This entry is part of 50 in the series article 26

(Acts 12:5.) 

THIS subject is one that has been misconstrued 
and misrepresented. It has been badly handled 
by those who know more of theology than the Bible. 
Treatises have been devoted to the psychology and 
philosophy of prayer, that contain a considerable 
amount of error when subjected to the light of God's 
infinite truth. The Bible gives us a better understand- 
ing of prayer than any volume on record. Let us 
remember that the oracles of God are infallible under 
all circumstances. 

Prayer is a natural instinct of man. It is as 
natural for man to pray when in sorrow as to eat when 
hungry. Prayer is common to all races and nation- 
alities. Heathen nations pray with fervor for the 
blessings of their deities. Indeed, it is doubtful if a 
human being ever existed who did not voice, at some 
time in life, the sentiment of his soul to some higher 

But as all human systems of religion are full of 
error, so men are liable to do things, in the name of 
religion, that are wrong in the sight of God. As the 
Bible is the only positive revelation of God to man, 
to the Bible we go for an understanding of this 
subject. We study it, like all other Scriptural terms, 
principally by the use of the concordance. This is the 
only way to get the Bible teaching in full regarding 
any subject. 

1. The meaning of prayer. The form of words 
used in praying. A supplication addressed to God. 

Prayer is not desire. Prayer must be made in 
intelligible statements. Jesus taught his disciples to 
pray after a certain manner, and then gave them the 
form of words (Matt. 6:9-13). Hannah spoke in her 
heart, yet her lips moved in prayer (1 Sam. 1: 12-17). 
All the prayers of Jesus, on divine record, were stated 
in words. We must do more than desire — we must ask 
for what we would receive ( 1 Sam. 1 : 27 ; John 14 : 
13; 1 John 3:22). 

Prayer is not vain repetition (Matt. 6:7). It is 
a simple, fervent, open-hearted talk with God. 

2. Prayer must be made with the understanding. 
Spiritual understanding is the knowledge of God's 
will (Col. 1:9). The only way we can know God's 
will is to study the Word (2 Tim. 2:15). It is 
possible to pray a false doctrine and to sing a false 
doctrine. Many of our old hymns teach Calvinism, 
and should be discarded. We can sing and pray in 
ignorance of the will of God; or we can sing and 
pray with the understanding (1 Cor. 14:15; 2 Tim. 
1: 12, 13). To pray with the understanding is to pray 
in accordance with the teaching of the Word. The 
Bible is our only text-book on prayer. 

3. Whose prayers God has promised to hear (Isa. 
1:10-17). He will not hear the prayers of those who 
walk in the evil way (1 Pet. 3:12; Jas. 5:16). He 
will hear the prayers of the righteous. Righteousness 
is doing the will of God. Jesus was baptized in the 
Jordan to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:15). 

Prayer is not the province of the sinner (John 
9:31). God does not hear the sinner, but He does 
hear the man who does His will. Prayer is the 
province of the Christian, of the one who has been 
redeemed by the blood of Christ. 

In the tabernacle of the old institution, which was 
a type of the church (Heb. 9), the altar of incense 
typified prayer. It was located in the Holy Place 
just before the partition veil, through which entrance 
was made into the Holy of Holies. Now, the Holy 
Place typified the temporal church, and the Holy of 
Holies typified the church eternal, or heaven. The 
altar of incense was located in the Holy Place; there- 
fore prayer comes within the church. The altar of 
incense was located nearest to the Holy of Holies; 
therefore prayer is the thing which will bring the 
Christian closest to God. It is the province of the 
Christian, and not of the sinner. 

4. The posture in prayer. There are instances on 
record of various postures in prayer. 

a. Standing (2 Chron. 20:5; Luke 18:13). 

b. Bowing (Neh. 8:6; Ex. 4:31). 

c. Kneeling (Luke 21:41; Acts 7:60; 9:40; 20: 
36; 21:5). 

d. Prostrated (Josh. 5:14; Matt. 26:39). 

No exact posture for prayer has been determined. 
Secret prayer, however, brings the soul into closer com- 
munion with God (Matt. 6:6). Public prayer is often 
made to be heard of men, and does not draw the wor- 
shiper as close to God. 

