Progress in Prayer
Progress in prayer may have occurred in your life during recent weeks with our current pandemic. This week, I’m using an article I wrote in 2014.
Almost every Christian will admit his or her need for more effective and consistent prayer. Prayer is the avenue by which we talk to the God of the universe. That we should have this privilege is an act of God's mercy and grace almost beyond comprehension! To have an audience with those counted great on this earth is the highlight in the life of many people; we can talk to our Father in heaven.
God communicates His will to us through the book of the world--His marvelous universe, and His word--the Bible (Psalm 19). We communicate with Him through our worship, the living sacrifice of our lives (Romans 12), and especially through prayer.
There is a sense of "oughtness" to prayer. Luke says that Jesus spoke a certain parable to His disciples, "that men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (lose heart). Our efforts to pray ought always to remind us that we can grow in our ability (and enjoyment!) in prayer, and that such growth is to be expected and joy-enhancing. God certainly knows our needs--our real needs--better than we, and even before we ask. Yet, He wants us to ask (Matthew 6:31-32; 7:7; James 4:2 - "you do not have because you do not ask").
We need prayer as a means of expressing gratitude to a loving and benevolent God. Ingratitude toward the one who has given us so much is among the meanest things we can do. David (Psalm 75:1) cried out, "We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks!" This expression has gone from the lips of those with grateful hearts throughout all ages. Timothy is reminded by Paul that "every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving." We should take nothing for granted, because we have so much for which to be thankful. Paul therefore teaches that we should "abound" with thanksgiving, Colossians 2:7.
Most of Paul's letters begin with a prayer of thanksgiving. He continually reminds Christians to "give thanks" for a variety of things. He beautifully expresses this attitude in Philippians 4:6 - "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God..."
Christians certainly need prayer for help in times of need. We especially need Him in the moment of temptation, remembering the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13 - "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."
We pray for so many things: our basic needs (Matthew 6:11), the sick (James 5:13), the bold preaching of the gospel (Ephesians 6:18), the progress of the gospel in the hearts of men and women around the world (2 Thessalonians 3:1), and for "...all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." (1 Timothy 2:1,2). Among the many statements that commend prayer, none is more appealing than Hebrews 4:16: - "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." This wonderful promise in Hebrews is based on the qualifications of Jesus as our High Priest. He can intercede on our behalf because He was tempted as we are, and is therefore merciful and faithful.
It is truly amazing to observe how much time Jesus, the apostles, and early Christians engaged in prayer. Jesus prayed before all the major events in His life, including His baptism (Luke 3:21), the calling of the twelve (Luke 6L12), before Peter's confession (Luke 9:18), and at the transfiguration (Luke 9:29). The course of His life is marked by intervals of prayer: before the conflicts with religious leaders (Luke 5:16), before giving the model prayer to His disciples (Luke 11:1), when the Greeks came to see Jesus (John 12:27), at the time of the raising of Lazarus (John 11:41), and accompanying other miracles (Mark 1:41, 6:41, 7:34). Jesus prayed earnestly for His disciples and for us (John 17:6-19). He thanked God for His food (Mark 8:6).
The apostles and the early church are seen in the scriptures in frequent prayer (Acts 1:4, 14; 10:9; 13:1-3; 16:25; 20:36), and in many other passages. Jesus, the apostles, and early Christians viewed every incident in life as worthy of prayer. They truly prayed "always" and "without ceasing". They used prayer to keep in constant contact with their heavenly Father. Will we learn from the abundant evidence the exceeding value of prayer? May God help us to progress in prayer.
"Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father's throne
Make all my wants and wishes known."