Is Prayer Necessary?
Why Pray? Do our prayers matter? Can our prayers actually change things? Does God need us to pray or does He want us to pray? Can God’s will on earth be affected if we don’t pray? Might it be possible to change God’s mind by praying? Can we reduce another human’s suffering by praying or increase it by not praying? Just how important to God are our prayers?
These are all questions I have asked myself about prayer. I went to the Holy Bible to see what God has to say about praying and prayer because I believe the Bible is the Word of God set down in writing for all mankind. If there are any answers to these questions about prayer, that is where I believe I will find them.
How did Jesus handle prayer and praying? Jesus prayed often.
Matthew 14:23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.
Mark 1:35 Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.
Mark 6:46 And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray.
Luke 5:16 So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.
Luke 6:12 12 Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
Matthew 26:36-44; Mark 14:32-39; Luke 22:39-46 Matt 26:36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” 39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” 40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
Jesus’ prayers at Gethsemane strengthened Him to be able, as a human being, to knowingly suffer and physically die for us.
In Matthew 6 He gave His disciples and us a blueprint for prayer.
Matt 6:5-15 5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. 9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. 14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
In verse 8 of Matthew 6 we are told that God knows what things we need even before we ask.
If God is going to do something regardless of whether or not we pray, then He doesn’t need us to ask, so why pray? Does our all-powerful God need our involvement or not? Is prayer really necessary? If so, why?
If we go back to the very beginning, we see that God created Adam and Eve and gave them dominion over all the earth and all creation.
Genesis 1:26-28 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Psalms 8:3-8 3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? 5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, 7 All sheep and oxen— even the beasts of the field, 8 The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.”
The word “dominion” in verse 6 is from the Hebrew mashal #4910 in Strong’s. It means rule, govern, reign, have power over.
Adam was God’s manager-steward on the earth.
Psalms 115:16 16 The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s; but the earth He has given to the children of men.
God assigned responsibility of governing the earth to humanity.
Genesis 2:15 15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
The word “keep” is from the Hebrew word shamar #8104 in Strong’s. It means to guard, protect, attend to, preserve and watch.
Adam was God’s guardian or watchman on earth.
The earth was Adam’s assignment. It was under Adam’s care. He was the watchman/guardian of all the earth. How things went on earth – for better or worse – depended on Adam and his descendants. If the earth was a paradise, it would be because of humankind. If Satan gained control, it would be because of humankind. Humanity was initially in charge of the earth.
So what does all this have to do with prayer and whether or not it is necessary?
God chose, from the beginning, to work in the earth through humans – not independent of them – even at the cost of becoming one of us. Even though God is sovereign and all- powerful, Scripture clearly shows He chose to limit Himself concerning the affairs of the earth by working through humans. So complete and final was Adam’s authority over the earth that Adam had the ability to give it away or deliver it to another. He “delivered” it to Satan, the prince of this world when he chose to believe him instead of God.
Luke 4:5-7 5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”
Satan said that he had the authority to give control of the world to anyone he wished to. He offered it to Jesus if Jesus would worship him. If Adam didn’t hand over his authority to Satan, where did Satan get this authority?
John 12:31 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. John 14:30 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. John 16:8-11 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Satan is referred to as “the ruler of this world”. In Luke 4:6 Lucifer tells Jesus that the authority over the kingdoms of the world was delivered to him.
It cost God to regain what Adam gave away. Jesus had to become a human and die a humiliating death on the cross for our sins in order to reconcile us back to the Father.
John 3:16-17 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Could it be that the earth is in such a mess because of God’s decision to work and carry out His will through people? Could our lack of prayer be the reason it is in such a mess? Could we be a necessary and crucial part of the work of God on earth?
Matthew 6:10-11 God tells us to ask for His kingdom to come, His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. He tells us to ask for our daily bread. Matthew 9:38 He tells us to ask for laborers to be sent into the harvest.
Aren’t these things already God’s will? Why does He ask us to ask Him for something He already wants to do if it not that somehow – our asking—our prayers—releases Him to do it?
In 1Kings 18 we find God using Elijah to accomplish His will through prayer.
Elijah prays for rain after 3 years of drought. God tells Elijah, “Go, present yourself to Ahab; and I will send rain on the earth. (1Kings 18:1)
So what did Elijah do? He didn’t just sit around and wait for God to send the rain, he prayed seven times before it rained.
1Kings 18:42-45 42 So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees. 43 Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.” The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.” Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. 44 Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’” 45 And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel.
Elijah travailed in prayer seven times before God sent the rain.
If it was God’s idea to send the rain, why did it take a human’s prayers to produce it? I think it was because God’s power to send the rain was released when Elijah prayed. For whatever reason known only to God, He has chosen to work through people – even when it is His idea and He earnestly desires it, He still wants us to ask.
Could our having free will have something to do with God wanting us to ask before doing His will? God does not force anything on anyone. He always gives us a choice. We are free to pray and free not to pray – but by not praying things always seem to get worse for us and for others. Could it be possible that our prayers are so powerful that we give God permission to intervene in our lives and the lives of others – to bypass free will? Since God is a gentleman and does not force anything on us against our will, our asking gives Him permission, if you will, to intervene and do great things – things He wants to do anyway if we would only ask.
