Prayer, As An Expression of Our Faith In God

Foundational Truths for the Christian Path

To many prayer is telling God about one’s requests. But I want to give it a different type of definition, not one based on what we do, but based on what we believe. Prayer is believing God. Those who do not pray, do not believe God. Those who believe God will pray. Prayer is an expression of faith. It demonstrates the reality of our faith.

A Heavenly Calling Card

In Genesis 4:26, the last statement in the first section of the book of Genesis is:

Then they began to call on the name of the LORD.

This is the beginning of a storyline that runs throughout the pages of Scripture.

  • In Genesis 12:8, Abraham moved to the Promised Land near Bethel (house of God), set up an altar, and called on the name of the LORD.
  • In Genesis 13:4, Abraham returned from Egypt to this same place and called on the name of the LORD.
  • In Genesis 21:33, Abraham again called on the name of the LORD.
  • In Genesis 26:25, God appears to Isaac and Isaac calls on the name of the LORD.
  • In Exodus 34:5, using the same Hebrew phrase, God appeared to Moses and “called” on the name of the LORD (here this same Hebrew phrase is translated “proclaimed” the name of the LORD).
  • In 1 Kings 18:4, 36-37, Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel by calling on the name of the LORD.
  • In 2 Kings 5:11, Naaman was furious because Elisha did not call on the name of the LORD.
  • In Psalm 116:4, calling upon the name of the LORD is linked to deliverance.
  • In Psalm 116:13, calling on the name of the LORD is linked to salvation.
  • In Psalm 116:17, calling on the name of the LORD is linked to thanksgiving.
  • In Lamentations 3:55, Jeremiah calls on the name of the LORD from the lowest pit.
  • In Joel 2:32, we are told that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.
  • In Zephaniah 3:9, God promises in the future to restore to the peoples a pure language so that they may all call on the name of the LORD.
  • And, of course, the Joel passage is quoted by Peter at Pentecost in Acts 2 and by Paul in Romans 10 as the way to salvation.

At the core of this phrase is the word “call.” In Genesis 3:9, God called to Adam. The concept of calling is not much different from what we do today. When I say, “I will call you,” I am expressing my plan to contact you verbally. It may be by telephone, or it may be by opening the door and calling you for dinner, but in any case it involves communication. That is prayer. It is communication with God.

But it is more than simply any communication. It is a communication about who He is. In 1 Kings 18:24, 36-37, Elijah’s simple prayer said more about who Elijah believed God to be than anything else Elijah could have done.

In Psalm 116:4, the phrase is linked for a cry for help, again based on who the psalmist believed God to be (see verse 5), then in verse 13 it is a response to who God is in verse 12, and in verse 17 it is a response to the psalmist’s relationship with God (verse 16).

In Lamentations 3:55, it again is a cry for help based on who God is.

In Zephaniah, it is a communication to God based on what He has done, as was the situation with Abraham in Genesis 12:8, 13:4, or 21:33.

There is a call to God in Joel 2:32 based on God’s great promises, and there is the proclamation of God in Exodus 34:5 based upon His name.

In every place, the Hebrew phrase is the same. What links all of these together is that the people who called believed God to be who He said He was. Their prayer was the expression of their faith.

Prayer, then, is communication with God based on what we have come to know about Him.

Prayer shows Faith

Now, I ask the question. What does your prayer life reveal about what you believe about God? I submit that it reveals a great deal.

Let me illustrate. Suppose I have a neighbor who is a master gardener who offers me help with anything dealing with plants and my neighbor has a beautiful, thriving zebra plant. Someone else gives me a zebra plant, but despite my best efforts my plant dies and I go into depression. I never ask my neighbor for help. What might my failure to ask say about my view of my neighbor?

We come to God. He has promised to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). He has encouraged us to call upon Him time and again. We do not call. What do our actions say about how we view God?

Prayer is an expression of our faith. If we truly believe God is who He says He is and if we truly believe His promises, then we will live a life of prayer that demonstrates this. If we do not pray, we thereby demonstrate that we do not truly believe (Job 21:15). Prayer is our expression of faith. How much we believe will be reflected in how and how much we pray. The nature of the God in whom we believe should be seen in the frequency and content of our prayers.

The Bible is full of prayers. People who believed, prayed. Abraham believed and he called on the name of the LORD. He expressed his faith. Moses believed and he talked with God until he died. He was the great intercessor to God for Israel. He expressed his faith. Samuel believed God and he prayed. David believed God. We read some of his prayers in the Psalms. Solomon believed God. We have his great prayer at the dedication of the temple. The prophets believed in God. Their prayers are scattered throughout their books. Mary believed in God; we have her payers. Jesus believed in the Father; we see His prayers throughout the gospels. He continues to plead for us. The apostles believed in God; they gathered in the upper room to pray as they awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit. Paul believed in God; you can see it in his many prayers. Prayer is our expression of faith in God. All these people expressed their faith through the volume and sincerity of their prayer.

