Rev. Hanko is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
“Lord, teach us Jo pray.” This was the request of one of Jesus’ disciples while He was still with them. In response Jesus taught them the well known model prayer (Luke 11:1-4).
How often that same desire arises in our hearts. Prayer is one of the most blessed privileges we have. Yet, at the same time, it is most difficult for us to pray as we ought.
Even with the model prayer as our guide we still struggle with our imperfections and weaknesses. No matter how long we live,’ in this life our prayers remain very imperfect.
Enoch was a man of prayer. We know that because the Scriptures tell us that “he walked with God.”
He was also a man of strong faith. He lived close to God, in deep dependence upon Him. It was Enoch’s prayer-life that pleased God.
It is in connection with Enoch’s walk which pleased God that we read: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.”
Prayer is a “coming to God.”
That implies that prayer is asking. As needy, dependent creatures we make all our needs known in prayer and supplication. We come to the overflowing Fountain of life as empty vessels to be filled out of His fullness with grace for grace.
Prayer is more than that. Prayer is thanksgiving. Our Heidelberg Catechism mentions prayer as the highest expression of gratitude. We say with the psalmist: “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
Prayer is also seeking. Our text speaks of that, and God encourages us: “Seek ye my face.” Not as if God is ever far from us, but-we are often far from Him. Isaiah declares: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.” Jesus adds: “Ask and it shall be given: seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.”
What a blessed assurance! God is ready to receive us twenty-four hours a day and every day. We need no appointment long in advance. We need not write a letter, or use a telephone, or seek an advocate. Our Advocate is before the throne, and by His Spirit in our hearts we have a direct line of communication to the throne of grace.
Prayer includes worship, praise, adoration. We come into God’s presence, we stand before His face, we bow at His footstool to pour out our souls to Him as we can to no other. God knows us, knows our inmost heart, our deepest thought, our every need better than we ourselves.
But prayer is more than that. It is intimate covenant fellowship, communion of life with the living God. As David says, “I have set the Lord always before me.” It gives us a small foretaste of our eternal joy, as we sigh, “Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee.”
Thus our life becomes a prayer, a praying without ceasing.
Yes, that is prayer! Yet, foremost, prayer is telling the praises of God’s Name as our highest good!
Enoch’s coming to God was a walk with Him.
Our text teaches us that he who comes to God “must believe that he is.”
Do not fail to notice how personal this is. Praying with the congregation on Sunday is important. Family prayers are essential to a Christian home. And time for private prayers and meditation is essential to a true spiritual walk before the face of God.
We must believe. For without faith it is impossible to please God, or even to call upon or trust in Him.
The prayer of the unbeliever is an abomination to God. God turns away His face in disgust. Unbelievers are carnal, selfish enemies of God, who at best make and worship an image of God. Their prayer is a sham, a pretense that God abhors.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. It is the living bond that unites our heart to the heart of God through the Spirit of Christ in us, the bond of intimate covenant fellowship with the Most High.
Prayer is the cry of faith that arises from the heart of God’s child. As the baby naturally seeks its mother’s breast, finds comfort and refuge in mother’s arms, and turns to her with all its needs, so the child of God seeks God’s face in utter dependence upon Him, and finds full satisfaction in all his needs.
We must believe that God is.
Faith is the knowledge of God, whereby we say in deepest conviction, “My God.” We have been called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light as His sons and daughters, restored in the image of God in true knowledge, righteousness, and ho& ness, to know, to love, and to serve Him in sincere adoration. We say in deepest conviction, “Whom have I, Lord, but thee, on earth or in heaven?”
Our sinful inclination is to make for ourselves an image of God and to bow in worship before that image. We have our own idea of what God is or should be. We make a god that is dependent on us, or who sits enthroned on high to serve us. Depending on our own strength and ingenuity, we can get along most of the time without Him. Only in times of deep distress, when all else fails us, we turn to him expecting that he is waiting and eager to help us.
But that is not the God of the Scriptures. Let it be said with awe and reverence: God is GOD. He is the fullness of all His divine perfections, the ever-glorious, blessed, adorable God! He is the triune, living God, who lives His own blessed life .m intimate covenant fellowship within His own Being, and has no need of men’s hands to be worshiped by them. God does not exist for us, but we exist for Him. He does not need us, but we cannot live without Him. He gives us life, breath, and being that to Him may be the praise and glory forever and ever.
God does not treat us like automatons, mere receptacles of His grace and blessings, but deals with us as rational, moral creatures, even as His elect, redeemed, justified, and sanctified children in Christ Jesus. He unites us to Himself by a bond of living faith, and brings us into intimate fellowship with Him through that amazing wonder and gift of prayer.
As guilty sinners before His face, who increase our guilt every moment of our existence, we have no right to pray; we deserve to be banished from His presence. We plead, not on our own worthiness or righteousness, but on the righteousness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We are but sinful creatures of the dust, mere specks in comparison with the Most High, unfit to pray as we ought, yet we have boldness to call upon His name on the merit of our Savior Jesus Christ, and in the confidence that He is at all times our Advocate before the face of God.
We have access to the mercy seat of Almighty God, who is also our merciful Father. We come in the confidence that, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”
What a blessed privilege for us to live in intimate communion with our God in prayer! What would we do without it?!
It compares to Enoch’s walk with God.
Our text also teaches us that he who comes to God must believe that “He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
This implies that our prayers must not be, as they often are, a mere formality. Sincere prayer arises from the heart.
Our prayers must be sincere in the sense that we truly desire whatever we ask for. James warns us in his epistle that we must “ask in faith, nothing wavering,” for he who wavers is like a staggering drunkard. That man receives nothing from the Lord.
When we ask for the forgiveness of a certain sin we must also be truly sorry for that sin and must put it away. When we pray for spiritual growth, this must be accompanied by a striving to walk in newness of life before our God.
Diligent, persistent praying does not mean that we may try to impose our whims upon God by our many pleadings. God surely knows far better than we what is good for us. Submission to God’s will must characterize all that we ask.
Persistent prayer must arise out of the need and anguish of the soul. In his wrestling with the Angel of Jehovah, Jacob clung to Him with weeping and supplication, imploring His blessing. Jesus, in Gethsemane, offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to God. Paul prayed repeatedly for deliverance from his thorn before he found peace. We also must often storm the throne of grace before we are heard. God rewards those who diligently seek Him.
True, sometimes God is already answering our prayer while we call upon Him. Even as God’s Spirit creates the need in our hearts, God is already prepared to fill that need. But there are other times when God deems it necessary to withhold His answer. Then our prayers become a matter of praying, seeking, and knocking. But never do we seek His face in vain, for He always seeks our eternal good.
We must always pray in the confidence that our heavenly Father withholds no good thing from those who fear Him. Only then can we confidently end our prayers with an “Amen,” it shall surely be as we have asked.
For to our God belongs the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.
There was progress in Enoch’s walk with God. Every step brought him closer to heaven, until one day God took him home.
Lord, teach us to pray!