|"The life that Jesus lived, the Christian life, is characterized by truth, and love, and righteousness. And prayer is the perfect example and expression of all three of these. Love is prayers motive, truth is its expression, and righteousness is its goal." ~ Ray C. Steadman|
It is by the grace of God alone that we have been given such a sublime gift as prayer. In the words of Dr. William Evans, "The Christian life cannot be sustained without it; it is the Christian's vital breath." This provision is even more valuable to us than water. One cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven with water, but through a man's humble supplication to Jesus Christ is eternal life granted him. Therefore it would be wise to understand how the originator of prayer has ordained its use. Our Holy God has ordained a distinct way that His children must approach Him in prayer. His infallible and wholly inspired Word gives us clear commandments on exactly how we are to pray. The Bible teaches that there are at least four essential elements of prayer. That these four things in particular militate against all other forms of prayer found in the world is clear by their nature and inimitability. In this essay I will expound on the essentials of prayer, and conclude by illustrating their value in man's relationship to the holy, triune God.
In The Name Of Jesus ChristJohn 14:13-14 - "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it."
This instruction from Jesus Christ gives us the knowledge of the proper way to pray, and differentiates our prayers to God from the prayers of those in other (false) religions. The phrase "...in my name" means that where there is no other name whereby a man can be saved (Acts 4:12), neither is there another name in which a Christian can pray. This also tells us of the personal nature of prayer intended for man by the perfect love of God. As compared to the prayers to the impersonal deities and idols of false religion, the Christian's prayer is based on an ever-deepening relationship with the triune God. I have encountered Him in my own prayer life, and can give personal testimony to the importance and dependence upon that wonderful relationship with Jesus Christ; with God.
Of John 14:13-14, David Guzik writes, "this signifies both an endorsement (like a check) and a limitation (requests must be in accordance with the character of the name). We are coming to God in Jesus' name, not in our own." That we are coming in Jesus' name and not our own means we are to actively seek the will of God over our own desire. Not only does this verse tell us that we must pray in the name of Jesus Christ, but that in knowing Jesus, we have at least an inclination of His will, which should affect what we are praying for, and how we pray. The phrase "in my name" can only mean one thing: Agreement with and adherence to God's will. That is because the following phrase, "I will do it," must be taken to mean that God will do only what is in His nature. Being that God's nature is holy and absolutely perfect in every moral attribute, we can only ask Him to do for us what is in agreement with His nature. John14:13-14 are implicit with the truth that praying in Jesus' name is intrinsically linked to the will of God.
According To The Will Of God1 John 5:14-15 - "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us. And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."
The word "confidence" in this passage has also been rendered boldness, openly, plainly (and other variants thereof) throughout the New Testament. Therefore, our confidence, which is not of ourselves but is "in him," is that whatever we ask in accordance to His will shall be heard by Him. It is important to note that it is first stated here that our boldness or confidence is that we have been heard. This implies that the fact that our prayers to God our heard is enough to give us confidence! That alone is wonderful news to the believer, and should settle many matters of personal doubt we sometimes experience when coming to the Lord in prayer. The phrase "And if we know that he hear us," uses the condition "if", which is to say that, "if we have asked of Him according to His will," which we have. Here the apostle John is restating the obvious, probably for emphasis, because in the verse prior to this he has propositioned that we already have confidence or boldness in the fact that we asked something of God according to the will of God. Thus, whatever we ask, we know that not only does He hear us, but we have His petitioning on our behalf with God the Father. According to Ray C. Steadman, "Prayer is not a means by which we get God to do our will, Prayer is a means of obtaining the will of God, and is limited always by the will and purpose of God. If we pray outside of the purpose then there is no guarantee that our prayer will be heard." Prayer in Jesus name, and according to God's will, must be accompanied by a third essential element: belief.
Belief In PrayerMark 11:24 - "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
In the life of the Christian, prayer is preceded by belief. This is evident in that we must believe in order to be saved (Romans 10:9). As we come to believe, we know to whom we are confessing to and believing in, and we ascend to this through our prayer. Being witnesses to the love of God we believe; we are motivated by the truth, and given to prayer knowing full well that the end of prayer is to bring glory to a righteous God. In 1 John 5:10 we read, "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son." We must believe, for to not believe is a sin! (See also Hebrews 3:12). Indeed, belief is so essential a part of prayer that the prayers of a man with a doubtful heart are hindered.
