The Nature of Prayer
We are persuaded that
many expect from prayer that which God did not
intend they should get. With their immature and
even distorted view of prayers purpose,
they become discouraged when prayer fails to come
up to their expectations. They crave great and
immediate results, and when these are not
promptly forthcoming, they are disappointed and
tend to lose faith. For their sake, and for ours,
we need a better understanding of what prayer can
and cannot do.
The particular field in
which prayer operates and to which it is limited
is as definitely fixed as that of any other of
the gifts of God. Grace has a vital place in
Gods plan, but it must work in harmony with
law lest it trespass and enter a field not its
own. Mercy operates under definite rules and
conditions, as does forgiveness. Faith and works
occupy a field where they have jurisdiction, and
they must remain there, or conflict will result.
Likewise prayer has its assigned sphere. While
the full discussion of this is reserved for later
segments, we shall here make a few observations
in regard to some of the common misconceptions of
Prayer is not primarily a
short cut whereby Christians may obtain freely
that for which others must work. I need a certain
sum of money and ask God for it. I doubt not that
God could supply this money direct from
heaven, nor do I doubt that God would do
this if I really needed the money and there was
no other way of getting it. God did a miracle for
Christ once when He needed a coin to pay the
temple tax. Matthew 17:24-27. However, this is
not Gods ordinary way of working. The Lord
gives thee power to get wealth
(Deuteronomy 8:18); that is, He will supply the
power, but we are to work for it.
It was the same principle
that God supplied manna from heaven for Israel.
God said, I will rain bread from heaven for
you; and the people shall go out and
gather. Exodus 16:4. The Lord
supplied the manna; but Israel had to gather it.
This is how God works today. He supplies the rain
and the sunshine, and causes the seed to grow;
but man must plow, cultivate, and harvest.
If a request for money
should come before God and we were unable to hear
the response, it would probably seem a
disappointing one-at least to some. He might say,
Dear one, your prayer has been recorded,
and I am sympathetic with you. I could send the
money you need; but that would not be the best
thing to do. I suggest you follow the usual
routine; work hard, and save. In the beginning, I
gave Adam work to do, because it was best for
him. Genesis 3:19. I give you the same counsel. I
will help you. I will stand by you. I will
prosper you if you work hard and do not forget
Gods part of your earnings. However, do not
build your life on the proposition of receiving
money from heaven.
Such an answer might seem
cold and even cruel, especially to one who
expects God to hand out money on demand. However,
God knows best; and there are cases on record
where God has answered otherwise. Let no one
misunderstand. God will send every angel in
heaven to the aid of one who is in need of help.
Let him but call on God, and the answer will
for the Removal of Pain
I have a severe pain, and
I ask God to remove it. He may do so if He thinks
best, or He may let it remain, as in the case of
Paul who had a thorn in the flesh and
asked God to remove it. For this thing I
besought the Lord thrice, he says,
that it might depart from me. And He said
unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My
strength is made perfect in weakness. 2
Corinthians 12:8,9. God loved Paul, and Paul
loved God. Yet, God did not remove the malady,
but gave Paul grace and strength to bear it.
When we ask God to remove
pain, it is well that we have Pauls case in
mind. For reasons we do not know, God may think
it best to let the pain remain, and if so, all we
can do is ask God for grace to bear it. We have a
right to pray, however. Paul prayed three times,
as did Christ in Gethsemane. But if, after
searching our hearts and dedicating all to God,
asking that His will be done, we receive no
favorable answer, we may conclude that God has
some other plan for us, and we may pray as did
Paul, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to
do? Acts 9:6.
God may know the reasons
why it is not best for Him to answer favorably a
petition for relief of pain. That treason may be
hid from us; but it will be revealed to us if we
truly seek God and want to know His plan for us.
God may answer: Dear one, I know you are
suffering, and I feel with you. I would gladly
take away this pain if were the best thing to do.
However, before doing this, I need your
co-operation. If you should search your heart,
you might find that there are reasons why you
suffer. You are not careful in your manner of
living, in your eating and drinking, in work,
rest, and recreation. You need to make some
radical changes, and if you do, the pain will
disappear. If you do all you can, I will help
you. However, it is necessary that you mend your
ways. If you do not, and I should heal you, in a
very short time you would again be where you are
now. So, repent of your bodily sins as well as
those of the heart. I will stand by you, and as
we work together we will succeed.
