PrayerEver wonder why the faithful pray? After all, Jesus said "your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him" (Matthew 6:8). So why pray? Well first of all, prayer is offered in obedient faith. It is God's will that we pray to him (I Thessalonians 5:17, 18), and believing that God is "a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6) the faithful obey. The effectiveness of our prayers depends on the faith we put in them (Mark 11:22-24). Any exercise of our faith builds faith. Prayer requires much faith and patience in God as we will we discuss later in this article, so it is a very important faith builder.
The faithful are never alone in their prayers. Jesus told his Apostles that he would give them whatever they asked in his name (John 14:11-14). I think most Christians understand this and often end their prayers in saying "in Jesus name we pray". But I wonder how many understand the Holy Spirits makes intercession on our behalf (Romans 8:26, 27). When saints don't know what they should pray for, the Spirit makes intercession for us. Have you ever had such troubles and cares that you did not know even where to begin in asking God for help? The Holy Spirit knows the hearts of the saints and intercedes in their prayers so that they will receive the help they need for their infirmities.
Jesus paid for the faithful's privilege of prayer with his blood. Having the privilege of prayer, we should leave nothing to chance, but take everything to God in prayer. In Philippians 4:6, we are taught our effort should be put into prayer rather than worry. We should take all our needs to God and prayer, remembering to also give thanks for what he has already given us. Do you have a decision before you that will greatly affect your life (possibly the rest of your life)? Then take it to God in prayer, asking him to help you come to the right decision. Are concerned about your job, your health, your finances, or maybe a family member? Don't waste your time and strength in worrying, take it to God in prayer. Young people, are you having trouble in school? Before you sit down to study, go to God in prayer asking him to help you in your study. Then before you sit down for a test pray to God that he will give you a good recollection of things that you have studied. Have you ever looked at another Christian and wished that you were as knowledgeable in God's Word and had as great a faith as they? Don't waste your time in wishing. A knowledge of God's Word and faith come from effort in talking with God and letting him speak to you through the Bible.
Let's not forget while we have the avenue of prayer to ask for what we need, we are also to give thanks for what we have been given. I heard someone say that we should give thanks for all we have before we begin to ask God for what we need. That way we might not find less that we need to ask for.
We must never forget the importance of perseverance in our prayers. When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray in Luke Chapter 11, he also gave them a parable which taught how important perseverance is in our prayers.
(6)For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
(7)And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
(8)I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
Jesus' parable is very straight forward. To be importune is to be persistent to the point of making pest our yourself. The man didn't give his friend bread for the sake of their friendship, but so that he would leave him alone so that he could get some sleep. Jesus was not implying in this parable that God may be sleeping on the job, but he was illustrating the kind of persistence that we should have in our prayers. The same is true in Jesus' parable in Luke 18:1-8 where Jesus ended it by saying "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" We must have patience that in our prayers. In I Thessalonians 5:17 which says to "Pray without ceasing", we are not only that there must be continuity in our prayers, but also persistence. Well, nothing says it better than the Word of God; "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (Ephesians 6:18).
There is power in prayer. James made this clear in James 5:14-18. James used Elias (Elijah) as an example telling how he prayed that it would not rain, and it didn't for three and a half years. Then Elijah prayed again and it rained once again allowing the earth to bring for her fruit. But this, of course, is not the only example that we have of the power of prayer in the scriptures. It is not even the only example of we have of the power in Elijah's prayers. When the widow of Zarephath's son died in I Kings Chapter 17, he was raised after the prayers of Elijah. When Elijah had a showdown with the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel, though soaked with twelve barrels of water, the sacrifice which he had prepared, along with the wood, the stones of the altar, the dust, and the water that was in trench around the altar was burned up by fire from heaven. Although the false god Baal did not hear his priests, God heard the prayer of Elijah. Think about what prayer could do for our lives and the lives of those around us, for our communities, and for our country.
Does God answer all our prayers? The Faithful have been promised that whatever they ask of the Father, he will give it to them. James reiterated this in James 1:5, but is this without exception? James went on to say in Verses 6 and 7 that those that lack faith should not think that they will receive anything of the Lord. In James in 4:3 we learn that if our as out selfish motives we will not receive what we ask for. We also know that God resists the proud (James 4:6). Jesus gave us a story illustrating this:
(10)Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
(11)The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
(12)I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
(13)And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
(14)I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Both men stood as they prayed. But while the heart of the Pharisee stood in pride, the heart of the publican was flat on its face humbly asking God for mercy. We all need to ask ourselves, when we pray, are we like the Pharisee or the publican?
Sometime what we ask for is contrary to The Lord's plan and therefore cannot be granted. Such was the case when Jesus three times prayed so passionately in the garden in Matthew 26:38-44. The great lesson in this was that although Jesus prayers were denied, he accepted the will of God even though that it meant great suffering. Sometime, regardless of what we ask for, God has a better way. If you read II Corinthians 12:7-10, you will see that Paul found this to be true. Three times Paul prayed that a "thorn in the flesh" that held him back from reaching his full potential, but Lord denied him saying "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Paul sought to understand this and accepted the Lord's will. How about us? Do we accept it when the Lord answers our prayers with a no, or do we give up on the Lord when we don't get our way?
Does God hear the prayers of those who are not Christians? We know, that although Cornelius was not a Christian at the time, nevertheless his prayers were heard by God (see Acts Chapter 10). We also see that, although Cornelius had not yet come to know and obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he was still a devout man seeking God (Verse 2). What about those that know the will of God but will not subject themselves to it? Here are some verses that best answer that question:
The Lord is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.
I Peter 3:12
For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.
Basically, if you ignore God's laws, then he ignores your prayers. If you don't listen to God, he will not listen to you.
Does God hear your prayers today?