Today we continue our study of prayer. Young men many times learn to pray by listening to older men pray publicly, sometimes “copying” phrases that are used.
This is why instruction on how to pray is necessary. If phrases are used without thought as to what they mean then they become “vain repetitions”. John T. Hinds once wrote, “Those who depend upon vain repetitions either do it to be heard of men, or imagine that by a profusion of words they can better plead their cause before the Lord. The former is hypocrisy, the latter is folly. Infinite intelligence does not need to be told of man’s condition; that is known before man speaks. Complimentary expressions or trying to inform God with our ‘much speaking’ is wholly inconsistent with His nature and the purpose of prayer. Then a realization of deep need brings from hearts the repletion of appropriate expressions, nothing is more scriptural, but vain and meaningless words merit the condemnation of God and the disgust of men” (Annual Lesson Commentary October 21, 1934, page 274).
Prayers are to be said with faith and conviction whether they are public or private prayers. If a person has no faith in the one to whom the prayer is being offered then it is useless. James wrote, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5 – 8). The person who offers up a prayer with doubt that it will be heard must first work on their faith or else their prayers are useless.
Faith is a must if prayers are to be answered. A story is told of a group of Christians who lived long ago in an area that was suffering a terrible drought. It was decided that on a certain day all the men of the congregation would gather at the meeting house and pray for rain. The appointed day came and as the men were gathering an old Christian gentleman rode up on his horse, dismounted and proceeded to unsaddle his horse. The other men began to question him as to why he was taking off the saddle. His response was one of faith He said, “We’re praying for rain, ain’t we?” This is the conviction needed for acceptable prayer. The person who battles with his faith is unstable. He can never understand the peace of God because his doubt will not let him.
This person must go to the Bible and learn the whole truth of God so that his faith can develop and then he can pray. In the model prayer Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11).
This implies trust in God to provide through ordinary means He has ordained that we can be supplied with what is needed.