Prayer – The Soul of Religion

Everyone who has a relationship with God, as a personal, caring heavenly Father, and with His Son as a personal, loving Savior will have joy of heart and peace that flows like a river. (I Peter 1:8; Isaiah 48:18.) Their prayer will be a two-way connection with heaven. They can move mountains and they know the God of heaven and His Son face to face. It is God’s invitation, so why do so many of us fail to realize it in our lives? “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3.

We could list a few things that are essential to a meaningful walk with God, but as those who enjoy a real and abundant connection with heaven will testify, a vital connection is sustained only when our mind is locked into the mind of Christ. God is faithful and eager to establish that kind of relationship with you and with me. So what can we do to make that blessing ours?

Essentially, the list may be reduced to two items: do what we know to be right and commune with God. It is this last point we wish to make the focus of our discussion today.

A powerful and rewarding conscious contact with the most Supreme Being of the universe is prayer. We may pray to God at any time and under any circumstance. It can move the hand of Omnipotence, bring you through a trial you thought had no resolution, and strengthen your sense of shelter and protection in a world filled with many a danger, and strengthen your bond, love, and unity with your best and most faithful Friend. It will be found that as we develop this vital connection with the Creator, we will see that our prayer has become “the soul of our religion.” How do we find and sustain that kind of prayer?

The Vitality of Prayer

“Do not neglect secret prayer, for it is the soul of religion. With earnest, fervent prayer, plead for purity of soul. Plead as earnestly, as eagerly, as you would for your mortal life, were it at stake. Remain before God until unutterable longings are begotten within you for salvation, and the sweet evidence is obtained of pardoned sin.

“The hope of eternal life is not to be received upon slight grounds. It is a subject to be settled between God and your own soul—settled for eternity. A supposed hope, and nothing more, will prove your ruin. Since you are to stand or fall by the word of God, it is to that word you must look for testimony in your case. There you can see what is required of you to become a Christian. Do not lay off your armour, or leave the battlefield until you have obtained the victory, and triumph in your Redeemer.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 163, 164.

“I have frequently seen that the children of the Lord neglect prayer, especially secret prayer, altogether too much; that many do not exercise that faith which it is their privilege and duty to exercise, often waiting for that feeling which faith alone can bring. Feeling is not faith; the two are distinct. Faith is ours to exercise, but joyful feeling and the blessing are God’s to give. The grace of God comes to the soul through the channel of living faith, and that faith it is in our power to exercise.” Early Writings, 72.

Just as vital prayer will never happen without surrender to God and obedience to His word, it follows that, “All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us.” The Desire of Ages, 668.

What an unfathomable joy and privilege is ours to be linked with God in this manner, that when obeying Christ we are actually doing the things we want to do and enjoy doing! To know Him personally like this, is to know Him as a personal friend. (John 6:40, 46.). If we are finding the pull of the carnal heart a strong opposing influence, the honest Christian will pray for the change of heart, “Lord, take out of me the heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh. Give me a heart to know you and put your Spirit in me that I may not desire iniquity. Then when the devil comes to me like a flood there will be nothing in me that will desire his pleasures.” (Ezekiel 36:26, 27; Isaiah 59:19, last part.)

It takes time to change the carnal heart, to form new habits and new interests. By beholding we become changed, the righteousness of God being revealed from faith to faith. (11 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 1:17.) Those who are justified by the blood of Jesus will see the light on their path shine more and more unto the perfect day. (Proverbs 4:18.) They grow more like Him as, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they overcome every defect of character. (Zechariah 4:6.). God will give you the desires of your heart and if Christ’s likeness is what you seek, God will work in you to will and to do of His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12, 13.) However, if the pleasures of the world are your interest, God will leave you to pursue your interests. Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened to you, seek and ye shall find. (Matthew 7:7.) Ye shall find Him when ye search for Him with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13.) Remember, what Jesus was, we may become, transformed into the image of the Son of God.

The way we relate to God and His Son will strengthen our unity with them. (John 14:23; 17:20–23.) So how does prayer contribute to that relationship? “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. The eye of faith will discern God very near, and the suppliant may obtain precious evidence of the divine love and care for him.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 533.

Prayer—When in Distress

Sometimes the mountains in our lives are physical; we may be faced with a task that seems to demand more physical output than we have in reserve and we feel mentally and physically exhausted. Sometimes the mountains are spiritual. Every soul faces temptations, which if resisted, will bring the ire of the demonic realm upon us and hardship, or persecution may result. Here is where prayer can move the arm of Omnipotence. Has an all loving God given us a formula for dealing with these otherwise insurmountable difficulties? We are not left to face the trial alone.

