Study 5 WHY, WHEN AND HOW TO PRAY
Key Verse: “…they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1)
Nothing is more important in the life of the Christian than that there should be a right understanding of, and a regular engaging in, the privilege of prayer. Prayer means contact with, communion with and fellowship with God. It is not simply asking God for things, though it does include that. Our Lord related the parable in Luke 18:1-8 in order to stress the great importance of prayer. He said, “they should always pray…” This, of course, is a comprehensive word; it is the privilege of all to pray, and in this chapter 18 of Luke’s Gospel we are given five examples: a praying widow (verse 3); a praying Pharisee (verse 10); a praying publican (verse 13); a praying ruler (verse 18); and a praying beggar (verse 38).
1. WHY should we pray?
There are many answers to this question, but let us confine our answer to the suggestion that arises out of the word “should”. It means, “We owe it to pray…” Thus, prayer is an obligation. Why should we pray? How is it an obligation?
- 1. We owe it to ourselves to pray. In the infinite mercy of God we have been given a new life, and by the miracle of the new birth we have been made partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), and this life can only be maintained and kept virile by prayer. Only as we pray can our lives be what God wants them to be, can we know the secret of victory over sin and the power of the Enemy, and can our Christian service be what it ought to be. We owe it to ourselves to pray, for without prayer we can never be the Christians we want to be – or that God wants us to be!
- 2. We owe it to others to pray. We can exercise an amazing ministry on behalf of others if we know how to pray, and if this is true how solemn a thing it is not to pray for them! Look up 1 Samuel 12:23. As we think of the need, the sin, the sorrow, the suffering and the broken hearts around us is it not an obligation for us to pray for God’s gracious relief, help and salvation to be given to those needy souls? We owe it to our loved ones and friends to pray for them.
- 3. We owe it to our Lord to pray. In His Word, God has given us many very great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4), each of which invites us to trust Him and to secure from Him all that we need for life and service down here. God has, as it were, given to us a blank cheque book; each cheque is signed with the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (John 14:13), and the resources in the Bank of Heaven are limitless (Philippians 4:19). Do we not owe it to our Lord to cash these cheques, to honour His promises, to go to Him regularly in prayer and to draw upon the boundless supplies of divine grace and power that are available to us?
2. WHEN should we pray?
The answer is, “Always!” which means at all times and in all circumstances. See how the apostle Paul puts it in Ephesians 6:18 and 1 Thessalonians 5:17. When should we pray?
- 1. At regular stated times. We do many things daily by habit, and we should form the habit of prayer – look up Psalm 55:17, and compare Daniel 6:10.
- 2. When the Holy Spirit urges us. Have we not all had this experience? – look up Romans 8:26-27. As surely as we go into the place of prayer so surely is the Holy Spirit present to guide us in our praying. It is wonderful to be thus guided by Him to pray for someone for whom previously we had no thought of praying, and afterwards to discover that our prayer was the channel through which God met a special need.
- 3. When cares and troubles press upon us. Some people only pray when trouble comes. This is very sad, though it is true that the Lord does give a special promise for times of trouble. Look it up in Psalm 50:15, and notice that His promise is not for deliverance from the trouble but for something better – deliverance in the trouble. Paul and Silas enjoyed such deliverance – Acts 16:25.
- 4. At all times of special need. Such times arise in the life of all of us. Look up Acts 12:5, and compare James 5:13-15 and 17-18.
- 5. When we can we should pray with others. There is a place for private prayer (Matthew 6:6), but there is a special invitation to, and value in, united prayer. Look up Matthew 18:19-20, and compare Acts 1:13-14 – and notice Acts 3:1.
3. HOW should we pray?
In Luke 18 we have three special illustrations of the way in which we are to pray. Notice these:
- 1. We are to pray like the publican and not like the Pharisee (verses 10-13). That is, we are to pray with no confidence in ourselves, but all our confidence must be in the merit of the Lord Jesus Christ, who shed His blood for us so that we (though sinners) can approach a holy God in prayer (verse 13). If we come to God like the Pharisee He will not hear us; if we come to Him like the publican He will hear us.
- 2. We are to pray persistently, without fainting (verses 1-8). Alas, how weary we get and how quickly we faint in this matter of prayer! Yes, and we so easily get discouraged if God does not seem to send the answer at once. Read this parable of the persistent widow, and note that the lesson is this: If a bad man (and the unjust judge was that) will yield to the entreaty of a poor widow, how much more will God yield to the earnest prayers of His people! Compare verses 38-39.
- 3. We are to pray with child-like simplicity and trust. Verses 16 and 17 suggest this. We must always come before God as children coming to their heavenly Father. “Prayer is the simplest form of speech that infant lips can try.”
Are you proving what a practical thing prayer is, and that nothing is too great or too small to pray about?