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The Christian Counter

  Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. Revelation 1:3
   
 

 

Why Should Men Pray?

Why should we pray? God knows all things. He knows what we need without our telling Him. A child does not beg his father for food, clothing, and shelter. These are provided for him as a matter of course. Why should we beg our Father in heaven for the things we need, which He knows we need? May we not take it for granted that God will give us what we need without having to be coaxed to do so? Why demean men by requiring them to beg on their knees for the things the Father should provide?

 

The answer is that God does provide for all, whether they pray or not, and He is no respecter of persons. He sends rain on the just and the unjust. Matthew 5:45. No one needs to beg for anything. God provides for all with strict impartiality. In fact, often the wicked prosper more than do the righteous. Doubtless, for good reasons, God permits this. If He prospered only the righteous, and the wicked were cursed with poverty, some might turn to God for no other reason than the hope of reward. This would merely be a bribe to induce men to accept God, and such is inconsistent with God’s plan or practice. God would have men make their choice for good or ill uninfluenced by hope of reward or fear of punishment in this life.

 

Because God treats all fairly and without bias, we find some men prospering financially while hating God. On the other hand, we find seemingly godly men barely eking out a living. The first work industriously, take good care of their herds and flocks, and are diligent in all that they undertake. The second are lax and careless, pray much and work little, and feel that God should support them. An unbelieving surgeon who has prepared well for his work may be more skillful and successful that the Christian physician who believes that he need not make such thorough preparation since god is on his side and will help him.

 

Why, then, pray? If God does not give special help to the one who asks; if he has to study as hard and prepare as much as the one who does not pray, why pray? If the praying farmer must work his field as thoroughly as does his nonpraying neighbor, of what advantage is prayer? Why should the medical student ask God for help when in the end he is not necessarily a better surgeon than the agnostic friend?

 

A Distorted View of Confession

These questions are all based on the assumption that prayer is a means of getting something out of God without having to work for it. The unbelieving man works for his success. Can a Christian substitute prayer for work? Not according to God’s plan. Prayer definitely is not a substitute for work, or anything else. Prayer and repentance may effect forgiveness; but ordinarily they will not change or even modify the consequences of evil done, nor will the penalty be remitted. David may confess and deeply repent of his sin, but the consequences are not removed. See 2 Samuel 12:13,14. This is a principle that men may forget and that needs to be called to their attention.

 

Some years ago there was a professor telling a story of one of his students who had been dishonest in an important examination. He was an average student, but his examination paper was so good that he was given a final B. Some time later, his conscience disturbed him and he wrote a letter of confession to the professor, deeply regretting that he had cheated. The professor answered him that he was glad he had written. The professor accepted the apology and informed him that he had changed his grade from a “B” to an “F.” By return mail the professor received an indignant protest against what the professor had done, stating if this is the result of confession, he would never confess again. Did not his confession deserve a B? He failed to understand why the professor could not report a B for work he had not done, and he failed to see the confession did not in any way alter the fact that he had been dishonest and had not done the work required for a B grade. Had a good grade been given him as a result of his confession, it would be inconsistent not to do the same for others who had also cheated, which would clearly be unjust to all the other students who had honestly earned their grades. Confession that is based on hope of reward is not true confession.

 

God does not bribe a man by promising him exemption from the punishment if he will confess. True, there is a reward for the obedient, but obedience or confession based on reward is of doubtful value. In fact, it has no moral value whatsoever. It is of the same nature as the obedience of a child based on the promise of candy if he will behave properly.

 It was this principle that was at stake in the case of Job. Satan sneeringly asked God, “Doth Job fear God for nought? Satan insinuated that Job’s fear of God was motivated by the fact that god had prospered him, that he was religious because it paid him rich returns. God had put a hedge about him so that no evil could touch him; He had “blessed the work of his hands,” and increased his substance in the land. Job 1:10. But if God should turn from him and cease to bless him with worldly goods, he would curse God to His face. Verse 11.

God accepted Satan’s complaint, saying, “Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand.” Verse 12.

In initiating this trial, God was seeking to disprove Satan’s contention that Job served God because it paid him to do so. He wanted to show that there was one man in the world who served God without selfish motives, one who would not renounce God though He removed His favors from him. In this matter, God depended on Job, though Job was not aware of how much hung on his decision.

Armed with God’s permission to deprive Job of his possessions, Satan took away from Job all he had, even his children. He did thorough work. The servants reported one calamity after another.

