Psalm 65:2 calls our God, “You who hears prayers.” As we examine our own personal prayer lives, do we view God’s listening to our prayers casually? It may be something we do if we can find the time or if we have a particularly pressing matter. It is something we take for granted. If God, however, does not take our prayers lightly, then we should not approach prayer casually.
Think of Elijah at Mount Carmel in I Kings 18, whose quiet, reserved prayer was answered resoundingly where the antics of the idolatrous priests were ignored. Remember Hezekiah, in II Kings 18-19 who turns to God in simple prayer against overwhelming odds. Finally, Daniel, in Daniel 6, continues to pray to God despite the law, and God saves him from a death sentence for his crime of prayer.
These stories are not just here to give us things to cover in Bible class or to talk about how God used to interact with His people. They are here to remind us that prayer works.
Defined By Prayer
In I Chronicles 4, we find ourselves in the middle of genealogical records, and, in verses 9-10, we run into a brief mention about a man named Jabez (meaning pain). We are told he is more honorable than his brethren, that he prays to God, and that God grants his prayer. We know nothing more about this man other than that he prayed to God. That is the snapshot we have of him: a man who calls on God for blessings and protection from evil.
Christians of the First Century devoted themselves to prayer. Acts 1:14, Acts 1:24, Acts 2:42, Acts 4:24, also within Acts 10, 6 12, 16, 20, 21 – we see Christians giving themselves to prayer time and again. These are defined by their prayer lives.
Measured By Prayer
We’ve had numerous lessons on how and why to pray. We know it works. Why not use it? It is a measure of our spirituality, our humility, and our faith. Of the many things Paul prays for in his recorded words, spiritual needs come first. In Matthew 6, in the Lord’s Prayer, only one physical need is mentioned. The more spiritually minded we are, the inclined we will be to kneel before God in prayer.
Before Jesus gives an example of prayer in Matthew 6, Jesus admonishes His audience not to pray in showy ways, in a proud manner. Instead, like the publican in Luke 18:9-14, we should approach God in humility, and that humility is rooted in our faith. I Peter 3:15 calls on us to sanctify Christ, and I Peter 5:6 tells us to humble ourselves in that sanctified presence. Ephesians 3:20-21 expresses Paul’s faith that God is capable of doing more than we can imagine. We simply need to have faith in His power.
We have the time to pray. We have reason to pray. The question is one of humility, of faith, and of spirituality. God hears our prayers, and prayer works. We should be like those First Century Christians, like that briefly mentioned Jabez, and be defined by devoting ourselves to prayer.
lesson by Tim Smelser