Prayer is one of the most misunderstood subjects. Even well-meaning believers some times come up with a question, “God is Almighty, Loving and all-knowing. Then what is the need for prayer?” That indeed is a very good question.
How are we to answer that question? When we realize how God made man, all our doubts would be vanished. To begin with, God has made us as dependent beings. Man has to depend on air that he breaths, water he drinks and food he eats to maintain his physical body. Then man has to depend on his fellow humans to maintain his mind healthy and happy. We depend on our parents, siblings, friends, teachers and the society around us. Imagine our life with out them! The Bible tells us that man is much more than just body and mind. We are told that we have a spirit (1Thes.5:23) and the spirit in man is the God-element in man (Pro.20:27). And God in His grace has permitted us to depend on Him to maintain our spirits. In other words, the one who does not pray, does not have spiritual life. He is spiritually dead as all in Adam. While the Bible says, “believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved…” (Acts 16:31), the Bible also declares that only those who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Rom.10:13). It is by prayer that faith becomes saving faith. Faith would be dead faith, otherwise. Thus we conclude that prayer is the vital breath of a Christian. Is prayer all that important? Well, without prayer, we would be living a subhuman existence like that of the animals! In other words without Him we can not live a spiritual life at all.
Let us look at the Scriptures again. What is the role of man here on earth? We are told very clearly that Adam was created to rule over the earth (Gen.1:28). And Adam was to work in the garden and to keep it (Gen.2:15). In other words, man was to be God’s representative here on earth, looking after it and taking care of it. While in the first chapter of Genesis we are told repeatedly that God named things (vv.5,8,10), after Adam was created it was Adam who named animals and NOT God (Gen.2:19,20). Even though Satan claims to have authority over this earth and the world is under the Evil One (Lk.4:6;1Jn.5:19), in God’s eyes it is man who still has that authority here (Ps.115:16). God, as creator and sustain-er of the universe, sends His rain and sun upon the righteous and the unrighteous (Mt.5:45), but God would NEVER interfere in the life of any one unless request is made (Psa.50:15). Is prayer important? Absolutely important. Unless we pray, God wont interfere in our lives. If you want to see God’s work in your life or God working for you, you must pray. There is no history of God running after people to save them unless someone else prayed for them. See Gen. 19:29.
Now we need to look at the vital relationship between God’s promises and prayer. This is a foggy area as far as many are concerned. They think that God will just fulfill His promises with out any human interference. But the Scriptures teach us just the opposite. God just delights to fulfill His promises only in answer to the prayers of His people! This is a big mystery. Should we pray so that God’s promises would be fulfilled? It looks rather strange that this is so. Let us look at a few scriptures to see how it works. First example is Gen. 25:21. Here was Isaac born to Abraham as the promised son after waiting for quarter of a century! Truly, Isaac brought a lot of laughter to the family; yitschâq, Isaac’s Hebrew form, means laughter. God’s promise to Abraham was that his descendants would be like the sand of the sea and like the stars in the sky (Gen.22:17). But our verse above tells us of a tragic situation; that Rebekah was barren! And the verse goes on to say what the solution was. And Isaac prayed and the Lord opened her womb and she became pregnant. Here is that solemn truth brought before us in all clarity. God delights to fulfill His promises only in answer to the prayers of His people. There seems to be no exception to this rule! Look at the life of Jacob. It was at Bethel that he received the promises of God (Gen.28:1017). But only after Peniel his name was changed and the promises were fulfilled in his life (Gen.32:2230). Again look at Dan.9:23. Daniel was now living at the time he learned from Scripture that the time of the captivity for Israel was over. See what he does in response to his knowledge. He turns to God in fasting and prayer. Daniel knew the solemn truth that God would fulfill His promises only in answer to the prayers of His saints. And now let us look the last promise of our Lord to His beloved disciple John in Patmos. “Behold, I come quickly” and what was his response? “Amen, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev.22:20). Is prayer important? Well, if you wish to see God’s promises fulfilled, you need to pray! Without us, He will not!
