The Scriptures and Prayer
A prayerless Christian is a contradiction in terms. Just as a still-born child is a dead one, so a professing believer who does not pray is devoid of spiritual life. Prayer is the breath of the new nature in the saint, as the Word of God is its food. When the Lord would assure the Damascus disciple, Ananias, that Saul of Tarsus had been truly converted, he told him, "Behold, he prayeth" (Acts 9:11). On many occasions had that self-righteous Pharisee bowed his knees before God and gone through his "devotions", but this was the first time he had ever really prayed. This important distinction needs emphasizing in this day of powerless forms (2 Tim. 3:5). They who content themselves with formal addresses to God know him not; for "the spirit of grace and supplications" (Zech. 12:10) are never separated. God has no dumb children in his regenerated family: ‘shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him?" (Luke 18:7). Yes, "cry" unto him, not merely ‘say" their prayers.
But will the reader be surprised when the writer declares it is his deepening conviction that, probably, the Lord’s own people sin more in their efforts to pray than in connection with any other thing they engage in? What hypocrisy there is, where there should be reality! What presumptuous demands, where there should be submissiveness! What formality, where there should be brokenness of heart! How little we really feel the sins we confess, and what little sense of deep need for the mercies we seek! And even where God grants a measure of deliverance from these awful sins, how much coldness of heart, how much unbelief, how much self-will and self-pleasing have we to bewail! Those who have no conscience upon these things are strangers to the spirit of holiness.
Now the Word of God should be our directory in prayer. Alas, how often we have made our own fleshly inclinations the rule of our asking. The Holy Scriptures have been given to us "that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:17). Since we are required to "pray in the Spirit" (Jude 20), it follows that our prayers ought to be according to the Scriptures, seeing that he is their Author throughout. It equally follows that according to the measure in which the Word of Christ dwells in us "richly" (Col. 3:16)or sparsely, the more or the less will our petitions be in harmony with the mind of the Spirit, for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34). In proportion as we hide the Word in our hearts, and it cleanses, moulds and regulates our inner man, will our prayers be acceptable in God’s sight. Then shall we be able to say, as David did in another connection, "Of thine own have we given thee" (1 Chron. 29:14).