The Privilege of Prayer

By Ronnie Lowe

Are you exhausted? Are you drained by the pressures of work, the raising of children -- even by labors for the Lord? You are not alone. Many of us suffer the same condition. When our lives get out of tune, we must retreat into the quietness of God. There we find the strength for further service. “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:31). Such is life in the bosom of God.

The early church filled the world with the gospel of Christ, and turned the world upside down in a few years. They did this while enduring hatred and persecution. How did they continue in the face of such obstacles? How did they gain such a victory?

Someone once wrote: “When we rely on organization, we get what organization can do; when we rely upon education, we get what education can do; when we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do ... but when we rely on prayer, we get what God can do.” We must learn to rely less upon self and more upon God and His power to provide us with a victory over the world. It is through prayer that we have access to the awesome power of God.

Prayer was an important part of the life of Christ. I am convinced that one great element which enabled Him to live the perfect life was the time He spent in prayer with the Father. What did He do before facing an important decision? What did He do when in need of extra strength to face a difficult circumstance? What did He do when He needed strength to minister to the people? He prayed! The early church followed His example, and made prayer a vital part of their lives. How could we expect to live victoriously without praying as they did? Jesus taught, “that men ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Most of us would remain stronger longer is we prayed more.

Prayer is a means of obtaining needed guidance. As the apostles began to select a replacement for Judas, they prayed for guidance (Acts 1:24). Later, when Paul and Barnabas were preparing to depart on their first journey, the church on Antioch “having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:3). Likewise, later they “appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:23). No man is wise enough to make all the decisions affecting his life and the lives of others without divine help and guidance (Jeremiah 10:23).

King Solomon is credited as being the wisest man of his time. What enabled him to be so? Did he attend the greatest university; did he simply have great intelligence; did he have the best advisors and wise men? He possessed such wisdom because he went to the right source. Upon becoming king over God’s people, God promised to grant him any request. His request: “give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9). If he needed to seek God’s guidance, how can we expect to live triumphantly without doing so? We are also commanded to pray for the wisdom we need (James 1:5-6).

Prayer should be viewed as a way of obtaining needed strength and courage. The world often attempts to tear us down. The world would succeed if not for our determination and the strength God provides. The first century was a difficult time to be a servant of God. The Jews, Greeks, Romans, and others constantly attacked the saints. How did God help them remain faithful in the face of severe persecution? How does God furnish people today with the needed strength to follow Him faithfully, even under threat of death?

After healing a lame man, Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin. When the Council could not dispute the healing, they threatened the apostles and commanded them to cease teaching in the name of Jesus. How did the apostles respond? How would you respond to such threats? They prayed, “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word” (Acts 4:29). In describing the result of their petition, Luke writes, “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). They did not run from the persecution, but prayed for strength to endure whatever came.

When faced with various trials and afflictions, we need help outside ourselves. After Paul and Silas were arrested in Philippi, they were beaten and placed in the inner prison, with their feet fastened in stocks. How did they respond to their plight? “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). Will prayer help at such times? God heard their petitions, loosed their bonds, and opened their cell doors. The result was not only the freedom of these men of God, but also the salvation of the jailer and his household.

Furthermore, prayer is a means for Christians to obtain forgiveness of the sins which we commit after we have obeyed the gospel. When Philip preached in Samaria, multitudes listened and were baptized (Acts 8:6, 12). Upon hearing that Samaria had received the word of God, the apostles in Jerusalem appointed Peter and John to visit the Samaritan saints. Peter and John laid their hands on many of the Samaritans, enabling them to receive miraculous abilities from the Holy Spirit.

Among the Samaritans who obeyed the gospel was Simon. He had been a sorcerer and had long astonished the people with his magical arts. When Simon saw that the apostles were able to give miraculous abilities to saints through laying hands on them, he wanted the same power. He desired the ability to bestow spiritual gifts upon others -- and he even offered to buy the power. But Peter responded, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:20-22). Simon was so deeply touched by Peter’s admonition that he replied, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me” (Acts 8:24). And just as God supplies all our other needs, He supplies this one as well. Christians have the assurance that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Through humbling oneself before God in repentance and prayer, the Christian can again find forgiveness from God. Our continual cleansing is made possible through the shed blood of Christ (1 John 1:7). But if we do not ask for such, how can we expect to obtain it?

We must also be willing to pray for each other. Just as Simon asked for the prayers of others, Christians must be willing to pray for each other. We pray for the physical and spiritual welfare of others. We pray for the forgiveness of others. We pray for others to be blessed.

King Herod killed the apostle James. Seeing that it pleased some enemies of the truth, he then imprisoned the apostle Peter (probably intending to do the same to him following the feast). How did the saints react to such treatment? As Peter was in prison, “constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts 12:5). Miraculously their prayers were answered, and Peter was released. Upon his release, he made his way to the home of John Mark and his mother, Mary, for it was here that the praying saints were gathered. Upon his arrival, instead of rejoicing, the people first thought he was an angel. Yet the Lord had granted exactly what they were praying for. Let us be sure that we are not caught by surprise when God grants our pleas.

Prayer is also an effective means of praising God. King David knew the value of praise as he so often poured out his heart to God in the Psalms. Peter, Paul, Silas, and countless others constantly praised God in prayer. Why talk to God only when you want something? Why speak to God only as a beggar would speak? Use your opportunities in prayer to praise Him, thank Him, and magnify Him for all He is, all He has done, and all He continues to do in your life.

Prayer should be offered regularly and in faith. The church grew rapidly as “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). They were daily receiving strength from their power source -- God.

Prayer is simply one of the greatest blessings bestowed upon Christians. We could not successfully survive a day without the opportunity of talking with our Father and without allowing Him to speak to us through His Word.

We need to pray when faced with important decisions, before great events, when suffering physical afflictions, when anxious or distressed, when problems arise, before entering trials, when suffering persecution, before separations, after great events, in the midst of the busy activities of life, after we have sinned, and when dying. Is it any wonder we are to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17)? Christians are to pray to God the Father, in the name of Jesus, and in humble submission, yet in boldness and faith, according to His will.

One of the greatest privileges, blessings, and opportunities known to man is prayer directed to our Heavenly Father. Prayer can move mountains, restore the downtrodden, and make the world a better place in which to live. It is indeed amazing what we can do together with God through the avenue of prayer. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Together, let us rejoice in the power of prayer!