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Back to Biblical Prayer, Part 4

By Lee Moses

Back to Frequent Prayer

The Christian knows he has “the whole armour of God” to fortify him for spiritual battle.  Paul followed up his description of the Christian armor by adding, “Praying always” (Ephesians 6:18). Although not directly equated with a piece of a Roman soldier’s armor, prayer is clearly presented as an essential defense in the battle against wickedness. And Paul did not hint that occasional prayer would be sufficient—Christians are to pray “always”; literally, “at every time.”
 
And such exhortations to frequent prayer echo throughout the New Testament. Jesus taught “that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). As He warned His early disciples about the impending destruction of Jerusalem, He said, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36). Similarly, while waiting for our Lord’s return—from now until the end of time—Christians are exhorted to “watch and pray” (Mark 13:33; compare with Matthew 26:41). To exhibit “love without hypocrisy,” a Christian must continu[e] stedfastly in prayer” (Romans 12:12, American Standard Version; compare with Colossians 4:2). “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). We are commanded to “Pray without ceasing(1 Thessalonians 5:17; all emphases LM).  
 
Not only were early Christians told to pray without ceasing, they prayed without ceasing. The early church “continued stedfastly…in prayers” (Acts 2:42; compare with 1:14; 6:4; 12:5; Colossians 4:12).  Paul informed the brethren at Colossae, “we… do not cease to pray for you” (Col. 1:9); and he prayed similarly for other brethren (Romans 1:9; Philippians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:3; Philemon 4).
 
The exemplary life of Jesus exemplifies constant prayer. When Jesus was baptized, He prayed (Luke 3:21). When massive crowds were thronging Him, He sought solitude in prayer: “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). “And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed” (Luke 5:16).  His prayers could turn into marathon sessions by most Christian’s standards: “And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23). “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12). He prayed with others, and He prayed alone (Luke 9:18). He prayed at His highest moments (Luke 9:28), and He prayed at His lowest moments (Matthew 26:36-44).
 
Christians are urged and commanded to pray frequently. To fail to do so is to neglect one’s own spiritual need and to disobey God. The early church’s example of frequent prayer should motivate the modern church to frequent prayer. And if Jesus, Himself Deity, had such need of constant prayer, how much more do you and I need frequent prayer?
 
Christians must have lives characterized by constant reverent prayer, and it begins with days characterized by constant reverent prayer.  As the psalmist exulted, “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice” (Psalm 55:17; compare with Daniel 6:10; Acts 10:9). Throughout the day, the Christian needs to have times where he stops what he is doing and acknowledges his dependence upon, and gratitude toward, his Creator.
 
Mealtimes for Christians should always be accompanied by prayers of thanksgiving. As the inspired apostle Paul wrote,
. . . God hath created [foods] to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:3-5).
Notice three things about this passage: (1) Giving of thanks at mealtime pertains to the direct purpose of God. God created foods, both animal (verse 4; Genesis 9:3) and plant (Gen. 1:29), to be received”; that is, for the purpose of human consumption. But they are not to be received thoughtlessly—God created foods to be received with thanksgiving.” (2) Notice the “if”[1] in verse 4—If food is not received with thanksgiving (expressed gratitude), it no longer necessarily carries God’s approval as “good” and as “not to be refused.” (3) Food that no prayer has addressed has not been “sanctified,” or set apart for use.
 
There may be occasions when we are going to be eating in a public place, and want to avoid the possibility of “praying to be seen” (Matthew 6:5-6). If this be the case, we should make it a point to say a prayer ahead of time. Regardless, God expects those who “believe and know the truth” to offer thanksgiving for whatever food they receive. Gluttonous pagans of the day were known for their callous disregard for the One Who made their meals possible. Of such, Paul said that their “God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Philippians 3:19).  Jude warned, “These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear [2]the thoughtless gluttonies of the pagans. As commentator Adam Clarke reprimands, “Those who thank not God for their food, and pray not for his blessing in the use of it, are unworthy even of a morsel of bread, and of the breath they breathe.” (Jude 12).  In opposition to such fearless feasting, Paul commanded, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Scripture-led Christians will “Giv[e] thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). There is indeed a great gulf fixed between the reverent, thankful mealtimes of Christians and
 
Sadly, it seems that the constant prayer that typified the Lord Jesus and the early church is scarce among God’s children today. Prayer has become an occasional matter. C.R. Nichol spoke of the “prayerless spirit of the present age.”[3] Some believe they are too busy to take time out from their day to pray. “Too busy” is dangerously close to “too proud to acknowledge my dependence upon God.” Some remain largely prayerless because they astoundingly operate under the assumption, “The less often we do something, the more special we make the occasion.” Such thinking is reinforced by those who believe observing the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week makes it too commonplace (contrast with Acts 20:7).  That might be true with regard to some matters, but it is rarely, if ever, true with spiritual matters. Prayer has been called “the very breath of the Christian”[4]—does breathing ever become too commonplace? Or is it rather the case that the more often one does it, the more able he becomes and the healthier he becomes? Those who engage in more frequent prayers tend to have far more thoughtful and sincere prayers than those who only say a prayer when they are called upon to lead a prayer in the public assembly—one can usually tell it is the only time they lead prayers.
 
Some fail to pray as regularly as they should because they fail to see the good effects of their prayers. But Christ reassures Christians, “And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily” (Luke 18:7). Christians might find their patience tested when God “bears long with them,” but He will assuredly respond in a quick and decisive manner when He responds. Christ goes on to say, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (verse 8). It is of utmost importance that when Jesus comes, He finds men and women in steadfast devotion to God, particularly with regard to their prayer. Cornelius was “A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway” (Acts 10:2, emph. LM). Years apparently passed before he saw any response to his prayers, or even learned what he needed to do to be saved. Yet after all that time, an angel appeared to him, and told him, “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4). While years may go by without observing the positive results of prayers, the faithful Christian persistent in prayer can look forward to a time when he can be Divinely assured that God has positively received and responded to his prayers.
 
Conclusion
 
The Spirit warned, “Some shall depart from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1), and it is not difficult to observe that some have.  While such departures are easily seen in the denominational world, New Testament Christians ought to consider very seriously whether we have departed from Biblical prayer in any respect. If we are to get back to Biblical prayer, we must practice prayers directed to the Father, public prayers led by holy men, attentive prayer, and frequent prayer.  Let each Christian say with the psalmist, “I give myself unto prayer” (Psalm 109:4).
 
[NOTE: Portions of this series on prayer were derived from Lee Moses, “What About Innovations in Prayer?” in Some Questions About Worship, ed. Jeff Sweeten (Odessa, TX: Eisenhower church of Christ, 2005), pp. 181-206. However, this series is based directly upon material this writer delivered at the 2010 Bellview Lectures in Pensacola, Florida directed by Michael Hatcher, themed Back to the Bible. In the lectureship book, the material is presented entirely in narrative (story) form, and provides a good introduction to non-Christians particularly on such subjects as prayer, grace, Biblical authority, the church, and similar fundamental and essential subjects. The book from the 2010 Bellview Lectures, Back to the Bible, is available from the Bellview church of Christ at (850) 455-7595 or bellviewcoc@gmail.com.]
 


[1] This is accurately construed as a conditional participle in the Greek, as all 8 English translations consulted by the writer translate this “if…”
[2] “Without fear” in Jude 12 “can be rendered either boldly or without reverence, shamelessly, the point being arrogant disregard of responsibility for one’s manner of life.” Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich, aphobMs, in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Univ. Of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 158.
[3] “Prayer,” in Sound Doctrine (Clifton, TX: Nichol, 1921), p. 68.
[4] Ibid.

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