We learn something else through this example. Elijah prayed seven times before God sent the rain. We must persevere in prayer and not give up too soon.
These concepts are also demonstrated in Daniel 9 where Daniel discovered that is was time for Israel’s 70-year captivity to end. Did he sit around and wait for it to happen? No, he prayed.
Daniel 9:1-6 1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. 3 Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. 4 And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. 6 Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land.
Maybe Daniel knew God wanted his involvement. Daniel realized prayer had a part to play in bringing the prophecy to pass. When it was time for its fulfillment, God did not do it without Daniel’s prayers. Through Daniel’s prayers, God made His decision.
Andrew Murray, a minister and a prolific Christian author in the early part of the 20th century wrote in his book “The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer”, “God’s giving is inseparably connected with our asking…. Only by intercession can that power be brought down from heaven which will enable the Church to conquer the world.”
Did you know that Moses changed God’s mind through his prayers?
When the children of Israel sinned with the golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the 10 Commandments, they not only built a golden calf that they worshipped but they also credited that golden calf with leading them out of Egypt. God was very angry with them.
Exodus 32:10 10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”
God told Moses basically that He was fed up with the Israelites and He had decided to destroy them and start all over with Moses. Did Moses meekly accept God’s decision and embrace his new standing? No he didn’t. He prayed and interceded for the Israelites.
Exodus 32:31-32 31 Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! 32 Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”
Moses offered himself in place of the sinning Israelites.
Exodus 32:33 And the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.
God’s response was to spare the Israelites punishing only those who sinned. Sin still carried consequences. He did not destroy all the Israelites and start over with Moses. Moses changed God’s mind with his prayers.
Ezekiel 22:23-29 23 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 24 “Son of man, say to her: ‘You are a land that is not cleansed or rained on in the day of indignation.’ 25 The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured people; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst. 26 Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27 Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. 28 Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD had not spoken. 29 The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger.
That pretty much sounds like the world today. God is not preached. His laws and statutes are not taught. Christianity is viewed as a profit-making business not a soul-winning ministry. Christians live like the unsaved people around them – rarely can you tell the difference. The shepherds are decimating and fleecing their flocks instead of leading them. The occult is flourishing everywhere you look - it is even accepted by some who call themselves by Christ’s name.
Ezekiel 22:30-31 30 So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. 31 Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord GOD.
God was looking for someone, anyone, to pray for the people – to stand in the gap – to intercede for them. Since no one stepped forward to act as an intercessor – to pray for the people—God judged them. What this tells me is that God could not just excuse sin. As Dutch Sheets put it in his book “Intercessory Prayer”, Sin must be judged. However, God’s love wanted to offer mercy. God is not only holy, but He is also love. His love desires to redeem, restore and show mercy, but because God couldn’t find anyone to pray for forgiveness, His judgment prevailed and the people were destroyed.
Ezek. 33:11 tells us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
God’s justice demands judgment because his holiness, integrity and uncompromising truth prevents Him from simply excusing sin. His love wants to give forgiveness. Had He been able to find a human to ask Him to spare the people, He could have spared them. It would have allowed Him to show mercy. Because He found no one to stand in the gap – to intercede for the people—His justice required judgment and they were punished.
The implication is that we have a responsibility and duty to pray for others – to intercede for them. Is it possible the condition of this world is so bad because there are not enough of God’s people praying for it? Have we been led into Christian fatalism – accepting everything that happens as God’s will and not going to God and talking to Him about it? Are we so apathetic that we just idly sit by and let evil reign unopposed by our prayers to God to intervene and change things. He is the only one who can change things and people. He is our only hope. We can’t do it ourselves and we can’t just idly sit by and let it happen to our loved ones and everyone else in the world! We have to pray!
Although He doesn’t need our help, it seems to me, that for whatever reason, God wants us to work alongside with Him and we do that when we pray. His power is released when we pray.
He has given His children an incredible invitation to be co- laborers with Him. We do it not by might or power or physical or mental ability—we do it with prayer. What an awesome privilege! What an awesome responsibility! We have been given a job to do. Our job as Christians is to pray -- for ourselves, for each other, for the lost and unsaved, for the world, for the church, against Satan, against evil, against sin. The list goes on and on. We are commanded to pray about everything.
Philippians 4:6-7 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
We are to pray without ceasing. 1Thessalonians 5:17
Prayer IS necessary. It is necessary for us and necessary for God's power to be released. It is as necessary for us as is breathing -- maybe even more so. God wants His children to pray. He wants us to stand in the gap and pray for this world and those in it. Our prayers are the only true defense mankind has against any form of evil. Our prayers allow God to by-pass man’s free will and intervene in our lives and the lives of others. There is no more powerful weapon offensive or defensive in our arsenal than prayer.
So let us pray. Let us oppose evil in all its manifestations with our prayers. Let us do our part as co-workers with God in releasing His power through our prayers for the benefit of all mankind. Let us be the ones who stand in the gap.
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