The Necessity of Prayer

You know the value of prayer: it is precious beyond all price. Never, never neglect it.
Sir Thomas Buxton

Prayer is the first thing, the second thing, the third thing necessary to a minister [or in fact any Christian]. Pray, then, my dear brother: pray, pray, pray.”
Edward Payson

Prayer is the way in which we receive blessings from God (James 4:2). Prayer is also the way in which we commune with God as our Father who loves us. Matthew 21:22 tells us that: “Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” From seeing just these few verses, it is impossible to ignore the implication of how important prayer actually is. If prayer is this important then it easy to see that our sinful human natures are not willing to be often in prayer. If what the Bible says is true, then it seems logical that the devil would exert most of his effort in stopping saints praying.

The habit of starting the day with prayer is a very commendable one and very worth following. Christ was a man who rose early before it was light to pray (Mark 1:35). E.M. Bounds makes this point forcefully: “The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking him the rest of the day… A desire for God which cannot break the chains of sleep is a weak thing and will do but little good for God after it has indulged itself fully.”

How can we expect to grow spiritually if we are rarely coming before God in prayer? Or do we expect to grow? What is your habit of prayer? Do you follow the example of Christ? It is men and women of prayer that God uses, therefore “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Thomas van den Broek


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10 comments:

  1. Good reminder to pray!

    William Law once said "He who has learned how to pray has learned the greatest secret of a holy and happy life.". How true that is.

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  2. Thank you for the reminder, Thomas, to keeping praying always. It's amazing, really, that we ever think that we can grow in our spiritual walk if we don't talk to the One we're following!

    One thing, though... As the Bible speaks only the truth, how can it be that Matthew 21:22 says “Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith", when we clearly don't always get what we ask for? (Even when we have faith and sometimes even expect to have a 'yes'.) How can the truth of the Bible and the actual reality of what happens, both be true?

    Okay, so maybe that's a controversial question but maybe worth discussing, since I'm sure we all have a slightly different take on it...? :-)

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  3. Tabitha, what a relevant question.

    Yes, it's true we often don't get what we ask for in prayer. Sometimes we get a totally different outcome to the one we expected and sometimes we just don't seem to have an answer at all. Part of the answer to your question, I suppose, is that God does not HAVE to give us anything. Prayer is a gift which He has given us. He is the Creator of the world, why should He care what we want or desire? It's true that He does care, but He isn't obliged to give us everything we want.

    Do you think that God witholds things from us for our own good? Surely, like a loving father, God does not want to give us things which will harm us. For example, I might beg my Dad to let me stay up all night, but he knows that doing so will be bad for me.

    If you look at the context of that verse, Jesus says in the verse before that if we have faith then if we say to "this mountain, "Be removed and cast into the sea" it will be done" (v21). Does that mean I can go up to a random mountain and tell it what to do? I may have all the faith in the world, but why would God allow that to happen? Would it glorify Him and fulfil His wonderful plan for the mountain to move? I guess what I'm trying to say is that our prayers are not always in line with God's will, He has a better plan. He may want us to have that thing at another time, or not at all.

    Does that make sense? Perhaps other people have other thoughts on this topic?

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  4. Elspeth, thanks for replying to me question... Am I alloweds to disagree wth you? :-)

    You seem to be saying that God *says* we'll get whatever we ask for but that actually He'll only follow through with that if it's in line with His will. Now, I know that if it's not His will, none of us - deep down, inside - really want it BUT, it doesn't seem in God's character to tell us one thing and then do something else. Do you see what I'm getting at?

    The other thing is, you said, "Part of the answer to your question, I suppose, is that God does not HAVE to give us anything... He is the Creator of the world, why should He care what we want or desire? It's true that He does care, but He isn't obliged to give us everything we want."

    I think I disagree with you because actually He does have to give us things and He *has* to care. Yes, He's God and can do whatever He likes but, in a way, He can't. By creating humans and entering into a relationship with them, He's brought responsibilty onto Himself to look after them and listen to them - everything He's promised in the Bible, in fact. That is one of the incredible things about it all - He has chosen to enter into a covenant with His creation and, sometimes, limit Himself!

    Does that make sense or does everyone think it's completely wacky?? :-)

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  5. Yes, of course you can disagree with me! I'm in no way infallible! =)

    I can see what you are getting at, in places, although I have a few points I want to raise. Firstly, just quickly, I'm not sure I understand what you were saying about us really wanting God's will. If we're saved, of course our desire is to do God's will and please Him, but surely there is an element of sin in us which would NOT seek to do His will. We are sinful creatures and that desire is not always there. Could you perhaps clarify that for me, please?

    You're absolutely right, God does not contradict Himself, and none of His words in the Bible are contrary to each other. This leads onto your next remark; I do believe that He keeps His promises, and has given us grace and mercy, but why does that make Him obliged to do what we want all the time? We are sinful and He is holy; we want sinful things, He wants holy things. I may want something sinful; does that mean He HAS to give it to me? His will overrules because He is God and made us all.

    Also, by whose standard is it fair for Him to always give us what we desire? Surely God sets the standard for what's fair and what's not. We don't have the authority to say what He should do or what He should not. He tells us what to do!

    I hope that is clear! Feel free to come back to me again on that.

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  6. I've just been looking up some of the verses about God answering our prayers in some commentaries. Here are a couple of points I discovered:

    1) John 14:14 says: 'If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.' But if we are going to ask for something in Jesus' name, we need to ask for things which will honour and please Christ. We would be misusing Christ's name if we used it to ask for simply anything we wanted. We must pray for things which will bring God glory and he will answer in a way which glorifies himself.