Now, let us go on and see the relationship between the will of God and prayer. This, again, is another area where many are confused. They think all that happens around them is God’s will. Tragically, that is NOT true. We, in India, live in a society dominated by the Hindu concept of fate. But the Bible is against fate. Where is fate when the Bible says, “nothing shall be impossible to you” (Mt.17:21)? But we need to conceive God’s will at three different levels. At the first level, there is the sovereign will of God by which He decides who is to be born where and what the DNA factor of each person is. None could question it or change it (Acts.17:26). Then there is the permissive will of God. God lets every one live as he/she likes. God does NOT force His ways upon any one any time (Eccl. 11:9). Sure, there will be a judgment at the end. But when some one commits something wrong, God is not there to punish that person immediately (Eccl.8:11). Each one has the freedom of choice. This is the permissive will of God. Lastly, there is what is known as the perfect will of God for every one born on earth (Rom.12:2). God has revealed that perfect will in His Word. God wills that every one be saved (1Tim.2:4; 2Pet.3:9). God wills that all saved ones live in holiness (1Thes. 4:3). It is God’s will that every child of God should live a thankfull life, pray without ceasing and rejoice in every situation (1Thes.5:17,18). But if this should happen, it is impossible without prayer. Is prayer important? Absolutely important. Without prayer God’s perfect will can not be achieved in our personal lives, in the life of the assembly and in the world around us. That is why in the so called “Lord’s prayer” our Lord taught His disciples to pray, “Heavenly Father, … Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt.6:10). His perfect will is accomplished in heaven. But if that should happen here on earth, His people must pray. Is prayer all that important? Absolutely so. Unless we pray, God’s perfect will can not be achieved here on earth. Without us, He will not!
Now let us have a look at the ultimate purpose of the Church here on earth. The epistle to Ephesians deals with the Church Universal. Paul talks about the purpose of God from eternity past to the coming eternity. We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world and in the ages to come we are told that God is going to unite all things in Christ (Eph.1:4, 10). Now we are made to sit in the heavelies in Christ Jesus (2:7). But still we are here on earth, are we not? Why did He leave His body here on earth today? Answer is found in 6:10,11 of our epistle. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil”. It is clear from these verses that the ultimate purpose (indicated by the word “finally”) of the church on earth is to stand against the wiles of the devil. We are given details in vv.12-17 about the armor which we should put on. And the only activity of the armored soldier of Christ is to pray, pray, pray and pray as found in v.18. Just look at that verse and see the repetition of the words used about prayer in that one verse. Is prayer important? Well, without prayer Satan will be victorious and we will be guilty of failing God in our generation.
Now let us have a look at 1Sam.12:23 which states, “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, …”. Here is Samuel making a most solemn statement. In that chapter Samuel lists all that God would want to do for Israel as a nation. But at the end Samuel says that God is going to do it all in response to his prayers. Ask and receive is one of the spiritual laws which can not be broken! James in his epistle puts it the other way around and says, “you have not, because you have not asked” (Jas.4:2). Read also Eze.36:37 in different versions. By not praying for others and for the world around us, we are binding the hands of God as God will not do any thing spiritual except in answer to prayers of His people. We, as believers, sin against the Lord if we stop praying. Is prayer important? Now let the reader decide the importance of prayer as God will not do any thing spiritual in this world except in answer to prayer! Without our prayers, God remains defeated in our generation. Study the history of revivals. Before every mighty revival that swept the earth, there was a praying church, mightily praying through till the revival came. There is NO exception. This once again confirms the fact that without us, He will NOT!
Finally, look at all the commands in the Scriptures about prayer. For example, “when you pray, go into a room and close the doors… (Mt.6:6). How many of us spend time alone with God every day in prayer? “Pray and faint not” (Lk.18:1). How many of us are consistent in our prayer life? “Devote yourselves to prayer” (Col.4:2). Do we have the right priority when it comes to prayer or prayer has found a back seat in our lives? “… strive together with me in prayer …” (Rom.15:30). We do pray. But how many of us strive in prayer? How many of us are guilty of being disobedient to these and other plain commands about prayer? Why did God give so much importance to prayer? Simple reason is: Without us, He will Not do any thing spiritual. Let us order our lives and set our priorities right that we may not be ashamed at His coming. Remember that the desire to pray is given by Him but the decision must be taken by us. May we be given grace to devote ourselves to prayer that we might be the instruments through whom God would carry out His eternal purposes here on earth. To His name be all glory. Amen.