The Necessity of Prayer
They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. [John 17:16-17]
“We see that nothing is set before us as an object of expectation from the Lord which we are not enjoined to ask of Him in prayer, so true it is that prayer digs up those treasures which the Gospel of our Lord discovers to the eye of faith. The necessity and utility of this exercise of prayer no words can sufficiently express.” John Calvin
John Wesley once remarked that “God does nothing but by prayer, and everything with it.” If Wesley is right, that is an incredible statement. Think of it. All of the blessings God would pour out in our lives, our families and our world come only as we pray. If we don’t pray, things that God would do he doesn’t because we don’t pray. Billy Graham said it like this: “Heaven is full of answers to prayers for which no one ever bothered to ask.”
To bring a balance, you should know that Wesley’s affirmation has had its critics. They ask, “How can we say that God has trusted his sovereign plan to the prayers of his people when they are often too lazy to pray or lack the faith to pray?” They say that if God is in control, and He is, then He will make sure that what He wills will take place whether we pray or not.
But, John 17 tends to give credence to Wesley’s affirmation. Listen to the petitions that Jesus makes. Remember, that Jesus is praying for himself, for his disciples and for us. Here are some of his petitions: “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” [John 17:5] “Holy Father, protect them [the disciples] by the power of your name” [John 17:11] “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” [John 17:17] “I pray also for those [us] who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. [John 17:20-21]
Now, here is the question: “Would those things have happened if Jesus had not prayed?” Think about it. Was Jesus just using the prayer to teach us lessons about prayer? Or, was he doing business with the Father? Were the prayers of Jesus essential to the completion of his mission, the protection of his disciples, the sanctification of his followers and the unity of his people? That is THE question. Is prayer a necessity or a luxury?
First, he was teaching by example. “I say these things [the words of the prayer] while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” [John 17:13] Jesus said “these things” so that they might hear and know his heart. Second, Jesus’ example teaches us that although in many ways prayer is a mystery, it is in fact, a necessity. Although it was ordained by God that Jesus would complete his mission and glorify the Father, Jesus knew that He needed the Father’s help to complete it. So, he prayed. I don’t think you can read this text and come up with any other conclusion.
That sparks the question, “Why?” Why has God chosen prayer to be the means whereby he is moved to do what he has already ordained that He would do? The best answer? He chose to. God, for His own, mysterious and glorious reasons, determined to bring glory to his name through the prayers of His people. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” [Ps 50:15] “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” [Jer 33:3] “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” [Matt 7:7-8]
God’s invitation to ask reveals a God who desires to serve us and meet our needs. “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.” [Ps 34:15] When we, who inwardly want to be in control and self-made, turn to him and ask, we are displaying a self-denying, God-honoring trust in our Heavenly Father. We are showing to the world that we believe Him and trust Him to do better for us than we can do for ourselves. We are displaying, by our faith and obedience, a God who is worthy of our full and unwavering trust. Like loving children, we are putting our lives in the hands of our Father because we know He cares for us.
Prayer is the act of faith. John Bunyan wrote, “Thou art not a Christian that are not a praying person.” If we pray we have faith. If we don’t pray we don’t have faith. It is that simple. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” [Heb 11:5-6] Without faith, we don’t go to God, we don’t believe he really exists, and we don’t believe that he will reward those who seek him with all their hearts. In other words, we don’t really believe in Him or His promises.
We are not called to be Christian fatalists, saying, “God knows what is best and He will do what he wants when he wants so I will just trust Him.” Don’t think that is piety. That is perversity. When God commands and invites us to pray; when he promises to give us the best gifts when we pray; and we say “no thanks,” we are not honoring God! Charles Kingsley said it like this: “The very act of prayer honors God and gives glory to God, for it confesses that God is what he is.”
God is honored by our asking. The more we ask the more He is honored. Sure, he will have to sort out the things that are not His will and are not good for us. But the mere asking in prayer is right even if the request is not. It is a fact, that we are never more in God’s will than when we are praying. The devil will do anything and say anything to keep us off our knees, for he knows that going before the Father in Jesus name is what makes Christian wimps, Christian warriors.
John Newton, the former slave trader and author of “Amazing Grace,” wrote, “Thou art coming to a king; Large petitions with you bring; For his grace and power are such; None can ever ask too much.” God is honored when we bring huge requests. I am reminded of the woman who came to Moody and asked, “Mr. Moody, do you think we should bring the big things and not the small things to God in prayer?” He responded, “Lady, can you think of anything that is big to God?”
Jesus is our example. He prayed and His Father answered. Jesus completed his mission. Jesus glorified the Father. Jesus returned to glory. We have eternal life. We know God. We are protected from the devil. We are separated from the world. Praying is the rule of the kingdom. That is why P. T. Forsyth said, “prayerlessness is sinfulness.” Thomas Chalmers added, “Prayer does not enable us to do a greater work. Prayer is a greater work.” Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the kingdom. If you may have everything by asking in His name, and nothing without asking, I beg you to see how absolutely vital prayer is.”
Don’t you want to know God? Don’t you want to bless God? Don’t you want your life to bring glory to God? God doesn’t need us. We need Him. He has chosen to bless and use us through prayer. I confess, I am guilty of weak prayer and faulty faith. But, I have repented. I want my last days on earth to be my best days of service to Him and His people. God wants my last days on earth to be my best days of service to Him and His people. It won’t happen just because I want it to happen or because God wants it, but because I answer His call to pray.
I close with some choice words from Andrew Murray. He writes, “Each time you intercede, be quiet first, and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, and how He delights to hear the prayers of His redeemed people. Think of your place and privilege in Christ, and expect great things!”
We are all beginners in prayer and always will be. Just start. Go in simple faith. Get alone and pour out your soul to God. He cares for you. You don’t have to be perfect, just present. “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” [Ps 145:18] Do you want to know God, please God, and glorify God? Then pray. He calls you. He enables you. And, He will answer you. Pray.
Permissions: Permission is granted for reproduction and distribution of this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 1,000 physical copies.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Dr. Gary Rieben. © Give Me That Book. Email: Grieben@aol.com. Website: www.GiveMeThatBook.org. Postal: GMTB | P.O. Box 1045| La Quinta, CA 92247 USA | 619.829.2390
© Give Me That Book