“Devote yourselves to prayer…”
What is the most important thing a Christian does in his or her life of service to the Lord? What sets a Christian apart from everyone else in the world? These are questions that likely will get different answers from different people. Some might say that it is faith that sets our Christian life apart from others. Indeed, the scriptures make it very clear that without faith no one can be saved. Someone else might respond that a Christian is someone who obeys the commandments of God. Indeed, anyone who refuses to obey the commandments of God and lives in sin cannot be saved.
The Heidelberg Catechism, in Lord’s Day 45, says, “Prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness that God requires of us.” It teaches that prayer is really central to the life of every Christian. Someone who does not pray cannot be a Christian. When we read through the scriptures it becomes clear both in the Old and New Testaments how important prayer was in the lives of all God’s people. And yet too often prayer becomes a neglected part in the life of a Christian.
So, what is prayer? Prayer is entering into a conversation with the Lord God. There are many examples in the Scriptures of conversations that take place between God and his people. God speaks to his people through his word as he did when he spoke to the patriarchs, prophets, priests, and kings in Israel. When God spoke, his people responded to his word. We read about how Abraham wrestled with God in conversation, how Moses conversed with the Lord, and how various other prophets and kings, and even Jesus Christ, prayed to God. The psalmists cry out to God in times of distress, and at other times they praise God and give thanks to him. The theme throughout the Scriptures is that God’s people are constantly communicating with the Lord God in heaven. Without that communication there is no relationship with the Lord.
Prayer, therefore is really an expression of faith. You cannot pray without faith, for prayer looks to the Lord God in heaven with childlike trust. When you pray, you communicate to the Lord that you completely depend upon him for everything. Therefore, when you do not pray you clearly convey the message that you do not need the Lord in your life, and that you are able live without God in this world. When you pray in a spirit of humility, then you beseech the Lord for His presence in your life. Then you plead with the Lord for the wisdom and strength necessary to do his will to the glory of his name. Therefore it is your prayer life that really determines your relationship with the Lord God. Without prayer, you have no relationship with God, and when there is no relationship with the Lord, the reality is that you do not have life with God. Therefore, prayer is necessary for the Christian life.