Stunned as was Job by these unlooked-for calamities, he calmly exclaimed, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” Verse 21,22.

Satan stood defeated. He had claimed that if God would take away from Job what he had, he would curse God. Instead of this, Job blessed the name of the Lord. It was a signal victory for God; for Satan himself had laid down the conditions of the test, and God had agreed to them. Job had not failed God. He had proved that at least one man did not serve God for profit.

Satan was defeated; but before long, he came back claiming he had lost because God had not permitted him to touch Job bodily. If God would permit Satan to “touch” his bone and his flesh,” Job would curse God to His face. Job 2:5. God agreed to change the rules of the test, saying, “Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.” Verse 6.

Satan now ‘smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.” Verse 7. Job still did not know why God permitted this trial, but his faith did not fail. His wife advised him to curse God and die; but Job was not moved. “What?” he asked, “shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” The result was the same as in the first test. “In all this, Job did not sin with his lips.” Verse 10.

The test was ended. God had demonstrated that the accusations and claims of Satan were false. Job had not served God for reward. In triumphant words, Job gives voice to his faith: “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Job 13:15.

Why Pray?

When the question is raised, Why pray? The background of the inquiry is that some supposed temporal advantage is to be gained by prayer, and that if there is no such advantage, there is no reason to pray. This puts praying on a commercial basis and ignores the true ground of prayer.

 

Prayer in essence is communication with God, conversing with Him as we would with a friend. Why do we associate and talk with our friends? Not to get something from them to enrich ourselves. The very thought of such considerations is foreign to true friendship or fellowship. Why do those who love each other like to associate one with the other, talk together, and sit together? For the simple reason that, they love each other. No other explanation is needed. Any supposed personal gain is far from their thoughts. Indeed, such a motive would be fatal to love. Love is based on giving, not receiving.

 Why pray? Why love? We might as well ask, why breathe? One is as natural and necessary as the other. Where there is love, there is communion there is prayer. It could not be otherwise.

 

Why pray? Is a strange question to ask a Christian, for prayer is such a natural thing to him that he cannot conceive of life without it? If we should ask a little boy why he runs to his mother to tell her of his joys and sorrows, to show her some little treasure he has found, or tell her an experience he has had, he would be perplexed and wonder why such a question should be asked. Where else could he go? What else could he do? Mother can solve all problems. She is a source of wisdom. She can kiss away bruises; she can dry tears. She knows what to do in every case. Mother understands. At times, he runs to her just to tell her that he loves her. The little pat on the cheek, the loving kiss, the sweet words, “Mamma loves you, too” – all these explain why he runs to mother. To him it is a strange and silly question to inquire why he runs to mother. He probably concludes that grownups do not know much. Moreover, he is right.

Likewise, the Christian wonders how anyone can ask why he prays. He asks God for daily bread and receives it; but he knows that his unbelieving neighbor also gets bread without asking God for it. He knows that God feeds the ravens and the sparrows and wicked men. Then why pray? Because with the daily bread he receives something that the unbeliever does not receive because he does not ask for it, not being willing to comply with the conditions upon which the receiving depends.

 

As the child grows, the father knows that his boy will need more than food, clothing, and daily bread. He will need companionship and fellowship. He will need the counsel of understanding father. The son may not himself realize how much he needs such help; but the father knows and willingly does his best.

So with the Father in Heaven. He gives bread for the body to all; and to those who desire it He gives food for their soul and mind. He liberally offers to all, but many accept the temporal food and reject the spiritual, to their eternal loss. God offers it to them; He reaches out His hand to them, but only a few meets the hand of God. What more can God do? It grieves Him deeply when men reject His offer.

 

Why pray? Not primarily to get something out of God. Nothing is more worthy of condemnation than cultivating friendship for personal advantage. A sycophant is merely a vampire in human form. A friendship must not be used to extract gain.

Why pray? Because we are friends of God. There is nothing holier than friendship grounded in unselfish love. It is a bit of heaven on earth, a foretaste of the communion of saints in glory where the loves and sympathies that God has implanted in the human breast shall find fullest and freest expression.

 

Friendship

“Ye are My friends,” says Christ. “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends.” John 15:14,15. “Ye are My friends.” Can anything be more glorious or wonderful? To have a friend whom you can trust, to whom you can speak freely, and to whom you can open the deepest recesses of the heart and know that he will understand; one who regards your confidence as a solemn trust not to be divulged; one to whom you can confide your most sacred longings and ambitions and who will not in his heart ridicule or belittle them; one in whose heart is locked your love and who reciprocates your feelings; one who will not mistrust you though he may not understand and who will stand by you when the world turns against you; one who will refuse to suspect evil, though appearances are against you; one who, though absent or far away, remains the same; one who loves you though he knows your weaknesses, who will traverse the continent to be by your side in time of sorrow or of need; one who will never leave you nor forsake you – this is the ultimate in human friendship!

