The Necessity of Prayer
Text: Matthew 6:9-13
Rev. Garry E. McCaffery
There are many ways to begin a New Year. You can have parties, fireworks, and big televised events. You can make resolutions proclaiming how things will be different this year. And, of course, they will be different. Change is constant. But what kind of change will we see. Will the change happen to us without our consent or will we make decisions that bring about the kind of change we desire to see? Will we make some decisions for ourselves that will make our life, and the lives of those around us, better in some meaningful way?
One of the decisions we can make, to make this year better for ourselves and others, is the decision to spend more time in prayer. We can make the decision to be intentional about prayer and to recognize how much of a necessity it is for the life, health, and vitality of our soul and of our daily existence. If we do not have prayer as a central part of our life then we are truly missing out on the blessing of connecting with God in a deep and powerful way. We also miss out on the fact that prayer makes our life better and more meaningful because it increases our faith and deepens our commitment to the one who calls us His own. It may be difficult to understand and admit but, praying is as much a necessity for our life spiritually as air is necessary for our life physically.
Prayer is a necessity. As we look at the necessity of prayer I want you to think about these questions: Is prayer a natural part of your life? Do you pray daily? Do you have a specific time or times you pray wherein you are fully alone with God, undistracted by the world
There are many places in the Bible where we are encouraged to pray. In Acts 6:4 the disciples determined to give themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word. As disciples of Jesus Christ we need to follow that example. We need to be in prayer and in the word.
In Ephesians 6:18 Paul encourages us to be “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful…” Philippians 4:6 says, “But in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God.” And in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul writes, “Pray without ceasing.”
With these and many other passages calling us to prayer it seems fairly evident that we are called to…? Pray!
What makes prayer so important? Why do we need to pray? Prayer is important and necessary because it is an act of faith that connects us to God. Prayer begins as an act of faith!
If we do not have faith that there is a God who will hear us then we will not pray. If there were no God our praying would be nothing more than talking to the air. A means of wasting time. But we have faith and out of this faith springs forth the desire to pray. Prayer is faith taking possession of the promises of God to answer that prayer. When faith ceases to pray it ceases to live. When faith ceases to live it is dead. A dead faith, like a dead battery, isn’t good for anything. A person who does not pray is a person whose faith has died.
Faith and prayer go hand in hand. We need faith to pray and we need to pray in order to feed and keep our faith. Prayer projects faith on God and God onto the world. Yes, it is true, only God can move mountains, however, faith and prayer move God. Jesus said, “Therefore, I say unto you, what things soever you desire when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.” Jesus could be no clearer than he is right here about the importance of faith in prayer. Faith is the foundation of our prayers and true prayers are born out of our present trials and our present needs. We are to pray believing that we will receive what we ask for in prayer. We are to pray with confidence that we will receive an answer.
Through this faith we lift our prayers every day and for our present needs. We pray with faith and we pray every day. When we pray we don’t look backwards and ask God to change something that happened 10 years ago. No, we follow the example Jesus gave us in prayer. Jesus taught us to pray saying, “Give us THIS DAY our DAILY bread.” Lord, give us today what we need for today.
Jesus didn’t teach us to ask God to care for yesterday’s needs. Jesus did not teach us to pray for tomorrow’s needs, or the needs of next week, next month, or years from now. Give us today what we need for today.
We need to pray daily because prayer does not store up. We can’t pray today and figure we’re good for a week. We cannot pray for any other day than the one we are in.
A good Old Testament example of this comes from Exodus 16. The people of Israel had escaped Egypt and crossed the Red Sea and they were complaining to Moses because they were hungry. So, Moses prayed and God gave the people manna, a bread like substance, for food. They were to collect it each morning, just enough for themselves and their family, and they were not to leave any of it for the next day. Well, some tried to save it until the next day and it became rotten, moldy, and filled with worms.
This happens to our prayer and to our faith if we think our praying yesterday will cover us for today as well. Our faith will rot and spoil if we think our praying today will cover us until next week. We must pray daily. We must pray daily because prayer builds trust in God. And we need to have trust in that relationship because that trust gives us even more courage to pray.
We must make a concerted effort to pray every day because it is all too easy to fall into the devil’s excuse. The devil’s excuse is: “O, I don’t have time.” “I don’t have time to pray because I’m too busy. I need my beauty sleep. The game is on. I don’t FEEL like it.”
“I don’t feel like it” is the biggest excuse we use not to pray. Think about it though. Do you always “feel” like going to work in the morning? But you do. We can not and must not allow our feelings to determine our habits of prayer. We must pray whether we feel like it or not. It is absolutely necessary for us to pray in order to make our hearts hot and burning brightly for the Lord.
We must pray with faith. We must pray daily. And we must pray persistently. It is necessary and vitally important to be persistent in prayer. What does it mean to be persistent? It means to keep after something, to keep asking. Children are wonderful at this! Children are persistent to the point of wearing you down to saying, “yes”, just to get them to be quiet.
God wants us to be as persistent in our prayer life with him. Not that we have to wear God down in order for Him to answer us, that’s not the case. No, God wants us to continually seek after Him in prayer. He wants us to be persistent. He gave several examples in scripture. Jesus told the parable of the woman and the unjust judge and about the person who needed bread from a friend late at night. A living testimony to persistence in prayer occurred in the ministry of Jesus. The incident is found in Matthew 15:21-28.
21 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”
23 But He answered her not a word.
And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
“Great is your faith.” What would have happened if, after Jesus said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, if the woman turned away? Her daughter would not have been healed. Jesus was testing this woman to see if she would be persistent in her request. The answer to prayer is sometimes conditional upon the amount of faith that goes to the petition. Sometimes God tests our faith by delaying his answer. The superficial prayer will quit when the answer is delayed. I’ve been there. If the answer didn’t come as quickly as I thought it should, I’d give up.
We are so willing to give up when our prayers are not answered instantly. We are so quick to say, “Well, I guess it’s not God’s will.” Did you ever think that maybe you were not ready for the answer yet? Maybe I’m not ready for the answer and that’s why God hasn’t given it yet. Maybe God wants us to spend more time in prayer before he gives us the answer.
The superficial prayer will quit when the answer is delayed but, the person of prayer hangs on and keeps praying for God’s will. What does Jesus tell us? Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened. Asking, seeking, knocking are ascending rounds in the ladder of successful prayer. We must be persistent and never give up.
We must pray with faith. We must pray daily, and we must pray persistently. It is necessary for us to pray because prayer keeps us on course and fully connected to God. For the church to have power it is necessary to pray. For Abundant Harvest to grow and be vital, healthy, and strong it is necessary to pray. For our individual lives to be vital, healthy, and strong it is necessary to pray.
Pray daily with faith and persistence. Pray and do not faint. Pray without ceasing in Jesus’ name. Amen.