Central’s never “busy,” always on the line;
You may hear from Heaven almost any time.
‘Tis a royal service, free for one and all—
When you get in trouble give this royal line a call.
Telephone to glory, oh what joy divine!
I can feel the current moving on the line;
Built by God the Father, for His loved and own—
We may talk to Jesus through this royal telephone.
In this poem by F. M. Lehman, prayer is described as a royal telephone which is provided by God for the Christian. Prayer is communion with God our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ the Son, who is our intercessor and mediator. We don’t go to a doctor, tell him our ailments, and then leave. We wait for his answer, listen to his instructions, and accept his medicine. Just so, prayer is not a onesided conversation. We speak to God, and He speaks to us. For the bornagain child of God, prayer is as vital to his spiritual life as breathing is to his physical life.
In the paragraphs which follow, note the three basic instructions for developing our prayer life:
1. We Are To Be in the Spirit of Prayer
In Romans 1:9 Paul says, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” How can one be in the spirit of prayer while living in a world of strife and turmoil? Notice that Paul says he is serving the Gospel of Jesus Christ with his spirit. In other words, it is his primary aim in life to serve God and Jesus Christ. Paul was gloriously saved from his past life of sin, and now the impelling force of his life is to serve Jesus Christ with his spirit, soul, and mind. The things that were happening round about him were insignificant now that he was a servant of Christ.
Again, Paul writes in Romans 8:5, “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” The Christian must answer the question, “Whom am I serving?” If our minds are filled with the material things of life—how to make more money and how to make a better impression on people—then we are minding the things of the flesh, and it will be almost impossible to be in the spirit of prayer. Any Christian who does not have time to get alone each day in prayer to God, is busier than God ever intended him to be. Being in the spirit of prayer calls for feeling the need for prayer. Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath. Because of failure in their prayer life, many professing Christians are dying spiritually, and the devil keeps them from realizing it. The devil tries to keep us so busy that we hardly think of prayer during the day. Praying for a weak Christian or a backsliding church member can easily be neglected if we are not in the spirit of prayer. Then Satan sees to it that we are so tired at night that even if we do take a few minutes to talk with God, our prayers prove to be routine and almost meaningless.
But why do we need to pray when the Bible says in Matthew 6:8, “For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him”? It is true that God knows what we need. He is a loving Father and intends that we should have what is good for us. But while we as parents should know what our children want and what is best for them, we appreciate when they come to us and ask for things. We love to converse with them about their desires and to hear them say, “Thank you.”
Another reason God expects us to pray is that people need to see a connecting link between a specific event and God. When the Lord sent the ten plagues upon Egypt, He could have sent the judgments without Moses’ making a move, but in each case except the last (the death of the firstborn), God had Moses stretch out his hand or his rod so that Pharaoh would connect the plagues with the Children of Israel. When Jesus stood before the grave of Lazarus, He prayed, “Father, I thank thee that thou has heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 11:4142). Prayer is the connecting link between the event and God. The Lord could convert sinners, heal the sick, and provide food—all without our praying—but when we pray and see the answer, our relationship with Him is strengthened.
To be in the right spirit of prayer we need to be humble and to be conscious of our defects and shortcomings. When praying, we do not give God instructions; we just report for duty. Churches and individuals grow only in proportion to the time they spend on their knees in their secret closets. And God is not interested in nice-sounding phrases. He wants fervency rather than fluency. He wants us to talk to Him in words that come naturally to us, just as a child will talk to a parent. Once, in a church service, the minister prayed in a very loud voice. A child in the audience whispered to his mother, “If he would get a little closer to God he wouldn’t have to pray so loud, would he?” Our prayers should be addressed to God, not to the congregation.
2. We Are To Be Steadfast in Our Praying
To be “steadfast” means to be settled, established, constant, not changing. Romans 12:12 reads, “Continuing instant in prayer.” To be steadfast in prayer means that praying will be an established routine in our daily lives, the same as our daily meals. Yet prayer should not become a mere habit; we will pray in order to take advantage of the privilege of talking with our dearest friend, our heavenly Father.
