Prayer is the special privilege of every born-again, blood-bought believer in Christ. God invites us to draw nigh to Him in prayer: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jer 33: 3). But this does not mean that we can take it lightly or haphazardly. How should we approach God in prayer? In our article last week, we learnt that we must approach God with a spirit of thankfulness, humility and forgiveness. What other attitudes should we cultivate as we draw nigh to God?
Our faith may waver when we look at our difficulties, or when we do not get an immediate answer from the Lord. We may think, “Does God really care? Where is He when I need Him? Can I still trust the Lord?” When we are assailed by doubts or uncertainty, look to the Lord and the promises in His Word to encourage us to persevere in prayer. God will work out His best purposes for us.
“We can either allow doubting thoughts to keep us from prayer, or we can bring them to God, asking Him to give us understanding as we continue to walk with Him. We can pray that if anything within us is hindering our certainty, God will show us what it is and how to overcome it” (Pray – How to be Effective in Prayer? by Warren Myers).
When we bring our needs before God, some of us may make prayer a substitute for duty. We may be tempted to sit still and do nothing as “we have already committed our cares to God”. This is a wrong attitude to prayer.
While rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah was troubled by the Jews’ enemies who tried to hinder the work. Nehemiah did two things – he prayed and watched at the same time: “Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them” (Neh 4: 9).
“When we pray to be delivered from temptation—we must keep out of the way of temptation, unless duty clearly calls us there. We must also guard against temptation, resist the Devil, and stand firm in obedience and faith. When we ask God for our daily bread, pleading the promise that we shall not lack—we must also labour to earn God’s bread, and thus make it ours honestly. … While we pray for health—we must use the means to obtain it. While we ask for wisdom—we must use our brains and think, searching for wisdom as for hidden treasure. While we ask God to help us break off a bad habit—we must also strive to overcome the habit” (J C Ryle).
Prayer is not merely an easy way for us to avoid our responsibilities. When things are beyond us, we may ask God to help us and He will. But ordinarily, we must do our part to help ourselves when we pray.
Are we praying for deliverance from some adversity or affliction? Are we waiting upon the Lord for His guidance in our lives? As we bring our needs before the Lord, learn to submit to His will. This submissive spirit was exemplified by our Saviour in the Garden of Gethsemane. With the prospect of the cross before Him, Jesus surrendered to His Father’s will. Let our petition be like our Saviour’s in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Lk 22: 42b).
“It is often said that prayer cannot alter the unchangeable purposes of God; but the great scheme of His providence embraces every prayer that shall be offered, as well as the answer it shall receive. It is objected that prayer cannot increase His knowledge of our wants, nor His readiness to supply them; and that in any case He will do what is for the best. But He deems it best to grant many blessings in answer to prayer, which otherwise He would withhold” (American Tract Society Dictionary).
It is said that prayer is the highest exercise to which a man may be called. Some of God’s greatest servants were men of prayer. They prayed earnestly and intensely. With great fervency they committed their cares and concerns unto the Lord. Some examples are: Moses (Ex 32: 11-13, 31-32; 33: 12-16); David (Ps 38-41); Elijah (Jas 5: 17-18) and Daniel (Dan 9: 4-19).
The apostle Paul commended his fellow-prisoner, Epaphras, for his fervency in prayer: “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis” (Col 4: 12-13).
Denied freedom and personal contact with his beloved flock, Epaphras “could still exercise on their behalf the most potent of all ministries” (Effective Prayer by J Oswald Sanders). His concern for their spiritual well-being and growth is manifested through his agonising prayers. Like Epaphras, let us come fervently before our Lord, who is ever ready to condescend to us.
(… to be continued on 6 November 2022 )