“In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bore them, and carried them all the days of old.” Isaiah 63:9. Look at His promise and believe.

“For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he asked for shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he requested.

“Therefore I say unto you, Whatsoever things ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive [them], and ye shall have [them].” Mark 11:24.

“Without faith, [it is] impossible to please Him.” Hebrews 11:6. Where does that kind of faith come from, the kind that moves mountains? From everyday surrender, obedience and prayer, coupled with a knowledge of and a love for God’s Word. It builds a history of exercising faith in God on everyday matters. As we get to know Him and trust Him, we understand Him and how He works. We learn how to align ourselves with His methods. Seeing Him ‘face to face’ we behold Him and grow more like Him. (II Corinthians 3:18.)

“The Lord will teach us our duty just as willingly as He will teach somebody else. If we come to Him in faith, He will speak His mysteries to us personally. Our hearts will often burn within us as One draws nigh to commune with us as He did with Enoch. Those who decide to do nothing in any line that will displease God, will know, after presenting their case before Him, just what course to pursue. And they will receive not only wisdom, but strength. Power for obedience for service, will be imparted to them, as Christ has promised.” The Desire of Ages, 668.

“The strength acquired in prayer to God, united with individual effort in training the mind to thoughtfulness and care-taking, prepares the person for daily duties and keeps the spirit in peace under all circumstances, however trying. The temptations to which we are daily exposed make prayer a necessity. In order that we may be kept by the power of God through faith, the desires of the mind should be continually ascending in silent prayer for help, for light, for strength, for knowledge. But thought and prayer cannot take the place of earnest, faithful improvement of the time. Work and prayer are both required in perfecting Christian character.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 459.

“I asked the angel why there was no more faith and power in Israel. He said, ‘Ye let go of the arm of the Lord too soon. Press your petitions to the throne, and hold on by strong faith. The promises are sure. Believe ye receive the things ye ask for, and ye shall have them.’ ” Early Writings, 73.

There will be moments when the earnest follower of Jesus Christ will “feel” nearer to the Saviour than on other occasions. “At times a deep sense of our unworthiness will send a thrill of terror through the soul; but this is no evidence that God has changed toward us, or we toward God. No effort should be made to rein the mind up to a certain intensity of emotion. We may not feel today the peace and joy which we felt yesterday; but we should by faith grasp the hand of Christ, and trust Him as fully in the darkness as in the light.” Messages to Young People, 111, 112.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6–7.

There is no escaping the fact we live in perilous times. Satan is working tirelessly to strike terror into the hearts of men. When filled with fear, the mind can become confused, quite irrational, and easily persuaded by whatever control mechanism he wants to employ. The terror stricken heart will then conform to anything that brings relief.

Trusting in the devil’s methods brings a short-lived respite, for the end is sure destruction. While the unbelieving may not think so, Christ’s methods have a guaranteed deliverance. Contrary to the experience of he who knows not God, the faithful believer will have a history of proving the goodness of God in their lives. “The Lord says, ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble.’ Psalm 50:15. He invites us to present to Him our perplexities and necessities, and our need of divine help. He bids us be instant in prayer. As soon as difficulties arise, we are to offer to Him our sincere, earnest petitions. By our importunate prayers we give evidence of our strong confidence in God. The sense of our need leads us to pray earnestly, and our heavenly Father is moved by our supplications.

“Often those who suffer reproach or persecution for their faith are tempted to think themselves forsaken by God. In the eyes of men they are in the minority. To all appearances their enemies triumph over them. But let them not violate their conscience. He who has suffered in their behalf, and has borne their sorrows and afflictions, has not forsaken them.

“The children of God are not left alone and defenseless. Prayer moves the arm of Omnipotence. Prayer has ‘subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire’—we shall know what it means when we hear the reports of the martyrs who died for their faith—and ‘turneth to flight the armies of the aliens (enemy). Hebrews 11:33, 34.’

“If we surrender our lives to His service, we can never be placed in a position for which God has not made provision.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 172, 173. And “whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” For “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations.” I John 3:22; II Peter 2:9.

“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Psalm 119:165.

