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Special Studies - The Importance of Prayer


Why Pray?The Importance of Prayer
If the divine decree from eternity past insures the certain futurition of all that God has purposed, then why should the believer pray?"

Special Study - The Importance of Prayer

There is perhaps no other subject that is neglected in teaching and in practice as is the subject of prayer. There are any number of reasons for this, but the fact remains that prayer is a neglected spiritual discipline in most believer's experience at one time or another. Prayer is a privilege that "Christians" abuse through neglect or through misuse.

Even believers who have an understanding of vast quantities of doctrine are often guilty of neglecting to exercise their privilege of prayer. Yet it is that same category of believers who find their ranks plagued by some of the same suffering and weaknesses that plague other believers.1 I do not mean to suggest that suffering is the only reason we should pray. My point is that doctrine resident in the soul of the believer does not make that believer so self-sufficient that the omnipotent power of God is not needed to be a spiritual victor in life. As James indicates, believers do not have because they do not ask (Jas 4.2) Prayer has a way of humbling the believer who considers himself full of knowledge because when such a believer objectively evaluates his own life relative to God's righteous standards as he approaches the throne of grace, there is no room for any subjectively based self-righteousness.

God hears the prayers of His own - both the mature and the immature. Certainly, for prayer to be effective, it must be consistent with the Truth of Scripture. It must also be in accordance with the will of the Father. These two broad parameters for prayer provide the believer with an incredible array of circumstances and people for whom to pray.

Some may ask the question - If God has already determined the outcome of the course of human history, if the unbeliever is truly a creature of free-will and can choose to become a believer of his own volition, if God doesn't violate the volition of man, etc. - why pray? There are at least three answers to these questions. First, if prayer wasn't important to God, why do we have so many examples and exhortations for prayer? Second, if we don't pray, that is an event that an omniscient God could not have addressed from eternity past as He predetermined a course of events for human history that allowed for both the free-will of man and His own sovereignty to function in perfect harmony. Third, the believer who prays to the Father has a changed perspective on life as a result.

Some principles to consider and New Testament passages that illustrate the importance of prayer:

  • Matthew 4.2 - Jesus fasted 40 days and nights in the wilderness at the outset of His public ministry and just prior to being tempted by Satan
  • Luke 5.16 - "So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed."
  • Point: The man or woman who is effective in the "public" execution of ministry is more effective in their private spiritual life - including prayer.
  • Principle: There are two aspects of ministry - involvement with people and isolation from people. If you spend all of your time around people, you loose your impact because you loose the source of your power. This is why on 12 occasions, the Gospels record that Jesus takes the disciples away to a solitary place and teaches them the importance of prayer.
  • Point of note: There are two occasions in the Gospels where Jesus spent the night in prayer - the night before He selected His twelve apostles (Lu 6.12-16) and the night before His crucifixion (Matt 26.36-46; Mk 14.32-42; Lu 22.39-46; Jn 18.1).
  • Luke 11.1 - "…Lord, teach us to pray…" This is the only thing the disciples ever asked Jesus to teach them. Why? Because Jesus spent so much time in prayer.
  • Luke 23.34, 46 - While on the Cross, Jesus' first words and last words were a prayer to the Father - "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" and "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit."
  • Luke 24.30, 50-51 - Even in His resurrection body, Jesus prayed - "Now it came to pass as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them" and "And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven."
  • Point of note: There are only 15 occasions in the Gospels in which there is a record of Jesus praying. Of those 15, eleven (11) are in Luke. Luke presents Jesus as the "Son of Man." As the "Son of Man," Jesus was totally dependent upon the Father and the Holy Spirit to execute the Father's will.
  • John 17 - Jesus prays before His arrest and crucifixion for His disciples/apostles.
  • Acts 1.14 - The disciples "all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers."
  • Paul frequently mentions the fact that he prayed "without ceasing" and gave thanks for the believers who would be the recipients of His epistles. (See Rom 1.9; 1 Co 1.4; Eph 1.15-16; 6.18; Phil 1.3; Col 1.3, 9; 1 Thess 1.2-4; 2.13; 2 Thess 1.3, 11; 2.13; 2 Tim 1.3; and Philm 1.4).
  • Paul provides examples of the things for which he prayed and gave thanks in believer's lives. (See Eph 1.17-19; Phil 1.4-11; Col 1.9-14; 2 Thess 1.11-12; and Philm 1.4-7).
  • Paul exhorts and teaches believers to pray (2 Thess 3.1-2; and 1 Tim 2.1-4; 2.8).
  • James exhorts believers regarding prayer (Jam 1.5-7; 5.13-18).
  • Peter exhorts believers regarding prayer (1 Pet 1.17-21 and 3.7).

With all of these examples of prayer in the lives and teaching of Jesus, Paul, James, Peter and others, should the believer today have an approach to and practice of prayer that indicates a "whatever will be will be" attitude? Can the believer truly be humble (yielded to the will of God in all matters) apart from effective prayer? These are questions we must ask ourselves if we are honest about examining our own spiritual lives for areas of deficiency.

1 It is an unfortunate reality that believers in this category face some of the same suffering in life as believers who do not possess the same amount of doctrine resident in their souls. Sometimes that suffering is for the purpose of testing, sometimes it is for the purpose of discipline, and sometimes it is undeserved suffering by association. Examples of suffering that is being experienced by believers in this category include: self-induced misery, addictions, physical health and ailments (testing or discipline), rebellious children, reversionistic spouse, abusive spouse, economic and financial pressure, aging and ill parents, reversionistic or unbelieving co-workers, reversionistic or unbelieving supervisors, etc.

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Pastor, Steve Ellis · The Church of the Servant King