Prayer is a prominent theme throughout the Bible. There are many fervent, humble, God-honoring prayers recorded for us in the Old Testament. From them we learn much about the greatness of God, the mercy of God in encouraging his people to call on him, and the struggles of his people as they confess their sins and seek his help in times of need.
When we come to the New Testament we see Jesus himself setting the example as to the importance of prayer.
He prayed at his baptism, while preaching and ministering, when he was transfigured, at the feeding of the 5,000, when raising Lazarus from the dead, in Gethsemane, and on the cross. He prayed on many other occasions, all examples of how much prayer was a part of his life.In John 17 we read the prayer itself as he addressed his Father. Though he was God and knew that the things for which he prayed were in harmony with the Father’s will and decreed by him to come to pass, he prayed earnestly for those given to him by the Father. By his own example we are taught the necessity of prayer.
Beginning With Prayer
In the book of Acts we learn that prayer had much to do with the success of the early church. We read, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (1:14). Before his ascension Jesus had said, “Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).The disciples followed Jesus’ instruction. They did not attempt to embark upon the task of going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature until the Holy Spirit descended upon them on the day of Pentecost. They spent their time in prayer and acknowledged their complete dependence on the Lord in the work before them. And as they met to choose an apostle to replace Judas, they prayed for guidance saying, “Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen” (1:24).
What a difference when the Lord’s people are diligent in prayer!
If we are truly seeking God’s will and his blessings, we are not depending on programs and promotions. We are not working on a plan that will please men but seeking the blessing of the Holy Spirit as we attempt to follow the biblical pattern for serving God. And when the prayer is answered, it is evident that it is the work of God and he receives the glory.What a day was Pentecost! They had waited in prayer as Jesus had instructed them, but who could have imagined that 3,000 souls would have been converted in one day? Man’s best effort could never have brought those very men who had crucified the Lord of glory to deep conviction and to the cry, “What shall we do?” What a day! Those who gladly received the word were baptized and there was much joy as they were all praising God.
Continuing With Prayer
In Acts chapter four, we read that the religious leaders were upset because of the raising of the lame man and so the apostles were threatened and told to speak no more in the name of Jesus. But Peter responded, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye” (19).We read that they threatened them further and then let them go. What did they do next? They prayed, “They lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is…” (24).
Look at the language of their prayer. They speak of God as the Creator, not to inform God but to strengthen their faith. They are speaking to the God of heaven and earth who is omnipotent. Nothing is too hard for him. If he created the heavens and earth he can certainly handle the threats of their enemies.
We need to follow that example when we pray. We worship Jesus as Lord of heaven and earth.
We recognize his power and, therefore, we have confidence in him to grant the blessings we desperately need. Through prayer we acknowledge our weakness and our complete dependence on the Lord.In chapter six we read there was murmuring among the widows concerning the support provided by the church. The apostles said, “We need to appoint seven men over this work that we may give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word.” The men were selected, the apostles prayed and laid hands on them. It is important to note that the apostles did not want to be distracted from the ministering the Word and prayer. It is easy to get bogged down with work that may be good, but if prayer is neglected it becomes an empty exercise.Look, then, at the results. “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (6:7). So as the apostles were able to give themselves to prayer, the Lord blessed and the number of the disciples increased.In chapter twelve we find that Peter was put in prison, “but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him” (5). The angel of the Lord brought him out of the prison and he came knocking on the door where the church was praying. Though the people had difficulty believing Peter was at the door, nevertheless, they were able to witness a direct answer to their prayers.At a later time Paul and Silas were put in prison where, no doubt, their conduct was a vivid contrast to what was expected from most prisoners. They sang and prayed. Following an earthquake the jailor fell down before them asking, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (16:30-31). What an experience! Put in jail and by morning they had baptized the jailor. Isn’t it beautiful to see the Lord working on both ends of the line, sending his servants to deliver the gospel message and preparing a man to receive it?No wonder when Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica he said, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Of course he wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit but he also knew first hand the importance of prayer. As we desire to see an outpouring of the Spirit upon the church in our day, let us earnestly and faithfully seek the Lord in prayer. We know God has his plan and we know he will accomplish his purposes, yet he commands us to pray and it is through prayer that his blessings are received.