James B. Caniff

God had been dealing with me about my prayer life and making it quite plain that He wanted me to spend much more time in meaningful prayer. I mentioned this to Marion Brown and he gave me a handful of books on the subject and said, "Write me an article on prayer." After plowing through about half of those books I began to feel that I wasn't qualified to write on the subject. But even though I am far from being an R. A. Torrey or a Praying Hyde, I do feel that there are a few things about prayer that God has been impressing on my heart and mind that I should share with you.

Now in presenting what I have to say on this subject, I am presupposing that you love God, are baptized in the Holy Ghost, and are walking in all the light He has shed on your pathway. If this is not the case and you are wondering why your prayers aren't answered, then I can tell you frankly that sin hinders our prayers, for "if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." If that is the case with you, then you might be better off reading some of those books I spoke of.

Now I want to ask you, do you believe that God answers prayer? Undoubtedly your answer is "yes." Now I want to ask you another question. Since you believe that God answers prayer, why do you do so little of it? Do we really believe that God answers prayer? I have seen many who felt they were fine men of God and they always seem to be too busy for the Lord; so much so that they have little time for prayer. We have all heard tons of preaching that we need to work for the Lord and indeed there is much to be done. But first and foremost we need to pray. Out of all those books on prayer, the statement that made the greatest impression my went something like this: God is looking for a bride for his son, not a hired hand. A bride wants a groom that wants to be alone with her. And a groom, if he is any kind of man at all, wants some time alone with his bride. If we love God then we should spend time alone with Him and never should we let the devil trick us into thinking that we should be out doing the Lord's work when there is praying to be done. If we would do half the work and twice the praying, rather than twice the work and half the praying, we would accomplish manifold more than ever we dared dream would come form all our prayer starved activities for the Lord.

Why pray? Well, first and foremost it cultivates personal holiness. The privilege of studying the Bible is a great blessing and a great aid to piety. Corporate worship is also a blessed privilege and if it is true worship it will leave us feeling renewed and refreshed; to put it in the vernacular, we feel like we have been to church. United prayer is a great aid to spirituality and is in itself the most powerful prayer, if it is truly united prayer and is united in the Holy Ghost, for Jesus said, "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." However, none of these is as important to personal holiness and growth in grace as the secret prayer closet. James tells us that the "effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." I used to look at that and think that the key was to be righteous and while righteousness is so necessary, unless I habituate myself in effectual fervent prayer, I would not be a righteous man.

Before we proceed to the next reason for prayer, perhaps a word about prevailing, importunate prayer would be in order. A number of years ago I was notified that an uncle of mine was gravely ill and near death. Being at home alone I immediately fell to my knees and began praying for him. I had been praying what seemed like only seconds when I received the definite assurance that he would pull through. I got up from my knees and concerned myself no more about it. He did recover and lived in reasonably good health for a few years after that. On the other hand there have been times when I began to pray for something I thought I greatly desired and immediately felt checked by the Holy Spirit for praying in that manner. The temptation is such instance sis to drop the matter and go on to something that seems to us to be more productive. But Jesus taught that "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint." I am persuaded that God works through our prayers. We can only guess and wonder at how many things that God was going to do, but it never came to pass because somebody stopped praying.

Another good reason why we must pray is to get things done. If the thing desired comes to pass without prayer, that is, without prevailing, effectual, fervent prayer, then we usually either assume that we accomplished it ourselves (even though we may admit that the Lord helped us), or we think it just naturally happened and it wasn't really an act of God. If, however, it comes to pass after much importunity on our part, then we will know that it was Him that brought it to pass. I am persuaded that there are many things that God wants to do, many an individual that He wants to save from sin, but it never happens simply because nobody prevailed in prayer. Slocum has said, "Prayer is the Christian's greatest resource and the one least used. It is his greatest obligation and the one most neglected. It is the most common form of devotion, yet the one least understood. Prayer is the gateway to God's presence, but few enter. Prayer is the channel of God's grace, but in most lives it is clogged. It is commonly supposed that anyone can pray, but only those who are accepted in Christ have full access to God. Many regard prayer as optional, but God requires prayer as the condition of His working and where there is not prayer, there is no power."

I just wonder what is the reason I have been so willing to spend long hours working for God while hardly spending long minutes praying to him? Is it because I had more faith in my ability to perform than in God's ability to perform? Oh, "Lord, teach us to pray."