We need to be a people of prayer. We often become concerned about pattern and format of our prayers, the frequency we should pray with, and what is appropriate to pray for. I Timothy 2:1-2, Paul lays out various elements that could be included in our prayer life. Despite our concerns, we sometimes avoid prayer, and it may be because we know we are not what we should be. “Prayer keeps us from sin, but sin keeps us from prayer.”
The Test of Prayer
In the New Testament, prayer can be used to measure our spirituality. Paul’s prayers were largely concerned with spiritual matters; Jesus’ example prayer was primarily concerned with spiritual concerns. However, our prayers are often filled with physical concerns.
Prayer can also be used to measure humility. Do we only pray when others can hear us? Are we willing to take our concerns and hand them off to God? It can be difficult to remove self from the equation, and we don’t want to talk to God until we have straightened things out.
Prayer is a test of faith. If we are full of faith in God, we will pray to Him. We pray because we rely on God and we believe He cares for and watches out for us. We need to pray with confidence and not treat this avenue as a last ditch effort that is unlikely to work.
The Fervent Prayer of Faith
In James 5:13-16, the role of prayer in a godly person’s life is emphasized. Elijah is used as an example in this instance, and we are encouraged to pray “fervently.” This carries an idea of energy and action. To pray energetically is to pray from a sincere heart. In I Kings 18, we have another example of Elijah and how prayer can produce deliverance. In stark contrast to the prophets of Baal, Elijah offers a simple prayer in verses 36 and 37. Though the words were simple, Elijah’s heart was sincere and committed. His prayer was fervent, and it produced results.
II Kings 19 records Hezikiah’s prayer as Jerusalem is under siege by Assyria. He lays his problems out before the Lord, physically bringing the ultimatum delivered to him. God delivers Jerusalem as a result of Hezekiah’s humble and honest prayer. In Daniel 6, Darius is persuaded to cast those who worship others to be cast into a den of lions. Despite this law, Daniel prays to God. He continued to worship God despite a threat to his life, but, in the end, God delivered His prayerful servant.
All of these individuals were mere men. They had no special powers; they had no superhuman qualities; their strength was in God. They had faith, and they communicated that faith in their prayer lives.
Prayer and Providence
In Esther 4:14, Mordecai is persuading Esther to intervene for the sake of the Jews. He tells her that, should she keep her peace, God will deliver the Jews regardless of her actions. He speculates, though, that she was placed in her circumstance for the very purpose of helping deliver the Jews. Philemon verse 15 suggests there is a possibility that Philemon’s escape as a slave was for the purpose of his learning the Bible. Paul is inspired, and he cannot say for sure whether or not God has intervened in this. He only admits a possibility.
We cannot know for certain God’s role in our circumstances, in our luck, and in our opportunities, but we can know this: When we are blessed, we should thank God. When we have opportunities to spread God’s cause, we should seize that opportunity.
We are told to pray without ceasing (II Thessalonians 5:17). Jesus teaches a parable that illustrates how we should pray persistently and consistently (Luke 18:1-8). However, sometimes things do not turn out as we would like. Still, Hebrews 4:14-16 reminds us that prayer still directs our attention toward God, and it reminds us that our strength is in God, and we need Him in every aspect of our lives. Furthermore, even when situations are troublesome, prayer helps us obtain the grace we need to help us overcome these troubles.
lesson by Tim Smelser