By Roland W. Keith
In the church we often show concern for those who are not at worship services— especially if their lack of attendance becomes a habit. We miss our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ when they do not gather with us to worship the Lord and study His word, and to fellowship with us. And, rightly so. Their welfare should be our concern. Not for their sake alone, which should be a sufficient reason for us to check on them, but for the strength of the congregation as well. As a body we are healthier and stronger when all of our members are an active part of the family. However, there is another area of concern that is often overlooked. Our prayer life. Particularly, in our private lives. In the assembly prayers are a scheduled part of the service, and although I sometimes think we could use a little training in the area of preparing for public prayer, the greater worry is in the area of personal, one-on-one prayers between the individual Christian and The LORD.
Scripture tells us that we should draw near to the throne of grace to find mercy and grace in a time of need (Hebrews 4:16). It also tells us to pray without ceasing, giving thanks (I Thessalonians 5:17-18), and that the prayer of a righteous person has great power (James 5:16). To neglect prayer is to fail to give God the praise and thanks that He deserves, to miss out on the many benefits available to us as His children, and to fail to do all we can to help others through its power.
Our Savior taught us how to, and how not to pray (Matthew 6:5-15). Not only did He teach us, but Jesus set the example of a proper prayer life for all of us. He began His day in prayer: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35). He prayed with the multitudes (Matthew 15:36). He ended a busy day with prayer: “And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone” (Matthew 14:23). And, during significant moments in His life He remembered to speak to His Heavenly Father: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22). He prayed for the welfare of His followers, both present and future (John 17:6-24). And, finally He prayed during the darkest day of His life (Matthew 26:36-44).
Through His leadership the apostles and other early disciples learned firsthand the importance and power of communicating with their Creator. Of Christianity’s earliest converts we read: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). When one of them was imprisoned for the word they prayed: “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (Acts 12:5). These followers of Christ saw the power of earnest prayer again and again, and as time went on, they and newer converts were admonished by the apostles, in word and deed, to remain faithful to their prayer life. Paul told the Colossians that they were continually in his prayers; he was particularly praying for their knowledge and understanding (Colossians 1:9). He also encouraged them to be steadfast in prayer (Colossians 4:2). He told the Philippians to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
The Romans were to be constant in prayer (Romans 12:12). The Ephesians were encouraged to persevere in prayer (Ephesians 6:18). These were not merely exercises to keep them focused on the Lord, as important as that is. Prayer was, and is, the way for Christians to communicate with our God both as a family, and in private, more intimate conversations as a child would speak alone to a Father about personal matters. John wrote, “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, God listens to him” (John 9:31).
We are told repeatedly that if we are obedient and pray with faith, we will receive what we ask for (John 15:7; 14:13; Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24; I John 3:22-24). God’s ears are open to our prayers (I Peter 3:12), so long as we pray aright. James wrote, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:3-4). God is not a genie in a bottle to fulfill our every wish. What we ask for must be proper and according to God’s will (I John 5:14). We must ask in confidence, not in doubt (James 1:5-7; Philippians 4:6).
When we are seeking God’s will in our lives our prayers will be most effective, as Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:7-11). So, what then should we pray for?
First, we should pray with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; 3:17). We should pray for our daily sustenance and welfare (Matthew 6:11). The sick among us should be in our prayers (James 5:14). Many of the things we in the Biblical examples should be a part of our public prayers, as well as our personal ones. On the other hand, many things of singular or personal benefit or nature should be kept for our personal alone time with the LORD. We should pray to overcome our weaknesses and for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 8:22-24). For the Philippians Paul prayed, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11). I need to learn to pack as much into my prayers as Paul obviously could!
There is not much we cannot pray for so long as it is something that the LORD would approve of, understanding however, that God’s will for one person may not be the same for another. But there are some things we all need to pray for with constancy, as Jesus taught, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil… Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak… Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven… But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 6:13; 26:41; 6:10; 5:44). We can pray for ourselves, we can pray for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, we can pray for our politicians, we can pray for our country, we can pray that the world turns back from the direction it is headed in, we can pray for God’s word to be taught around the globe. In fact there are so many things to pray for, can we afford to neglect our time in prayer?
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.