Foundations Of Prayer
Prayer is grounded in the person of God. When that fact is not believed, overlooked, or misunderstood, we may underestimate the reason or purpose for prayer. The place of prayer in our lives then may very well be lost or neglected.
Theologically, the Bible says sin has separated man from God and unredeemed man cannot pray to God because of his sin (Psalms 66:18; Isa 59:2) By himself, sinful man cannot scale the wall which shuts him out from God. The wall itself was erected by God to bar men from His presence. No where can we learn from the Bible that God is in anyway obligated to answer the prayers of sinners. The only answer then to man's predicament is through Jesus Christ who came to bridge the gap of separation.
There is no intrinsic merit in any individual, redeemed or unredeemed, which makes prayer feasible. His earnestness, his labors, his sufferings, and his intentions avail him nothing. He cannot get to God by reason of them, nor will God hear him. God answers prayer for us today only because Jesus Christ went to Calvary. He entered once into the holy place with blood to atone for sin. Thus it is Christ's atoning death which enables man with "boldness to enter into the holy place (Heb 10:19).
God is the Father of believers, a fact we much accept if He is to answer our prayers. It is because He is our Father that prayer becomes possible. This all becomes possible not only because of the meritorious work of Christ on the cross, but because of our obedience to the gospel through being reborn into the family of God. It is then the work and the merits of Jesus Christ which constitute the foundation of prayer.
Another foundation of prayer upon which we build is the fact that prayer is answered. If it isn't, then there would be no need to even talk about it, much less write about it. The assumption that God Answers prayer, however, does not guarantee the reality of prayer in an individual's life, or the effectiveness of those who pray. If God does answer prayer, then prayer is serious business indeed. If we believe in prayer, there is no need of proof; and if we don't, no proof is good enough for the critic. Prayer was designed for the good of man, not to mock him or to make a fool out of God.
To believe prayer is answered is to accept as truth the teachings of the Bible. "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not (Jer 33:3). God then has committed himself to answer prayer and his promise suffices for all those who believe him.
Jesus reinforced God's promise when He affirmed, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it will be opened unto you; for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened (Matt 7:7,8).
Now Christ was either deceived when He said those words, or He deceived us by claiming what was not true - or He said what was true!
Experience is the best teacher to confirm what is true. God even tells us to put him to the test (Psalms 34:8, Malachi 3:10). History is full of accounts of those who have experienced prayers being answered. Only faithless and fool hearted people would by pass such proof.
Another foundation upon which we must build our faith in prayer is the fact there is no substitute for prayer. It is irreplaceable. Nothing can supplant it. Substitutes are available for everything else but not for prayer. When one rejects prayer with some other desire to overcome his problem and chooses to leave God out of the picture, his efforts will sooner or later prove vain. Since it is God who gives and God who takes away, we will sometime be forced to face the fact that it is really all in the hands of God, anyway.
Another foundation to consider is the fact that men are God's method. The church is going wild today looking for better methods. God is looking for better men. Isn't it strange, however, that when life begins to fall apart, church troubles arise, things go sour, and we begin to look for better ways to change the trend. But we often refuse to turn to God through prayer. We look for better methods or machinery but never for better men. The Bible is full of examples of God working through better men (2 Chron 20:1-25; 2 Kings 20:1-11 just to name a couple).
It was Hezekiah's prayer, not his army, which brought deliverance to himself and to his people from the hands of Sennacherib. Humanly speaking, the odd were all against him. His chances for victory against Assyria were nil. God used a praying man, not military might. Jerusalem was delivered and Judah saved, not on the field of battle, but with the importunate king on his knees on the floor of the house of God. Hezekiah fought a good fight but with a different weapon - the prayer of faith.
I think another foundation or presupposition to prayer we should name is that prayer must precede preaching. To attempt to stand in the pulpit and speak for God through His word is one of the most awesome tasks in the world. Dare a man attempt such an assignment without first beseeching God's blessing through prayer?
I will even go one step more. If the congregation is not praying for the preacher, his preaching is doomed to fail. The importance of preaching should not be denied, nor should anyone suggest that prayer without preaching is the ideal. Both are essential to the divine order of things, but each must assume its right relationship to the other. We will admit when we undertake any work for God that prayer is absolutely necessary. God has commanded His people to pray.
