The blessing of Moses over the tribes of Israel ( Deuteronomy 33:1-5 ) is a little reminder of the blessings that Jacob gave over his twelve sons. It is also a reminder for me to look at the prayers of those who are keen in following God and look at how they prayed. I look at this blessing, which is a typical blessing of goodness, but as with Jacob, I sense a spirit of prophecy here as well indicating things to come. That has my attention.
The Psalm writers are another place I go. Here in Psalm119:145-176 I am given a glimpse into how he prayed but also the why, where, how, and what his prayers were all about. Typical for the Psalms, the interconnection between prayer and God’s Word is very clear.
I learn that prayers are whole-hearted with a humble submission to God’s Word. I can pray for salvation – from error, sin, selfish desires and anything that would keep me from God’s Word.
I love the example of getting up early in the day and there can be hope in my heart because my hope is anchored in God’s Word. I can pray through the night as well and that comes out of my meditation on God’s Word.
The sweetness of his request for God to hear his voice based on His lovingkindness. Again, my hope is not based on what I think I deserve but anchored in God’s Word.
I come looking for God to revive me and give me more life and give it to me based on what He knows I need.
There is a confidence in prayer because there is a confidence in God’s eternal and unchanging Word.
Looking at this one verse alone brings up so much discussion.
With all my heart I call to you;
answer me, Lord, and I will obey your commands! – Psalm 119:145 GNT
The prayer screams of sincerity – it was a plaintive, painful and natural burst of desire from the heart. Is that not the essence of prayer? I can remember when I cried out in such a manner – there is no beauty in them – the tears, facial contortions, messy hair. There is no concern for the length of time I prayed, nor to my doctrine, nor to the accuracy of my diction – my one intent was that the whole of my heart would find its way to the heart of God.
As a man cries most loudly when he cries with all his mouth opened; so a man prays most effectually when he prays with his whole heart. Neither doth this speech declare only the fervency of his affection; but it imports also that it was a great thing which he sought from God. And thou, when thou prayest, pray for great things; for things enduring, not for things perishing: pray not for silver, it is but rust; nor for gold, it is but metal; nor for possessions, they are but earth. Such prayer ascends not to God. He is a great God, and esteems himself dishonoured when great things with great affection are not sought from him. –William Cowper.
If God does not hear my prayer then I pray in vain. There is no plan B. It is either God or nothing.
It is true that when I have come to such a place of prayer that I get right with God first. I cannot pray with my whole heart unless it was also true that I be at a point of commitment and faithfulness to be obedient to God’s Word. In other words, there is a desire in my heart to be holy.
I was reading a bit of history on a man of prayer – Reuben Archer Torrey. He worked alongside Dwight L. Moody and helped create the Moody Bible Institute and also pastored in Chicago at the Moody Memorial Church. He became a travelling evangelist and settled in Los Angelos where he became a part of the Azusa Street Revival – the birth of the Pentecostal movement. He also was instrumental in founding the Bible Institute of Los Angelos, which is known today as Biola University. He started a church – Church of the Open Door in downtown LA. Through all of his accomplishments and giftedness, those close to him knew him as a man of prayer.
One student reported how he went to Torrey’s office with a particular need, and after the session kneeling in prayer together was over, a pool of tears remained when Torrey arose.
Will Houghton, preaching his funeral, said:
“…But those who knew Dr. Torrey more intimately knew him as a man of regular and uninterrupted prayer. He knew what it meant to pray without ceasing. With hours set systematically apart for prayer, he gave himself diligently to this ministry.”
His book, “How to Pray” is a classic. In his first chapter he gives a few reasons why it is important that we learn to pray:
1. There is a devil. We are in a spiritual war and if we are to prevail, we need to learn to pray.
2. Prayer is God’s appointed way for obtaining things, and the great secret of all lack in our experience, in our life and in our work is neglect of prayer. We have not because we ask not.
3. Those men whom God set out as a pattern of what He expected Christians to be – the apostles – regarded prayer as the most important business of their lives.
4. Prayer occupied a very prominent place and played a very important part in the earthly life of our Lord.
5. Praying is the most important part of the present ministry of our risen Lord. Hebrews 7:25 tells us that He “ever liveth to make intercession for us”. If you want to be close to Jesus, learn to do what He does. He prays.
6. Prayer is the means that God has appointed for our receiving mercy, and obtaining grace to help in time of need.
7. Prayer in the name of Jesus Christ is the way Jesus Christ Himself has appointed for His disciples to obtain fullness of joy.
8. Prayer, in every care and anxiety and need of life, with thanksgiving, is the means that God has appointed for our obtaining freedom from all anxiety, and the peace of God which passes all understanding.
9. Prayer is the means that Christ has appointed whereby our hearts shall not become overcharged with consuming too much of anything in regards to the cares of this life, and so the day of Christ’s return come upon us suddenly as a snare.
10. Because of what prayer accomplishes: It grows us up. It brings power into our work. God uses it in the conversion of others. Prayer brings blessings to the church.
It all kind of makes me want to pray more.
For wherever the soul of man turns itself, unless toward thee, it is enmeshed in sorrows, even though it is surrounded by beautiful things outside thee and outside itself. For lovely things would simply not be unless they were from thee. They come to be and they pass away, and by coming they begin to be, and they grow toward perfection. Then, when perfect, they begin to wax old and perish, and, if all do not wax old, still all perish. Therefore, when they rise and grow toward being, the more rapidly they grow to maturity, so also the more rapidly they hasten back toward nonbeing. This is the way of things. This is the lot thou hast given them, because they are part of things which do not all exist at the same time, but by passing away and succeeding each other they all make up the universe, of which they are all parts. For example, our speech is accomplished by sounds which signify meanings, but a meaning is not complete unless one word passes away, when it has sounded its part, so that the next may follow after it. Let my soul praise thee, in all these things, O God, the Creator of all; but let not my soul be stuck to these things by the glue of love, through the senses of the body. For they go where they were meant to go, that they may exist no longer. And they rend the soul with pestilent desires because she longs to be and yet loves to rest secure in the created things she loves. But in these things there is no resting place to be found. They do not abide. They flee away; and who is he who can follow them with his physical senses? Or who can grasp them, even when they are present? For our physical sense is slow because it is a physical sense and bears its own limitations in itself. The physical sense is quite sufficient for what it was made to do; but it is not sufficient to stay things from running their courses from the beginning appointed to the end appointed. For in thy word, by which they were created, they hear their appointed bound: “From there — to here!” – Augustine