    2) Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, pleaded with the Lord to remove his thorn in the flesh from him, yet the Lord did not grant his request. 'Paul's experience highlights a simple yet profound truth that prayer is not the means by which we get from God what *we* want. Rather "prayer is a means God uses to give us what *He* wants."' (Reymond).

    I realise that this does not fully answer your original question about Matthew 21:22, Tabitha, but I think that if we interpret that difficult passage in the light of Scripture's other teaching on prayer, it is clear that God always answers our prayers in the way which is best for us and which brings him most glory. We can have great confidence that when we are wholeheartedly seeking God's honour and conforming ourselves and our requests to his revealed will, he will hear us.

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  7. Elspeth,

    I'm certainly not trying to say that God has to give us everything we want or ask for, merely that He has committed to engage with us and has promised certain things in the Bible that He has obligated Himself to fulfil, regardless of our behaviour.

    I hope that makes more sense of what I'm getting at? If you want, I can find some Bible verses to illustrate what I mean - I'm afraid I don't have a Bible on me at the moment! :-)

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  8. Elspeth, I was concerned about you saying "We are sinful creatures". Here is part of an article I read, does this resonate with you?

    When we accept Jesus, two things happen. One is a judicial transaction, the other is the start of a process. The transaction is that instead of being classed as guilty sinners, deserving death, we are classed as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven (Eph 2:19), sons and daughters of God (Gal 3:26), co-heirs with Messiah (Rom 8:17), already seated with Him in the heavenlies (Eph 2:6). Jesus said:

    John 5:24 he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

    Notice the verbs here: he who hears and believes (present tense, now, today) has (present tense, at the moment of belief) and does not (present tense, any more, from now on) but has passed (past tense, single completed event).

    So Paul can write:

    2 Cor 5:17 if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come

    For those in Messiah, the old things (old nature, old judicial status) have passed; they are no more. What was is no longer and what now is is new.

    Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me

    It is Messiah in us who lives; we have been (again, single completed action, past tense) crucified with Messiah, counted judicially dead so that we are no longer subject to the law of sin and death.

    Rom 6:6 our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin

    We are no longer slaves to sin – compulsive sinners, habitually bound to sin – sin is now a choice that we can resist and decide not to take. Our lifestyles and habits need changing over time so that we no longer choose to sin; we start the process of transformation or sanctification:

    Rom 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind

    Two actions are required of us:

    Is 43:18 Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.

    We do not dwell on or talk about the way we were. That is not who we now are; there is not where are our lives now are in Messiah; then is not the present reality of our lives as children of the King.

    Eph 4:22-24 lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit ... and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth

    We have to actively engage with God to change our habits, speech patterns, assumptions, world-view and lifestyle. We need to stop taking bad choices; we need to eliminate sin from our lives. Although God could just change all this Himself, He expects us to work with Him – He will hold us accountable for the way in which we carry out this process. Paul again:

    Phi 2:12 work out your salvation with fear and trembling

    He empowers us by His Spirit who guides, prompts and nudges us to take right decisions, to modify our behaviour and clean up our mouths.

    Gal 5:24 those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires

    If we describe ourselves as sinners we are denying the change that God has wrought in our lives; we choose to see ourselves on the other side of the fence. We project ourselves back into our dead past: dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). It provides an excuse when we sin: we couldn't help it, we're only sinners; it wasn't my fault, I'm just a sinful creature. The truth is:

    Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

    We are not sinners; we are not sinful creatures, who have no choice but to sin. We are the redeemed children of God who has declared us righteous. God expects us to live lives that flee from sin, that seek every day to please Him, to do and say – as Jesus did – only what we see the Father doing and saying (John 8:28).

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  9. Tabitha, the article youve quoted includes many good verses, but I think none of them are saying that believers are sinless. You only have to think of the countless examples of Godly people in the Bible who sinned;Abraham, Moses, David, Hezekiah, Peter, etc to realise that truly saved people really do sin. Psalm 51 is a prayer of Davids repentance: he says 'Psa51:3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.' Paul says in 1Timothy1:15 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.'
    The article is correct to say that believers are undergoing the process of sanctification, but this necessarily implies that we are still sinners, otherwise we would not need sanctifying.
    Admitting we are sinners is not an excuse for sin; sin is always my fault, thats why im a sinful creature.

    So whilst we remain on this earth, everything we do will be tainted with the effects of sin, and sadly this extends as far as our prayer lives; (think of the disciples sleeping rather than praying in Gethsemane, amongst many other examples.)

    Going back to Matt21:22 ('And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.'), Jesus is speaking here more about the power and effectuality of the believing prayer of faith, rather than suggesting that we can ask for anything we want and get it. James 4:3 says 'Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. ' So one has to accept that there are certain prayers which are not believing prayers, and so do not come under the conditions of this promise. It is important to note that the 'believeing'in this verse of Matthew, is not 'believing that you will get what you asked for'; it is deeper than that, it is belief and faith in Christ the one who has power to answer all prayer: Naomi's excellent point from John14:14 ties onto this.

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  10. Tabitha, I'm sorry but I have to disagree with you, and side wth Philip. He is right; we are still sinners after salvation.

    Otherwise why should we pray the Lord's Prayer, saying "Forgive us our trespasses"?

    Yes, it's true God has forgiven us for our sins, but that does not mean we are free from sin after salvation. Surely just looking at the various forms of temptation in our personal lives shows us that! We are never able to ALWAYS resist temptation. We do mess up, make mistakes and displease God.

    For example I know that none of us have been able to fully keep the commmand, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." (Deut. 6:5). Surely it's a sin not to obey that?

    You were right when you said that we are to flee from sin; I'm not saying we should embrace it. But we are not perfect yet, and we still fall into temptation, and we still sin.

    Does that make sense? I hope I've been clear.

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