WHY PRAYER MATTERS, by Roland A. Aguirre

DO YOU FEEL life is empty—everything seems senseless and nothing keeps you going? Or do you feel abandoned, alone and afraid because of the cycle of violence and devastation around you? Do you have pressing needs and inner longings but don’t know what to do? When things like these happen, we need to pray and trust in its efficacy.

However, today’s fast-paced life has diminished, if not completely dissolved, some people’s trust in what prayer can do; hence, because of their hectic schedules and multifarious tasks, they are too busy, focused on their jobs and have no time to pray. Even worse, praying—which is the way we can connect and communicate with God—has become a forgotten part in many people’s lives as they give priority to their worldly needs and concerns.

Ironically, this is happening at a time when tremendous advances in communication technology have led to increased worldwide connectivity. Using the Internet, cellphones, fax machines, laptops, and the like has become a way of life in the 21st century and has enabled millions of people from across the globe to become more interconnected than ever before. Now, you can have the choice of sending a text message or an email, uploading your own video on YouTube, broadcasting your online presence on social networking websites such as FacebookMultiply, or Friendster, etc. So with such instantaneous, world-shrinking communication, have people chosen to reach out among themselves and forgotten about God?

From the point of view of faith, although, the “information superhighway” is getting wider and longer, bridging more people the world over and changing lives dramatically, it should not overwhelm us or adversely affect prayer, our very vital link to God. Given the extreme busyness, rapid progress, and complexities of life, we need to realize that there is no substitute for prayer.

Finding time to pray

We should always find time to pray, however busy or preoccupied we are. By praying we make our needs and requests known to God:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.” (Phil. 4:6, New King James Version)

And as we live in this world where the minds of people are “full of evil and madness” (Eccles. 9:3, Today’s English Version), we need to pray all the more for God’s abiding love and protection. The prophet Isaiah also foretold what will torment mankind in these last days:

“… But they will see nothing but trouble and darkness, terrifying darkness into which they are being driven. There will be no way for them to escape from this time of trouble. …” (Isa 8:22, 9:1, Ibid.)

Undeniably, all kinds of troubles continue to ravage many countries: wars, epidemics, high inflation, social inequalities, environmental disasters, among others, making life miserable.

On the other hand, no matter how comfortable our lives and no matter how charmed our existence may be, things, at times, will still go wrong as we journey in this complicated world. Eventually, we need to call on God.

Hence, in the face of either unpleasant or pleasant circumstances, praying really matters, not having prayerless lives. In other words, amid the hustle and bustle of everyday living because of cutting-edge technology, we should never forget to communicate with God, establishing a regular time with Him each day through prayer.

Answered prayer

God, indeed, is our “refuge and strength” and “a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1, NKJV) and His ears are open to our cry and supplications (Ps. 34:15; 31:22). Nevertheless, we must understand that it is not only praying to God that matters; who does the praying matters as well. Being heard by God in their prayer is a privilege that He has given to His people. It is predicated on God’s calling or election:

“… They will call on my name, And I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; And each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God’.” (Zech. 13:9, NKJV)

Therefore, one must first belong to God’s chosen people so that his calls on Him will be granted. In the Christian Era, our Lord Jesus Christ declared who they are—the chosen ones who have been given the right and privilege to worship and pray to Him (Christ) and to our Lord God:

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16, Ibid.)

He likened them to branches joined to the vine:

“I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without me.” (John 15:5, Contemporary English Version)

Christ is the vine and His chosen ones are His branches. Analogous to the relationship of the vine to the branches is the relationship of the head to the body—the head being referred to is our Lord Jesus Christ and the body is His Church (Col 1:18).

The Church being referred to here whose members Christ has redeemed with His blood is the Church of Christ:

“Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, t feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.” (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation)

Undoubtedly, the Bible testifies that the members of the Church of Christ have received a very great blessing—they can confidently approach God—because they very well know that He sees their needs and hears their cry (Ps 31:22). Hence, in the pain of struggle of living in this world, they can always find comfort in Him.

Obedience and patient trust

However, just as there are unanswered prayers too, even if the ones praying are God’s chosen ones. The Bible attests to their disappointment when their prayers are unreciprocated (Ps. 77:2-3). This is so because they ignore God’s advice; thus, during calamities and disasters He says, “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me” (Prov. 1:28, New International Version).

And so, whenever we receive God’s message or advice during the congregational worship service, we should not ignore them. Instead, we should follow all of them.

