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Does It Really Matter? (3)

Does it really matter whether or not we pray to God?

Behind this question may lie a process of human reasoning which queries, If God be infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His Being and attributes how can requests presented to Him by His creatures and, in particular, by creatures who have been affected by sin, in any way alter the attitude or course of action of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His will? To human reason prayer is irrelevant.

Again we ask, what has Scripture to say on this matter? When the great Teacher, our Lord Jesus Christ, was on earth He taught by example and by exhortation the importance of prayer. Referring to the Lord's prayer-

life the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews said, "Who in the days of His flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and having been heard for His godly fear" (Heb. 5:7). These words indicate the profound intensity and earnestness of the prayers of the wonderful Man of sorrows who was God's bondservant. The life of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth was characterized by loneliness and danger. "It was a lonely path He trod, from every human soul apart; known only to Himself and God was all the grief that filled His heart". And as to the reality of the dangers we think of the words of the Messianic psalm, "Preserve Me, 0 God: for in Thee do I put My trust" (Psalm 16:1). Through constant prayer the incarnate Son of God kept close to His Father. He was heard for His godly fear. May we feel the impact of those words, "Having been heard for His godly fear" (Heb. 5:7). (We are not here dealing with the particular significance of "from (or out of) death"). Does it really matter whether or not we pray? Our Lord's example should answer this. Why did He pray? Part of the answer to this is perhaps found in the significance of the words "godly fear". A Greek scholar says, "The image" on which it rests is that of the careful taking hold and wary handling... of some precious yet fragile vessel, which with ruder or less anxious handling might easily be broken". Often must the sod of the mountainside have soaked the tears which fell from the eyes of the prostrate Suppliant, God's Son and Servant. The Gospels show other reasons why Christ prayed.

That the early disciples accepted the encouragement of their Lord to pray is clearly demonstrated in many incidents recorded in the historical book of The Acts. The importance of prayer is embodied in the apostles' doctrine given to us in the epistles of the New Testament. The Lord taught His disciples that "they ought always to pray, and not to faint". It is an obvious inference that prayer brings power. Paul exhorted, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thes. 5:17): and for the Ephesians he himself prayed, "That He (the Father) would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inward man..." (Eph. 3:16). For the Colossians the apostle prayed and requested without ceasing that they would be "filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Col. 1:9). What Paul prayed for the saints was but the voice of the divine Intercessor who indwelt them and an echo of the intercessions of the divine Advocate who is at the right hand of God (see Rom. 8:26,34). And what Paul prayed for the saints was intended to be the burden of the prayer of the saints for themselves and for others. Power, knowledge, wisdom, understanding the ability, by the illuminating grace and guidance of the Holy Spirit, to discern the revealed will of God and to respond to its claims in the face of perplexing opposition - came through prayer. It does matter whether or not we pray. If we stop praying we shall cease to live for God.

Soon after he came to the throne David found himself opposed by the long-standing enemies of Israel, the Philistines. Wisely he inquired of the Lord for guidance as to the course of action he should take. The reply came, "Go up; for I will deliver them into thine hand". Some time later, what seemed to be precisely the same situation arose. David might have reasoned, There is no need to pray about this. I can act on my own initiative. With great wisdom "David inquired again of God; and God said unto him, Thou shalt not go up after them" (see 1 Chron. 13:10,14). Had David not prayed he would have blundered. The experiences of life meet us like an incoming tide. We do not know what that tide will carry to us. We do not know what tomorrow will hold, and if we substitute presumption for prayer we may place ourselves in peril.

God's ear is ever open for the prayers of His people, presented by the authority and through the worth of His Son. He delights to hear and He delights to answer, hearing and answering with wisdom, knowledge and love that belong to One whose way is perfect.

It does really matter whether or not we pray.