“O you who hear prayer . . . “ (Psalm 65:2). This is one of the names of God. Hearing prayer is one of the characteristics of a God of love.
“I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; Give ear to me and hear my prayer” (Psalm 17:6).
How often in the Scriptures we are invited to call upon the Lord and are assured that He hears and will answer prayer. Throughout the Bible we see that His people have called upon Him in every conceivable circumstance and have rejoiced in the fact that He hears and answers prayer. He is not distant from His people. He is His people’s “Refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
None of God’s people should be troubled or fretful and weighed down with the cares of this world. We are not left on our own, to our own resources. We are not orphans, but have a Father in heaven who loves us and is concerned about us and who has unlimited resources and who loves to give good things to His people.
He assures us that He is a God who delights to hear and answer our prayers. It is His very nature to answer prayer. All the teaching of Scripture is designed to encourage us to pray. He created us to be dependent on Him and He is glorified when we acknowledge this dependence.
He loved us enough to send Jesus to die for our sins and brought us into His family, and is already predisposed to answer us when we come to him with our needs. He encourages us to “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15). He is glorified by answering the prayers of His people.
He tells us to come without fear or hesitation: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
In Heb. 4:16 we are told: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.
God forbids us to worry because it betrays our lack of trust in Him. Prayer is God’s cure for worry. When we dwell on our problems and our minds become seriously affected. This becomes Satan’s point of attack. When we place everything into the hands of God by prayer and praise He will keep watch over our hearts and minds so that nothing can upset our peace. As we are told in Phil. 4:6-7: The words “Do not be anxious” is literally “Stop perpetually worrying about even one thing”. When we worry we open the door for Satan to torment us.
It refers to anxious distressing worry, not simply concern for our problems and needs, which should always lead us to pray, but the anxiety that turns our stomachs into knots and paralyzes us with fear. God recognizes that there are problems of legitimate concern but we are to bring them to Him in trusting childlike faith.
He has promised to care for us and He does this in answer to believing prayer, not whining and complaining but prayer. God not only forbids us to worry but give us the reason not to worry. Here we are given the reason: God loves us and has provided a way—prayer with thanksgiving.
“Do not be anxious about ANYTHING, but in EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving”. The emphasis here is on “anything” and “everything”. It is not merely the big problems that God wants but the small ones as well. Most of our lives are made up of many small problems that if we allow them to can overwhelm us. If we are going to be all that God wants us to be we must be men and women of prayer.
God has made many promises to us. God wants us to pray and enter into these promises. He gave us these promises because He wants us to be free from anxieties and fears that are unbecoming of the children of God.
Many miss the point of Matt. 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet YOUR heavenly Father feeds them. ARE YOU NOT MUCH MORE VALUABLE THAN THEY?”
God is not the Father of birds, but OUR Father. The point is that if God cares for birds, that are His creatures but not His children, how much more will He care for us His children? The Lord Jesus plainly tells us that we will encounter trials and troubles and Job 5:7 says: “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward”. We sin when we fret and brood over them for these are devises of the devil to cause us to doubt God’s love.
Anxieties come when we see our problems as too big to overcome and threaten to overcome us. But God wants us to see Him as greater than all our problems. Our problems are like Goliath. When we look at our problems they seem like giants and when we look at ourselves we become overwhelmed like Saul’s men who ran at the sight of Goliath. But when we see God, as David did, the giants in our lives become very small. True faith is simply a matter of perspective.
The solution to worry is trusting prayer. Faith takes God at His word that He will take these burdens. We are not trying to get God to assume an obligation that is not rightfully His but ours, rather we are letting Him handle an obligation that He claims as His own. Doubt says that God will not assume these and that He does not really care about us or His promises to us.
Unbelief makes us feel as though we are imposing upon God. But God commands us to come to Him with all our problems and needs. What decent earthy father or mother would consider their child crying to them in need as imposing upon them! Prayer is not trying to get God to do what He would rather not do. But allowing Him to do what He absolutely insists upon doing.