On one occasion Christ was talking with His disciples, and remembering that they were not yet acquainted with the limitless resources at His command, “He said to them, ‘Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name.’ John 16:24. He (Jesus) explained that the secret of their success would be in asking for strength and grace in His name. He would be present before the Father to make request for them. The prayer of the humble suppliant He presents as His own desire in that soul’s behalf. Every sincere prayer is heard in heaven. It may not be fluently expressed; but if the heart is in it, it will ascend to the sanctuary where Jesus ministers and He will present it to the Father without one awkward, stammering word, beautiful and fragrant with the incense of His own perfection.

“The path of sincerity and integrity is not a path free from obstruction, but in every difficulty we are to see a call to prayer. There is no one living who has any power that he has not received from God, and the source whence it comes is open to the weakest human being. ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name,’ said Jesus, ‘that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do [it].’” The Desire of Ages, 667.

Is your Savior and dearest Friend any less interested in supplying your needs today as He was when He met every need of His disciples and subsequent followers at the beginning of His church? “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19.

Caution—Beware of the Destroyer

In his second epistle to the Corinthian church, Paul encourages the people with counsel to have love and forgiveness toward one another and not to be despondent, “lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” II Corinthians 2:11. The deeper counsel here lies in the words, “we are not ignorant of his devices.” Could it be that, notwithstanding our privilege of Bible revelations, the destroyer may still get an advantage over us? The sad reality is, yes. One of the lies Satan frequently uses is that, we are too great a sinner to be deserving of salvation and God will not accept us. To believe this would drive us to despair and has the potential to cause us to distrust God!

“The one thing essential for us in order that we may receive and impart the forgiving love of God is to know and believe the love that He has to us. I John 4:16. Satan is working by every deception he can command, in order that we may not discern that love. He will lead us to think that our mistakes and transgressions have been so grievous that the Lord will not have respect unto our prayers and will not bless and save us. In ourselves we can see nothing but weakness, nothing to recommend us to God, and Satan tells us that it is of no use; we cannot remedy our defects of character. When we try to come to God, the enemy will whisper, It is of no use for you to pray; did not you do that evil thing? Have you not sinned against God and violated your own conscience? But we may tell the enemy that ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.’ I John 1:7. When we feel that we have sinned and cannot pray, it is then the time to pray. Ashamed we may be and deeply humbled, but we must pray and believe. ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.’ I Timothy 1:15.” Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 115.

Help, Do Not Hinder—Prayer Unites

“Give the erring one no occasion for discouragement. Suffer not a Pharisaical hardness to come in and hurt your brother. Let no bitter sneer rise in mind or heart. Let no tinge of scorn be manifest in the voice. If you speak a word of your own, if you take an attitude of indifference, or show suspicion or distrust, it may prove the ruin of a soul. He needs a brother with the Elder Brother’s heart of sympathy to touch his heart of humanity. Let him feel the strong clasp of a sympathizing hand, and hear the whisper, Let us pray. God will give a rich experience to you both. Prayer unites us with one another and with God. Prayer brings Jesus to our side, and gives to the fainting, perplexed soul new strength to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. Prayer turns aside the attacks of Satan.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 250.


Why is prayer the soul of religion? What is the soul of a man, but the very heart of his being, the part that is his true person or character. Just as the character reflects the soul of the man, so our prayer will tell us something of the vitality of our religion and the capacity of our connection with God.

So we have seen that earnest and sincere prayer will reach the ear of the Father, but, “if I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear [me],” Psalm 66:18; yet, what a blessing when He has not turned away from hearing my prayer, nor closed off His mercy. (Psalm 66:19, 20.)

“Again, he speaks of some who ‘have not cried unto Me with their heart.’ [Hosea 7:14.] Such petitions are prayers of form, lip service only, which the Lord does not accept.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 533, 534.

“There is need of prayer,—most earnest, fervent, agonizing prayer,—such prayer as David offered when he exclaimed: ‘As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God.’ ‘I have longed after Thy precepts;’ ‘I have longed for Thy salvation.’ ‘My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.’ ‘My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto Thy judgments.’ This is the spirit of wrestling prayer, such as was possessed by the royal psalmist. [Psalm 42:1; 119:40; 119:174; 84:2; 119:20.]” Testimonies, vol. 4, 534.

May the Father bless as your prayer life takes on a deeper, more earnest hungering and thirsting for the well-spring of life, the true indwelling of the Son of God.

Jeremiah Kayne works in the tertiary educational sector in Australia. He is a lay preacher and for the past 15 years, he and his wife have been operating a ministry sending Bibles, Bible studies, and literature to mission fields throughout the world.