Preachers on Prayer
Christ did not teach his disciples how to preach but how to pray, wrote Andrew Murray.
Murray also said that the prayer of a child could conquer anything. This was to be child-like, but not childish.
John Wesley said that GOD does nothing except in answer to fervent (stretched) prayer.
John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon and R A Torrey agreed that prayer was the most important work of a Christian.
The Nature of Prayer
Oswald Chambers and Bishop J C Ryle said that prayer was being mentally united with Christ.
We have the mind of Christ (1Cor 2:16). What we ask and what GOD wants to give us are therefore settled through prayer. A meeting of our minds with GOD comes about. To paraphrase Henry Scougal, prayer is the life of GOD in the soul of man.
A W Tozer warns us about what he terms “pro-tem atheism” or temporary atheism. He says that most of the time as we act or live in the world, we may fail to be immediately conscious of GOD. Regular prayer is therefore a defence against our oversight.
Prayer is not a touch and go effort by us. It is a sustained relationship with the LORD in our spirit.
It is to know the mind of GOD by having a relationship with Him. Spurgeon said that the depth of our prayers were more important when compared to their length.
Psalm 46:10 says that we should be still and know GOD. The Hebrew meaning implies that we have to step outside of ourselves totally, in order to let GOD in completely, and relate to Him fully.
In Matt 7:22-23 Christ places singular emphasis on knowing GOD as activities in the name of Christ are irrelevant if the relationship with GOD was absent.
Neither is prayer just us presenting a long wish-list of what we want. Christ is not a “blessing machine” according to Oswald Chambers: we don’t treat God like a coke machine where we slip a coin in and out comes the drink can.
Nor should we treat Christ as what W. Arthur Matthews calls “an emergency ambulance service” where we pray at the last minute, when trouble comes to us.
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones refers to what he terms “a spirit of bargaining” that we sometimes adopt in our Christian life. This arises where we seek a “win” situation in all we do with Christ. When this fails to come about, we get spiritually discouraged, and tend to drop in our relationship with Christ.
Whilst we want GOD to listen to us, we must also be prepared to listen to Him. And silence before GOD is the start of prayer.
In prayer, our struggle is not with GOD; it is with us. Alan Redpath put it this way: before we can say, “Thy will be done” we must say, “My will must go.”
Scope of Prayer
Prayer is to be made always (Eph 6:18), continually (1Thess 5:17), everywhere (1Tim 2:8) for everything (Phil 4:6).
When we pray we have two intercessors: Christ in Heaven who is presenting our prayers to the Father (John 14:13); and the Holy Spirit who helps us pray (Rom 8:26).
The first church grew out of a prayer meeting. It cost 40 days in the power of the Holy Spirit to launch the first church. The early church survived on prayer extensively.
In Acts 12:5, the word “unceasing” was used for the Greek word “ektenos” which signified a long duration of non-stop, whole-hearted, praying that stretched out the mind, soul and spirit of those who prayed.
St Paul turned a prison cell into a prayer chamber.
Corrie Ten Boom, when she was physically incapacitated, moved her eyes around from photo to photo on her wall, and one could observe that she was praying for those missionaries in the photos.
Christ and Prayer
Christ said that man always ought to pray (Luke 18:1).Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that Christ consistently withdrew to pray after He had preached and after performing miracles.
Christ called the temple of Jerusalem a house of prayer (Matt 21:13). St Paul reminded us that we are GOD’s temple (1Cor 3:16) and that makes us a house of prayer.
Christ taught prayer in 5 simple phrases, the LORD’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-13) as it has come to be called. The LORD’s Prayer shows us how to approach prayer.
The word for “Father” at the start of the Prayer is the equivalent of “Daddy”. It signifies a very informal and intimate relationship. In instances where a person’s earthly father is aloof, it could be difficult to promote this sort of relationship with GOD. This is because GOD may be mistakenly seen as the equivalent of an impersonal Being. Father shows a very personal relationship.
The LORD’s Prayer starts off with praise to GOD and ends in praise. The first part of the LORD’s Prayer focuses on GOD. It calls for the ushering of GOD’s Kingdom and specifically pleads that the will of GOD in heaven meet its purpose on earth.
The second part of the Lord’s Prayer is for what we want GOD to do for us.
The word “I” is avoided in the prayer. This shows that the self must be put aside in prayer.
Our first petition is for basic material provision, just for the day.
Our confession of sin, together with us forgiving those who have offended us comes next. Christ reminds us to pray for those who despitefully use us and persecute us (Matt 5:44). This could turn out an obstacle for many of us.
Forgiveness of sin is mutual. It is followed by a request to ask that we are not subjected to temptation and ask that we be delivered from evil. We are also asked to pray for those in authority–not for a change of those in authority but for those in authority (1 Tim 2:1-4). This could be another obstacle to the human mind. This prayer is essential for peaceful conditions for the gospel to spread.
Answers to Prayer
Out of some 667 prayers in the Bible, Dr Herbert Lockyer tracked 454 that were answered.
Elijah’s prayer under the juniper tree, for him to die (because he was afraid of Jezebel’s threat to kill him in 24 hrs) was not granted (1 Ki 19:4).
David’s prayer to build the temple was not granted, but answered when he was told by GOD that he had shed much blood (1 Chron 22:7&8).
St Paul prayed three times to have the thorn in his flesh removed: this was not given, but answered with, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:7-9).
George Mueller prayed for the salvation of a particular man who, when Mueller died, still had not been saved. Yet Mueller believed GOD at his deathbed that the person would be saved. True enough, years after Mueller’s death, the person was saved, as reported by one of Mueller’s biographers.
The saddest “prayer” in the Bible is the one in Luke 23:30 when Christ foretold that people would pray to mountains and rocks to fall on them during the destruction of Jerusalem.
Issues about Prayer
Prayer is not difficult because GOD is not difficult; only we are difficult because we let satan have his way when he makes us feel weary.
Christ warned us not to make a public display when we pray individually. There are no specific times of day nor numbers of times when prayer is to be made, except “always”, “everywhere”, “continually”.
Peter prayed on a rooftop on one occasion (Acts 10:9). No manner of praying whether kneeling, standing or sitting is prescribed, and different saints prayed differently.
The absence of regular prayer could, in a matter of time give rise to increasing spiritual discouragement, and possibly a burnt out or back-slidden spiritual life.
The material instincts in the spirit would overtake a person as one has not been sustained by the Holy Spirit through prayer. The person would be performing on his own steam, relying on energy from himself and not the Holy Spirit.
Hence, prayer is our most important work.
Note: This article was published in an earlier edition but is rearranged and expanded here. It was the basis of a message delivered on December 21st 2013 at the Faith Oasis Fellowship Church USJ, Malaysia
References for pictures