This also may seem cruel
comfort and cold advice, and some may think that
God is not merciful. However, good sense will
confirm that prayer should not cover violations
of the law of health. Prayer is not to be used as
a means to avoid the result of transgression.
Someone has said, Divine wisdom has given
us prayer, not as a means of obtaining the good
things of earth, but as a means whereby we learn
to do without them; not as a means to escape
evil, but as a means whereby we may become strong
to meet it.
for a Conversion
If I should pray God to
convert my unbelieving neighbor, He might answer,
I will do what I can. However, I must have
your co-operation. What your neighbor needs is a
demonstration of true religion in action. He does
not believe that Christianity is of a special
value. He sees little difference in the life of a
believer and that of an unbeliever. If he could
convinced that Christianity really does something
for a man, he would become interested. Do your
best to convince him that Christianity has done
something for you. Be kind, courteous, and
helpful. Do not irritate him with pious
platitudes. Your life will preach better than
your words. Be upright in all your dealings. Be
fair, just, accommodating. Provide things honest
in the sight of all men. Keep your house and your
premises in order. Teach obedience to your
children. If you will do this, I will be in a
better position to help you answer your prayer. I
need a man to whom I can point as an example of
what Christianity is and what religion can do.
Without such, I can do but little. Try this plan
I will help you. You are the man I want. As we
work together, we may win your neighbor.
God is now looking for
men such as Job, and He will find them in the
last generation. When Satan sneeringly asks,
Where are those that keep the commandments
of God and faith of Jesus? God will quietly
answer, Here they are. Here are
they that keep the commandments of God, and faith
of Jesus. Revelation 14:12. Satan will then
get permission to test them, as he did Job; he
will do his best to get them to fall. When at
last, he retires defeated and God stands
justified, it will be because the saints have
demonstrated that they serve God as a matter of
principle and not for reward.
God uses every
opportunity to enlist our help in the salvation
of men. As a mother permits her little ones to
help her, though they are more of a hindrance
than a help, so God allows us to help Him.
Whenever God can, He calls on us to assist, and
gives us the credit.
An Ethiopian on his way
home from Jerusalem was sitting in his chariot
reading a portion of the book of Isaiah. He did
not understand what he was reading, and desired
help. God could have sent an angel, but instead
He commanded Philip to go near, and join
thyself to this chariot. Acts 8:29. Philip
did so; he explained the scripture, and the man
was baptized. Verses 37,38. Philip evidently was
anxious to go on other missionary endeavors,
therefore the Spirit of the Lord took him away,
and Philip was found at Azotus.
Verses 39,40. Here was perfect co-operation
between God and man.
God gave Nebuchadnezzar a
dream, and He could as easily given him the
interpretation. However, He called upon Daniel to
give the interpretation. This made Daniel
renowned in all the realm as a wise man, and as a
result, he became ruler over the whole
province of Babylon. Daniel 2:48. God did
the work; Daniel got the credit. Daniel
understood this and gave God the glory.
Nebuchadnezzar did not understand, took the glory
to himself, and suffered the penalty. Daniel
These considerations and
examples make it plain that God desires our
co-operation and that He is handicapped when He
does not get it. He is anxious for us to become
His co- laborers, and as we do. He prospers and
blesses, less we are willing to do our share of
the work; but when we in faith and humility
associate ourselves with Him, the reward is
Let us therefore repeat
that God does not respond to our prayers unless
we are willing to do our share. God has no
intention of helping a lazy man or one who
expects to get something from God without working
for it. We are to work and pray as well as to
watch and pray. Prayer as well as faith, without
works is dead.
These laws are not
written laws, but rather denote events in nature
that have been observed to occur with unvarying
uniformity under the same conditions. In a
certain sense these laws may be considered as
Gods laws, for the Creator who made nature
also set forth the laws of nature under which all
things, animate and inanimate, function. A water
lily will flourish in a stagnant pool, where a
rose will die. Fishes prosper in water, while
land, animals die if submerged. Plants will
thrive in proper soil; in other soil, they
wither. The Creator in the beginning implanted
these properties, and they still hold true.
Even insensate objects
appear to be under law. A timber of given
dimensions will carry a certain load, and so will
another timber of the same kind under like
conditions. Increase the dimensions, and their
load-carrying capacity will increase in a
definite ratio. A steel cable has certain tensile
strength, and this strength varies with the
dimensions of the cable, again with a definite
ratio. Men have discovered what the ratio is, and
have made up tables showing this. Every builder
and structural engineer carries a book of tables
with him and depends on its accuracy. Without
such uniformity, confusion would result.
