By Leslie Diestelkamp
In a recent article in this magazine I discussed the preciousness of prayer, emphasizing the great privilege, which we so often neglect and the amazing opportunity which s afforded every Christian to make his requests known to God. In this article I want to stress some things that often make prayer unprofitable because of improper attitudes, requests and conditions.
Some people may always have a wrong attitude regarding prayer, and almost all of us often have such. An improper attitude is manifested when we expect God to do everything and excuse ourselves from real participation in that which we desire should be brought to fruition. For instance, some will pray for health, but will not consult a doctor when their body is filled with pain, which is the natural warning of trouble. Others will ask for knowledge but will not devote themselves in study to learn. Wisdom is often requested by those who afterward insist upon following a hunch instead of diligently
engaging in serious meditation to try to help discern the proper way. Indeed our prayers should always be accompanied by the very action in us that would be intended to accomplish the thing requested, expecting that God will do what we cannot do, but that we must do what we can also.
An opposite extreme is the demanding attitude which does not include the sentiment, much less the expression, “Thy will be done.” Oh if we could learn to pray fervently as Jesus did (Lk. 22:42-44) for the sincere desires of our hearts and yet call upon the Father to grant what is right7 and not just what we ask. In such way we would demonstrate our recognition of the majesty of God and we would express our willingness to allow our own mind to be over-ruled from that divine source.
Though they are absolutely sincere and have the very finest attitude of humility and subjectiveness, many people pray for that which is impractical and sometimes impossible. For instance, it is a very common thing for us to hear someone plead, “Lord we pray that what we have done here is pleasing to thee.” But sober reflection would cause us to know that if we had said or done anything wrong, all the prayers in the world would not make it right. Prayer will not change a lie into a truth, nor will it change other evils into right. Of course it would be correct for us to pray that if we have done wrong we may be able to understand that it was wrong so that we can repent and be forgiven. Let us always be careful to recognize that God’s law cannot be altered to suit our desires or needs, nor can it be changed to meet the conditions that were caused by our carelessness.
Some people address their prayers to Christ, but instead, we must pray to the Father through Christ. Sometimes in prayers at the Lord’s Table we hear brethren confuse the Father and the Son. Often someone says, “We thank thee for this bread which represents thy body…” (But of course the body referred to was not that of the Father, but of his Son).
Our prayers must be offered in the name of Jesus Christ. But prayer that is truly in Christ’s name is not always that prayer in which the name of Jesus is only mentioned, but rather it is the prayer in which the word of Christ is obeyed. That which is in the name of Christ must be by his authority.
To be fruitful, prayer must be, not only in the name of Jesus, but it must be accompanied by holiness in the life of the one who prays (1 Tim. 2:8 ) . If the deeds of our bodies, the words of our mouths and even the intents of our hearts are not in harmony with the petitions we offer to God, then there is no promise that he will hear. God said, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways: then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14). Indeed,
“Tis not enough to bend the knee
And words of prayer say,
The heart must with the lips agree
Or else we do not pray.”
Undoubtedly God has multitudes of blessings that he would gladly pour out upon his people today for our happiness and to enable us to be a more fruitful people in his service. What a pity it is that those who have the absolute right to call him “Father” do not utilize the great opportunity to sincerely seek for those things, which he is eager to bestow. By ritual and by rite public prayers are “said” while God listens intently for more prayers that should come from sincere hearts, expressed with fervency and in a purely scriptural way.
“Be sober and watch unto prayer” (I Pet. 4:7). Be “patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). Jesus said, “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.”
Truth Magazine, VI:2, pp. 9-10