Obeying all His commandment will ensure God’s favorable response to the calls of His righteous servants. His statement concerning the importance of obedience is unequivocally stated:

“But I did command them to obey me, so that I would be their God and they would be my people. And I told them to live the way I had commanded them, so that things would go well for them.” (Jer. 7:23, TEV)

Refusal to comply with God’s commandments is the reason things turn for the worse in man’s life—and or Him to reject his requests. Even King David wrestled with the problem of unanswered prayer when he declared:

“HOW long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” (Ps. 13:1, NKJV)

“I spend the night in deep thought; I mediate, and this is what I ask myself: ‘Will the Lord promise no longer stand? Has always reject us? Will he never again be pleased with us? Has he stopped loving us? Does his promi6-9, TEV)

Yet, in the end, David’s fears and doubts turned to trust and faith in God when he averred, “But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation” (Ps. 13:5, NKJV).

Indeed, obedience and patient trust in God are important qualities that His people should possess so that He will not withhold His answers to their supplications. They should never complain or become impatient and lose hope if their prayers are not immediately answered:

“When we suffer, we should sit alone in silent patience; We should bow in submission, for there may still be hope. … The Lord is merciful and will not reject us forever. He may bring us sorrow, but his love for us is sure and strong. He takes no pleasure in causing us grief or pain.” (Lam. 3:28-29, 31-33, TEV)

Clearly, the Lord God is very eager and willing to help solve all the worries and provide all the needs of His chosen people:

“And yet the LORD is waiting to be merciful to you. He is ready to take pity on you because he always does what is right. Happy are those who put their trust in the LORD. … The LORD is compassionate, and when you cry to him for help, he will answer you. The Lord will make you go through hard times, but he himself will be there to teach you, and you will not have to search for him anymore. If you wander off the road to the right or the left, you will hear his voice behind you saying, ‘Here is the road. Follow it’.” (*Isa. 30:18-21, Ibid.)

Taking refuge in prayer

We should emulate God’s first servants who relied on the power of prayer in their lives when they were beleaguered with worries and troubles.

  • Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed to the One who can save Him (Heb. 5:7, NIV). We must follow Christ in being prayerful: He “offered up prayers and petitions.” He also prayed fervently as He entreated God “with loud cries and tears.” Thus, God granted His requests not only because of the above qualities but because of His faith and “reverent submission.” If Christ, who was endowed abundantly by God with great qualities and power, firmly believed in the value of prayer, shouldn’t we as well?
  • King David prayed when he was experiencing grave anxieties (Ps. 69: 16-20, NKJV). He drew near to God and said, Hear me, O LORD, for Your lovingkindness is good … And do not hide Your face from Your servant, For I am in trouble; Hear me speedily. … Deliver me because of my enemies.” King David firmly believed that no matter how numerous and grave the problems servants of God experience, all of them can be easily solved by Him. Like David, shouldn’t we plead to God to have mercy on us and to not refuse our entreaties, in these times of adversity and severe hardship?
  • The prophet Jeremiah prayed for the people’s deliverance in spite of sin(Jer. 14:7-9 TEV). He prayed, “Even though our sins accuse us, LORD, as you have promised. We have turned away from you many times … We are your people; do not abandon us.” When Jeremiah felt the heavy burden brought about by the Israelites’ sins against God, he made them acknowledge their sins and begged God not to abandon them. Let us neither hid our sins from God nor make excuses. Like Jeremiah, shouldn’t we implore Him not to abandon us, even if we fall into sin?
  • Apostle Paul prayed unceasingly for the welfare of the Church (Col. 1:9-12, NIV). He asked for knowledge of God’s will and strength, so that members of the Church “may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father” and that they “may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way.” He did pray for these to ensure that members of the Church remained strong in the faith and walk worthily before the Lord. This is also the aim and spirit of the present Church Administration in order to make sure that we will be worthy of the promised salvation come Judgment Day. Shouldn’t we care also for our brethren in the faith by praying for them?

Constant prayer

We must not give up praying—constantly doing it. It does not mean though that we should use vain repetitions (Matt. 6:7). Rather, we should keep our pleadings persistently before God, believing He will answer them. It comes as no surprise then that Christ told His disciples to always pray and never become discouraged (Luke 18:1).

If at times we ask God something and then receive no answer, this does not immediately mean He is saying no or that He no longer cares. We just need to keep on praying. We just have to trust that amid troubles and tribulations, He will answer our prayers—in His way, in His time:

“Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Ps. 62:8, NKJV)

“Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled … Return, O LORD, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake! … The LORD will receive my prayer.” (Ps. 6:2-4, 9, Ibid.)