Eric Jurmu | The Voice of Zion November 2021 --
Prayer is a significant part of many religions – with its use, people strive to speak to their gods. Yet prayer is often removed from its biblical foundation and misused. In God’s kingdom, we want prayer to remain in its secure, age-old spot, for we teach that “prayer is the heart’s humble and sincere conversation with God” (Christian Doctrine, item 78).
In Luther’s teaching about prayer, he makes it a duty which cannot be ignored because it is commanded by God. The apostle exhorts to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Jesus also commanded in His teaching that “men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). Luther teaches in his explanation of the second commandment, “Not to take God’s name in vain but call upon Him in every time of need, and worship Him with prayer, praise and thanksgiving.” Luther taught that by calling on God in prayer, we honor His name and use it purposefully.
Secondly, Luther says we should be impelled to pray because God has also added the promise that our prayers will be answered. The Psalmist writes, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shall glorify me” (Ps. 51:15), and as Christ says in the gospel of Matthew, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Matt. 7:7,8). In prayer we speak with God, and He promises to hear our prayers.
How and what do we pray? When the disciples realized that they did not know how to pray, Jesus taught them the Lord’s Prayer, a perfect prayer. All Christians join in this prayer: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen” (Luke 11:1–13). Jesus also taught not to pray as the hypocrites do, standing on the street corner to be seen by others, but rather quietly, discreetly, and humbly, for God who sees in secret promises to reward openly (Matt. 6). Jesus himself would often go away to a quiet place to pray (Matt. 14:23, Mark 6:46, Luke 6:12).
Sometimes it may be heard that God only hears the prayers of the righteous, and not the ungodly. One may even use scripture to make this point (e.g., Isa. 1:15, Prov. 1:28). God, in His Word has also warned that He may turn a deaf ear to one who has rejected Him. But how do we know God’s ways? There is danger when we try to insert our will into God’s will. We see in scriptures how God hears and answers prayers in His time and ways. God heard Saul’s prayer when he for three days prayed to God, and Ananias was sent to him (Acts 9). Or when the Ethiopian eunuch, returning from days of prayer and worship in Jerusalem, met Phillip whom God had sent to explain scriptures (Acts 8). Also, to Cornelius who prayed to God always, was Peter sent. In all cases, prayer did not justify them, yet God heard their prayers and sent a messenger, a partaker of the remission of sins, to preach forgiveness. Faith is often born under extreme duress, and often prayer is the only thing which we are left to do. How God hears and answers prayer doesn’t need to be our worry. May we learn to accept whatever God allows.
A believer prays from a place of humility: “Thy will be done.” It is a statement of submission to God’s ways and His plans. Jesus prayed this way in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before His death, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). When our prayer is weak, we have the comfort that the Spirit prays in our behalf. Paul was given to write, “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” (Rom. 8:17,18).
Prayer is powerful, a gift to us from God. Let us freely carry in prayer to our Father those quiet questions and matters in our hearts. God in His time will answer and grant acceptance and peace.