The word “pray” and its various forms appear in the Bible (KJV translation) at least 512 times throughout the Old and New Testaments. Many other times prayer is the subject matter without these specific words being used. Obviously, prayer is an integral part of knowing God.
When observing those in the Bible who were close to the Lord in the Old and New Testament, prayer was an important part of their lives. When studying the lives of those close to the Lord from our time back to the first century, the same can be said.
Is it possible that our prayer life or lack thereof, is our problem today? If it is not the root cause of the churches’ decline, it is at least right up there near the top. That doesn’t mean that Satan has defeated the church. He cannot.
“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it[emphasis mine].” (Matthew 16:18)
It does mean that some churches have been weakened by their own failure in not knowing the Shepherd, but the true church of Jesus Christ has not.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hosea 4:6).
God’s message is even clearer in this translation.
“My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me. Since you priests refuse to know me, I refuse to recognize you as my priests. Since you have forgotten the laws of your God, I will forget to bless your children” (Hosea 4:6 NLT).
Before proceeding, I wish to make clear that I am very aware that these verses are written specifically to Israel. I am also aware that even so, the principle can and should be readily applied to the church and to individuals who make up the church.
Is it fair to say that most prayers coming from the church today are short and self-centered? (That isn’t to say that long prayers are righteous and short ones are not, just simply that it often shows a lack of interest in communication with God.)
Do not the prayers of many saints consist of, no particular order?
· Give me this and give me that.
· Make it easier.
· Make it short.
· Make it go away.
· I need money.
· I need that.
· I’ve already done this, but want your blessing.
· Give us a lot of people at church so the tithes will go up.
· Make him/her love me.
· Help me pass the test.
· Find me a job while I watch my favorite programs.
· I want a lot of nice stuff for Christmas.
· I’m glad I’m not like them.
Surely, you get the point. Is this not a far cry from Matthew 6:9-13, where Jesus provides us a sample prayer to follow?
Vs.9: “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”
We recognize our Father in heaven as Holy and God.
Vs.10: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
We long for HIS will to be done on earth as it is done in Heaven.
Vs.11: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
We ask for His provision for our daily NEEDS, especially THE bread, a personal, daily relationship with Him.
Vs.12: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
We ask for His forgiveness after we have forgiven those who have offended us.
Vs.13: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
We ask for His help in not yielding to temptation and to keep us from Satan’s influences. We recognize Him as the Light of the world and any light coming from us is being reflected from Him.
Are our prayers anything like this? In many cases I’m sure they are, because I too, know and have known those who cherish their prayer life with Him. Unfortunately, that is normally not the case. Most in Christendom today have a very weak prayer life, if they have one at all.
How can I say such a thing? Am I being judgmental? (It’s a big thing today to not be judgmental, so says a society that doesn’t want anyone to point out sin.) I am being very judgmental, and offer no apologies for doing so. Notice these words of Christ:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:15-20, NIV).
This is just one example among many, but how can we differentiate between good and bad without judging, or being judgmental? It is impossible. We have to make a judgment, and Jesus expects us to make the correct judgment based upon His Word. Therefore, when placing churches, and their leaders, side by side with God’s Word, many do not measure up, as we see in Jesus’ letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3.
Characteristics of the seven churches of Revelation can be seen in various locations on the globe, but primarily in our country, the Laodicean church trumps them all. The reason, in my opinion, is because intellectual knowledge may be found in the study, but spiritual knowledge can only be found in the closet (Matthew 6:6). In other words, our hearts are humbled and fine-tuned more on our knees than behind a desk.
There is something about the prayers of the righteous that keeps us as humble servants before the Lord instead of proud peacocks before others. For example, I have heard many prayers of those who remind me of the Pharisee while some remind me of the publican (Luke 18:10).
Also, prayer in and of itself is not a guarantee of spiritual correctness or closeness with Almighty God.
Local churches are failing because Satan’s crowd has been allowed to move in and take over. Instead of the church influencing the world, the world’s influence has crept into the local churches. Prayer is a big part of this, or I should say improper prayer and no prayer at all.
Those who sit in the pews and are truly Christians are failing in their prayer life, and those behind the pulpits have done no better. It doesn’t take a mental heavyweight, as my wife would say, to see this.
When you see a church, led by a pastor that proclaims the truth of ALL of God’s Word, and that he is serious about prayer, you will see a church that is growing in the Lord, and I’m not necessarily referring to “quantity” but “spiritual quality.” God’s Word will actually be taught, instead of having to endure “sermonettes for christenettes.”
God’s men and women of old spent much time in prayer. Jesus, the Son of God, is the epitome of an example in prayer. Even though Jesus is God, He needed that special time, and there was much of it, with the Father in prayer. Since Jesus spent so much time in prayer with the Father, should we do no less?
I must admit that my prayer life needs some work, and if you’re honest, many of you will admit so too. Do you not find, as I do, that even your attitude is improved when your prayer life is active, and it sours when it is neglected?
I am especially concerned how the pulpit has been affected by the prayer life, or lack thereof, of those who stand behind it. For that matter, the wrong people have been placed behind many pulpits because of the poor prayer relationship that those in the pew have with the Father, if they have one at all.
Most of the local churches have become institutions run by man, instead of local Christians led by the Shepherd. The Holy Spirit has been totally ignored unless made a mockery by some church practices. Every truly called pastor should spend more time in prayer fellowship with the Father than most anything else and no less can be said for those, who are truly a child of God, and sit in the pews.
Bible study is extremely important for the Christian, but without real prayer, there is a danger of becoming intellectually bright and spiritually stupid. Prayer without the study of God’s Word offers the same result. When the two are combined, and given their proper importance, we then know when to, “Go ye therefore” and will do so in His power.