I recall an incident that I was a part of when I was a youth of 16 or 17 years of age. I worked for two summers for what was referred to as an experimental farm owned by the University of Alaska, located near Palmer Alaska. The purpose for the farm was to conduct experiments related to all things agriculture. We had rows, and rows, and rows, of every sort of grass, vegetable, bush, etc...
Although I lived as a younger child on a farm in north central Minnesota where I helped my mother with a very large and varied garden, and where we both farmed animals and the hay and grains needed to sustain them, the job at the experimental farm was exceedingly boring to me. Not that I am saying that such an operation is not important, but it just was not my thing. I was not the man for that job, but I needed a pay check, and it was all that was in front of me to do at the time. So there I was.
Anyway, when I worked there, every day we would be allowed a 20-minute break morning and afternoon., and during these breaks there would be discussion. I cannot say that I remember the particular issues tabled in these discussions, but I do remember a certain event that happened one day at the tail end of one of our break times, and discussion. Break time was over and I got up to go back to work when Floyd, who was a senior fella in the group in certain exasperation raised his voice a bit and said to me, "Don't you have a thought of your own, all you ever do is tell us what the Bible says?" At which I remember my response to Floyd, I turned and answered to him in puzzled amazement at his question, "What do you care what I think, for what I think is of no value, we need to pay attention to what God says, that is why I tell you what the Bible says."
Brothers and sisters, I suggest to you right now that very wisdom that the Holy Spirit sponsored out of my mouth when I was but a youth. We have no need of the wisdom and ideas of men, what we need is the wisdom of God. And why is that so? I do not suppose it could be summed up any better than to quote the ancient Jewish prophet, Jeremiah, who said, "Thus says the LORD: (Yehovah) Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD." (Jeremiah 17:5 ESV) Ours has become a generation filled with the wisdom of men in just about every aspect of our lives and society. Humanism, that spirit that promotes the idea that man is top-dog in the evolutionary scheme of things, and thus without a creator, and thus independent, and sovereign unto himself…that spirit prevails in our thinking and believeth systems, even in very much of what is called Christian. But it is a lie. It is not the truth. There is no good reward for man outside of God, not in this life, nor in that life that is to come. The way of man is cursed, it always leads to sin, and the misery and destruction that is part and parcel with sin.
So, just like when I was a youth and I testified to Floyd, and to the others there that day, what the Bible says ought to be the foundation of our thinking and behavior, and I think no differently today. If we are going to understand reality, and GOD is reality, and how we are to relate to Him, then we must start and end with the Scripture, seeking and depending on the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and conviction. Therefore, in reference to prayer I suggest we follow the guidance of the Apostle Paul, for I believe today, as I have ever since I became a Christian, that this man’s wisdom (That of Paul’s) excels my own, and that God our savior choose him to author the very Scripture, (A sizable portion thereof) therefore we ought to pay very close attention to his words.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
The book of Timothy was in its origin a letter from the apostle to a younger man named Timothy. Timothy had come to the faith of Yeshua through Paul’s ministry, he had been discipled by Paul, and Timothy was what you might call a very good study. Meaning, Timothy had proven to be a man of very honest and good heart that gave himself, from his heart, to care for the things of God. (Philippians 2:19-23) After a number of years of working side by side with the apostle Paul, he (Timothy) had been appointed by Paul to live in the city of Ephesus and give direction, correction, and a proper example to the Church there. In short, the Apostle Paul expected Timothy to play the part of a godly leader in the Church at Ephesus. The books of first and second Timothy are letters written by Paul offering encouragement and instruction to his spiritual son Timothy, in what appeared to be his first big solo ministry assignment. They are books filled with godly instruction for any Christian, but especially one who aspires to ministerial leadership.