5. Conditions necessary to the answer of prayer. 
There are certain factors which must enter into prayer 
before God will answer it. What are they? 

a. There must be no iniquity in the heart, of the 
one who prays (Ps. 66:18). Sin separates man from 
God; consequently it must be removed from the heart 
before prayer can be answered. 

b. The "Word must abide in the heart of the one who 
prays (John 15:7; 1 John 3:22). 

c. Prayer must be made in faith (Jas. 1:6). We 
must believe unwaveringly that we will receive that for 
which we pray, providing it is the will of God (Matt. 
21:22; Jas. 5:15). We must keep in mind, however, 
that miracles were only necessary in the infancy of the 
church. Hence God will not set aside a natural law 
to answer prayer. Miracles ceased with the passing 
of the apostles and the establishment of the church 
(1 Cor. 13:8-10). We need not pray for the extra- 
ordinary. Prayer must be confined to the operation of 
natural laws. 

d. Prayer must be made with the help of the Holy 
Spirit (Eom. 8:26, 27). We often pray in ignorance 
when we lean upon our own understanding. Through 
the word of God, the Holy Spirit teaches us how to 
pray. Moreover, He carries the prayers of the saints 
to the throne of the Most High. 

e. Prayer must be made in the name of Christ (John 
14: 13, 14; 16: 23; Heb. 4: 15, 16). Man has no credit 
at the bank of heaven. His personal check must be 
endorsed by the name of Christ. The precious name of 
our Master makes any petition acceptable in heaven. 

f. Prayer must be fervent and sincere (Ps. 17:1; 
Col. 4:12; Jas. 5:16). 

g. Prayer must be constant (Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 
5: 17). We should pray in times of success, as well as 
in times of sorrow. If we do not receive that for which 
we ask, immediately, we should pray again and again. 
Prayer includes both thanksgiving and petition. 

h. Prayer must not be selfish (Jas. 4:3). 

i. When prayer is made by two or more saints in 
perfect agreement, under all conditions imposed, it shall 
be granted (Matt. 18:19; Acts 12:3-17). 

j. Prayer must always allow for the will of God to 
be done (Matt. 6:10; 26:39, 42; 1 John 5:14). The 
will of God must always determine the answer to 
prayer. God can look into the future and see what is 
best for us. Personal experience has proven that we 
are often benefited because our prayers have remained 
unanswered. The general sentiment of prayer must 
be T "Thy will be done." 

6. Prayer will not set aside positive law. There are 
many examples on divine record to prove this state- 

a. Prov. 28 : 9. Prayer will not set aside law. The 
prayer of the man who disregards the law of God is 
an abomination. 

b. Numbers 12. Miriam incurred the displeasure of 
God and was punished with leprosy. She prayed for 
God to heal her; Aaron also prayed that she might be 
cleansed. Finally, Moses, God's chosen leader, prayed 
that she might be healed (v. 13). But God had already 
ordained a law for the cleansing of lepers (Lev. 14). 
So God told Moses that the only way in which Miriam 
could be cleansed would be by compliance with estab- 
lished law (v. 14). Moses had to stop that entire 
procession of the Israelites for seven days, in order that 
Miriam might be kept without the camp the allotted 
time and be cleansed according to law (v. 15). 

c. Luke 23 : 34. Jesus Christ, from the cross, prayed 
that those who were crucifying Him might be forgiven. 
But were they forgiven, then? No. God had previously 
ordained a law of restoration for the remission of sins 
(Matt. 16:19; Mark 16:16). Those Jews who were 
guilty of crucifying Christ with their own wicked hands 
(Acts 2:23, 36) were not pardoned until they obeyed 
this law of restoration on the day of Pentecost (Acts 
2:37-47). Even the prayer of our Lord did not set 
aside a positive law! How, then, can we presume to 
do so with impunity? 

d. Acts 8 : 36-39. Philip did not tell the eunuch to 
pray for salvation. He required him to believe and be 

e. Acts 10 : 1-6 ; 10 : 47, 48 ; 11 : 14. Cornelius was 
not saved by prayer, but by obedience to the commands 
of the gospel. 

f. Acts 22 : 16 ; 9 : 9-11. Saul had been praying 
for three days when Ananias found him. But his 
sins were not washed away until he obeyed the law 
of God. 

g. 1 John 3 : 22. We must keep His commandments 
before we can expect to receive what w T e ask of Him. 
Obedience is the demonstration of genuine love. 

Prayer is not a substitute for the gospel plan of 
salvation — faith, repentance, confession and baptism. 
We can not pray away God's positive law of restora- 
tion any more than we can cause the sun to cease 
shining, or the earth to cease revolving. His spiritual 
laws are just as positive, divine and immutable as His 
natural laws. 

One of the growing evils of the day is the lack of 
prayer among professed Christians. We allow material 
interests to take up the time which should be devoted 
to communion with God. May God hasten the day 
when family prayer will be restored in the homes of 
all disciples of the lowly Nazarene! Prayer is essential 
to spiritual development — individual, congregational or 
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