for a child of God not being out in front with readiness of comprehension and exercise of right judgment. All of the best means for attaining the best ends are at his disposal. Indeed, they are ours for the asking. A word to the unwise Christian should be sufficient. Pray before you decide.
“I could not do without Thee,
I cannot stand alone;
I have no strength or goodness,
No wisdom of my own.
But Thou beloved Saviour,
Art all in all to me;
And weakness will be power
If leaning hard on Thee.
6. “BE STILL . . .”
These words are found in that blessed and beloved Forty-Sixth Psalm, verse 10. The Psalm was obviously written out of the experience of one who had passed through much trouble but who learned, in his trial, that God was his refuge and strength (vs. 1). This gladdening discovery of the psalmist is too little known in our times. It began with stillness of soul before God. It must begin there for us.
We are living in a day marked by unprecedented noise; the “souped-up hot rods” on our streets and highways; the din of that yelling crowd of “rock ‘n roll” fans who shout themselves hoarse at the sight of their crooning idol; the drivel of the semi-intoxicated crowd in the entertainment world who never listen to anyone talk but themselves. All of this bears heavily upon the inner spiritual life of the Christian.
An essential principle of prayer, as taught by our Lord, is almost forgotten today. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matt. 6: 6).
Stillness of soul before God is almost a lost art in our day. Cease from the rush and routine of your merry-go-round way of life. Enter into your closet. Be still that you may know Him, the Refuge, and Strength, and Help that you need. It is not easy but God commands it.
Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
Oh, what words I hear Him say!
Happy place—so near and precious;
May it find me there each day.
Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
I would look upon the past;
For His love has been so gracious,
It has won my heart at last.
7. “GOD FORBID THAT I SHOULD SIN . . .”
The question immediately arises: “What is the one sin that Samuel, a prophet of God, feared lest he commit?” Burdened for God’s chosen people, Israel, he cried: “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray . . .” (I Sam. 12: 23). Whatever this passage is intended to teach, one lesson silhouettes itself against the rest, namely, prayerlessness is a sin against God.
The deadening blight resting upon many a local church would be replaced with the divine blessing, once its members stop committing this horrible sin against the Lord. Did the thought ever occur to you that in your failure to pray, you were living in sin?
Prayerlessness is the one transgression of the commands of God’s Word which leads Christians to commit every other sin known to us. Our Lord said to those prayerless disciples who chose to sleep rather than to go to God in prayer: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26: 41). God will never charge us with being morally wrong merely because we are tempted to do wrong; but He will charge us, and justifiably so, when we fail to appropriate the armor He has provided against temptation.
Life on a low spiritual plane is the natural result of continuing in the one sin that keeps open the door to all other sins. Beloved brethren in Christ, “pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5: 17).
8. NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PRAYER.
Ours is not a praying age. It is an age of ceaseless activity and breath-taking speed.
During the last war, the heavy demand for rubber for military machinery and personnel, brought forth a synthetic rubber, causing the civilian consumer to learn something of the difference between the genuine and the substitute. Our false sense of values has produced the synthetic for the genuine in spiritual matters.
We Christians are slow to learn that there is absolutely no substitute for prevailing prayer. Godly men of past generations had a full program and a busy schedule, but many of them proved that prayer was indispensable in the great spiritual conflict in which they were engaged.
Someone asked Martin Luther what his plans were for the following day. He answered: “Work, work, from early to late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
Dr. A. J. Gordon said: “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”
There is no rival for prayer. It stands uniquely alone as the mightiest force for the Church of Jesus Christ. Let us not become slack in church attendance, giving, administration, children’s work, evangelism, missionary endeavor, and so forth; but do not think for one single moment that prayer can be disposed with and these other things taken up as a substitute. Neglect prayer, and any forward movement against the forces of hell will come to a standstill. The prayer closet is the battlefield of the Church.
“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Alfred L. Tennyson.
“Our Hope” 1956-57