Why we ought to pray

January 19th 1997

I Peter 5.8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings (cp. James 4.7).

1. The Scriptures command prayer

The Scriptures are replete from beginning to end with prayer and you can be certain of this, whatever is clearly taught in the Word of God, ought to be clearly evident in the Christian’s life. God’s plan for our welfare is attached to our prayer lives. God speaks to us in Scripture and we speak to Him in prayer (1 Thess 516-18; cp. Jer 2911ff). From Genesis 426 to Revelation 2220 men and women of God seek the Lord in prayer.

2. Jesus taught and practiced regular and fervent prayer.

Jesus’ habits of prayer are evident early in his ministry (Mk 135) and this habit is everywhere present in his ministry to the disciples (Lk 2239); eleven times Luke mentions that Jesus went away to pray. This pattern continued until the last moments on the cross (Lk 2346; cp. Matt 1423; Matt 2636). Luke 181ff Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up (Matt 544; 65ff private prayer cp. Lk 2136)

3. It brings results

I believe you need to be careful of simple pragmatism in prayer, however, it would be ridiculous to think that God would ask us to pray if prayer made absolutely no difference whatever. Prayer is primarily an expression of the believer’s relationship with God and his desire to be obedient to the known will of God. When we pray in that manner it often brings startling results (Elijah - James 517; Samuel prayed for Israel at Mizpah - 1Sam73-11) We may think we are communicating with God only when we pray, but we are also communicating with God when we fail to pray as in the case of the Israelites in Num 11. When the people complained about their hardships the LORD of course heard and his anger was aroused. He punished them with a fire of judgment. The Israelites pled with Moses, "pray for us"; when he did, the fire ended.


Those who understand the power of prayer regularly ask others to prayer for them and the work of the ministry with which they are involved (2thes31-5). Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one…cp. Col 22)


If thou shouldst never see my face again,

Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer

Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice

Rise like a fountain for me night and day.

For what are men better than sheep or goats

That nourish a blind life within the brain,

If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer

Both for themselves and those who call them friend?

For so the whole round earth is every way

Bound by gold chains about the feet of God…

(from "Morte D’ Arthur" Alfred Tennyson)

4. It restores the body, and refreshes the spirit

a. It restores the body - There is no question but that a right relationship with God is a vital ingredient to good health (Prov 31-8; 1410,30; 1722); furthermore it may be the agency through which God touches the body to heal it (James 516; 1kgs1719; Num1213).

b. It refreshes the spirit

In the midst of despair God faithfully meets the Christian who seeks him. Consider the loss of John Oxenham whose son was killed in 1917 in WWI. After receiving notice of his death he went to a London chapel to think and pray; there he wrote this poem.

‘Mid all the traffic of the ways,

Turmoil’s without, within,

Make in my heart a quiet place,

And come and dwell therein:

A little shelter from life’s stress,

Where I may lay me prone,

And bare my soul in loneliness,

And know as I am known:

A little shrine of quietness,

All sacred to Thyself,

Where Thou shalt all my soul possess,

And I may find myself:

A little place of mystic grace,

Of self and sin swept bare,

Where I may look upon Thy face,

And talk with Thee in Prayer.

Gilbert Thomas expresses it similarly:

There is a bridge, whereof the span

is rooted in the heart of man,

And reaches, without pile or rod,

Unto the Great White Throne of God.

Its traffic is in human sighs

Fervently wafted to the skies;

‘Tis the one pathway from despair;

And it is called the Bridge of Prayer.

(cp. Ps 63; Ps 84; 1Tim44; Phil 46)

c. Prayer retains or protects our relationship with God. In Luke 2246 we read that while the disciples were sleeping in the garden Jesus was praying. When Jesus returned to the disciples He told them to get up and pray that they might not fall into temptation. Only just before, Jesus had spoken to Peter, Simon Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers (Lk2231). Jesus, when tested, was found faithful; Peter, when tested, failed! Jesus’ preparation was prayer; Peter was exhausted and fell asleep (cp. 2Cor135-9, Jn1715).

d. Prayer is a means whereby we experience the providence of God. 2Cor18 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

5. Prayer is the foundation for evangelism

First, it is the means whereby we may attain favorable circumstances for the propagation of the gospel (1Tim21). Second, it prepares the way for the gospel (Rom 101). Unless God discloses to us what it is He would have us do we can not know when to go nor with whom we should speak (Acts131ff; 166-7).

6. Prayer brings spiritual growth

2Thes 111 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (cp. Eph 115-23; 2Chr169).

7. Prayer is a means of receiving guidance

There is a clear word of instruction that is given to us in the Word of God, however, there is an additional need to apply this word of Scripture to the heart which is done through prayer (James 15; cp. Acts 911; 109).


Bibliography on Prayer

E. M. Bounds, Purpose in Prayer

A small and simple book on prayer. Bounds wrote about seven of these short devotional books. They are all motivational, filled with examples of the saints prevailing in prayer and seeing God move in tremendous ways. The books are all short and simple reading.

Dick Eastman The Hour that Changes the World

An eminently practical book on prayer. One hour in five minute segments. Also there is a notebook of practical guidance on prayer entitled The 2959 plan by Peter Lord and may be purchased through the Agape Ministries POB 6006, Titusville, FL 32782 Phone 305 267 5330

Ole Hallesby Prayer

Practical - inspirational - a modern classic on prayer.

Donald Bloesch The Struggle of Prayer

The disciplines of devotion have receded into the background as people seek instant salvation through prescribed and easily learned techniques. The often painful and laborious struggle to attain spiritual maturity in Christ that characterized the great saints of the past (both Catholic and Protestant) is singularly absent from the current fascination with spirituality p.11 This exceptional book is for those serious about their prayer life. Bloesch brings balance to the prophetic and the mystical elements of prayer. Some people find the book a little difficult but few find it not worth the effort.