Prayer: The Secret to Spiritual Power

One of my favorite authors, Ellen G. White, wrote a single sentence that encapsulates most everything there is to know about the act of praying to the God of heaven. She wrote:

“Prayer is the secret of spiritual power.”

She also wrote in Steps to Christ, a 126 page book that ranks in the top twenty best-selling books of all time, the following paragraph that describes the type of relationship that God desires to have with each one of us:

“Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. ‘The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.’ James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for him to bear, for He holds up the worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity to difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.”

Joseph Scriven wrote a poem in 1855 that would become one of the best known hymns of all time. The timeless poem tells us of the wonderful friendship that we may find in Jesus Christ: “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer. ”

The longest book in the Old and New Testament is the book of Psalms which is a book of prayer and praise to the God of the Universe. The middle chapter of the Bible, also the shortest chapter in Holy Scripture, is Psalms 117—that serves as a reminder that prayer should always be the center of our relationship to God.

Jesus said many things about prayer during his earthly ministry. One of the first things that He taught about praying was that God is aware of our needs and is willing to provide good things for those who ask Him (Matthew 6:32; 7:7-11). He also tells us of our need for prayer as protection against evil (Matthew 17:21).

The only time in scripture it is recorded that Jesus ever got  violent is when He threw over the tables and chairs of the merchants selling doves in the Temple of God while he screamed, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13). This is a warning to all who see church as a place of business instead of a place where even the poorest may feel welcome to worship God.

Jesus also gave an example of how we should pray. By following the example of the Lord’s prayer we ought to pray that God’s will be done in our lives, that He will provide for our daily needs, that He will forgive us our sins, and that He will deliver us from evil.

Jesus taught that God already knows what we need and there is no mystical value in chanting the same prayer numerous times to win favor with the Heavenly Father (Matthew 6:7-8). However, He was adamant that we should continue praying even during times when it seems like God isn’t going to provide us what we are asking. There may be many reasons that God might delay an answer to a specific request. Our prayers may be what God needs to make us ready to receive a special blessing: “And he spake unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not faint” (Luke 18:1).

Jesus himself spent entire nights in prayer to the Heavenly Father (Luke 6:12), and if He needed prayer to maintain His spiritual strength then how much more prayer do we need to maintain our spiritual life?

It is important to remember that God hears our prayers because of the blood that Jesus shed on the cross of Calvary. When we pray “in Jesus name” it is a reminder that God sent His beloved Son to die for our sins and to restore the fellowship that was lost because of disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Jesus commanded his disciples to pray in His name so they might receive the full blessings of prayer: “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive that your joy may be full”  ~John 16:24

~Stephen Beagles

 

Daily Bible Reading: A Basic Christian Habit

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” ~ Psalms 1:2

The King James Study Bible (1988) contains a statement in the beginning section, “How to Study the Bible”, that contains valuable insight into the best way to study the Holy Scriptures: “A great scientist and medical doctor, Dr. Howard A. Kelly (Professor of Gynecology at Johns Hopkins University from 1889 through 1940), was also an avid student of the Bible. He once said, ‘The very best way to study the Bible is simply to read it daily with close attention and with prayer to see the light that shines from its pages, to meditate upon it, and to continue to read it until somehow it works itself, its words, its expressions, its teachings, its habits of thought, and its presentation of God and His Christ into the very warp and woof of one’s being.’”

Some people might believe that only theologians benefit from actively studying scriptures; however the truth is that anyone who prayerfully reads the Bible and meditates upon its teachings will be impressed by the Holy Spirit concerning the truthfulness of God’s word. The same spirit that inspired the prophets will guide our hearts and minds as we seek the will of the Father in His beloved Son—Jesus Christ.

The mistake that many people make is thinking they have to understand everything they read in the Bible all at once. Many scholars and theologians have made understanding the scriptures a life-long pursuit and not one of them claims to know everything there is to know about Christian doctrine. It may take time for many of the Bible teachings to come into focus, but every time we spend a few minutes pondering over the meaning of a text we learn something new. Eventually, these small pieces information will come together to form a clear picture about God and His will for our salvation.

The Life Application Study Bible says, “Imagine reading a familiar passage of scripture and gaining fresh insight, as if it were the first time you had ever read it. How much richer your life would be if you left each Bible reading with a new perspective and a small change for the better. A small change every day adds up to a changed life—and that is the very purpose of Scripture” (2005, p. xvi).

Dr. Billy Graham, one of the most well known Christian evangelists of our time, wrote a Forward for the “What the Bible is all About Bible Handbook” written by Dr. Henrietta Mears, where he gives the following statistics about Bible reading in the end of the 20th Century: “The Bible, the greatest document available for the human race, needs to be opened, read, and believed. One survey indicated that only 12 percent of the people who said they believe the Bible actually read it every day; 34 percent read it only once a week, and 42 percent read it only once in a great while” (1998, p. 10).

If the church of the 21st Century wants to regain its spiritual power to influence the world then it needs to get back to what the Halley’s Bible Handbook calls “a basic Christian habit” (2000, p. 16). Christians not only need to read the bible regularly, but we also need to meditate upon its meaning and make a daily spiritual application of its teaching to our lives as individuals.

“Many Christians do not read the Bible regularly. Why? Because in the pressure of daily living they cannot find a connection between the timeless principles of Scripture and the ever-present problems of daily living” (Life Application, 2005, p. xv). This is why the Bible tells us to 1) Pay attention to the words of God; 2) Learn from the examples He has given to us; 3) Apply what we learn to our individual circumstances (Isaiah 42:23; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:4).

By reading the Bible regularly, by meditating upon its meaning, and by applying its teachings we allow the Holy Spirit to write the laws of God upon our heart (Hebrews 8:10) and our mind becomes one with Jesus Christ:  “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (Corinthians 2:16).

~Stephen Beagles