"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VI No.VII Pg.1,16
February 1944

The Nature And Use Of Prayer

Cled E. Wallace

The Christian has become a partaker of the divine nature and the sources of his power must be divine. Self-reliance and independence are strictly limited in the religious life of the individual. "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." "The way of man is not in himself." In the broad view, the most outstanding thing about man is his helplessness, his need of grace and the divine guidance it implies. Human infirmity required such a representative as we have in Jesus Christ our great High Priest. "Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need." We are partakers of grace and must have access into grace. The very doctrine of grace under scores the extremity and need of man.

In these distressing times much is being said about prayer, even by many who would not in normal times give the subject any thought. It is extremity that turns the thoughts to prayer. It is generally acknowledged that soldiers in foxholes and men drifting in rubber rafts will pray and their thoughts turn to God as naturally as they turn to mothers and homes. In too many instances prayer ceases when the extremity ends. Some good things are being said about prayer, others display a thorough lack of understanding of the subject and impress me as running contrary to both reason and revelation. "The prayer of a righteous man availeth much in its working" but it is not a substitute for everything. Some appear to regard it merely as an escape from a storm and keep the cellar door closed when the skies are clear. The attitude of men toward God may be such that he merely mocks when their fear comes and laughs at their calamities. He will not hear those who regard iniquity in their hearts. "And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood." Thus spoke Jehovah to many who carried on the forms of revealed worship and displayed every iniquity and injustice in their lives. They sought to use Jehovah as a convenience, a contributor to their own schemes. God will not be used that way. "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures." It may be well, then, to note the proper place and uses of prayer in the life of the individual.

One glance at the subject reveals that the sources of spiritual power are a knowledge of the word of God and prayer. He is quite a dwarf in spiritual matters who is ignorant of the word of God and a stranger at the throne of grace. The man who neither studies nor prays does not have enough light to shine even out from under the bushel. Some of that kind are members of the church, at least nominally so. Growth in grace must accompany growth in knowledge and there is no growth in grace without prayer.

A knowledge of the word of God produces definite convictions about God. Vague and undefined impressions are not enough. The conviction must be strong enough to warrant a fervent appeal to "Our Father who art in heaven." Prayer requires faith in God. "Without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him." Prayer is an intimate part of daily life. There is a constant awareness of God and his interest in human affairs. Power, love, knowledge, mercy and justice are all his without measure. All that a man does not have and needs, God has. And the happiness and welfare of man is the aim of God in dealing with him. "And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him."

A knowledge of God involves a knowledge of Christ, an acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, through whom God speaks to man, and through whom alone man can approach God. He is our High Priest, Intercessor and Advocate. "And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ." Jesus Christ gave his life for us. We are his by right of purchase. God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself. All acceptable prayer must be offered in his name. "And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." "And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved." "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Religious thought is quite careless these days. It is often remarked that Jew or Christian can call on his God with or without Christ and be heard and answered. God cannot be honored apart from his Son. "For neither doth the Father judge any man, but he hath given all judgment unto the Son; that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father that sent him." It is quite apparent from the teaching of the New Testament that all who refuse to be Christians will find the door of prayer closed to them. The prayer of man must honor both God and his Son to be acceptable.

All objections to prayer that I have ever heard appear to me to be both presumptuous and shallow and the failure of many to make prayer an intimate part of their lives is a futile attempt to get along satisfactorily without God. Of course God knows what we need even before we ask him and that better than we can tell him and he can give us more than we can ask or think. So what? The conclusion that we need not pray certainly does not follow. Paul prayed and advised Christians of his day to pray without ceasing. They did not know how to pray as they ought any better than we do, but they prayed and received a full measure of blessings both objective and subjective from the practice. Prayer gets things done. A man need not hesitate about prayer for fear he will ask amiss. God does not expect perfection from anybody who really needs to pray. Prayer is the language of need. It implores help for the weak. Some knowledge of the word of God, a humble and a contrite heart and proper reverence for the Person of God will guard against serious defects in prayer. The truly devout may safely ask for what they want, even if the mercy of God does veto some of it.

I cannot become very interested in how God answers prayer, or fail to ask because I cannot see how he can grant my request. A child of mine once lay at the point of death.

I prayed, not once but many times. I asked for the life of the child. The child lived. Had he died, it would not have shaken my faith in God. I was not trying to dictate to God and my knowledge of the will of God in such matters is very limited. "Not my will, but thine be done" should always be a preface to prayer. Many people who are better than I am and whose faith is at least as great as mine have prayed for loved ones to live and they died. It has ever been so, even in the days of miracles. Epaphroditus "was sick nigh unto death." God had mercy on him and on Paul and he recovered. Earnest prayers must have been offered in his case. All sick brethren in that day did not recover even when prayers were offered on their behalf. It is no argument against prayer, especially in view of how little we know about divine administration in such matters.

It is impossible for a man to understand how God can run a universe in an orderly manner and not overlook a sparrow's fall or lose count of the hairs on a human head, but he can believe it. What he cannot understand he can charge up to his own ignorance or weakness. He should not try to limit God to his own size. I may not understand how God can know and understand the hearts of all human kind, when I cannot even understand myself, but then I can believe it for he is God.

It is easy to confuse the answer to prayer with the working of miracles. Prayer and providence are closely related. "And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose." We see the providence of God in the history of Joseph and Esther, a divine influence in human affairs where natural forces both sordid and noble played their party in fulfilling a divine purpose and furthering a divine plan. God still rules and he answers prayer.

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen."