Prayer is a "Must"
“Must” is a strong word. It implies necessity—almost as if the option to refrain from something has been taken off the table. And when it comes to prayer, the language of must is appropriate.
A statement like “we should pray” sounds good, but falls short in communicating the necessity of prayer for God’s children. Prayer is a must because of what we stand to lose if we neglect to pray—both privately and corporately. I hope you see the following truths are too important to be lost. Therefore, we must pray.
What’s at Stake?
God being glorified with our lives. “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). Our Father in heaven is glorified when we ask. He responds to our asking in such a way that makes Him look glorious, precious, and trust-worthy. God answering our prayers isn’t the only way He is glorified in our lives, but it is truly one of the most important ways.
The lost being converted to Christ. We must pray for the lost to be converted to Christ. Paul shows us his focus in prayer when dealing with those who are separated from Jesus. “Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1). We must intercede on behalf of the lost—for God to have mercy and remove the blinders the enemy has on them that prevents them from seeing the glory of Christ.
You will lack what you need. “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2b). We are a fragile people—weak and prone to wander away from our Savior. Faced with daily temptations to sin, in need of strength constantly, and desperate for wisdom, we can’t afford to not ask. Prayer brings God’s favor, blessing, and wisdom into our lives. Each new day brings trials and challenges, many of which that come as a surprise, that we need to be prepared for. Neglecting prayer leaves us vulnerable as we face these challenges. But faithfulness in prayer enables the Lord to pour out what we need when we need it.
Joy. “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). The Christian life is one of joy, pleasure, and fulfillment. But it doesn’t automatically come as we silently sit on our hands. We must pursue it—and this is primarily done through prayer. Chances are, if a follower of Christ is joy-less, they are often prayer-less too.
Prayer prepares the way of the gospel and creates opportunities for the good news to be proclaimed. “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you,” (2 Thess. 3:1). The effectiveness of evangelism has little to do with how eloquent we are when sharing the gospel message. But it has everything to do with prayer. Prayer pushes back the powers of darkness and prepares the hearts of those who hear about Christ.
“At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison” (Col. 4:3). We won’t have to force conversations about the gospel when we pray that the Lord will open doors for us to share. When prayer precedes our evangelistic efforts, we are more likely to share the truth with clarity and power.
So our churches will experience peace, growth, and victory. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, (2) for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). The bride of Christ, the Church, is God’s chosen way to be represented on the earth. And a church that prays will represent Him more truthfully and powerfully. Without prayer, a church is prone to be divided, encounters unnecessary difficulties, and leaves the door open for the enemy to create controversy that causes it to misrepresent their God.
Being a slave to fear. “And also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, (20) for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:19-20). Gospel proclamation takes boldness—even for the Apostle Paul. A lack of commitment to prayer will result in a fear of sharing the gospel. Cowardice creeps into the church and individual who fails to labor in prayer. When opportunities arise for the gospel to be shared, you will always find a reason not to. On the other hand, a commitment to prayer leads to sharing the gospel with boldness and passion. Our world desperately needs to see believers point to the work of Christ with passion, authority, and boldness. Prayer makes it possible.
So those oppressed by demons and darkness will be set free. “And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29). The enemy does not play fair. He exploits the weaknesses of believers and often seems to take advantage of those who struggle with mental and emotional health. But victory comes through prayer. God responding to the cries of His people crushes the enemy and causes him to flee. But we must cry out. Without prayer, we allow the powers of darkness to oppress God's people. Through prayer, we have the authority to make them stop.
The Struggle is Real
Believers have struggled with prayer as long as they have been commanded to pray. Peter, James, and John fell asleep in Gethsemane, and when it comes to prayer, it seems as if God’s children have joined them in taking a nap. Most of our struggles with prayer can be traced to misconceptions we hold concerning God. For some reason, we doubt God’s goodness and struggle to believe He is listening when we pray. At some level, we have misconceptions about God’s nearness, involvement, and care concerning our lives.
But Jesus’ exhortation to pray in the Gospel of Luke should deliver us from any misconceptions we may find ourselves clinging to. “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (10) For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (11) What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; (12) or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? (13) If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:9-13).
The truth spoken by Christ in this text enables us to view prayer as a must. It makes prayer exciting because it promises us that our prayers will get answered! Maybe not in the way we anticipate, but God promises He will pour out His Spirit on those who persistently pray.
A Part of Something Bigger
Prayer joins our hearts and lives to what God is doing in our church, our community, and in the world. Every person has a desire to be a part of something important—something bigger than themselves. Prayer makes this possible. Prayer takes us from being on the outside looking in and places us right in the middle of God’s redeeming work. It gives our life purpose and extreme significance. When we neglect prayer, we forfeit our lives having deep and meaningful purpose. It pushes us to find that purpose in the world—apart from God. And it won’t work—at least not for long. What sports, hobbies, money, power, and work will never bring—true importance and soul-satisfying purpose—can be found when we bend our knees and bow our heads in prayer. If there is anything under the sun that is truly a must, it is prayer.