The verse in Mark 11:24 says, "...when ye pray, believe..." Jesus Christ uttered this the day following His cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem. In Mark 11:17 He says, "Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves." Is it not striking that the day after the cleansing of the temple, and Christ referring to the temple as a "house of prayer," He gives the apostles a strong admonition to believe in order to have their prayers heard? Jesus was setting them up for a time to come that He foreknew he would not be with them physically, in person. His temple would be in each person's body, in each personal "house of prayer," and belief in Him would be more vital than ever for them to reap the freedom that is given to one who seeks to bring glory to God through his prayers. And no other prayer could accomplish that but one that is done in the name of Christ, according to His will, with a believing heart, and as we shall see next, with perseverance.
Perseverance In PrayerLuke 11:5-10 - "And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? 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. 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. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."
After teaching His disciples how to pray (Luke 11:1-4), Jesus then continues with a parable that illustrated the necessity of perseverance in prayer. This parable, seen in conjunction with another portion of the book of Luke (The Parable of the Unjust Judge, Luke 18:1-8), fully substantiates the point that Jesus was making: the tenacious prayer of the believer will, without fear or doubt, be answered. In light of the facts about prayer that I have expounded on thus far, it is clear that Jesus did not mean simply that anyone who prays fervently gets what they want. Again, the prayer in Jesus' name, following the will of God in relation to His character and His revelation, from a heart that believes, is the prayer that is heard and answered. This excludes all other forms of prayer, such as that which uses beads, idols, the intercession of the dead, or other demonic devices.
The perseverance that is implicit in these parables does not mean repetitive. From the parable of the importunate friend, we find the word "importunity" in verse 8. In the original language of the New Testament, this word actually means "shamelessness." The implication in the context surrounding that word is shameless perseverance. Vines Complete Expository Dictionary illustrates, "If shameless persistence can obtain a boon from a neighbor, then certainly earnest prayer will receive our Father's answer." Therefore it is not simply tenacity or continuation that must accompany belief in prayer, but child-like earnest and humility as well.
Hindrances and Helps In PrayerIt would be reasonable at this point to mention both the hindrances and helps to prayer. To paraphrase Dr. William Evans, some of the hindrances are as follows: Indulgence in known sin, willful disobedience to God, selfishness, resentfulness and blame, faithlessness and idolatry. Some of the essentials to prevailing in prayer are sincerity, simplicity, earnestness, persistence, faithfulness, unison with others, certainty, effort and with fasting. Each of these deserves at least a paragraph unto itself, however to keep to the nature and flow of this essay I will astutely conclude this section by saying that the Word of God is not short on its lists of hindrances and helps to prayer. It is brimming with examples, parables, illustrations and commandments that are integral to the prayer-life of the believer.
ConclusionThere is so much to be said on the subject of prayer that choosing what I have felt to be its fundamentals seems to be injurious to prayer's myriad of aspects. Prayer is made mighty in its meekness and humility by the power of God, who is faithful to the repentant believer. It is this vessel of prayer which brings us closer to God. In my own limited experience, irregular or insincere prayer can quickly degenerate every aspect of my relationship with God. I recall the many ups and downs I've had along the way, and in reciprocity to that line is the degree of nearness to God that I was cultivating at the time. I recall the many times when God Himself has told me, "Aaron, now is the time to pray." It is in those moments that I have wanted to be the most obedient, falling to my knees, and either praying, or just listening. God is gracious and longsuffering towards His children, and I praise Him for that because my prayer life has been everything but perfect. In His continuous sanctification of the saints, His love is made manifest in our response to Him in prayer.
James writes in his epistle, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:15b). I will conclude by saying that the four essentials of prayer as discussed in this essay are succinctly stated by James in his use of the words "effectual" and "fervent." Thusly, the good and perfect will of God prevails.
Able to write to you by the grace of God,
Aaron Everingham and his wife Brittany live in Edmonton, Canada, and by the loving grace of God they were saved through the ministry of an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church in June of 2007. He is currently preparing for a life of serving the Lord as a pastor of a local New Testament Baptist Church. For more articles like this one please visit his blog at Aharown Qadowsh.
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