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The Prayer Life

"Who in the days of His flesh, ... offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him who was able to save Him from (out of) death" (Heb. 5:7).

Prayer is one of the most difficult of all spiritual exercises, and lack of it is a great hindrance to God's blessing amongst His people. Since the dawn of human history men have sought to communicate with God, as Paul said to the Athenians, "that they should seek God, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him" (Acts 17:27).

Prayer may be offered in every language. David wrote, "0 Thou that hearest prayer, unto Thee shall all flesh come" (Psa. 65:2). In Psalm 72:15 the divine Spirit sweeps across the centuries and looks far into coming millennial years, when all nations will bow at Messiah's throne, and endless prayer will be made for the Sovereign Lord of the universe. Meanwhile the prayers of His saints are precious to Him who hears the breathings of the human heart that finds refuge under the shadow of the Almighty (Psa. 91:1).

Someone has well written:

True prayer is not the noisy sound

That clamorous lips repeat,

But the deep silence of the soul

That clasps Jehovah's feet.

Looking at the subject under several headings may help to kindle afresh a deep desire for prayer, in a day of pressure of other things, when all too little time is spent in this holy exercise.

The Purpose of Prayer

Through prayer we speak to God; in the Scriptures God speaks to us. Prayer without reading, or reading without prayer, will result in a spiritual imbalance. These must be in proper balance for spiritual growth. True prayer is the upward way of the soul that longs after God, and will not rest satisfied until it finds itself "at home" in spirit of His presence. In New Testament

times a significant change took place from the Old Testament approach to God of saints in prayer. A new dimension was announced by our Lord to His disciples, "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be fulfilled" (John 16:24). All prayer must be in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Later, the writer to the Hebrews taught the truth about the collective prayers of the people of God, "Let us ... draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need" (Heb. 4:16).

The Practice of Prayer

Prayer should be the rule and not the exception in Christian life, and the frequency of prayer is perhaps a great difficulty in the "growing" experience of many. How often should Christians pray? Is it for times of special urgency or circumstances? Do we wait for some emergency situation to drive us to our knees seeking divine help? Paul's message to the young Thessalonian church of God, as the saints struggled with the everyday problems of human weaknesses helps us here, "And we exhort you, brethren, ... Pray without ceasing"' (1 Thess. 5:14,17).

This divine antidote for a faltering prayer life shows that it is not to be an occasional exercise but a continuing practice. There is access at all times to the "throne of grace". We live in a day when time is at a premium, and other things are crowding out prayer. A Christian friend confessed recently that many hours spent watching television left little time for prayer.

The habitual secret meeting with God in prayer will affect our attitude as we blend with outward life; its effect will be known in our assembly prayers. Much time in private prayer will greatly enrich the prayers of the church. Sometimes long wearying prayers, followed by long pauses, mark our assembly prayer meetings, rather than brief, heartsearching intercession before the Lard, the result of previous exercise and burden for others.

The Power of Prayer

"The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working" (James 5:16). It does not say "a perfect man", but "a righteous man", a man who has had his sins forgiven and follows after righteousness. We cannot expect answers' to prayer if there is unconfessed sin in our lives, or if bitterness, envy, jealousy and lack of love rule our spirits. God will not answer us until these things are put right through confession and forgiveness. There must be times of deep humiliation, and confession of our spiritual poverty, times of confessing our faults one to another, praying one for another (James 5:16).

The Lard Jesus taught believing prayer. 'All things whatsoever ye pray and ask far, believe that ye have received them, and ye shall have them" (Mark 11:24). These challenging words of Christ should lead to renewed searching of heart. Are there some amongst God's people struggling with the problem of unanswered prayer? How often do we rise from prayer believing we have already received, and thank and praise God far His answer, which will surely come in His own time and way?

Abraham, David, Daniel, Paul, and many other men of God lived close to Him in prayer, but none gave such positive direction about prayer and its answers as the Lord Jesus Himself. He said many things about prayer, and it will be a great loss to us if we assume ,that what He said was only for those to whom He spoke.

"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee" (Matt. 6:6). Is this "closed door" ministry of prayer lacking in our lives today? If so, we will know little of the blessing He longs to bestow. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7). There is deep inner desire and strong outward action here,, "ask... seek ... knock". The whole being is involved in this kind of prayer.

The Lord's question to two blind men is significant, "Believe ye that I am able to do this?" (Matt 9:28). Their positive answer showed their simple, child-like faith in Him. Also significant are the words He spoke to the father of the epileptic boy, "all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23). Two things were necessary to bring the blessing. Firstly, the word of Christ applied to the situation, and secondly, the unquestioning faith of the suppliants. There was no faith apart from Christ's word. So, "belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Ram. 10:17). Finally, all asking should be in the will of God. The apostle John wrote about this, "if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of Him" (1 John 5:14,15).

Fervency in Prayer

We hear very few fervent prayers today; we long for their return in both private and assembly life. Fervent prayers are effective prayers. James wrote of Elijah ... "a man of like passions with us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth for three years and six months. And he prayed again; and the heaven gave rain" (James 5:17,18). He was an the crest of a great victory over the prophets of Baal and the temptation not to pray could have been very strong, as it is with us when all is going well. Yet, "He bowed himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees" (1 Kings 18:42). We must pray in the Holy Spirit (Jude v.20), not relying on set forms of words we hear so often, or lifeless cliches, but rather pouring out the soul in the presence of God with great fervency. In the shadows of Gethsemane our beloved Lard "being in an agony, prayed mare earnestly".

Perseverance in Prayer

Paul wrote, "with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunt9 in all perseverance" (Eph. 6:18). We do not always receive answers to prayer at once so we must persevere, if we are assured that our prayer is in the will of God. The Lord taught this in the parable of the importunate widow who- kept coming back to the judge until he avenged her of her adversary (Luke 18:1-7). How often we pray about a specific thing or person, and after a few times because there is no evident answer, we cease to pray? We remember Samuel's words to Israel, "Gad forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray far you" (1 Sam. 12:23).

Attitude in Prayer

Prayer should be marked by deep reverence for God, and yet with holy boldness, as the heart is bowed in His presence and the deep well-springs of the soul are stirred. We are living in a day of unholy familiarity when many think and speak of Gad with manifest impropriety. We refrain from citing examples of this. David wrote about such people, when God said, "thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself" (Psa. 50:21). Someone has well written, "The God we must see is not the utilitarian God who is having such a run of popularity today, whose chief claim to men's attention is His ability to bring them success in their various undertakings, and who for that reason is being cajoled and flattered by everyone who wants a favour. The God we must learn to know is the Majesty in the heavens, God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, the only wise God our Saviour".

Shall we not plead for a time of new prayer experience with Gad through Christ and the Holy Spirit, and witness the fires of revival burning throughout the Churches of God, as we wait far the Lord's return?