In the Old Testament the role of the Temple priest was an essential aspect to the religious life of the people. The priests were the ones set apart by God to care for the handling and the offering up of the sacrifices and love gifts to God.
In the New Testament the individual believer has been made a priest and is therefore responsible for the offering up of sacrifices. In 1 Peter 2:5 it says, “you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
As we strive to daily honor our calling as priests, our hearts attitude is of utmost importance. In 1 Samuel 2 it speaks of Eli the High Priest and his two sons Hophni and Phinehas who were officiating priest at the sanctuary of Shiloh. Verse two describes them saying, “Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord.” Verse 25 notes that because of their detestable acts the Lord sought to “put them to death.”
Clearly, how the sons of Eli presented themselves as priests and how they lived their lives before others counted highly to God. In like manner, the Lord calls us His followers, as New Testament priests to a higher standard. Thus, how we present our “spiritual sacrifices” before God matters a great deal to Him.
One aspect of our New Testament priesthood is to offer up prayers to God. Jesus says in Matthew 6:7 “when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do.” Rather, our prayers should be deep heartfelt offerings from the heart.
Some have difficulty putting time aside for prayer. Some deliberately avoid it. Why? Because it is not a priority to them. It is not important to them. It is not a vital aspect of their lives.
We know that most of those who fail to spend time with God in prayer find a way to get other things done in life. For instance, eating. How often have we gone to bed hungry simply because eating isn’t an important priority to us? How often have we gone to bed hungry because we forgot to eat? Once, twice, never? Apart from such things as opting to lose weight or fasting, somehow, most of us find a way to eat every day, 365 days a year.
As a nation, eating is so important to us that we have every conceivable food one could imagine. We have places serving hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, fried chicken, Chinese food, Italian food, Mexican food and the list goes on! We spend billions of dollars a year eating. Why? Because nourishing our bodies is very important to us.
Our commitment to eating underscores one simple fact. If something is important to us, we will find a way to accomplish the desired goal. Eating is important to us, thus we eat. Therefore, if prayer is important to us, we indeed shall pray.
Why is prayer important?
Simply put, prayer is communication with God. In marriage when couples stop communicating separation or divorce are potential outcomes. The same thing applies to God. If we stop communicating with God our relationship will be damaged as time passes. If we truly love someone we will spend time talking with them. As children of God, we will seek out our Father to spend time and communicate with Him.
Prayer affords us with the ability to communicate with God, but it also provides a means of spiritual nourishment. Food nourishes us physically, prayer nourishes us spiritually. Food encourages physical growth, prayer causes spiritual growth.
Commitment To The Task of Prayer
The true believer in Christ must commit themselves to the task of prayer. Committing oneself to someone or something involves the willful binding, pledging or obligating of oneself to a specific task or goal. Thus, commitment is the entering into something with the intention of offering up the best of what we have to offer.
A wonderful example of commitment to prayer is seen in Luke 6:12. There it says, “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.”
When the Lord prayed His effort was characterized by a handful of traits. First, the Lord was committed to privacy. Notice in verse 12 it says “He went out to the mountain.” He went to the mountain in part because it afforded Him with privacy. This in turn minimized potential distractions.
The Lord also committed His time. The passage says that He “continued all night in prayer.” Big decisions demand big prayers!
He also committed His faculties to the purpose of prayer. In 1 Peter 4:7 it says, “be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” He made certain that his attention was focused on one primary goal, prayer!
Lastly, the Lord committed His very essence to all that He did, especially prayer. In Deuteronomy 6:5 it says, “you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul and might.” Above all else, the Lord gave it His all.
Why was Christ committed to prayer? It was His a source of strength to Him.
David Brainerd, a truly godly missionary to the American Indians around 1740, was sighted in E.M. Bounds book “Power through Prayer.” There Bounds said, “Alone in the savage wild of America, struggling day and night with a mortal disease, unschooled in the care of souls, having access to the Indians for a large portion of time, only through the bungling medium of a pagan interpreter.”
