Atheism is a contrived and forced philosophy of life. Man is innately religious. Such being the case, it is but natural that people are prone to pray - when they are happy, lonely, hurting, in need, etc. Tragically, however, many entertain the notion that prayer is an improvised procedure. They assume that there are no divine guidelines which prayer is to be directed. This is a grave mistake. Just as there are rules for physical living, so there are rules for the spiritual life-including prayer. We must learn how to properly pray (Luke 11: 1), and do so consistently with the will of God (I John 5:14). Consider these thoughts.
1. Prayer is an avenue of communication between a child of God and his/her heavenly Father (Matt. 6:9). But one becomes a child of God by means of the "new birth" process (John 3:3-5). Prayer is thus a spiritual privilege for those who are "in Christ" (John 15:7; Eph. 1:3). The Creator does not hear those whose lives are in rebellion (Proverbs 28:9; 1 Peter 3:12). The first rule of prayer is that one must have a proper relationship with the Lord.
2. One must have confidence in the validity of prayer. The person who prays in doubt receives nothing (James 1:5-8 cf. Matthew 21:22).
3. Prayer must be persistent (1 Thess. 5:17). "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18: 1). Thus we must keep on asking, seeking, and knocking (Luke 11:9), and let God answer in His own time. Paul prayed that he might go to Rome (Romans 1: 10), yet it was some three years before his request was granted (Acts 28).
4. Prayer must be accompanied by a genuinely spiritual life. The Lord's words must abide in you (John 15:7), for it is the prayer of the righteous that avails much (James 5:16; 1 Peter 3:12; cf. 1 Tim. 2:8; 1 Peter 3:7). It is hypocritical to want to talk to God while one is flagrantly living for Satan.
5. Prayer must be offered in harmony with the revealed Will of God (1 John 5:14). One cannot pray for God to reduce his age by 20 years, for that would involve a miracle and Heaven is not providing miracles today (1 Cor. 13:8ff). It is not appropriate to pray that Jehovah will save (independent of the divine plan) some hardened rebel who has no interest in redemption.
Sincere people want to pray. That disposition is good. We must learn (and we must teach), however, that the prayer process has been divinely regulated. And we must seek the counsel of inspired revelation if our prayers are to be effective.
By Wayne Jackson
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