Paul insists that men pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). Peter exhorted us to watch unto prayer (1 Peter 4:7). Jesus commanded, "Watch ye therefore, and pray always (Luke 21:36).
Prayer is power but it is hard work. One doesn't just drift into a great prayer life. Daniel is a good example who refused to neglect his prayer life even in the face of grave danger (Daniel 6:10). Prayer is work in that it demands of men all they have and are. A right relationship with God can only be maintained through great diligence. The best spiritual attainments have the highest price tags attached to them. Since prayer offers the maximum in human spiritual development and makes God's might power available to the simplest saint, He has chosen to surround and safeguard it by the strictest security. The man who cannot discipline himself to develop a prayer life is not likely to triumph over his foes or win victory over the adverse circumstances of life.
Satan's mission is to disrupt, discourage, defeat, and destroy with disillusionment and frustration; and the best help he can ever gain is to cause us to neglect our prayer life, to drift away from the heart of God, to grow cold and become so discouraged that we cannot see the good for the bad, the positive for the negative.
Paul put it this way in Eph. 6:12: "for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, again powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places".
Another foundation of prayer we much understand is that prayer is governed by laws. We live in a world governed and controlled by laws. Man has to conform to and obey these laws if he expects to live in this world; laws that apply to man differ for fish, etc. Man cannot live underwater and would be foolish to try to.
Prayer is a spiritual phenomenon, and spiritual laws govern it. To discover and use the spiritual laws that govern prayer is essential to the growth and development of every praying person. These laws are so vital to all this book is about, we will do a chapter on them later in the book.
Another principle or foundation which we should not overlook is the fact that prayer must be learned. Prayer does not come naturally to men. It is not a mere instinctive reflex, although it may exist within man as an impulse. Those who master prayer best are acquainted with the theory and the practice of payer. Perhaps that is why His disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray, not Lord teach us how to pray.
Learning to pray means that one much be taught. I am sure the Lord has the right to answer whosoever He will, but the prayers often led in worship service indicated that the persons leading them have not been taught. I have just about heard it all from praying for the soul of a dead departed loved one to praying that there will be no gathering when the Lord comes, and these ask in the name of God. we have in the church today become so conformed to prayers around the Lord's table that we know about what will be said before the prayer is said. "Lord, we thank Thee for this cup which to the Christian represents the shed blood of Jesus, may we take it in the proper manner, in Jesus name. Amen". Anything wrong with that? No! But get out of the rut. Think for yourself. Make the experience alive and exciting instead of dull and drab. While you are at it, speak up! You cannot lead others in prayer if they cannot hear you.
The mechanics of prayer, although an important part of the foundation should never be allowed to take the place of prayer itself. Who am I to say what form you should use or you prayer life should take? We may have young people here who have never seen anyone kneel while praying; but to me, I can remember with pleasure those who fell to the floor on their knees to be God on behalf of the congregation.
Each should develop and use for himself whatever mechanics are best suited for him - that which will make his prayers more effective and cause him to do a better job in public leadership in worship. I guess what I am saying is that good leadership in public worship requires varieties of petitions and to not get in a rut so as to not grow.
All the events and circumstances in the life of each believer are of interest to God. We can come to Him with the assurance that we will not be turned away. But there is one thing many of us need to learn about prayer in public worship, and that is a prayer does not have to be eternal to be immortal.
One of life's most wonderful privileges is conversation with God. This is the Christian's birthright, along with God's tender promise that He will hear and answer. Do not sell your birthright for a bowl of soup. Whatever it is that robs you of time for your prayer, Bible reading and meditation is the very thing for which you are trading your birthright. I am sure the blessings of developing such a habit and setting aside time for the spiritual things in you life will reward you ten times over.
I have for years kept a prayer list through which I go every day on behalf of those on the list. I have had people call me thousands of miles away to request that their name be added to my prayer list. Might be they were already on it but just didn't know it. God is good. Prayer is real. Life is short. Heaven is certain. Keep the Faith!