In speaking of the God they scarcely knew and whom, in Paul's words: "They ignorantly worshipped" (Act 17:23), Paul describes to the Athenians a God in whom: "we live, and move, and have our being." Surely such a God can do anything, be anywhere, know whatever He chooses to know, and has unlimited power! He can grant our every need, because "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." (James 1:17) God is consistently good, and is faithful in all that He has promised. He can answer our prayers.
James also notes that "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." (James 5:16) The fulfilled prayers of Hannah (1 Samuel 1) were for a son who would be dedicated to the Lord. Elijah's prayers for the absence of rain and years later for the presence of rain, are examples of fulfilled prayer (James 5:17,18). Daniel had such confidence in God's power to answer his prayers that he repeatedly risked his life on the belief that God would hear and answer his prayers (Daniel chapters 1, 2, 4, & 6). Moses (Numbers 14) asked God to change the course of Israel's history, and God granted his unselfish request.
Is it not strange that many do not choose to pray? If invited before an earthly King, Queen, President, or other Chief Executive of some great nation, most people would accept the invitation immediately and count it as a high point in their lives. We have been invited as Christians to "pray without ceasing" - an open invitation to enter God's presence as often as we choose. What a blessing to be able to pray! Prayer serves as a wonderful outlet for our most intense emotions. James recommends prayer when afflictions come (5:13) - "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray." Nehemiah was in deep sadness over his brethren's condition, and prayed to the God of heaven (Nehemiah 1:3,4). Hezekiah prayed when facing a great military power (2 Kings 18,19) and when facing the prospects of his own death (chapter 20).
Ezra prayed intensely when leading God's people in repentance and dealing with the consequences of sin (Ezra 9,10). In the New Testament, Paul's heart's desire for Israel's salvation is reflected in his prayers to God (Romans 10:1). The record reveals also his earnest prayers for brethren in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Philippi, and Colosse. His prayers for Timothy and Philemon reflect his love and concern for them. The English poet Tennyson declared that "more things are wrought by prayer, than this world dreams of."
There are, however, certain boundaries of prayer. It has truly been said that "nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer, except that which lies beyond the will of God." It goes without saying that God will not violate His will in order to grant prayer's requests. The Bible sets forth certain limitations to prayer, including the following:
We may fail to ask. When God promises certain blessings through prayer, we fail to receive these blessings when we fail to pray! James 4:2 - "...Yet you do not have because you do not ask." The Hebrew writer encourages his readers to "...come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (4:16) Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, commanded that we "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." (Matthew 7:7,8) Jesus then asks His hearers to recall that since earthly fathers desire to respond to their children's requests, surely our heavenly Father will give good things to His children when they ask. When our prayers ascend, God's power and blessings descend. James said that we should ask God for wisdom (1:5), and Paul taught the Philippians that the solution to anxiety was to "...let your requests be made known to God..." (4:6).
We limit the power of prayer by our doubts. When we fail to believe, we limit God's blessings that could come to us. Jesus taught (Matthew 21:22) - "And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." Our prayer for wisdom from God (James 1:5,6) is to be prayed "...with no doubting..." He notes that the "...prayer of faith will save the sick..." (5:15). We certainly will not convince God of a need, when we do not really believe that God will hear us. The Hebrew writer notes that the worshipper who approaches God "...must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (11:6)
The conduct of our lives sets boundaries on the blessings we could be receiving through prayer. Consider a few of the many passages that set forth this principle: (Proverbs 28:9) - "One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination."; (15:29) - "The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous."; (1 Peter 3:12) - "For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil." David realized this eternal principle when he wrote, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear." (Psalm 66:18) The right kind of life and the effective use of prayer will allow Christ to truly live in us.
Vana R. Raye in her song “Pray All the Time” has written:
Pray in the morning,
Pray at the noontime,
Pray in the evening,
Pray when you’re happy,
Pray when in sorrow,
Pray when you’re tempted,
Pray all the time.
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