Even prayer must conform
to the law to be effective. Law, being the will
of God, is supreme. All must bow to it. The earth
beneath and the heavens above bear witness to the
faithfulness of God. Let everyone who prays join
God respecting law, and let him not ask God to
violate any law in order to answer his prayer.
Men may at times whish to have the law of
gravitation temporarily suspended, or desire to
have a moratorium on the law that says that as a
man sows, so also shall he reap. Such prayers are
This may seem a dark
picture; for how can any man escape if he is
amenable to law in which there is no pardon and
which accepts no excuse? However, there is a
brighter picture. There is hope for the
transgressor. What the law could not do, in
that it was weak through the flesh, God sending
His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and
for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the
righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in
us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the
Spirit. Romans 8:3,4.
What the law could not
do, God did. He provided a way of escape. He
could not abrogate the law, but He could heal the
wound that transgression had made. In addition,
this He did by sending His Son. By His wounds, we
We have a faint picture
of redemption and restoration in nature. In war,
man may ruin a landscape and leave it in total
devastation. Nevertheless, in a few years that
same field presents a glorious view covered with
poppies. An animal may be severely wounded, but
it will lick its sores and start the healing
process. A tree may be severely slashed by the
ax, but it will do its best to cover the wound
and is often remarkably successful. There are
healing processes in nature that tend to repair
any damage done. This is indicative of Gods
provision for man. The human race is not left to
die alone because of transgression. Help is near.
In addition, God has means at hand to accomplish
His design. He need not abolish any law in order
to bring relief. Rather, He honors the law.
I never cease to marvel
at the airplane. I see men load into the baggage
compartment all kinds of luggage and heavy boxes.
Then the passengers board the plane. I am
convinced that the plane will never leave the
ground; for have I not been taught that only a
substance lighter than air can of itself rise of
the ground? Moreover, the plane does not meet
However, the plane rises.
A miracle? No, only the application of other
laws, laws of construction, of wing surface, of
speed, which take precedence of the first law
without abrogating it.
I know that a piece of
iron will not float on water. I make a
demonstration to prove my point. The iron
promptly disappears under the surface. I am
correct. Iron will not float. However, a man
comes along, changes the shape of your
piece of iron, and it will float, he says.
I do so. I make of it a little vessel, a
hollowed-out vessel, of the precise weight of my
original piece that would not float; and lo, it
floats! A miracle? No, a simple application of
the law of displacement. Then I wonder: If man by
a change of the shape of an object can make iron
float, may not God have a thousand ways of
accomplishing His ends? God has, and He does not
violate law to do so.
It is said of Columbus
that at a banquet in his honor some persons made
light of his discovery of America. Anybody could
discover America. Just get into a boat and keep
going west, and there would be America!
Quietly Columbus handed
an egg to one of his detractors and asked him if
he could balance it on end. The man tried, but
did not succeed. Handing the egg back to
Columbus, he asked, Can you do it?
Columbus took the egg, set it down hard on the
table, cracking the shell, and the egg stood.
Well, it is easy enough to do it that
way, said the detractor. Yes,
answered Columbus, it is easy enough to do
it if you know how. The onlookers saw the
The Lord knoweth
how to deliver the godly out of temptation.
2 Peter 2:9. Without doing violence to the
meaning of the text, we may well use only four
first words, The Lord knoweth how.
What seems to us to be a miracle may not be a
miracle from Gods viewpoint. It may merely
be an application of laws of which we are
ignorant. In any event, the Lord knows how.
I stand appalled as I
consider what God wants me to be, and the
standard I must reach. I am convinced that there
is no hope for me. However, when I turn to God, I
find One who knows how to deliver me, help me,
and make me stand. I claim the promise, He
shall be holden up: for God is able to make him
stand. Romans 14:4. I read:
Take unto you the whole armor of God, that
ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and
having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:13.
I do not see how it can be done. However, God
knows how. As clay in the hands of the potter, so
God can form us into a vessel of honor, if we let
Him. The motto, Prayer changes
things, may be well revised, God
. with God all
things are possible. Matthew 19:26.
1. Are you
willing to let God shape your life today,
tomorrow and forever?
Have you thought about your actions around
others, and the influence you have?