Character Traits of the Spiritual Life: Prayerfulness

  Character Traits of the Spiritual Life:

Prayerfulness

 

 

Richard Hollerman

Have you found the key of prayer in your fellowship with the Lord?  Do you remain in close and continual contact with God through the meaningful means of prayer?  Is prayer a meaningful, regular and vital part of your life in Christ?  The most common Greek word for prayer is proseuchomai (the verb) and proseuche (the noun).  It simply means “to pray” and the word always refers to prayer to God.[i]

The Lord Jesus taught His followers to pray and expected this to be a normal part of their life (Matthew 6:7-15).  The early Christians were to draw near to God and “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).  They prayed in the name of Jesus (John 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23-24), in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20; cf. Philippians 3:3), and with the intercession of both Christ (Romans 8:34) and the Spirit (Romans 8:26-27). 

Prayer was so important that Paul could write that we must “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17; cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:11; 1 Timothy 5:5) and “pray at all times” (Ephesians 6:18; cf. Luke 18:1; Colossians 1:3; 4:2).  Do we pray to this extent, on a consistent basis?

The early followers of the Lord Jesus continued in prayer with one another (Acts 2:42) and prayed for God’s blessing in the midst of great persecution (4:23-24, 29-31).  When Peter was arrested and awaited execution, “many were gathered together and were praying” (12:12; cf. v. 5).  These saints prayed when sending Christian workers out to preach (13:3).  In the midst of persecution and suffering, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns (16:25-26).

Prayer to God must be fervent (James 5:17).  Paul testified, “We night and day keep praying most earnestly” (1 Thessalonians 3:10; cf. Matthew 7:7-8).  The apostle says that we are to be “devoted to prayer” (Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2), and this prayer was to be uttered with persistence (Luke 11:8-9; 18:1-7).  Paul commended widows who continued “in entreaties and prayers night and day” (1 Timothy 5:5).  While every disciple was to be actively engaged in prayer, only the men were to do so publicly: “I want the men [andras, males] in every place to pray” (1 Timothy 2:8).  These believers were not only to pray but they were to pray with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; cf. Ephesians 5:20).

These prayers were to be addressed in faith (James 1:5-6; 5:15; Matthew 21:22), with a spirit of obedience (1 John 3:22), and according to God’s will (1 John 5:14-15).  To receive their requests, they were to abide in Christ and Christ’s words were to abide in them (John 15:7), they were to live a righteous life (James 5:17), and fear the Lord (Psalm 145:19).  Known sin must be forsaken if God is to answer prayer (Psalm 66:18; Proverbs 15:8; Isaiah 59:2; 1 Peter 3:12; cf. John 9:31) and one must never reject the truth of God’s Word (Proverbs 28:9).

Throughout the New Testament letters, prayer is a prominent theme and consistent practice.  Paul wrote, “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men” (1 Timothy 2:1).  He said, “[I] do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:16; cf. 3:14-19; Philippians 1:4). 

Do we pray like this?  While most prayers were intercessions for fellow-Christians, we are to pray for all people (1 Timothy 2:1), including the unsaved (Romans 10:1).  We should even pray for the wicked and cruel persecutors.  Jesus said, “Pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28), “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).  We can’t cover the mass of teaching and examples of prayer, in both the Hebrew and the Greek Scriptures, but this is sufficient to show that a leading virtue for his life is that of prayerfulness.

 



[i] W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary.  Vine explains: “Prayer is properly addressed to God the Father (Matthew 6:6; John 16:23; Ephesians 1:17; 3:14) and the Son (Acts 7:59; 2 Corinthians 12:8); but in no instance in the New Testament is prayer addressed to the Holy Spirit distinctively, for whereas the Father is in Heaven (Matthew 6:9), and the Son is at His right hand (Romans 8:34), the Holy Spirit is in and with the believers (John 14:16-17).”

 

 

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