Apostle James, brother of our Lord Jesus, declares “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2) and the Lord has promised repeatedly through the written Word of the Gospels “Ask and you shall receive”. The theory of ‘God knows our needs, so why ask’ contradicts the Word of God and is distorted out of context. The Lord teaches His disciples about not worrying but placing all your cares on your Father, ‘for He knows what you need’. There are ample references to urge our prayerful asking in faith and we shall discuss some of the reasons here.
God declares about the Divine plan for each of us, ‘a plan with a future and hope’ but then He declares that you will call Me and I will answer you (Jeremiah 29:11-12). The plan is available like a box full of lovely goodies, but gets opened only after ‘asking’ by us to spill out the blessings. It is for this reason that God places certain dreams and desires in us through various means- dreams, visions, messages from others or His Word, from time to time, to urge us to ask.
By asking in prayer we establish and firm up a relationship with our Provider God “Jehovah Jireh” and accept his sovereignty over us. Secondly we express our need and the fact that we value His gifts to us through seeking from Him through His intervention. Hezekiah, king of Judah, received a message from Prophet Isaiah about his impending death, leaving him with two options- to die or to pray for mercy. He opts for the second and gets his life extended by fifteen years- ‘you do not have, for you do not ask’. Nobody will help without asking.
The mysteries of God’s Word are endless and Jeremiah 33:3 exhorts us to pray to learn the secrets of a blessed life. We pray for seeking Divine help to tide over the struggles of our life and to be led to the treasures of heavenly blessing stored up for us. We bow down before Him for forgiveness, guidance and acceptance, for He is El Shaddai- the Almighty God, who is loving and merciful. “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17). During the Last Supper the Lord emphasized again the blessings of prayer- firstly by praying for Simon Peter ‘that Satan may not sift him as wheat’ and then in the Gethsemane Park for ‘taking away this cup from Me’ (Luke 22:31-32 and 42). The great intercessory prayer of Moses to save the Israelites from God’s wrath saved millions of lives from destruction (Exodus 32:10-14).
The most vivid explanation of the need for praying is answered in the question answer session of Job in reply to the allegations of his three friends in Job 21:15-21. The wicked ask “What would we gain by praying to Him?’ and the answers follow. Firstly; prosperity is in the hands of God and none else and only He can provide and in His presence evil thoughts do not invade nor prevail (verse 16). Calamities, death and tribulations are the result of being away from God or not praying (verse 17). Prayer assures us of Divine protection and we are not blown away by the smallest of troubles (verse18). God forgives our sins in His mercy and love when we pray and provides protection not only to us but also to the future generations and does not inflict punishment on us for our transgressions (verses 19-20).
Thus prayer is not only for seeking blessings and prosperity but also for ensuring a bright future and hope for our children.
Most religions specify a certain format, time and place for prayer but prayer is none of these. Praying is to cry out to our Father- who is in heaven and is a means of establishing a communication with Him and have a heart to heart talk with Him. Such open, child like talk neither requires a format, time or place nor specific words to be uttered. Our Father can read our thoughts but wants to hear from us not out of arrogance to help us but to help us unload our worries on Him and feel relived. Such outpouring provides peace and displays our love and dependence on God. It is a talk between us and our Father and there is no need for any witnesses.
The emphasis on agreement in prayer life was laid when men planned to build a tower at Babel ‘to make a name for themselves’ and God confused their language since “as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:4-7). Our Lord also advocated this “if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask; it will be done for them by My Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). In addition the other principles of prayer are:
- Do not be hypocritical by trying to impress others, but ‘pray in secret’ (Matthew 6:1-2).
- No useless repetitions but rather open your heart to God like David did, in various Psalms, when in trouble (Matthew 6:7-8).
- Forgiveness cannot be overemphasized since our Lord went so far as to direct a person to go settle a dispute through forgiveness before offering his sacrifices before God (Matthew 6:14-15).
- Pray with purity of intent for God will not listen if I regard wickedness in my heart (Psalm 66:18).
Prayer is perceived to be an instrument to force God to accept our demands whereas it is a means to change ourselves to accept His will in our lives. Prayer is to praise and thank God for what we already have and humbly place our petitions before His throne for consideration in light of Divine plan. Ideal prayer is to seek His intervention for others in distress and confession of our shortcomings while praying for His help and guidance to change to be like His Son thus bringing glory to both the Father and the Son through empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
The aim of prayer is to shift our focus from self to God while surrendering before His throne for help to overcome difficulties in life for He is sovereign and in control of everything. Prayer is actually a way to worship God by offering our gratitude for the past and asking for blessings for the future. God assures “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9).
Ask in faith and believe that you have received, for ‘faith is the evidence of yet unseen blessings’. The key is to rely on His power working in us through the Holy Spirit, for He is able to do exceeding abundantly, beyond our imagination. After completing all steps for a transaction at the ATM, the notice appears ‘Your transaction is being processed’ and then comes the cash.
Pray, give thanks and expect the bounty for HE loves you!!