“Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.” Ps 27:7

The church has many organizers but few agonizers; many who pay, but few who pray; many resters, but few wrestlers; many who are enterprising, but few who are interceding. A worldly Christian will stop praying and a praying Christian will stop worldliness. Tithes may build a church but tears will give it life. That is “the difference between the modern church and the early church. In the matter of effective praying, never have so many left so much to so few. Brethren let us pray.” Leonard Ravenhill

It is one thing to pray for provision when you have a job and a healthy bank account. It is another thing to pray for provision when you have lost your job and your house is facing foreclosure. It is one thing to pray for your family’s health when they are only struggling with sniffles and acne. It is another thing to pray for your family’s health when your daughter is fighting for her life with cancer. It is one thing to pray for strength to get you through a momentary struggle. It is another thing to pray for strength when your struggle stretches out for days, months and even years.

I think that is why the psalmist places prayer here. He cries out to God only after he has reminded himself of his personal relationship with the Lord. It is the Lord who is his light and salvation. It is the Lord that will keep him safe when evil men attack him, armies surround him and war breaks out against him. In this way he establishes a basis for faith that becomes the springboard for his desperate cry for help. When faced with intense struggle and overwhelming forces, we also need to remind ourselves of the greatness of our God and sureness of his promises to his people.  

Here are some astounding truths about God that are sure to help us pray in times of real crisis. God is universally and incontestably sovereign over the world he has made. “None can stay his hand or say to him ‘what have you done?’” [Daniel 4:35] So, he fulfills his purpose by working out “all things according to the counsel of his will.” [Ephesians 1:11] He possesses all wisdom about all things and neither needs nor receives counsel to help him make right decisions. [Is. 40:13-14]. He has complete and comprehensive knowledge of every person, even knowing the word they would speak before it is on their tongue. [Psalm 139:4] He has complete knowledge of all future circumstances and nothing takes him by surprise so that he has to adjust or reconsider his plans. [Ps. 147:5] He even uses the evil intent of men and devils to bring about his perfect will in the life of his people. [Genesis 50:20; Job 1:8-12]. And, when it appears that tragedy has won and scored a horrible and irreversible victory, God turns it around for his glory and our good. [Romans 8:28-37; Acts 2:22-24]. Finally, we need to know that God has a perfect plan for our lives and he will see to it that it comes to completion. [Psalm 138:8; Jer. 29:11-12; Phil. 1:6]       

God’s complete and perfect rule over all things in the universe and in our lives might cause you to ask this question: If God is in control and will work out his best and perfect will for me, why do I need to pray? I am glad you asked. There are three key reasons why God has woven prayer into the tapestry of his design: 1] Relationship; 2] Partnership; 3] and, Worship.

Relationship: God uses prayer to draw us into a close and intimate relationship with him. Prayer is not an end in itself, but a means to bring us to God. Prayer is certainly not to inform him or even to change his mind. No, he invites us to bring all of our anxieties to him, for he really cares for us. [1 Pet. 5:5]. When we yoke with him in prayer, we learn that he is “gentle and humble in heart” and there we find “rest for our souls.” [Matt. 11:28-29] Pressures, obstacles and troubles are designed to show us our dependence and to move us to trust in his character by coming to him in prayer.

God loves to give what is best for us. He takes pleasure in being the source of “every good and perfect gift.” [James 1:15] He wants us to discover that “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” [Ps. 84:11] It is an absolutely shocking revelation but it is true, that the perfect Holy One of the universe wants to be our friend. [John 15:15] So, prayer is God’s mechanism to draw us and sometimes drive us into his bounty of blessings.

Partnership: God has ordained prayer as a means of enlisting us as partners with him to carry out his rule over the creation he has made. Again, God does not need us to carry out his plan on earth for, “he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything.” [Acts 17:25] God can accomplish all that he wills simply by speaking a word, but in another mystery of his marvelous grace, he has chosen to work in us and through us to bring about his desires.

Sometimes God wills that our prayers become the necessary means whereby he accomplishes what he had determined to do. In James 5:14-15, those who are sick are told to call on the elders to pray and anoint the sick, “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. [James 5:15] Here, God calls elders to pray, they obey, and he works through their prayers to heal the sick.

At other times God uses our prayers to shape and reshape our thoughts and desires. We are told to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” [Matt. 6:10] We do not pray to change God’s will but to come in line with it. His will is already firm in heaven, we simply ask for his will to take place perfectly in our lives and the lives of others. As we pray for God’s will, the Holy Spirit changes our thoughts and desires so that we are one with his will. So, when we call to him, he uses our praying to reveal “great and unsearchable things” about him we could not know without prayer. [Jer 33:3]

Still, at other times, God ordains that our prayers would be used to encourage and strengthen the hearts of others. Here again, we see how important prayer is in the battle with spiritual forces in heavenly realms. We sometimes take our leaders for granted, assuming that they have it together and so don’t need our prayers. That was not Paul’s perspective: “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” [Eph 6:19-20] He knew he needed their prayers to be fearless in his proclamation. I believe that in the coming days of increasing darkness, we will be intimidated into silence without the prayers of praying brothers and sisters.

Worship: Finally, God ordains prayer, so that when he answers, we will praise him for what he has done. What if God did everything without our prayers? Would we even notice? So, God allows, permits and even designs our problems so that when we call upon him, he says, “I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” [Ps 50:15] J. C. Ryle, put it this way: “Prayer, pains and faith can do anything.”

So, why pray? The answers: By prayer we get to know God’s love. By prayer we get to share God’s power. And, by prayer we get to declare God’s glory.