The Ancient Faith
Good Morning, Friends. This morning we are going to discuss a very important subject, “Prayer.” Perhaps there is no subject in the Bible that is more important than this one. Perhaps the most neglected of all Christian privileges’ is that of prayer. Prayer should be and must be a part of every Christian life. The Christian life just cannot be lived without prayer. We cannot live as God wants us to live and as we ought to live, without prayer. Prayer is a means of drawing upon the wisdom and riches of God. Prayer causes God to do things for us that He would not have done if we had not prayed. Prayer moves the hand that rules the universe. I like to think of prayer as being a means of writing a check on our bank account in heaven, and knowing the teller up there will honor that check; and we will receive the benefits from it. Isn’t it wonderful to know we can write a check on a bank whose resources are inexhaustible and never will give out? That is exactly what we do when we pray.
Prayer is the mightiest weapon we can find,
Prayer makes us patient, understanding, kind,
Helps us make right decisions, clears the mind,
Prayer changes things. `
Sense of God’s nearness stirs us when we pray,
Prayer strengthens us for duty day by day,
Transforms our lives, sheds light along the way,
Prayer changes things.
But prayer in the lives of so many people, if it has any place at all in their lives, has become a mere routine. By this I mean, they go to the religious meetings of the Church, sing about three songs and then have prayer. At which time they say a few memorized lines and then go their way to think no more of prayer until they attend another such service. That is just a routine, but it is not that way with the Christian.
The Christian enjoys prayer every day. The Christian often prays when there is no one around; when there is no listener but God. Jesus says in Matt. 6:6, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray unto thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” One of the grandest privileges given to Christians is prayer, but many go through this life and never learn they can call upon God. Hungering and thirsting within their souls because they do not ask His help in prayer. Thus they die spiritually, because they have not learned they can enjoy the blessings and the help of God if they will only ask Him.
A great many people misunderstand prayer and misuse it. It is quite a fad in the religious world for people to talk about “praying their sins away,” “praying through,” etc. Some people tell us they were saved by getting down beside their radio and praying while some man was preaching. Others tell us they were saved by praying while they were out in the cornfield, etc. In many religious services, “altar calls” are extended in which people are invited to come to the altar and pray for their sins to be remitted.
But we have a question we want you to consider with us in the light of God’s divine truth. All we know about anything in religion we must learn from the Bible. It is our authority. The question is, “Can the alien sinner pray his sins away?” Let us see if we can find a Bible answer. In general, there are but two classes of people; the Christian, and the sinner, those that are children of God and those that are not, those traveling the broad road to destruction and those traveling the narrow way to life. We have already learned in this lesson that the Christian not only can pray, but he must pray in order to live as God would have him live. God hears and answers the prayers of a Christian. Peter tells us in I Pet. 3:12, “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous and His ears are Mien unto their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.”‘ The question is, “Does God hear and answer an alien sinner’s prayer?” We turn to Prov. 28:9, and read from Solomon, “He that turneth his ear away from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” The admonition of this is, “God does not hear the prayer of the disobedient.” Inspiration records this statement in John 9:31, “Now we know that God heareth not sinners, ‘but if any man be a worshipper of God and doeth His will; him he heareth.” God hears and answers the prayers of those who do His will, but He does not hear the prayers of the sinner. Jesus says in Luke 6:46, “Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things I say.” Here the Master says, Why do you sing, pray, preach, and tell people how much you love Me and yet do not the things I command you? John tells, us in I John 3:22, “And whatsoever we ask of Him we receive, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” As long as the sinner refuses to obey God’s commands, he need not expect his prayers to be answered. Many other scriptures could be quoted on this subject, but these should suffice to prove to anyone that accepts the Bible as their rule of faith and practice, that God does not answer the sinner’s prayer.
But is there anything for which the sinner needs to pray? As taught in John 9:31, Matt. 7:21, he needs to become a doer of God’s will. What would he need to pray for anyway?
(1) Should he pray for light? He needs light in order to be saved, but does he need to pray for it? No! Our spiritual light comes from the Bible. It would be foolish for a person to close his eyes, to the sun and pray for God to give him physical light. It is equally as foolish for a person to close his eyes to the Bible, the Word of God, and pray for spiritual light David says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my pathway.” (Ps. 119:105).
(2) Does the sinner need to pray for grace? The salvation of everyone is dependent on the grace of God. Paul tells us we are saved by –grace through faith. (Eph. 2:8). But the sinner does not need to pray for grace because God’s grace has already been given to everyone: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation bath appeared to all men,” says Paul in Titus 2:11. It might be worthy of note that grace alone will not save a person. If grace alone will save a person then everybody in the world will be saved, because the grace of God that bringeth salvation bath appeared to all men.
(3) Should the sinner pray for faith? He must have faith. Faith Is so important that Paul says, “Without faith it is impossible to-please Him” (Heb. 11:6). Jesus said to a group of Jews: “For if ye believe not that am He, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). The Christian life begins with faith and-continues by faith. Faith is a pre-requisite of salvation. It is a plainly stipulated command. Paul said to the Philippian jailor, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ;” Acts 16:31. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews may be called the honor roll of faith. In this chapter, we have recorded some of the achievements of great men of old. The apostle is very careful to tell us they accomplished all these things by faith. If faith was essential then, it is more essential now. But the sinner does not need to pray for faith. Paul says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17). It seems from Paul’s statement here, that we obtain faith from a study of God’s word. We cannot pray for faith, because we must have faith before we can pray. James says, “Let him ask .in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven of the wind and tossed,” James 1:6.
(4) May the sinner pray for a pure heart? His heart must be purified. Jesus in His great Sermon on the Mount said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” But the sinner’s heart is not purified by prayer. The Apostle’ Peter in I Peter 1:22 says, “Seeing ye have ‘purified your hearts (souls) in obeying the Truth.”. The heart is purified by obeying the word of God and not by prayer.
(5) Does the sinner receive the new birth through prayer? In the third chapter of John, a Pharisee named Nicodemus carne to Jesus by night and Said, “Master, we know thou art a teacher come from God.” Jesus answered him by saying, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of. God.” This puzzled this -master in Israel, for he thought of it only in terms of a natural birth. He replied to Jesus, “How can a man be born again when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Except ye be born of water and of the Spirit,” said Jesus, “Ye cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Thus, we do not receive the new birth by prayer, but we are born of water and of the Spirit. It is not a birth without water, neither is it a birth without the Spirit. But it is a birth of water and the Spirit. The only place that water plays any part in our salvation is in baptism. -Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:16).
Thus we have learned this morning that prayer is a wonderful privilege given unto the Christian. But prayer is not God’s law of pardon to the sinner. Sinners cannot pray their sins away. They must obey the Gospel, be born of ‘water, and the spirit to become a child of God. Then, and only then do they have the promise that their prayers will be answered:
If it be argued that the prayers of Cornelius were answered before he was baptized, remember the Bible says, “His prayers went up as a memorial before God,” but his sins were not prayed away. The Bible does not say his prayers were answered; but rather they went up as a memorial before God. His sins were not prayed away because the angel commanded Cornelius to send for Peter and he would-tell him words whereby he and his house could be saved. (Acts 11:13).
I humbly ask you to consider these thoughts.
[From the booklet “FIFTEEN RADIO SERMONS”. This sermon was originally delivered over radio station WITS Bloomington, Indiana, from September 23rd through October 7th, 1951]