We have a nickname for James, the brother of Jesus. He is called Old Camel Knees because he prayed so much in the temple that his knees grew callouses like a camel’s knees. Is it just coincidence that the church exploded? When the disciples came to Jesus in Luke 11:1, they did not ask Him to teach them how to pray. They asked Him to teach them to pray. And what did Jesus do? After providing a short pattern of prayer, He told them about the Father.

Prayer changes history. The cries of Isaac reached the ears of God and we have a nation of Israel today. The cries of Israel reached God and He delivered them in a mighty way from the land of Egypt. The cries of Moses reached God and He saved Israel from the Amalakites. The cries of Hannah reached God and Samuel was born. The cries of David reached God and He established a great kingdom. The cries of Solomon reached God and God gave him incredible wisdom. The cries of Hezekiah reached God and Jerusalem was the only city in the entire region not captured by the Assyrians. The cries of Manasseh reached God and he was restored back to his throne. The cries of Jeremiah reached God and he was rescued from a dungeon. The cries of Daniel reached God and dreams were interpreted. The cries of Jonah reached God and he was saved out of certain death. The cries of Jesus reached God and the church exists today. The cries of the thief on the cross reached God and he is in Paradise.

Obstacles to Prayer

The Tyranny of the Experience

As new Christians, we often are excited about our fresh relationship with a God who can do anything. We pray, believing, and we receive. But then we pray, believing, and nothing happens. Then we grow in doubt and begin to change our theology. Some change is good. If we think that God is a genie in the sky who will always do what we ask, then that theology needs to change. Some change is bad. If we think that God is going to do whatever He wants and that prayer is ineffectual as a change agent in this world, in our lives, or with God, we err, not knowing God.

When we pray, three results may occur.

  1. God may not hear our prayers. If there is known, unconfessed sin in our lives, then God will not hear our prayers (Psalm 66:18; Proverbs 28:9; Isaiah 1:15; John 9:31).
  2. God may hear and decide to grant the request (Exodus 32:10-14; Joshua 10:12-14; 1 Samuel 1:10-11, 20; 1 Kings 18:36-38; Amos 7:2-6; 1 John 5:14-15).
  3. God may hear and decide not to grant the request (Genesis 17:8-20; Deuteronomy 3:23-27; 2 Samuel 12:16-23; 2 Corinthians 12:8-9).

Results 2 and 3 are not arbitrary results, but both are the desired result of one who really seeks God in prayer. When we pray, two wills are involved, His and ours. Sometimes, as in any relationship, one party has to align with the other. Sometimes our will has to align with His. Sometimes His will aligns with ours. Prayer acknowledges these different outcomes. When God says, “Ask what you will,” He is saying that He is eager to align His will with ours. He delights to give good gifts to those who ask (Matthew 7:11). But though we may not realize it at the time, sometimes our will is not in our best long-term interest, nor in the best long-term interest of others or this world. God knows what is best. Therefore, we need not fear to pray for what we want as long as we trust that if what we want is not best, God will take our request and do with it what is best. Again, our prayer is an expression of faith, because we pray knowing that sometimes we may not get the outcome we desire.

Sometimes, however, we adopt the attitude that God will do what He will do and therefore we have no need to pray. This is simply not true. James 4:2 tells us that we have not because we ask not. Job tells us that the unbelievers are those who believe there is no profit in prayer (Job 21:15). There are far too many answered prayers in Scripture and in this world to adopt a theology that prayer is not effective in bringing about change in this world. God accomplishes our wills and His will through our prayer.

So pray. Let us learn, grow and express our faith in those times when we pray and it does not seem that God is answering. We should remember that God does not drop prayers, but treasures them up. As Jesus tells us, those who cry out to God day and night are being heard, even though the answer does not come soon  (Luke 18:7-8).  James says the same thing in James 5:3-6. Our prayers touch His heart. And when He answers our prayers, we should praise Him for those answers (Psalm 9:10-14; 18:6-19; 30:2-12).

The Tyranny of the Immediate

Everything we do is important and prayer often gets pushed aside. But what about its importance? (Acts 6:4; Ephesians 6:18-20; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2-3; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Timothy 2:1-4, 8; 5:5). We should always pray, whether we are talking with the king (Nehemiah 2:4), preparing for a difficult job (Luke 22:39-45), or simply washing the dishes or mowing the lawn.

Making Prayer Meaningful

  • Pray believing (Matthew 21:22; James 1:6-7).
  • Pray persistently (Luke 11:5-8; 8:1-7; 1 Kings 18:41-46; Romans 1:9-10; Ephesians 1:15-23; Philippians 1:3-4; Colossians 1:3, 9; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:3; Philemon 4).
  • Pray for kingdom values (Matthew 6:9-13).
  • Pray for others (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Timothy 2:1).
  • Pray with thanksgiving (1 Corinthians 1:4; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Hebrews 13:15).
  • Make prayer a conversation with God (John 12:27-28; 1 Timothy 2:1). The word “supplications” comes from a word meaning to make conversation or to converse, and in Greek literature included the meaning of having intimate intercourse with or the close communion of one person with another. Prayer is learning to walk together throughout the day with God.

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