 

If you have such a friend, hold on to him. Let not storm or tempest, rain, snow, fire, or water separate you from him; cling to him in life and death; commune with him; communicate with him; love him. We have such a friend in Christ. Never forsake Him. He will not forsake you.

Fellowship

Prayer is more than talking with God or talking to Him. It is fellowship with God, life with God. The highest joy in fellowship or friendship is not found in talking, but rather in the communion of spirits, that transcends words. True friends may spend precious seasons together without speaking a word. Two may sit silently by the Oceanside, hand in hand, and enjoy the sweet communion in silence. Two may walk together through the woods and enjoy communion with nature, with God, and with each other without a word spoken. Two may kneel in consecration, dedicating themselves to God and to each other, and there will be perfect understanding in the soul. There may be communion of heart and spirit without any outward recognition. Of words, there may be none; but love, friendship, allegiance, are there, and quiet joy and surpassing happiness. Those who have had such experiences will understand the story of two lifelong friends who as life’s shadows were lengthening would sit together of an afternoon without a word being spoken; and when evening came, one would express the feeling of both, “We have had a delightful time this afternoon.” Those who understand this kind of friendship will never ask, “Why pray?”

Life with God may be experienced here and now. Heaven is not merely a future possession; it is present reality. My dearest friends are far away; but I have never been more conscious of, or rejoiced more in, their love than at this moment. I know they love me; I know that they are praying for me. In that love and knowledge I rest. 

There is no more beautiful expression of the love of God than that found in Zephaniah 3:17. “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save… He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.” The picture is that of a mother sitting quietly with her little one, singing in her joy and resting in her love, while the little one snuggles close to her breast. A most beautiful scene of rest, contentment and love. He is ever thinking of us. As the mother quietly sings to her little one, so God sings in His love for us. He rests in His love. It is the height of peace and contentment for Him, whose nature is love. How can we help loving Him who first loved us? How can we help communing with Him when we get a glimpse of God and the fathomless love surrounding and enveloping Him? Prayer is communion; prayer is life; prayer is love, prayer is the breath of the soul. How can a Christian live and not pray?

Coming Home

When we get a clear view of the great Father ‘s heart of love, we can nevermore be disheartened or discouraged. God rejoices over us with singing, eagerly waiting the time when all the children shall be home. Even now, He is rejoicing in anticipation of that which is to come. He is happy in His love, and preparing for the great event of the ages, the homecoming of all the children of God in earth and heaven. Even to God this is a great day. While we are waiting for Christ to come, God is waiting for us to come. Moreover, his love and longing is even greater than ours. He has waited a long time.

Therefore, we pray because we need God, need His love and fellowship, need His care and guidance. We pray because we love Him who first loved us, and because we love Him who first loved us, and because we find in Him a satisfaction of the soul not obtainable elsewhere. We pray not to get what we want, but to find out what He wants. We pray not to get Him to change His mind, but to have our minds changed. We pray not to have Him change His plans for us, but to ask Him to help us willingly to accept His plans. We pray not primarily to avoid pain, but strength to bear it. We pray not to be taken out of the world, but to be kept faithful while in it. We pray not to escape hardship or trials, but for patience to endure them. We pray not to escape work, but for wisdom to know how to do it and do it well. We pray, first and last, because we love Him who has so loved us, because we treasure His fellowship and that of the saints.

It is a sad fact that many Christians praying is a task that must be done, something that we ought to do, but for which we have no true urge, something which is a duty rather than a privilege. Such an attitude is not confined to lukewarm Christians. It is habitual with many persons who may be considered good Christians. In many cases, this can be traced to a dim conception of the meaning of prayer and its possibilities. They say their prayers; they recite them; they have not learned to pour out their souls to God, and are getting only a few crumbs when they might have a full repast. Let such give study to prayer and its possibilities. Let them add to their prayers meditation. Let them learn to talk with God as with a friend, and they will find reaches of which they never dreamed.

Memory Verse:

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Job 13:15.

Questions:

  1. Love is based on __________, not ________________________________.

There is nothing holier than friendship grounded in _______________________.

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