Some good men say that we should advance beyond mere physical requests, but they seem to overlook the fact that God commands us to bring ALL our cares to Him. The Lord’s Prayer is a series of requests. Jesus lays great stress on trusting God for material needs as well as spiritual needs.
He is the God of the physical universe as well as the spiritual; of our bodies as well as our spirits. Someone has said that there are 365 “fear not’s” in the Bible giving us one for each day of the year. But this is wrong. If there are 365 “fear not’s” in the Bible then we have 365 for each day. All God’s promises are ours every day. The result of such prayer is peace.
When God led Israel out of Egypt and the supplies they brought with them were exhausted God provided water from a rock and manna from the sky. For 40 years God faithfully supplied the needs of over two and a half million people. There was no human source of supply. They were shut up to God’s faithfulness. The Bible tells us that these events were recorded for our benefit. Their God is also our God.
We read in Psa. 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble”. This verse literally reads: “God is for us a refuge and strength; a help in distress He has proved—exceedingly!” We are here told that God can be counted on because He has proven Himself in the past and had it recorded in the Scriptures for our benefit.
“Casting all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you” (I Pet.5: 7). The word here for “cast” signifies a definite act of the will in committing to Him our worries, giving them up to Him. This means that we are through worrying about the matter. We will let God assume the responsibility for our welfare. This is exactly what He wants us to do.
We are to commit to Him all our worries, big and little, or the things that would worry us if we assumed the responsibility. Now we are trusting God to do what we cannot do. This trust brings peace to us while we wait for Him to answer us. “Because He cares for you”, literally reads: “It is a care to Him concerning you”. We are to bring to Him our concerns because we are His concern. When God saved us and brought us into His family He assumed the responsibility for our welfare.
“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psa. 22:22). We were not designed to carry around heavy burdens we were designed to depend on God. The bible never anticipates that we will not have trials and troubles we are clearly told that we cannot avoid them.
Psa. 55:22 is a picture of a man bearing a great weight on his shoulders. His back is bent, his knees are wobbly, the weight is crushing him. He has reached the end of his strength when the Lord tells him to roll his burden on Him and He will handle it. He longs to have us do this, in fact, He commands us to do this!
God insisted that Abraham ask for a son when he was a hundred years old and his wife Sarah was ninety. When Abraham seemed to waver in his faith, God asked him, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14). And Jeremiah prayed to the Lord “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jer. 32: 17).
Then we are told, “Then the Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jer. 32:26-27).
There will be joy and power in our lives when we learn to bring all our needs and concerns to God in prayer. We are not promised financial riches but God does promise that we will have enough and joy and peace along with it if we learn to trust. Prayer puts God’s promises to every day use.
We are dependent upon God for everything and blessed is the believer who is conscious of this dependency. Christians who do not pray consistently do not have a healthy spiritual life. They are weak and powerless. They have little joy and little enthusiasm to serve God. There lives are marked by worries and fears and doubts. They have not yet learned the secret of “Casting all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:7).
Peace, joy and power should characterize every child of God. And the way to have this is to carry everything to God in prayer. We should live in constant communion with God, looking to Him in total dependence on His goodness and concern for us. The self-sufficient Christian will always be a defeated Christian.
But many do not find time to pray as they should. Strangely we do everything else first and then we give God whatever time is left over. We get so busy with this and that, so absorbed with the affairs of life, in a rush to get lesser important things done, that we haven’t time to pray.
We should be in a constant state of prayer. Luther wrote: “It is the business of tailors to make clothes and cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray”. It is through prayer that we have victory over sin. Jesus told His disciples: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak” (Matt. 26:40).
Many Christians have struggled against certain sins that have been sapping their spiritual strength. They make many resolutions and try to work up enough strength by their own self-determination. But God has provided a way for them to have victory through daily prayer.
It is through prayer that we receive power to serve God: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isa. 40: 28-31).
