WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER? You are welcome to another edition of Insights from God's Word, a Bible study programme that is committed to sharing God's Word by allowing the Bible to speak for itself.
In this edition, we continue with our series on Biblical Perspectives on Prayer and Fasting. The topic for this study is: What is the Importance of Prayer? Religious people including Christians are encouraged by their leaders to pray often. As many of these religious folks go through the act of prayer, not a few have pondered over the questions: 1) What is the importance of prayer? 2) Does prayer really work? 3) How do we know for sure? These and many other questions have perplexed religious people in various parts of the world. In this study, we will attempt to find biblical answers to these important questions that lie deep within the hearts of many people. The lesson has been categorised into three sub-sections as follows:
1) WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER? The Bible provides several key reasons why prayer is very important in the life of every child of God. Some of these key reasons are captured below:
A) Prayer shows our humility before God (see 2 Chronicles 7:14). It tells God that we have chosen to place our confidence in Him rather than in our own strength and abilities. Prayer helps us to recognise that we are dependent upon God for all things, and that there is nothing we can accomplish through our own effort. As we humble ourselves to God in prayer, He bestows on us the rich blessings of heaven that enables us to live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). God expects that we recognise our weakness as finite beings, and lay hold on His strength through earnest persevering prayer of faith.
B) Prayer helps us to develop a strong personal relationship with God. Through prayer, we come to view God as a compassionate heavenly Father who is willing to give unto us all good things (see Matthew 6:9; Matthew 7:7, 11). As we commune with God in prayer, we come to realise that He is not just a compassionate Father but also a dear Friend that we can open our hearts unto in all things. Thus through prayer, the God of the universe becomes our dear Friend, Someone we are able to call on at any time, knowing that He is willing and pleased to hear us, and show us His will for our lives.
C) Prayer enables us to lead a lifestyle that is pleasing to God. Due to our fallen nature, we are more susceptible to sin than to lead a life of righteousness (see Jeremiah 17:9). In fact, many who have tried various theories and philosophies of mankind to control their sinful human nature have always failed miserably. Prayer is what enables us to obtain the needed divine power to overcome our sinful tendencies, and to lead a lifestyle that is pleasing to God. Irrespective of our sinful condition, the Lord calls on us to come and let us reason together. Though our sins may be as scarlet, He is able to wash us so we can become white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). Through prayer, the Lord can change us from the worst of sinners to become saints that serve as lights to a perishing world (see John 8:34-36; Matthew 5:14-16).
D) Prayer gives us the divine strength to do the work of God. It is through prayer that we become filled with the Holy Spirit to be able to do the work that the Lord has assigned unto us. Whatsoever our spiritual gift in the body of Christ, we cannot accomplish much without constant persevering prayer. The work of salvation of souls that is bestowed unto the church is not an exercise that can be accomplished through our physical strength. To preach Christ to the sinner is to enter the devil's territory and set his captive free (see Luke 4:18). And this exercise can only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit which we can only obtain through fervent prayer (see Acts 4:31-34; Acts 13:1-3; Acts 14:21-23; 2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2).
E) Prayer helps us to communicate our needs and those of others to God (see Philippians 4:6). From the gospel of Matthew we read these caring words of Jesus: "7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matthew 7:7-11). Through prayer, we take hold on the promises of Scripture that assures us that the Lord is able to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
F) Prayer helps us to submit to God, and thereby resist the temptations of Satan (see James 4:7). The reason why our Lord was victorious over the temptations of Satan was because of His constant communion with God (see Matthew 4:1, 2; Luke 11:1; Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12; Luke 18:1; John 17:1-26; Matthew 26:36-44). Without the power we obtain from prayer, there is no way we can overcome the shrewd temptations of Satan. Peter's denial of Christ is one of the vivid records in Scripture that paints a clear picture to us on the consequences of self-sufficiency. Even though Christ had earlier warned Peter at the last supper concerning what lay ahead of him, this disciple kept trusting in his own strength (see Matthew 26:35-41). Amidst the entreaties of Christ for Peter and his friends to watch and pray, these disciples rather chose to sleep (see Matthew 26:36-44). It wasn't long before they realised that they did not possess the spiritual strength to stand for their beloved Master (see Mark 14:50; Mark 14:66-72). We can only overcome temptations and stand victoriously for Christ when we learn to seek strength from God in prayer daily.
G) Fervent prayer is needed in making major decisions of life. The Bible chronicles how Jesus spent the entire night in prayer before selecting the 12 apostles (see Luke 6:12, 13); the apostles on whose shoulders will rest the gospel commission to the entire world (see Matthew 28:18-20). As we can see often in the life of Jesus in Scripture, prayer must precede all the major steps we want to take in life. This does not mean we do not need prayer in the small things of everyday life. However, this point emphasises the fact that we need to spend special time in prayer when we are about to make very major decisions of life. Decisions that will affect the rest of our lives such as the choice of a marriage partner, a career path, travel and resettlement et cetera should not be taken hastily without consulting God in a special way in prayer.
