Prayer is a Verb

OK, yes I know: prayer is also a noun. But the point is, it is one of those terms that should involve us in actual doing, not just knowing. Indeed, it is somewhat strange to be writing about prayer, when in fact the real thing is to just do it.

We should be praying, not just thinking about it, or writing about it, or reading about it. Nonetheless, there is a place to discuss the issue. Indeed, in many Bible colleges and seminaries one can take a whole semester (or more) in studying prayer.

Hopefully such courses do not remain merely theoretical in nature, but are in fact hands-on courses. It is one of those topics where actual doing must be a component of the course, or the whole point of the topic has been missed.

Needless to say, the Bible speaks much to the topic of prayer. It is a vital component of being in God’s family. And sure, there are all sorts of theological and other sorts of questions that can arise, such as:

-Does God always answer prayer?
-What is the relationship between faith and prayer?
-If God knows all things, why pray?
-If God is sovereign, do our prayers make any difference?

These are all good questions, and worth exploring. But the simple truth is this: the Bible over and over again commands us to pray. So even though we may not understand all the dynamics of prayer, we are obliged to pray nonetheless. And the greatest indicator of why we should pray is the fact that Jesus himself prayed, and prayed a lot.

And Jesus was closer to God than anyone else! Indeed, he is God. So if one member of the Godhead found it necessary while on earth to pray to another, then surely we are without excuse when it comes to prayer. We should just do it.

Now much has been written about prayer over the centuries. Indeed, tens of thousands of books have dealt with the topic. And of course the best of these books are those which have been written by real prayer warriors. Those who pray and pray much are the ones best qualified to speak on this vital subject.

Thus I make no claims to expertise here, because I nowhere near pray as much as I should. But I want to grow in this spiritual discipline, so I am writing this article as much for myself as for anyone else. We all need to be encouraged to press on further into this most important of activities.

And of course it is not so much just an activity we occasionally engage in, but it should in fact become a way of life, a continuous state of being. All the great saints who majored in prayer spoke in these terms. For prayer is really communion with God, spending time with the one you love.

Indeed, it is to these prayer warriors that I turn for inspiration. What they say on the subject is far deeper and more meaningful than anything I can say. I am greatly inspired as I read their remarks, and observe their lives of prayer. There are many places where one can glean from these riches.

So I here offer a few gems from some of these great saints, as a means to encourage myself, and you, into seeking to become those who see prayer as one of the most important activities we can be engaged in. Read and be blessed as you discover the untapped riches of the life of prayer:

I have so much to do that I spend several hours in prayer before I am able to do it.—John Wesley

I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go. –Abraham Lincoln

One can believe intellectually in the efficacy of prayer and never do any praying. –Catherine Marshall

Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire? –Corrie Ten Boom

Of all the duties enjoined by Christianity none is more essential and yet more neglected than prayer. –François Fénelon

When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians, the devil smiles. When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy. –Corrie Ten Boom

When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t pray, they don’t. –William Temple

Pray, and let God worry. –Martin Luther

Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your task. –Phillips Brooks

We waste most of our time trying to get God to do something He has already done—or praying for God to do something He told us to do. –Jacquelyn K. Heasley

The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men…Men of prayer.” –E. M. Bounds

The Church has not yet touched the fringe of the possibilities of intercessory prayer. Her largest victories will be witnessed when individual Christians everywhere come to recognize their priesthood unto God and day by day give themselves unto prayer. –John R. Mott

I must secure more time for private devotions. I have been living far too public for me. The shortening of devotions starves the soul, it grows lean and faint. I have been keeping too late hours. –William Wilberforce

If you are sick, fast and pray; if the language is hard to learn, fast and pray; if the people will not hear you, fast and pray, if you have nothing to eat, fast and pray. –Frederick Franson

Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons; but they are helpless against our prayers. –J. Sidlow Baxter

There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as praying for him. –William Law

Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, prayer is the greater work. –Oswald Chambers

“I would rather train twenty men to pray, than a thousand to preach; A minister’s highest mission ought to be to teach his people to pray.” –H. MacGregor

I don’t know about you, but when I read such remarks I am bowled over – both by my own prayerlessness, and by the depths to which the human soul can go, and the heights to which one can fly, when committed to prayer. Let us encourage one another to press on in this neglected spiritual treasure.

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15 Replies to “Prayer is a Verb”

  1. Knowledge is a noun, you can collect it from encyclopaedeias & keep it. Wisdom is what you do with your knowledge, so it is a verb.

    Time & time again, we are praised or condemned in Scripture for what we do (or refuse to do), more rarely for what we think or say, so evidently doing is more significant than saying.

    Factorising that again, the “Why?” of what we do has more controlling impact than the “How?” If the “Why?” is valid, the “How?” will sort itself out. So the greatest significance is attributable to why we do what we do.

    William Temple’s experience is also mine. I’ve almost lost faith in the secular definition of coincidence.

