Jesus spoke a parable with the introductory words: “Men ought always to pray and not to faint” (Luke 18:1); Paul
stated: “Continue in prayer, and give attention to the same with thanksgiving” (Col 4:2), both quotations emphasizing
the importance of prayer in our daily lives.

Our Lord said to the woman of Samaria, “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him” (John 4:23). Our Lord is telling us that there is more to the Truth than doctrine, yet the Truth cannot be truth without doctrinal purity. However, doctrinal purity is not enough to please the Father, for “He seeketh”, in addition, the “spirit” of the Truth. The word “spirit” is a good translation of the Greek word “pneuma”, speaking of the essence or disposition that influences or governs our manner of life (Strong)— cp also Joshua 24:14, “… serve him in sincerity and in truth”. It is not just enough to know the Truth; how we manifest the Truth is just as important; how we live and walk in it, how we think about it is the “spirit” of the Truth. This is God in us.

It is written: “If we live by the spirit, let us also walk by the spirit” (Gal 5:25 RSV). “You are builded together for an habitation of God through the spirit” (Eph 2:22). “Be strengthened with might by His spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith… that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph 3:16,19).?

How do we identify with the spirit of God? Through reading and meditating upon His Word. By these we breathe in “God’s moral atmosphere”, as Brother Thomas wrote.

“Now the ‘testimony of God’ came by the Holy Spirit, by which God testified in His prophets; and in the last days spoke through His Son and the Apostles. Hence the effects of the Word believed are attributed to the spirit; and because the Word sets men breathing in God’s moral atmosphere, it is termed ‘spirit and life’” (Elpis Israel, pages 52,53).

Having “breathed in”, we must breath out; this we do in prayer. Reading is not hard to do; meditating or making the Word a study requires application; but to engage in consistent fervent and effectual prayer, is for many, the most difficult part of our worship. By these actions we “walk in the spirit”; walking in and breathing in God’s moral atmosphere.

The difficulty of engaging in consistent fervent and effectual prayer is a difficulty experienced by many. The Lord’s prayer was introduced in Luke’s Gospel as a result of a question from one of the disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray” (11:1). The disciple had observed our Lord in prayer. There must have been an earnestness, a demeanour in the actions of Jesus that created a sense of inadequacy in the disciple so that the request was made, as the record describes, immediately Jesus “ceased” praying. How often do we feel inadequate in prayer? There are times when we know not what to say or how to say it. We may even not be able to turn to God in prayer at all or, when we do, we feel we are not being heard, let alone answered. The question that may even come to mind is, “If God knows what is in our hearts, what the answer to our problem is, why do we need to pray at all?” Further, Paul acknowledges that, “We know not what we should pray for as we ought” (Rom 8:26). So why the importance of prayer? Why do we have to express our thoughts, our cares to God?

The very exercise of praying can in itself be an answer to our difficulty. Have you ever had a problem that in trying to resolve you decide to put it down on paper and in the process a solution emerges? Prayer can be like that. In the very action of describing to the Father your difficulty in a considered and structured fashion, the solution that in your previously distressed and troubled state evaded you, suddenly emerges in your mind as you take it to your God. Not that prayer is a soliloquy; it does call for the attention and intervention of a divine Being.

God delights in hearing our prayers. It is not that we are informing God about matters that He is not aware of (for God knows all things); our prayers are a reflection of our spiritual development. The matters that we bring before God; the issues that concern us; the way we express our feelings, even the construction of our prayer is a reflection of our spiritual mindedness, our maturity in the Truth. Equally as important are the issues that we do not discuss in our prayers; matters that we should have addressed that we have overlooked or, worse still, matters in our lives that we are too ashamed to bring to our God. Can it be said of our prayers that our speech betrayeth us? Our prayers reflect our growth in the Truth.

Think what is involved in prayer. Firstly, and most importantly, it draws us to our God; we must believe that God is and that He is living and active; this is faith. Secondly, we must believe that God hears prayer and that He will respond to all that we ask, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24; Matt 21:22). But note; the things we ask, are asked in the name of His son (John 16:23). Or as John further states (1 John 5:14), “If we ask anything according to His will”. It is very important to be conscious of these facts. We conclude all our prayers “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Why? Is this just words? We will receive whatsoever we ask provided our requests conform to the way of life seen in the Son. Remember, he had “not where to lay his head”. What material comforts do we ask for? If they asked for his coat he gave them his cloke as well. What sacrifices are we prepared to make? Pride and self-aggrandisement were never a part of his life. He humbled himself and reflected in his life the manner of a servant. Do we ask for humility or are there other motives in our defence of self? His interests were always upon the welfare of others: “Father forgive them”. He looked not for the comforts of this world but of the age to come. If our prayers conform to this manner of life, whatsoever we ask will be given us because our requests reflect God’s will and are asked in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But as we have said, why should we have to ask for something that God knows we desire? Because it creates in us dependency as well as humility. How often have we said or heard it said, “I will not do what he wants until he asks me first”. If man sees this action as wisdom, more so God who is the fountain of all wisdom, who said through Paul, “Let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil 4:6). How empty our lives would be without prayer. Prayer is comforting. Knowing that we have God on our side, we can turn to Him who is the greatest power in the universe, One who is even more powerful than death. We might not be able to get an audience with the Queen of England but we can with God! What a privilege. Let us be instant in prayer.

This edition of The Lampstand features prayer in our lives, both personal and public prayers; the pattern of our Lord’s prayer and the special privilege through prayer of the forgiveness of sins. Let us pray and not faint.