Prayer. It is the single most important activity in the life of the believer. The Word of God declares that prayer is a means of intimate communication with the God of all the earth, a way to help our brethren, and a part of the armor of God.
If there be any sick among us, we are told that they should “call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14-15).
If anyone is afflicted, God’s word tells him to pray (James 5:13).
When someone is mistreated and persecuted, Jesus says that he should pray for those that are causing the harm (Matt. 5:44).
We are told to pray for the ministers of the Word of God (Col. 4:3; 2 Thess. 3:1; Heb. 13:18), for the secular rulers of the world (1 Tim. 2:2), and for one another (James 5:16).
By prayer – together with the Word of God – the food we eat is sanctified (1 Tim. 4:4-5). Jesus said that some miraculous acts – like casting out certain demons – could not be done unless the believer had already been praying and fasting (Mark 9:29).
Whether we are desiring to make our requests known unto God, or merely offer up an offering of thanksgiving, prayer is the means we have to do so.
But are our prayers heard by the Lord? How do we know? All too often it seems as though the answers to our prayers never come. We lay our heart open before the Lord, and then we wait … and wait … and wait. Did He hear us?
We open the pages of the Holy Scriptures, and we see many instances where God’s answer came instantly, as the prophet called upon the Lord. Still, the Scriptures record a great many times when the response came after much time of prayer and supplication.
Jesus, our great example, said to the Father, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always” (John 11:41-42). Is it possible to have the same confidence in prayer that Jesus had?
And what if prayer, our only means of communication with the Almighty, was no longer available to us? Is that possible? Wise King Solomon thought so, for he said, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Prov. 15:8), and again, “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (Prov. 28:9).
This was the problem Judas Iscariot was faced with, after that he had betrayed the Lord of glory. He was caught by the prophetic word in Psalm 109, “When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow” (Psa. 109:7-9). Peter confirms that this scripture was about Christ’s betrayer, quoting verse 8 in Acts 1:20b, “… his bishoprick let another take.” So Judas’ prayer became sin, and was therefore unheard by God, leaving him hopeless, his children fatherless, and his wife a widow.
King David, a man after God’s own heart, said, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psa. 66:18). So he cried out to the Lord, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me” (Psa. 51:10-11). David knew that the presence of the Holy Spirit was essential if we are going to be effective in prayer.
Paul confirmed this in Rom. 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
This, then, would explain the dire consequences for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: “it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (Matt. 12:32). Why, because the offense is against our intercessor: the very conduit by which our prayers come up before the throne of God!
Although King David knew that his prayers would not be heard, if he had iniquity in his heart, still he went on to proclaim, “But verily God hath heard [me]; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me” (Psa. 66:19-20). Praise His name!
As the saga of Job came to a close, Job regarded all that had happened, and declared unto the Almighty, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).
Then the Lord God began to pass judgment on the situation. Job had been subjected to the opinions of his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, who had been to him “miserable comforters.” Now the Lord said to them, “My wrath is kindled against [you], for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.” The Lord commanded them to prepare a sacrifice and, in the presence of Job, offer it up to God. “And my servant Job will pray for you,” said the Lord, “for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, like my servant Job.”
This was the great turning point in the time of Job’s trouble according to the Scripture, for “Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went, and did according as the Lord commanded them: the Lord also accepted Job. And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends” (Job 42:7-10). As James said, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
Prayer, the central act by which we communicate with God, has been lightly esteemed by the people of God in these last days. Today, it is not uncommon for professed believers in Christ Jesus to unite themselves with the heathen for a time of “interfaith” prayer. So while some are praying to the black stone, others to their ancestors, still others to the earth, and some even praying to the “god” that they themselves are, we can often find professed Christians among them, praying “in unity” but supposedly to the great I Am. Does it not occur to us to first inquire of God whether it is His will that we unite in prayer with the heathen?
God is calling us out to be a peculiar people, holy and acceptable before His face. Shall we be as Job, whom the Lord deemed righteous and whose prayers were heard? Or shall we be as Job’s friends, who needed Job to pray for them so they could be accepted?
The words of Paul ring out to this generation, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).
Righteousness exalteth a nation. The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers. If we seek righteousness, then the Lord which promised a greater glory for the latter house, will visit us in our prayers, even as He visited the Early Church, shaking the place where we are gathered, filling us with the Holy Ghost, and giving us boldness to speak the His Word to today’s disobedient generation.