The subject of this article as seen in the title certainly is not new to the believing child of God. Prayer occupies a very large part of our lives. This is true of all the saints of all ages, from the beginning of time to the present, till Christ’s return upon the clouds of heaven. That the saints of the Old Dispensation were a praying people is evident immediately upon looking in God’s Holy Word. Already in Genesis 4:26 we read, “and to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.” After this we have mention of many prayers, of which we draw to your attention only a few: Abraham and Moses, Hannah, David and Solomon, Elijah and Daniel.
This calling upon God’s name continued in the New Testament times. Chief among those that prayed was Jesus Christ Himself. In fact, it was this life of prayer of our Lord which influenced the disciples to come to Him and ask, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Thus, we too are enjoined by the Word of God to pray. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7); “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation” (Matt. 26:41); “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18); and, “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms” (James 5:13).
The reason behind the fact that the church is a praying church is that the church throughout the ages is in the midst of a spiritual battle of faith in which she needs strength, guidance, and comfort. Very formidable are the forces of darkness against which she must constantly wage war. Three-fold is the enemy: Satan and his evil host, the wicked world, and our own sinful flesh. We all know about the devil, that old serpent, and the myriad of angels that fell with him. Thousands of years of experience he has had, giving him every opportunity to study all the angles with respect to deceiving us.
As a close ally of the devil, the wicked world continues to entice the believer with its sweet siren song proclaiming the virtues of its pleasures and treasures, its wealth and fame. And the time is quickly coming in which the world will no longer merely entice, but also coerce, using the arm of persecution and the like. Finally, there is that old man of sin and of our flesh to contend with, which, in many respects, is our worst enemy. Readily it obeys the dictates of the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
So the position of the child of God is not an easy one. Not only must he suffer in general such afflictions as sickness, sorrow, famine, drought, and war, but he must also suffer what the world does not, that is, suffering for Christ’s sake. The world hates God, hates His Christ, and hates anything that has to do with His kingdom. In order to stand and persevere while he is thus engaged in battle, the Christian must have strength. And since the battle that he is fighting is a spiritual battle, each child of God must have spiritual strength, for the strength from below will not help him in this case. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6). This strength can not be bought, earned, or merited, but is the gift of God’s sovereign grace in Jesus Christ our Lord Who earned everything for us by His death on the cross. The means which God has ordained whereby we receive this strength is prayer.
There are different ways in which the children of the kingdom of righteousness pray. Each Sunday God’s children as a congregation gather in the church institute and bring their needs before the throne of God’s grace. This is a very important aspect of our worship. It is this prayer that perhaps is the least neglected by us. Regularly we come to church and we pray as part of our regular worship. However often this is not true with respect to the second way in which we pray, as a family. Very often the hustle and bustle that is generated by the fast pace of modern day living leads us to neglect this important part of our family life. Generally, the time set aside for family prayer is that during which we are gathered about the table for meals. But the picture often looks like this: in the morning the father has already left for work by the time the children are up and ready to come to, the table, the school children are hurried off to school, often without breakfast, and later on the mother sits down to catch her breath and to feed the baby. Certainly that is not an atmosphere conducive to family prayer. At noon the family is still separated by work and school. Hence, one would conclude that in the evening an effort would be made to worship together. But again, often this does not work out either. Mother has the meal prepared, but each member of the family has to hurry so that this or that activity may be attended. Or perhaps the television is on and remains the focal point throughout the meal. But whatever the case may be, the opportunity and obligation to pray together has been neglected. This is, of course, to our shame.
The third way in which we can pray is the way of individual prayer. Here too we are often remiss in our duties. We simply have no time for these quiet moments when we can be alone with ourselves and with our God. Our busy schedule will not allow it. The alarm rings in the morning, having been set so that one can squeeze in that last minute of sleep. There’s no extra time for meditation, only enough time for a dash to the bathroom, a quick bite to eat, and off we go. The evening, when we retire from a day of labor, is no different. The warm bed beckons us, for to kneel on the cold floor beside the bed is not at all appealing. And so it goes, day after day, year after year, until we have lost virtually all communication with God.
This is a sad commentary on our lives. Something against which we must always fight. For in neglecting prayer we do not experience the peace that surpasseth all understanding. For as we are carried upon the wings of prayer to God’s throne of grace we receive a calm of the soul arising from the consciousness that God is our Father in Christ Jesus, that He cares for us, that the fulness dwelling in Christ is our priceless possession, that therefore all things are for us. Outside of Christ there is no peace. The ungodly have no peace, their souls being restless like chaff driven before the wind. But the believer prays and receives this blessed fruit of peace because his prayer was the work of the Holy Spirit within him.
In order to receive this fruit of the cross, this blessed peace, we must pray aright. And to pray aright we must do so in accordance with God’s Holy Word. The Scriptures tell us how to pray, for they are the self-revelation of God concerning Himself and also concerning His will for us. Thus, a knowledge of the Scriptures is necessary to pray as we ought. Prayer and reading of Scripture go hand in hand. We must pray according to the Scriptures, and we must read Scripture prayerfully. Humbly and prayerfully we approach God’s Word as revealed in these Scriptures and let them speak to us under the influence and work of the Holy Spirit. Then, and only then, do we come before God properly, in praise and thanksgiving.
This leads us to the proper content of our prayers: praise. Praise Him, His virtues, His salvation in Christ. Praise Him for all His ways with you, for they are the ways of peace that terminate in your complete salvation unto His eternal glory. Praise Him for His wonderful and tender care over you. Praise His sovereign rule, His power to cause all things to work together for good to them that love God. Praise Him for rain and sunshine, but also for the heat that burnt your crops. Praise Him for His hand that is heavy upon you, for the rod with which He smites you, and for the wounds that He inflicts. This praise must be forthcoming or our prayer will not yield that blessed fruit of peace.
This peace follows the prayer that desires that His will be done, His counsel realized: the prayer that we may receive grace to praise Him for His ways with us. In that light we do not pray for a new car, or for a fancy house in the elite section of the city, or for land that yields two hundred bushels of corn to the acre, or for so many other things which we think we need but really do not. Rather we pray for grace that we may stand in the midst of whatever God pleases to send us. The luxuries of the earth we do not need, but grace for our spiritual battle is an absolute necessity. Jesus instructs us along these lines when He says, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:31-33).
When we pray in this manner we have evidence that we are one of the sheep of His pasture. Oh, what comfort and peace this affords our weary souls, to know that everything, even the forces of darkness, yea, even death, must work unto our salvation under the guiding and ruling hand of our God. The happiest moments of our lives are when we can praise His holy name.
And we need not fear, for when such a prayer rises td God’s throne of grace we have the confidence that it will be heard. How so, you say? Simply because it is the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the only kind of prayer that we may bring to the Lord, and it is the only kind that He will hear. This kind of prayer John had in mind when he wrote, “And whatsoever we ask wk will receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (I John 3:22). The right kind of prayer, then, will be heard because He promised. We will receive grace and power. Our faith will be strengthened and we will have peace and joy in our hearts, a joy that knows no bounds.
In conclusion, therefore, it can not be emphasized enough that we must pray. In prayer we come before the throne of God’s grace and presence and receive from Him all that is necessary for our sojourn here on this earth as pilgrims and strangers. Here we receive the peace that we so desperately need as the time for the return of our Lord comes closer and closer and the world makes it harder and harder for us to stand. Let us not shun this most beautiful and important part of our inward lives, but strengthen it and nourish it before the face of God. Little children, older children, teenagers, fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, all of us, we can begin in a very humble way with the small petition, “Lord, teach thou us to pray.”