Why Be Devoted To Prayer?
By Rich Carmicheal
Throughout the Bible, we discover examples of great devotion to prayer. For instance, Jesus got up early in the morning and sometimes stayed up all night in order to pray (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12). He often "withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (Luke 5:16). The prophetess Anna, at the age of eighty-four "never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying" (Luke 2:36-37). Daniel had the practice of getting down on his knees and praying three times a day (Dan. 6:10). David presented his requests to the Lord "morning by morning" (Psa. 5:3). The early believers "all joined together constantly in prayer" (Acts 1:14), devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 2:42) and prayed "earnestly" (Acts 12:5). The Apostle Paul prayed "night and day" and "most earnestly" (1 Thess. 3:10). He also pointed out how Epaphras was "always wrestling in prayer" for the Colossians (Col. 4:12).
Likewise, we are to be devoted to prayer. As Paul writes, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful" (Col. 4:2). We are instructed to "pray continually" (1 Thess. 5:17), "to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests" (Eph. 6:18), and to "always pray and not give up" (Luke 18:1).
But why? Why should we devote ourselves to prayer? Why should we pray continually, and fervently, and earnestly and persistently?
Well, not because these attributes of prayer are an end in and of themselves. Consider, for example, the prophets who confronted Elijah on Mt. Carmel. They were very earnest and persistent as they called upon their god. They danced, shouted and prophesied frantically. However, "there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention" (see 1 Kings 18:26-29). Their dedication was in vain because it was directed toward a false god. Likewise, in a prophecy against Moab, Isaiah declares that "when Moab appears at her high place, she only wears herself out; when she goes to her shrine to pray, it is to no avail" (Isaiah 16:12). In our own day, there are millions of people in false religions, praying devotedly to false gods. Their devotion to prayer, however, is in vain.
Sometimes, there even comes a point when the prayers of God’s people can be in vain. This happens when they go through the ritual of praying, but lose sight of their relationship with the Lord. Such was the case in the prophet Isaiah’s day when the Lord declared to His people, "When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen" (Isa. 1:15).
Our devotion to prayer, therefore, is not primarily a devotion to fervency, earnestness and persistence. Instead, our primary devotion in prayer is unto the One to Whom we pray. Our God is not a lifeless god who is unable to respond to our prayers. On the contrary, we pray to the Living God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things. As Solomon declared in prayer: "O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven or on earth..." (2 Chron. 6:14). We pray to a very real God who is near us whenever we pray to him (Deut. 4:5-7). We pray to the heavenly Father who knows what we need even before we ask Him (Matt. 6:8). Our confidence in prayer, therefore, is not so much in our capacity to pray as it is in His capacity as our God and Father.
So why are we to devote ourselves to prayer? Because in prayer we are devoting ourselves to Him. We are seeking His heart, His desires, His thoughts, His ways, His perspective, His direction, His will and His kingdom. As we pray for others, we are seeking these same things for their lives. And the promise we have is that He will hear us and respond to the prayers we offer according to His will. He listens and cares. Through our prayers, He heals, saves, delivers, restores, opens eyes, protects, opens doors, grants peace, provides wisdom and guidance, and gives strength, courage and boldness. Certainly, we, of all people, have reason to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to prayer.
I hope this issue of the Herald of His Coming helps lead you to a greater devotion to prayer and, more importantly, a greater devotion to the Lord through prayer. May we all humble ourselves and pray and seek His face.