With many of us it is the same old story of failure to win others to Christ because we lack power. Power belongs to God and He gives His power to those who will acknowledge that they have no power of their own, and who will wait upon Him in prayer. The reason many of us do not win the lost is not because we are not smart enough or because we lack talent, but because we lack power. Every Christian should have this power, and can have it, if they will wait on God and let God search their hearts and deal with them. “How much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?”(Luke 11:13)
As believers we are to pray for our pastors, missionaries, evangelists, Sunday school teachers, etc, that they may be effective workers in the gospel. When Jesus looked upon the multitudes as ripened fields of grain perishing for lack of laborers, He said to His disciples: “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field”.
We are also to bring our unsaved loved ones and others to the Lord in prayer. This is the harvest field the Lord has entrusted to us. We are to pray for the lost around us and seek to win them. Then we are to pray for our fellow Christians that they may be enabled to win those around them, and we are to pray for and support financially the various soul winning ministries that God has laid upon our hearts. We are responsible for reaching the lost by our prayers, witnessing and giving.
Thus, because of our frailties and proneness to sin, our responsibility to reach the lost and our need of power, and because of our daily needs and our proneness to worry, we are to “pray without ceasing”.
Not only do we need special periods set aside during the day for prayer, but we need to be in an attitude of trusting dependence throughout the day for God’s power and provisions. Without this constant, daily, systematic prayer our lives will not be what God intended them to be. Prayer was not ordained by God to be a mere ritual, but as a means of getting the things we need for our Christian life and work.
Even a casual reading of the gospels reveals how Jesus, in His humanity, was much in prayer. All of the great men and women of the Bible were men and women of prayer. These were men and women just like us who knew their weakness and cried to God whose strength was made perfect in their weakness.. Under every conceivable situation God has met the needs of His praying people. From the splitting of the Red Sea (Exod. 14:15-25), to men being fed by ravens (I Kings 17:2-7), God has showed Himself to be “a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1).
The history of the church outside of the Bible reveals the same thing: That the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but to those who learn to wait on God. For the most part they were very average people, but through prayer they were changed from ordinary men and women into men and women of great achievement.
Those who have had the greatest impact upon this world are ordinary men and women who prayed while carrying out their mundane duties. These are not recorded in history books written by men but they are in the history book of heaven. For instance we all thrill to read of the great revivals under john and Charles Wesley, but God knows that without a humble woman, their mother, Susanna Wesley, who daily prayed over her children and took time from her many duties to “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), we would never have heard of her famous sons.
Prayer brings power into our lives and it is not only pastors, missionaries and evangelists and other full time Christian workers who need this power. All believers need this power to raise their families and win their loved one’s to Christ. We are just as responsible for our sphere of influence as they are in theirs. Because of the power of prayer there is no telling the influence of a humble house wife, or one who is bed-ridden. The simple bible believing, praying, Christian is a mighty instrument in the hand of God just as the jawbone of a donkey was used by Samson to slay a thousand men.
It was not the mighty, seasoned warrior Saul that God used to bring down the giant goliath, but the seemingly insignificant young shepherd boy, David, who learned to meditate on God’s word and pray while tending his flocks. This is how God wants His people to be: Armed and dangerous. Not parleying with the enemy, but in a death struggle, no negotiations and no retreating, until the enemy is defeated!
But so often we are like the Israelites as they entered the land of Canaan. God told them to go in and drive out the enemy and subdue the land. They were to go in His power and drive out all the enemy. But after driving the enemy out in certain areas and settling down in these areas, they became comfortable and lazy. Instead of finishing the enemy they were content to co-exist with the enemy, allowing them to keep their strongholds because the battle would be too difficult. As a result they were plagued by these enemies throughout their history.
We become content with being saved and settle down and try to keep from making waves that might stir up the enemy and cause us to have to give up our comfort. The picture God gives us in Eph. 6:13 is one of constant warfare. “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand”.
After driving off the enemy, we are not to sit down and rest, but remain standing, ready for the next attack to come.