WHEN WE were saved we entered into a new dimension of spiritual life and experience. One of the greatest privileges of that new life is prayer. We must never think that only older, mature Christians can pray effectively. Within three days of the apostle Paul’s conversion it was said of him, ‘‘Behold, he prayeth”, Acts 9. 11. You cannot be too young to pray!
When it comes to praying, young believers frequently do not know where to start. It may be that your great longing is the same as that of the disciples, when they asked, “Lord, teach us to pray”, Luke 11.1. Would you really like to know more about effective prayer? God, through His Word, has told us all that we need to know.
Personally, I have found the following simple acrostic to be a great help. As I have experienced it, successful prayer means:
Persisting. I suggest that you read the story which the Lord told about “the friend at midnight” in Luke 11. 5–8. The man got what he wanted in the end because he was just not prepared to give in! Later, the Lord told another parable to the end “that men ought always to pray and not to faint”, 18. 1.
Rejoicing. The apostle Paul linked together the exhortations, “Rejoice in the Lord alway” and “in everything . .. let your requests be made known to God”, Phil. 4. 4, 6. We should join with David in saying, “therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy”, Psa. 27. 6.
Asking. It is true, of course, that “your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him”. Matt. 6. 8. Nevertheless, He requires that we do ask Him to give us what we need. James sets it out very clearly, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God. that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not (i.e„ God does not reproach or taunt us); and it shall be given him”, 1. 5, and “ye have not, because ye ask not”, 4. 2. Let us never forget that, if we have a problem, God has the answer for us – if we will only turn prayerfully to Him.
Yielding. When we pray we must always recognize that God’s will is best. Our prayers should therefore be made subject to that will. Paul asked the Romans, “Strive together with me in your prayers to God for me… that I may come to you with joy by the will of God”, 15. 32. We have also, of course, the supreme example in the Gethsemane prayer of the Saviour, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done”, Luke 22. 42. The apostle John assures us “that, if we ask anything according to his will he heareth us”, 1 John 5. 14.
Expecting. We must “ask in faith”, James 1. 6. When we approach the Lord with our requests. He puts to us the same question as He did to the blind men, Do you believe that I am able to do this? Matt. 9. 28. Do we really expect the Lord to answer our prayers?
Relying. Prayer is the expression of our sense of dependence on the Lord. We read that “the men of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers”, 2 Chron. 13. 18. David exhorts us, “Roll thy way upon the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass”, Psa. 37. 5 marg.
One very real danger which faces us all is that of allowing our prayers to become a mere form. It is so very easy for the same words and phrases – lacking any spiritual freshness and vitality – to roll glibly off our tongues. Perhaps we have been able to identify answers to some of our prayers, but we know in our heart of hearts that these have been too few and far between. We realise that the fault for our mediocre prayer life lies within ourselves and not in any way with God. But can we seriously expect our prayer life to be any better? Yes, we can. There have been many believers who have discovered the secret of success in prayer. One such was the Old Testament character Nehemiah. He was very much a man of prayer. For instance, he prayed alone in private, 1. 4–11, he prayed silently when about his secular work, 2. 4, and he prayed in fellowship with others when they faced trouble, 4. 9. Indeed, he even kept breaking out into spontaneous prayer as he wrote his book, 13. 14, 22, 31.
One passage in particular from the book of Nehemiah has been a great blessing to me. It is found in chapter 4 God’s servants were surrounded by enemies, who hated both them and what they were doing for God. vv. 7–8. Yet “the people had a mind to work”, v.6, and so, Nehemiah records, “We made our prayer unto God, and set a watch (i.e.. a guard, as in vv. 22–23) against them day and night … So we laboured in the work”, w. 9, 21. Note particularly three things which the Jews did; (i) they prayed, (ii) they watched, and (iii) they laboured. Here were the three main ingredients in their success in the Lord’s service. To be in close touch with God is essential for anybody who attempts anything for God. This communion with God has dramatic effects on us, and, among other things, it makes us more alert to the spiritual dangers and enemies which confront us. This in turn enables us to work better for the Lord, despite any hindrances and discouragements we may face. It is important to notice that, for Nehemiah, prayer was not a substitute for action, it was the accompaniment of action. Nehemiah did not regard prayer as a labour–saving–gadget! The three elements of success supplemented each other; prayer, watching and labouring. It is so still.
If we only realized the value, the power and the importance of prayer, we would pray much more than we do. The Lord only requires of us that we are in a fit spiritual condition to enter His presence; “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me”, Psa. 66. 18.
I do not know if we are going to have any regrets in heaven, but if we are then I am sure that one of the greatest will be that we did not take more advantage of the facility which God has made available to every Christian – the right and the ability to pray. Young Christian, when you feel like praying, then pray because you want to and need to. And when you do not feel like praying, then pray anyway because you need to all the more!