Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working. Elijah was a man of like passions with us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth for three years and six months. And he prayed again; and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit (James 5:16-18).
Prayer represents an important but often neglected aspect of our lives as Christians. It represents one of the simplest actions that we can do, yet one that requires diligence, patience, self-control, and desire, to fully accomplish.
Prayer simply means “petition.” God wants us to petition Him and to bring our needs, cares, and concerns to Him (Philippians 4:6). He requires this not because He does not know what we need– He requires it because He does know what we need (Matthew 6:32)! Prayer is an exercise for the Christian for his or her own good: in prayer, we learn to commune with God, and fully depend on Him for strength.
Far too many look at prayer as a form of “divine 911”: in times of great need or duress, and we feel as if we have run out of options, then we will pray to God for assistance or guidance. While God does seek our prayers and desires to aid His children, He expects prayer to be a habit, an important part of the life of a Christian, and not just a rare feat in times of emergency. Paul indicates that Christians should “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), which indicates the continual notion of prayer. While we may not pray 24hours a day, 7 days a week, we should constantly be in communication with God our Father. This is what Paul means by “continuing steadfastly in prayer” in Romans 12:12!
The Scriptures provide plenty of evidence regarding children of God and prayer. As we saw above in James 5:16-18, Elijah was able to bring drought or rain upon Israel through his fervent prayers to God (cf. 1 Kings 17-18). When the Assyrians threatened Judah, King Hezekiah sought God in prayer and God saved them (2 Kings 19). Esther petitioned God in prayer, and God delivered His people from the evil designs of Haman (Esther 4). In Acts 2:42, one of the things to which the disciples devoted themselves was prayer; in Acts 6:4, the Apostles indicated that they devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Paul was a man who prayed often himself and requested the prayers of the brethren on his behalf, both in good times and bad (cf. Acts 16:25, Romans 1:9, Romans 15:30). Jesus, though God Himself, constantly communed with His Father in prayer, taking many opportunities in the night to pray (Matthew 14:23, Matthew 26:36-44).
We can see that the Scriptures provide strong evidence for the importance of prayer in the life of children of God. Men of God, through prayer, have received strength, comfort, and guidance freely granted to them by the Creator of the universe. God, indeed, “is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6); how can we seek after God if we never communicate with Him in prayer?
It is not as if God is powerless or unable to do great things in our world– perhaps, instead, it is our lack of faith and our lack of devotion to petitioning Him in prayer that leads us into manifold difficulties. God is faithful– He has demonstrated His faithfulness in the creation, through Israel, and in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9). Let us be devoted to Him, continuing steadfastly in prayer!