Bornagain Christians will begin and end every day with prayer. There will also be prayer with the whole family around the family altar, and many times during the day, the Christian will find occasion to talk with his Lord. A noted Bible teacher gives five reasons for praying aloud in private prayers:
- 1) It guards your thoughts from wandering.
- 2) It keeps you from getting drowsy.
- 3) It helps to make you aware that you are talking to someone.
- 4) It aids in forming an orderly and meaningful prayer.
- 5) It helps to avoid repetition.
The important thing is that we contact God and talk with Him when we pray.
When we have faith and are obedient to God and pray according to His will, we can confidently expect answers to our prayers. “Why then,” you ask, “are some prayers seemingly not answered?” Perhaps because we do not persevere in prayer. Luke 18:1 says, “And (Jesus) spoke a parable unto them . . . that men ought always to pray and not to faint.” No temptation with respect to prayer is more common than failure to persevere. We resolve to pray for a certain thing; we present our petitions for a day, a week, a month, or a year; and then, receiving as yet no definite answer, we become discouraged and cease praying for that particular matter. But we should form the habit of finishing what we begin. A certain man prayed for 31 years for the conversion of an unsaved person. Two years after the death of the one who had diligently prayed, the man accepted Christ and testified that it was the prayers of this concerned Christian that made him hear the call. How persevering are we in praying for lost souls? We should make a prayerlist and use it as a reminder to pray regularly for these people.
In Daniel 6 we find a great example of faithfulness in prayer. Even when he knew it might cost him his life, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day as he had done before, and his boldness gave him the opportunity to witness for the Lord. Do we have the courage to bow our heads in a public place and pray, as our conscience tells us to?
3. We Are To Be Earnest in Our Prayers
The word “earnest” means sincere and deeply concerned. Colossians 4:12 says, “Epaphras, . . . a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Do we have concern such as this for our fellow Christians? In order to be effectual and earnest in prayer, we must walk in holiness before God, living lives that will commend our prayers to Him. People who live unclean and ungodly lives have no promise that God will hear their prayers. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” The only prayer from a sinner that Jesus promised to answer is the prayer of repentance and the plea for forgiveness. We can pray with confidence only when our prayers are supported by a godly, obedient, penitent life.
To be earnest in our prayers we must pray without hatred or malice. God will not honor a prayer from a revengeful spirit. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Human and divine forgiveness go hand in hand. Jesus stressed this repeatedly, and the Lord’s Prayer includes this twoway forgiveness.
To pray in earnest, we must believe that God will answer. Doubts would only cause our prayers to fall wingless to the ground. Jesus said, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). If we ask in faith for things according to His will—and we can know His will through His holy Word—He has promised to give them to us. But we must pray earnestly, persistently. A mother once lamented to an evangelist that her son was not saved. The evangelist replied, “Mother, have you ever tried spending a whole night in prayer?” The mother prayed earnestly all that night, and the next evening during the invitation her son was gloriously saved. When King Hezekiah wept and prayed, the Lord healed him and added fifteen years to his life.
How is it in your prayer life? Is your prayer life powerless because of some besetting sin? Is your prayer life being hindered by neglect of Bible study? Is your prayer life fruitful? Do you have definite answers to prayer? Is your prayer life restricted to short seasons, or do you pray frequently (without ceasing)? Do you love to pray, or is prayer a duty rather than a delight? Has your prayer life been growing? Do you know more of the power of prayer as the years go by? Has your prayer life cost you something in terms of time, strength, and love?
Has Satan crossed the wires of your telephone? God is always ready to help you remove the obstructions. I believe that prayer is the world’s greatest untapped source of power! Don’t fail to talk to Jesus on the Royal Telephone.