God’s Power Through Prayer
Repentance, confessing and forsaking sin, opens the heart to become a praying person and opens the hearts of Christians to become a praying church. Just as a true Christian is a praying person, so a true church is a praying church. The prayer meetings more than the Bible studies reveal to us the condition of a church. The Jews who wanted Christ crucified knew the Scriptures very well, but they did not know how to pray. "Their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away" (2 Cor. 3:14-16). The Scriptures are opened to the Jews when they pray in the name of Jesus. Likewise the only way for Gentiles to know God is to repent and pray in Jesus’ name. O God, make us evangelical Christians a praying people! Lord, teach us to pray!
It is one thing to pray through our prayer list; it is another thing to receive a praying heart and continue in prayer until God has given power from above and changes things. It is one thing to pray for the needs of others as they are given to us as prayer items; it is something else to know how God wants us to pray for them. It is one thing to pray selfishly for ourselves and others; it is something else to pray in the Spirit.
Praying for good sermons is one thing; praying for God’s messengers and for God’s message to be given through them is another. Relying on our minds for the preparation of Bible lessons and finding sermons about salvation will not convert people to God. The power to convert people to God and to witness spiritual life come into another person is the result of a heart made alive by prayer and glowing with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Nothing in our Christian life is so difficult, and so rarely attained, as a praying heart that converts people. Without the power of prayer no one will be changed for the better. Without the work of the Holy Spirit no new life will ever come into anyone. Without the Holy Spirit there are no eternal accomplishments, but with Him one is irresistible. Without the Holy Spirit we study words and argue about Bible translations; with the Holy Spirit we come to know the message and experience the power of it. It is possible to get stuck with words and lose the message.
Study the lives God has used to convert people to Himself and you will always find a praying person. Some may have been very knowledgeable in Scripture and others unable to read, but all knew God because of prayer.
"If you lose your spirit of prayer you will do nothing, or next to nothing, though you had the intellectual endowments of an angel. If you lose your spirituality you had better stop and break off in the midst of your preparations, and repent and turn to God, or go about some other employment, for I cannot contemplate a more loathsome and abominable object than an earthly minded minister. The blessed Lord deliver and preserve His dear church from the guidance and influence of men who know not what it is to pray" (Charles G. Finney).
Prayer and Confession of Sin
There is only one thing that keeps us from praying the way we should. It is sin. The struggle with sin is very evident everywhere. This struggle is universal and thoroughly webbed into every society. What draws an honest person to want to read the Bible is the need for forgiveness of sin and assurance of sins forgiven. It is what John the Baptist said when introducing Jesus Christ to the world that satisfies the hungry heart: "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). Prayer is looking to Him and being satisfied.
From the Sunday morning "joyful noise" nurseries to the "study hard" Bible school and seminary campuses people claim to be taught the Scriptures that promise to change society. There are Bible studies the world over and Bible study helps available at great expense, but unless by prayer the veil is taken from their eyes the students will not know God. No prayer in the name of Jesus means no fellowship with God the Father. No prayer and the veil remains. No prayer and there is no life.
When I was a boy, one of the hymns we sang over and over again in church was "Nothing Between" written by C. A. Tindley. It went like this:
Nothing between my soul and the
Naught of this world’s delusive dream:
I have renounced all sinful pleasure,
Jesus is mine; there’s nothing between.
Nothing between like worldly
Habits of life, though harmless they seem,
Must not my heart from Him ever sever,
He is my all, there’s nothing between.
Nothing between, like pride or
Self or friend shall not intervene;
Tho’ it may cost me much tribulation,
I am resolved, there’s nothing between.
Nothing between, e’en many hard
Tho’ the whole world against me convene;
Watching with prayer and much self-denial,
I’ll triumph at last, with nothing between.