    Leon Brooks

  2. Thanks Bill – a much needed encouragement in a too busy world.
    Stephen White

  3. Speaking of prayer, I just got this in my email from the Pacific Justice Institute.

    “Atheists Tell Federal Appeals Court: Public Prayer Makes Us Sick

    Washington, D.C. – Briefing is nearing a close in a high-profile case challenging prayer at Presidential inaugurations, currently before the federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The lawsuit, filed by hundreds of atheists and atheist groups, led by frequent litigant Michael Newdow, was thrown out by the lower federal court. The two ministers who offered prayers at President Obama’s inauguration, Dr. Rick Warren and Dr. Joseph Lowery, are named defendants in the lawsuit and are being represented by Pacific Justice Institute.

    In its Opposition Brief filed last week, Pacific Justice Institute countered the legal arguments of atheists who said public prayer traumatized them to the point of illness. Among the more dire claims, one plaintiff declared, “[W]hen Chief Justice Roberts asked the President to say, ‘So help me God,’ I felt threatened and sick to my stomach.” Another plaintiff stated in court documents, “As I watched this inauguration, I cringed with disgust as I witnessed this special secular event again being poisoned with sectarian religious nonsense.”

    The plaintiffs in this case include numerous individuals, and groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, The American Humanist Association, Atheists United, Atheists for Human Rights, and Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers.”

    John Snowden

  4. The American sociologist Andrew Greeley reports that independent research on prayer in the USA and Britain shows that even non-believers pray, not all, but some. He has a chapter on the pragmatics of prayer in his book “Religion as Poetry”. This information fits my view that once the idea of God enters the mind it does not leave in a hurry even when formally and intellectually disowned in the name of atheism. Certainly I have known atheists who spend a suspicious amount of time denying the god-idea. One could speculate that the visceral hostility of some atheists towards Christianity is a projection of inner dissonances. Richard Dawkins’ complaint that “god” is an invasive meme taking over minds might be a paranoid expression of this inner problem.
    John Snowden

  5. Greetings Bill. Our Lord Jesus spent nights in touch with His heavenly Father: a procedure we follow only when facing life and death, personal, family or national.
    Daniel never compromised his prime ministerial office but reserved time and seclusion for such. Contrast our feeble excuses with the leader of the world’s ruling nation.
    “In his upper room, with his windows open towards Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed; and gave thanks before his God as was his custom since early days. Men assembled and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.” A role model.
    Bill, after delivering each baby, I sought permission to thank the Creator God for this miracle. Never refused!
    Prior to surgery, I requested the privilege of praying for the patient. I reminded the convalescing patient God had heard – and answered. Prayer must be natural as breath.
    Harrold Steward

  6. Thanks for this Bill. For me it has always been a challenge and yet I know when I commit to prayer I see great things occur. To stop us praying is one of the enemies greatest goals I believe.
    Warwick Murphy

  7. Do you realise that the website you’ve got these quotes from is a site devoted openly to the incredibly heretical belief of ‘Universalism’?
    Jeremy Woods

  8. Thanks Jeremy

    Oops. Thanks for that. I had not in fact looked any further on that site. Well, the quotes on prayer are great, so enjoy those, but yes, by all means ignore the heresy of universalism being promoted there. Indeed, I may have to write up this subject in a forthcoming article.

    In fact, I had better remove the link. I don’t want to be seen to be promoting this false belief on my site.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  9. Thanks Bill – prayer is always a necessary topic for Christians to be reminded of. It is interesting that it seems to be a very loud topic at the moment for many of the people in my world. Part of the preparation for what’s ahead both individually and corporately. I love it when these ‘coincidences’ happen.
    Kirsten Jack

  10. Bill, I went looking for a quote and knew that it’d be on the Internet . . . I didn’t realize that it would put me in touch with my former Wheaton College friend from the mid-1980s. Thank you for posting this! Keep up what you’re doing to advance the Gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom!
    Dean Ridings, USA

  11. In another place you asked about if God answers prayer retrospectively. I thought to share with you that the Lord revealed to me that He does do just that! I was praying for a friend’s final exams, and afterwards discovered that the day I was praying, he had already sat for them, and that they were all over. Feeling dismayed, I shared with the Lord, that my prayers for a clear mind, a functional memory retrieval, and a peaceful spirit during the stressful time had been so sincere that I was disappointed that it was all in vain. The Holy Spirit clearly showed me that God is not bound by our time frames, and that even if He were so restricted, He, being omniscient, would know that the prayers were in the pipe line and could use them as a resource for my friend ahead of the time that they were actually prayed. This has been a great comfort to me ever since, and so, I put my prayers in God’s Prayer Bank, and He uses them when they are needed. So, do not fear little flock, it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.
    Lorna Rogers

  12. Thanks Lorna

    Yes it is all possible, depending on how we view God’s relationship with time. Many Christians believe God created both time and space, and that he exists outside of time, in perhaps an eternal now. If so, then while we might pray for something concerning the past, God could take those prayers into consideration, being outside of time himself. It therefore would be retrospective for us, but not for God. However it works, we do serve a big God who delights in our prayers.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  13. You have a quote from Jacqueline K. Heasley. I have been trying to find out who she is. She has so many wonderful quotes. Does she have books out? How do I contact her? Do you know anything about her?
    Dan Needy

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