By PETER LEONOVICH
Weirton Alliance Church
Matthew 7:7-8 - Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
James 4:3 - You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your own pleasures.
Church leaders of every generation have called for a return to prayer as the basic business of the Church resulting in a surge of prayer followed by a rapid decline - unable to sustain that spirit.
It would be difficult to find a person in this world who doesn't pray. Prayers may take different forms, and they may be addressed to different destinations, nonetheless, people pray - I would venture even to say that there are times when even those who claim not to believe in any type of a god, pray! But, at the same time, the list of people of prayer is probably a very short list. And, if any of us consider ourselves people of prayer, then we must have substantial proof that our claim is true.
I can't think of a verse in the Bible that teaches people to pray and, something may happen - maybe even something consistent with the request. Biblical teaching on prayer is not ambivalent. In our first text we find Jesus saying matter-of-factly that if one seeks, they will find, and so on.
Maybe a brief exercise would be appropriate here: think of some prayers you have prayed recently and think of whether or not they were answered. I have to admit - there are a number of things that happened in my circle that I have attributed to prayer - but the question lingers: did I really move heaven with what God heard from me, or would the result have been the same even if I had not prayed? Remember, God owes us nothing - except he has put Himself under certain obligations to humanity as result of the covenant.
So - think of it this way: For many people (including Christians), prayer is little more than a cry for help in a time of adversity, similar to a baby crying when it is hungry, or when it feels insecure. God does hear the faithless cry of human misery, but that is not prayer. The voice that does reach the Father's ear is that of His trusting child who, in dependence on the wisdom and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit brings his requests to the throne of grace. True prayer is always at the prompting of the Spirit, but because most people know Him so little and walk so far from Him, they are virtual strangers to the language that is heard and understood in heaven.
The prayer life is an inner, spiritual life. Few people realize this, and many make no effort to actually develop it for themselves. Consequently, their prayer life is more like our second text (James 4:3).
If you possess the Holy Spirit in your heart, you have a private connection to the throne of God. The Holy Spirit in you elevates your standing with God to the same level as that of Elijah - who prayed, and God withheld rain for three-and-a-half years, then he prayed again and God opened up the skies. You would be as King Hezekiah who prayed and God added fifteen years to his life. You will be as George Muller whose care for children at the orphanage as well as his entire ministry was sustained by his time on his knees making his requests know unto God. Your prayer life will be like that of Andrew Murray who by his prayer and by his instruction in prayer brought revival to a withering Church just over a century ago.
Without a strong prayer life a Christian is no different than any other human being - seeing and experiencing nothing more than what nature or human ingenuity can produce. And looking at this world where Satan's influence and effectiveness has so greatly increased, Christians must unsheathe the most powerful weapon God has placed at their disposal - Prayer! But this calls for an intentional effort on the part of the child of God to bring their relationship with God to the level where God will be able to interact with them without any hindrance, and where heaven will actually be moved to action by the effective prayer of God's righteous men, women, young people and children.
("From the Pulpit" is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)