After a brief introduction the Apostle lays out for Timothy what he, according to the wisdom that God had given him as the apostle to the gentiles, was the first and foundational thing he was to emphasis in his ministry among the people, and that was to pray. I urge, then, first of all. These words began the apostle’s exhortation and instruction to the younger man of God who had become the human head in the Church of Ephesus. Prayer was to be of first order, of foundational importance. Yes, the apostle went on in his letter to Timothy expressing many points of wisdom in respect to Christian life in general, the order of the Church, and how he was to conduct himself as a minister of Messiah. But I beg of you to open your heart to note that all of the application of these points of wisdom must be preceded and continued with prayer.
Fellow Christians, particularly fellow American Christians, ours has been a generation which as errored in that prayer has not been the dynamic foundational practice that the Holy One purposes for it to be. Did not our Lord refer to His house, of which the Church is, as well as the life of each individual Believer, as the House Of Prayer? (Matthew 21:13 KJV) And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
A Brief Journey Through The New Testament Scriptures Highlighting Prayer
- Was not the coming of the forerunner of Messiah, (John the Baptist) and the coming of Messiah Himself into the world, were these events not preceded by movement of prayer among the believing? (Luke 1:10 KJV) And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. Was not the New Testament Church conducted forth into the public eye out of a movement of prayer, and was not the first recorded testimony of the baptism of the Holy Spirit preceded by a movement of prayer? (Acts 1:13-14 and Acts 2:1-4 KJV) And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, (Yeshua) and with his brethren......... And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
- Was not prayer, right from the beginning a huge foundational emphasis among the apostles, the early Church members, and the new converts? (Acts 2:41-41 KJV) Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
- Did not the apostle’s answer their persecutions by first praying? (Acts 4:21-31 NIV) 21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. 23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.” 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.” 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
- Was it not the habitual practice of the apostles to give themselves to prayer, and would they not have discipled others to do the very same thing? (Acts 6:4 KJV) But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
- Did not the transformation of thought among the apostles, (Other than Paul) and the Jewish Believers experience a paradigm shift from being a faith experienced only among the Jews, to also including the gentiles by an event sponsored by the prayer of a gentile being led to the faith of Yeshua? (Acts 10:31 MSG) Cornelius said, “Four days ago at about this time, midafternoon, I was home praying. Suddenly there was a man right in front of me, flooding the room with light. He said, ‘Cornelius, your daily prayers and neighborly acts have brought you to God’s attention. I want you to send to Joppa to get Simon, the one they call Peter. He’s staying with Simon the Tanner down by the sea.’ Did not Cornelius obey the angel’s instruction, and did not the Apostle Peter obey the Holy Spirit’s instruction and against Jewish custom enter the house of a gentile and preach Messiah to him and his household? And were they not saved, and were they not then baptized in the Holy Spirit? Was not prayer a very foundational element in this event?
- Was not Peter’s release from imprisonment and certain death a summation of prayer? (Acts 12: 1-11 KJV) Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. 2 Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3 And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. 4 So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Pass over. 5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. 6 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. 7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.” 9 So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. 11 And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.”
- Does not the Scripture set forth the example of how ministries are to be birthed and recognized as involving, if not springing forth from prayer, and in at least this case fasting also? (Acts 13:1-4 ESV) Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
- Are there not many exhortations related to prayer to be found in the epistles (letters) from the Apostles to the first century churches? I would suppose that among the elements mentioned in those exhortations that the instruction to CONTINUE in prayer is the most basic and important. For it is better to pr actice a less than perfect quality of prayer, and to do it continually, than to be able to practice perfect prayer and not do it. Wouldn’t you say that is true? (Colossians 4:2 ESV) Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
My conclusion to this article is to say this: Let us do it! Let us surrender to the Holy Spirit's conviction, and give ourselves to recognize the validity of prayer, for prayer has always been the way of God, and it remains so to this day. Further may we recognize that without prayer we will not experience, as we need to, God’s hand in our personal lives, in our marriages, in our family life, in our Church life, nor in our community, state, and national life. May we recognize our deep need for His presence and power. May we humble ourselves to recognize and admit that when we come up short, and it is obvious that our nation has been doing just that for a very long time, that the outcome of our negligence in prayer will be the very judgment of God upon us personally, and corporately, and that it is, and will be no one's fault but our own.
An American Watchman,
Gregory A DeHart