The Value of Prayer
The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers.
We are told that Elijah “was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly,” and his prayer was answered. A royal decree was signed in the courts of Babylon, that if for thirty days any man asked a petition of any God or man, save of Darius the king, he should be cast into the lions’ den; but Daniel, notwithstanding he knew of the decree, failed not to pray three times a day, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, as he had done before the decree was made; and the God whom he served continually, delivered him out of the power of the lions. These holy men knew the value of communion with God.
When Jesus was upon earth, and walked a man among the children of men, he prayed, and oh, how earnest were his prayers! How often he spent the whole night upon the damp, cold ground, in agonizing supplication! And yet he was the beloved and sinless Son of God. If Jesus felt the necessity of communion with his Father, and manifested so much earnestness in calling upon him, how much more should we, whom he has called to be heirs of salvation, who are subject to the fiery temptations of the wily foe, and dependent upon divine grace for strength to overcome, have our whole souls stirred to wrestle with God. The language of our souls should be, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” But many have allowed their hearts to become overcharged with the cares of this life, and God and his word have been neglected.
The subjects of Satan, although they hate and war with one another, are active and united in the one object of destroying souls. They are vigilant in improving every opportunity to advance their common interest, and war against the kingdom of Christ. But He who is the great Commander in Heaven and on earth, has limited their power.
Satan is ever ready to insinuate that prayer is a mere form, and avails us nothing. He cannot bear to have his powerful rival appealed to. At the sound of fervent prayer, the hosts of darkness tremble. Fearing that their captive may escape, they form a wall around him, that Heaven’s light may not reach his soul. But if in his distress and helplessness the sinner looks to Jesus, pleading the merits of his blood, our compassionate Redeemer listens to the earnest, persevering prayer of faith, and sends to his deliverance a re-enforcement of angels that excel in strength. And when these angels, all-powerful, clothed with the armory of Heaven, come to the help of the fainting, pursued soul, the angels of darkness fall back, well knowing that their battle is lost, and that one more soul is escaping from the power of their influence.
Prayer is the Christian’s life. There is a remedy for the sin-sick soul, and that remedy is in Jesus. Precious Saviour! his grace is sufficient for the weakest, and the strongest must have his help or perish. A Christian has victory over his passions and besetments. I would not dishonor my Master so much as to admit that a careless, trifling, prayerless person is a Christian. It is the privilege of the Christian to enjoy the deep movings of the Spirit of God. A sweet, heavenly peace will pervade his mind. He will love to meditate upon God and Heaven, and to feast upon the glorious promises of the written word.
But how shall this victory over the world be obtained? Go to your closet, dear reader, and there plead with God: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Be in earnest; be sincere; Jacob-like, wrestle in prayer. Do not leave your closet until you feel strong in God. Remain until unutterable longings for salvation are awakened in your heart, and the sweet evidence is obtained of pardoned sin. Then when you leave your closet, watch; and so long as you watch and pray, the grace of God will appear in your life.
In no case neglect secret prayer; for it is the soul of religion. If you expect salvation, you must pray. Take time. Be not hurried and careless in your prayers. Intercede with God to work in you a thorough reformation, that the fruits of the Spirit may dwell in you, and that, by your godly life, you may shine as a light in the world. When you sincerely feel that without the help of God you perish, when you pant after him as the hart panteth after the water-brooks, then will the Lord strengthen you speedily, and you will have that peace that passeth understanding.
While you pray that you may not be led into temptation, remember that your work does not end with the prayer. You must then answer your own prayer as far as possible, by resisting temptation, and leave that which you cannot do for yourselves for Jesus to do for you. We cannot be too guarded in our words and deportment, lest we invite the enemy to approach us with his temptations. With the word of God for our guide, and Jesus for our heavenly teacher, we need not be ignorant of the divine requirements or of Satan’s devices. And it will be no unpleasant task to be obedient to the will of God, when we yield ourselves fully to be directed by his Spirit.
Pray in the family. Morning and evening obtain the victory at your family altar. Let not your daily labor keep you from this duty. Take time to pray. And as you pray, believe that God hears you, have faith mixed with your prayers. Let faith take hold of the blessing, and it is yours.
In the morning the Christian’s first thoughts should be of God. Come before him with humility, with a heart full of tenderness, and with a sense of the temptations and dangers that surround yourself and your children. Morning and evening, by earnest prayer and persevering faith, make a hedge about your children. Patiently instruct them; kindly and untiringly teach them how to live so that they may please God.
Teach your children reverence for God and the hour of prayer. The Lord our God is holy, and his name is to be treated with great reverence. Angels are displeased and disgusted with the irreverent manner in which the name of God, the great Jehovah, is sometimes used in prayer. They mention that name with the greatest awe, even veiling their faces when they speak the name of God; the name of Christ also is sacred, and is spoken with the greatest reverence. And those who in their prayers use the name of God in a common and flippant manner, have no sense of the exalted character of God, of Christ, or of heavenly things.
Pray in faith. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” Prevailing prayer is the prayer of living faith; it takes God at his word, and claims his promises. Feeling has nothing to do with faith. When faith brings the blessing to your heart, and you rejoice in the blessing, then it is no more faith, but feeling. How strange it is that men will put confidence in the word of their fellow-men, and yet find it so hard to exercise living faith in God! The promises are ample; why not accept them just as they read? “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
Every petition that is offered to God in faith, and with a true heart, will be answered. Such prayer is never lost; but to claim that it will always be answered in the very way and for the particular thing that we desire, is presumption. God is too wise to err, and too good to withhold any good thing from them that walk uprightly. Then do not fear to trust him even though you do not see the immediate answer to your prayers. Rely upon his sure promise, “Ask, and ye shall receive.”
Fervent and effectual prayer will be regarded in Heaven. It is the privilege of Christians to obtain strength from God to hold every precious gift of his Spirit. The power of God has not decreased. His grace and his Spirit will be just as freely bestowed now as formerly. It is the church of God that have lost their faith to claim, their energy to wrestle, as did Jacob, crying, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” Enduring faith has been dying away, and must be revived in the hearts of God’s people. There must be a claiming of the blessing of God. Living faith always bears upward to God and glory; unbelief, downward to darkness and death.
“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” We can overcome, fully, entirely. Jesus died to make a way of escape for us, that by prevailing prayer by his grace, we might overcome every temptation, every subtle snare of the adversary, and at last sit down with him in his kingdom.
— E.G. White, Signs of the Times, November 18, 1886