David Brainerd, ministered to the hearts of the very people who desired to kill him. Through his work, thousands of Indians came to know the Lord as Savior.
Jonathan Edwards, the great New England preacher and close friend of Brainerd, explains how this was possible. Edwards said, “His life shows the right way to success in the works of the ministry. He sought it as the soldier seeks victory in a siege or battle; or as a man that runs a race for a great prize. Animated with love to Christ and souls, how did he labor? Always fervently. Not only in word and doctrine, in public and in private, but in prayers by day and night, wrestling with God in secret and travailing in birth with unutterable groans and agonies, until Christ was formed in the hearts of the people to whom he was sent.”
Who was this man? Was he some wise old sage that had learned how to pray effectively after years of service? No! In fact, he died at the young age of 29. David Brainerd was simply a young man that was totally committed to the task of prayer.
What about you? Have you committed our privacy, time, and faculties to prayer? Many of us have sung the hymn Sweet Hour of Prayer with great fervor, but have we ever spent a sweet hour in prayer?
Commitment To Faithful Prayer
Years ago, while watching Nightline with Ted Koppel, the program featured the Presidential Inaugural parties. While interviewing various people attending some of the parties, it was discovered that many people of importance attend these meetings for one reason–power! They hope to rub shoulders with the right people, people of power, people who can help increase their power.
Isn’t it a shame that so many people spend their time searching for power. It is unfortunate because little do they know that the greatest of all power can’t be found at these parties, but on their knees.
Truly the greatest power any of us may draw on is found when the true believer engages in faithful prayer before God.
In Matthew 21:21-22 it says, “So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.””
Christ used this occasion to teach His disciples about faithful prayer. There He established two conditions. The first through inference, if you doubt nothing great will happen through your prayers. The second, if you don’t doubt, great things shall happen through your prayers in accordance with God’s will.
In essence, Christ is saying, faithful prayers can do the impossible, and faithless prayers can do nothing! The Lord has made a promise. It is up to us to put it into action.
Commitment To Paying The Price of Answered Prayer
Far too often when we pray to God, we expect His answer to match our request. If our request is not met, we might be led to think that God has not answered our prayers. This is not so! God always answers our prayers, and sometimes, His answer is just the opposite of what we expect. Sometimes the depth of His answer is much greater than we desire.
In Luke 22:42 we see Jesus at Gethsemane just prior to the betrayal. He is very upset for He knows the events that will soon take place. With the pressure of the world on His shoulders, Christ prays, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
The cup Christ seeks to distance Himself from is the cross and all that led up to it. Clearly, He didn’t want to go through this most terrible of tasks and he wasn’t afraid to cry out to His Father about it. In fact He petitioned the Father three times requesting the cup be removed. The seriousness of this request was so great that Christ sweat drops of blood.
As much as the Lord seeks to avoid the cross, He had a higher calling, submitting His will to that of His Father even to the point of death. In Luke 22:43 the Lord validates this by saying, “not My will, but Yours, be done.” He put His Father’s interest above His own.
If we were called on to take Christ’s place on the cross, would we too say, “not My will, but Yours, be done?” Christ was committed to paying the price of answered prayer.
What was the price He paid? The cup included betrayal, humiliation, mocking, beatings, nailing to the cross, suffering on the cross, dying on the cross. Why? Because he prayed, “not my will, but thine be done.”
A man once told me how he had a burden for the people of India. He offered up many prayers for the salvation of the people. Little did he know the cost of answered prayer. God required the man to give up everything and go to India as a missionary himself.
Are you willing to pay the price of answered prayer? If you pray for patience, are you willing to suffer trials to develop that patience? If you pray for the lost souls in Africa, are you willing to go if God calls? If you desire to see greater numbers attend your church, are you willing to get involved in making this a reality?
In closing, as believers we must be committed to the task of prayer, to exercise faith when in the process and willing to pay the price of answered prayer.
John Bunyon once said, “When thou prayest, rather let thy heart be without words than thy words without heart.” Let our prayers be seasoned with heart for the Lord or remain silent.