Prayer and The Bible
The Hindrance of Selfishness Must be Eliminated
God’s power is applied, when prayed for through Jesus the Victor, to transform our lives, that we may be used successfully in bringing blessings upon others by turning them to God’s ways. With the driving power of love in our hearts we shall never pray for ourselves with any other motive than that of being prepared more perfectly for the Master’s use. For when we pray otherwise we are selfish, and our prayers will not then be heard. Jesus is our example in this respect; and we know that his prayers were not for himself directly, but on behalf of his followers, and ultimately on behalf of the world. (John 17:9‑23) It is manifest that selfishness is one of the hindrances to effective prayer; it is possible that the accusation of James will sometimes apply to us: "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your (own desires) lusts." (James 4:3) And yet how often do men pray with no other motive than this! Selfishness is, of course, the very opposite to sacrifice which is the secret of acceptable prayer, for sacrifice is self‑denial. (Matthew 16:24)
Our Lord desires that we shall rise to our wonderful opportunities in the matter of prayer. The privilege is too precious to waste in asking for temporal things for our own use, such as food, drink, clothing. Our Master did not send us into the world to spend our time asking for things which the heathen implore of their idol gods (Luke 12:29‑30); but as he himself was sent into the world to perform a definite work for his Father, and did not question that he would be provided with every human necessity while thus engaged, so he sends us into the world to continue that work in his name till it be accomplished; and we have not to request the Father for things which he has already pledged himself to provide. A careful reading of the sixth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel will show that our Master desires us to direct our exclusive powers of prayer to those things pertaining to the Kingdom and its righteousness. We have his word for it that all other things shall be added without special pleading.
The Hindrance Interposed by Satan Cannot Endure
We may pray from a pure heart with unselfish motive, and according to God’s will, and yet at times it seems that our heavenly Father does not hear. Why is this? Because prayer is a spirit force; and Satan is a spirit being, able, apparently, to retard the powers which prayer sets in motion.
But the adversary cannot obstruct the spiritual force of prayer indefinitely, for if the heart of the one who prays is in the right condition, and if he pray in the name of Christ according to the will of God, Satan must give way ultimately. Thus Jesus gave a parable to illustrate the necessity for persistency in prayer until the petition be granted. In Luke 18:1‑8 he spoke a parable to this end, or to impress this lesson, that "men ought always to pray, and not to faint." The parable reveals a contest between the people of God and the adversary. The Lord’s children have no power in themselves to overcome Satan; they therefore call upon their God to aid them.
Jesus used three persons in his parable, namely, a judge, a widow, and an adversary. These three represent: God, the children of God, and Satan. For the purpose of driving home the lesson, Jesus likened God to an unjust judge who would not move to avenge the helpless widow, until compelled for very weariness at her importuning. But God is not unjust and indifferent. On the contrary he will avenge his own elect, who cry unto him day and night, speedily. Why, then, should it be required that we persist in prayer when we know that our heavenly Father does not need to be compelled to avenge us against our adversary? Because he suffers Satan’s oppressions for a wise purpose; and he must have the continual prayers of his elect that Satan may be defeated.
There is much truth in the words of the *hymn: "Restraining prayer, we cease to fight; prayer keeps the Christian’s armour bright; and Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees." For although the child of God may be weak physically, he is strong spiritually when he prays in faith out of a pure and honest heart, according to God’s will, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Cor.12:9‑10) He is then putting into operation spiritual forces which in due time will hurl the cruel deceiver from his spiritual control of mankind. Satan and his evil demon‑followers know this, and tremble. (Matt.8:29; Acts 16:18; James 2:19) We remind ourselves that prayer is in itself one of the factors in the Lord’s orderly Plan of Salvation. Spiritual forces are far stronger than physical forces; and the prayer of a spirit begotten saint is the strongest of all spiritual forces, because backed by every power of the Almighty. The will of the Lord of heaven and earth must be realized (for what power is there to thwart Him?); and acceptable prayer is the expression of His will.
The words of the parable, "bear long with them," do not apply to the elect whom God will avenge speedily, but to the adversary with whom he is longsuffering. The inference is clear that if the people of God fainted, the great adversary would gain the day and retain his position of power. Had the widow (who could do nothing for herself, being helpless) fainted in her pleadings her adversary would have retained his oppressive power, because the judge was unjust and would not see justice done until compelled for the sake of personal peace. With God the motive is entirely different. His throne is founded on justice. (Psa.89:14 margin) He requires our continual prayers to enable him to establish justice upon the earth; and he is bearing long with the adversary until every feature of his gracious Plan of Salvation is accomplished. (Rom.9:22‑23)
Next time—Prayer a Powerful Spiritual Force