H) Prayer helps us to discern the will of God for our lives. In several periods of our lives, we come to the point where we do not know exactly what to do. In these times of indecision, prayer is what helps us to discern the will of God. When the patriarch Jacob was given the glad news that his son Joseph was alive, and that he requested him to move from Canaan to Egypt, the patriarch was skeptical about this move to the heathen land of Egypt. However, his troubled Spirit was brought at peace when God assured him in a dream not to worry about the family's movement from Canaan to Egypt (see Genesis 46:1-4; see also Matthew 26:36-44). In times of indecision, it is always important that we turn to God to seek His will early so we are not led astray by our own inclinations and subsequent choices.
I) Prayer enables us to confess our sins to God so we can receive forgiveness. From the apostle John, we read the following assuring words: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). It does not matter what we have done in the past, if we can come to God and confess to Him in prayer, the blessing of forgiveness will be ours. We serve a God who hates sin yet loves the sinner. From the lyrics of the psalmist, we read the following in relation to the heart of God: "8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:8-12).
J) Prayer is necessary to obtain victory in our spiritual warfare with Satan. We are all engaged in the great controversy battle between Christ and Satan (see Genesis 3:15; Revelation 12:1-11). In this warfare, prayer is one of the most important weapons that we can successfully wield against the enemy (see Ephesians 6:10-18). In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (review Ephesians 6:12). Friends, against all these forces in the spiritual realm, the physical ammunitions that we can boast of in our world will prove worthless. It is important for us to understand that it takes among other things, the spiritual armour of prayer, to fight victoriously in the great controversy battle between good and evil (see Ephesians 6:18; Matthew 17:14-21).
2) DOES PRAYER REALLY WORK? Even though the Scripture is filled with several evidences of God's answer to the prayer of His children (see Psalm 66:17-20; 2 Kings 19:10-37; 2 Kings 20:1-6; Jeremiah 29:12, 13; Daniel 9:20-23; Matthew 21:22; John 14:13, 14; 1 Peter 3:12; 1 John 5:14, 15), many in the field of Science believe that prayer is an exercise in futility as they cannot perceive how mere spoken words can reach to a God in heaven several trillion miles away from our planet. But those of us who have prayed to God believe that it works; for we have the evidence in the form of several answered prayers that go beyond the natural investigation of Science.
Beloved, God's people across the globe can boldly make several claims of how God had answered their faith-based prayers. It doesn't matter whether the issues were big or small; God had come through with an answer to prayer in the lives of millions across the globe. We know that prayer works because we have experienced the results for ourselves. The skeptic can also have this experience if he comes to believe in God, and begins to pray himself. For how will one know whether prayer works or not if he has not experienced the amazing results of prayer for himself?
Friends, as to how this exercise called prayer works, no human being can vividly set out any physical parameters; for prayer is a faith-based spiritual experience. Beyond this point, we must come to understand that the God of creation is a Spirit who is not limited by time and space as humans are limited (see John 4:24). Moreover, if humans can invent diverse gadgets which make global communication so simple and easy, what makes us think that the omnipotent Creator cannot design something even more powerful? The Bible clearly declares that God hears our prayers from heaven (see 2 Chronicles 7:14; Matthew 6:9), and that it is His desire to answer our prayers (see Matthew 7:7-11; John 14:14). We may not know exactly how all the details of prayer work, but we do know that prayer works because we enjoy its rich benefits.
3) THE PRAYER LIFE OF JESUS: A PERFECT EXAMPLE FOR US The importance of prayer to fallen humanity cannot be overemphasised. This point is highly illustrated through the prayer life of Jesus. He who had power to command the sea and the winds to become still found it necessary to devote Himself to prayer (see Mark 4:36-41). Prayer was the most important activity of the life of Christ (see Luke 11:1; Luke 5:16; Luke 6:12). It was through prayer that He received strength from above to overcome the temptations of Satan (Matthew 4:1, 2), preach Spirit filled-sermons (see Luke 4:14), feed thousands (see Matthew 14:13-21; Matthew 15:32-39), heal various diseases (see Mark 1:32-37), cast out demons (see Matthew 17:14-21), and even raise the dead (see John 11:41-44).
Beloved, even though Jesus was still the divine Son of God while on earth, He had to relinquish His divinity in order to go through the process of humiliation and death for the salvation of mankind (see Philippians 2:5-8). It is humbling to learn that the One who had all power at His disposal became subservient unto Another so that the conditions of salvation could be met. Come to think of this: If the divine Son of God had to pray to the Father to obtain strength so He could succeed against Satan and his hosts of demons, how much more you and I? The answer to this question is so obvious. If we can succeed in our warfare against self, sin and Satan, we need to meticulously follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ in the important religious practice of prayer.
Exhortation: From the pen of inspiration, we read the following in relation to the power of prayer:
"What is more important in this life than prayer? Prayer is our connection with God--our strength, our bridge to heaven! It is when "men begin to call upon the name of the Lord" that they find Him. We are told that He "hearest prayer." What a promise this is! As we pray, the Holy Spirit Himself unites in our petitions and "maketh intercession for us." We are not alone in the battle of life; all heaven is on our side!" -- (Product Description for Power of Prayer by Ellen G. White). In our next study, we will consider the topic: How Does One Pray? The Bible Study references for this study are Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4. Please do well to go through these passages before the next study is released.
Stay blessed and keep shining for King Jesus.
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